Udonis Haslem is reportedly returning to the Miami Heat and will re-sign for the veteran minimum, bringing the current roster to 14 players.
This will be his 19th season in the NBA, all with his hometown Miami Heat. He only played one game last season in a memorable appearance which lasted less than three minutes before getting ejected over a spat with Dwight Howard in the regular season finale against the Philadelphia 76ers. As in previous seasons, the 41-year-old captain will be counted on more as a mentor and motivator from the bench.
But on a team that recently added Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris — all in their 30s — is Haslem’s role even necessary anymore? This roster appears to have been constructed with a win-now mentality loaded with longtime veterans, and the younger players aside from Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson are not expected to get major minutes.
But here’s another potentially huge issue: Putting aside the usual concerns over depth because of injuries or suspensions, there appears to be no end in sight with COVID-19 cases rising to record levels once again in Florida. What happens if important players are held out due to health and safety precautions? Are bench players like KZ Okpala, who looked tentative in his Summer League debut days ago, ready to step up for a team that aspires to be one of the East elites?
Miami still has not signed two players for their two-way slots and it’s not a given they will fill out the roster to the maximum 15 players due to NBA luxury tax concerns or a preference for flexibility leading up to the trade deadline. While the roster currently stands at 14, it’s really just 12 active players that can be considered part of the rotation since Victor Oladipo is still rehabbing and won’t be ready to play for months and Haslem will assuredly remain on the bench during the season.
As for the rest, the Heat re-signed big man Dewayne Dedmon who played well in limited minutes, as well as Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Omer Yurtseven. Again, while Strus and Vincent can be counted on for some minutes here or there it remains to be seen whether or not Summer League sensation Yurtseven is ready for the big leagues. If he isn’t, or he is a foul machine (like Okpala) and he has trouble staying on the court — then that brings the number down to just 11 serviceable NBA players with the team still without a clear backup point guard and in need of scoring.
Perhaps the Heat find another Robinson or Kendrick Nunn in the bargain bin at Summer League, and that would be just fine for some NBA teams that are building towards the future and with minimal playoff expectations. For Miami this season, however, the time is now with Jimmy Butler and Lowry not getting any younger and an intriguing — but potentially fatally flawed — roster.