As we get deeper into the preseason, NBA ‘experts' and fans alike have been knit-picking the Heat, looking for reasons to cast negative shadows over Pat Riley's dream team. One of the things that has been getting a lot of attention is the offensive production (or lack there of) from Joel Anthony. Some may feel like it's a something that should be taken notice of but really its just people making an issue out of nothing.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to come to the realization that in order for the Heat to be successful they wont need to rely on how many points or assists Joel is able to register. The more important numbers will be his rebounds and blocked shots. That being the case, I'd think people who follow the Heat would be more concerned with his low rebounding numbers thus far in the preseason, not his point total.
Nobody in the Heat front office or on their coaching staff is expecting Joel to put up more then a handful of points per game. There are more then enough offensive players on this roster to make up for the lack of scoring from the center position, especially when talking about the starting 5.
When Pat Riley made the decision to re-sign Anthony, he was doing that to ensure the Heat would have a defensive presence in the paint for years to come. I'm 100% positive that if you told Riley and Erik Spoelstra that Joel would average more blocks then points they would be totally cool with that.
Anthony has worked very hard on his footwork and positioning so that he can do all the ‘center' things correctly. Rebounding, setting picks, rotating, boxing out, etc. are all things that he has spent hours upon hours in the gym, preparing for the season. In fact, he has been working his ass off ever since joining the Heat back in 2007 and every year he has shown improvement...but since he doesn't put up points then people just assume he isn't contributing and should be replaced.
Joel is an easy target for anyone trying to bring negativity to the Heat because he doesn't score much, he isn't the fastest guy, he isn't flashy, and he isn't even a 7-footer.
Still though, Pat Riley in his ultimate wisdom thought that Anthony deserved a 5-year contract and the responsibility of being a main component in this potential dynasty (as far as Riley is concerned). Now why would he do that? Considering his track record of making wise, well thought out moves, obviously Riley felt that his Heat could benefit from having this defensive specialist on board for the long haul.
Looking over the Heat's roster, Anthony is one of only a few players that Miami has developed. There is Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Joel. That being the case, the Heat know exactly what they are getting and what to expect from their 4th year center. He is part of a roster that was put together with specific roles in mind. Considering his ability and specific skill set, it makes sense that he's out there with D-Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
With those three very offensive players who aren't going to need much help putting the ball in the basket, Joel will be expected to help out with pick-n-rolls and clearing out the paint when needed. The only time Anthony will have his number called are times when he'll be standing under the rim ready to receive the equivalent of a hand off, leading to a ‘gimmie' dunk.
If Erik Spoelstra wants offense out of the center position he has plenty of options to get that. The Heat signed Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who despite being the biggest guy on the court at 7'3", has the range to hit long J's as easily as he can dunk the ball. However, if Miami wants to go with a smaller lineup then they can rotate either Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem down to play the 5, which has already been done several times in the preseason.
The bottom line is that whether you like it or not, Joel Anthony is not on this team to provide staggering offensive statistics. It turns out that the kind of game he plays fits in quite well with the rest of the Heat starting lineup. He still has some developing to do and things to improve on, but even with his game where it is right now he can still be a difference maker on this squad. It just wont be in glamorous way.
Yes, a starting center can also be a role player and that is the case in Miami. I'm sure that Riley and Spoelstra don't care if they have a prototypical lineup. Their only concern is putting a team together that will compliment each other and bring home as many wins as possible. The Heat are going to be one of the top scoring teams in the league, but thanks to the defensive balance that Joel Anthony will help provide their starting lineup, Miami will also be one of the more well-rounded teams out there.