Searching for any frontline help he can find, Pat Riley has reportedly offered contracts to free agent big men Kenyon Martin and Joel Przybilla. And according to the tea leaves, the Los Angeles Clippers "like their chances" of signing Martin, but Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported today that the Hawks, Clippers and Heat are high on his list. Przybilla is leaning towards signing with the Heat, per Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.
For the last two rounds of the playoffs last year, the Miami Heat used Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem as the power forward/center rotation. Barring an injury, Miami will use those same three guys in the playoffs. But with the absence of back-to-backs in the postseason, starters typically play more in the playoffs than they do in the regular season. Riley’s decision to sign players like Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas looked terrible in the playoffs, but at least they soaked up minutes in the regular season. Ilgauskas and Dampier each averaged 16 minutes a game last year.
The Heat have a pair of lumbering centers this year as well – Eddy Curry and Dexter Pittman – but neither can play 16 minutes a night. Erik Spoelstra installed a more fast-paced offense this season, so Miami can’t as easily get away with using a slow-footed player now as they were last year. Moreover, the Heat’s defense is predicated on helping and recovering on the open players. A pair of 300-pound centers simply can’t work with this athletic group. It’s particularly disconcerting to see Curry in better shape than Pittman, already passing him in the rotation. Pittman had his chance early in the season, appearing for at least seven minutes in five straight games from Jan. 4 – 13, but didn’t play well.
What is the result? Unable to go past Bosh, Anthony and Haslem on most nights, Spoelstra has had to go awfully small, playing LeBron James at the four and Haslem at the five for stretches. Haslem is undersized for a power forward; he should not play the center position at all.
Przybilla does not weight 300 pounds, but is about as slow as Jamaal Magloire and won’t work on this team either. Perhaps Riley wants to have another body to throw at Dwight Howard if he gets traded to the Lakers or Bulls, but the Heat already have four centers on their roster. Martin can run the floor better, but has attitude problems and wants to have a significant role on his new team. The Heat don’t need someone who wants the basketball; they just need another big man who can run the floor and play a few minutes in the regular season.
Apparently Juwan Howard isn’t the answer either, as Spoelstra has only played him in blowout situations this year. During the 2011 NBA Finals, he had this exact role that no one can fill now; he went on the court for six minutes per night, simply providing a few minutes of relief for Bosh, Anthony and Haslem. Whoever takes that role may have to play more than six minutes in the regular season, though.
Maybe Mickell Gladness could fill that role. The Heat don’t need a high-caliber player in this spot, just need someone who can play a few minutes without making many mistakes. But Gladness played just 12 minutes per game in the D-League last year. The Heat could call someone up from their D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce (preferably someone who plays more than 12 minutes) if he can fill the role. I don’t know who can fill the role, but it is certain that Martin and Przybilla do not.