Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Time Will Test Heat Front Court

October 27, 2010

As expected, the Miami Heat's first loss brought a hailstorm of criticism, most premature but some valid. On the side of knee-jerk reactions we heard chants of "overrated" at Boston, analysis comparing Miami to Cleveland in the Lebron era and even calls to fire Erik Spoelstra by livid fans. Making statements like that can be compared to criticizing a baby's future the second it emerges from the womb. Not only is it unfair, it's downright irrational.

However, we did see some signs of concern that have valid support behind them, such as statements on the team's lack of readiness and cohesion. But with time those concerns can easily diminish. What may be of most concern was the exploitation of Miami's front court versus big bodies on an elite team; a team Miami will likely have to defeat in order to reach the Finals.

The Heat front court combined for only 19 points on offense but managed to secure 29 rebounds, 11 of which were offensive. The pressing issue here is their ability to defend teams stacked with big men, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic and Celtics. Tuesday night, Miami allowed the Celtics to score 38 points in the paint - almost half of Boston's total point count.

Joel Anthony has a gifted shot-blocking ability but is greatly over sized, has poor hands (e.g. he mishandles a lot of passes and loose balls) and lacks an offensive game. Udonis Halsem is a much better overall player than Anthony, but also is undersized against many power forwards and centers. Then comes Zydrunas Ilgauskus, who is lengthy and presents a mid-range threat yet lacks considerable mobility and gets into foul trouble easily. As for Jamaal Magloire and Juwan Howard, they provide big bodies off the bench with limited offensive contribution.

Chris Bosh is Miami's most talented front court player, but he alone cannot guard the largest big men in the league, like Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, etc. Bosh's frame is not built for inside presence, rather all-around finesse.

Thus, we are presented with a potential problem in Heat front court.

Can we just wait and see how the team minimizes this weakness? Sure we can. It's still a fledgling season and Miami could game plan in a variety of ways around this issue. However, what should be done in the case the front court continues to be exploited? There are many ways to tackle that as well.

An in-house solution would be to develop rookie center Dexter Pittman on a fast track to contributing this season. Pittman holds the greatest potential on Miami's roster, and if the Heat can tap into that potential they will have a solid, large bodied athlete to match their system.

Other options include signing or trading for someone mid-season. Eric Dampier is still a free agent and there are bound to be other centers available on the trading block throughout the season. Whatever the case may be, Miami would be looking for a seven-footer with some offensive skills and decent defensive capabilities.

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