Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Miami Will Not Regret Passing on Erick Dampier

It had been assumed that Erick Dampier was a match made in heaven. Miami had a questionable center rotation and he would have been an immediate upgrade. Plus he was willing to play for league minimum.

Why did Pat Riley and the Miami Heat pass?

They clearly value their money and current roster more than most analysts and fans. Is it the right call?

Ten reasons why I don't think they will regret it:

1) Joel Anthony is one of the league's best shot blockers. He averaged 1.4 blocks in just 16.5 minutes per game last season. That projects to around three blocks per game if given starters minutes.

Miami had a 13-3 record during Joel's 16 starts last season.

While he is still raw in many aspects of the game, he sets excellent, crushing screens and keeps balls alive on the offensive glass.

He is not an excellent on the boards and still struggles catching the ball cleanly, but his intangibles have earned him a five-year, $18 million extension.

He could be the starting center for years to come if he can maintain last year's winning ways—it projects to 67 wins over the course of a season, by the way.

2) Zydrunas Ilgauskas was one of the first veterans to jump on board and sign a minimum contract. He has had an amazing career. Yes, he had a down year last year, averaging 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in just 21 minutes of action per game, but was contributing 12.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in 27 minutes of action the year before Shaquille O'Neal was acquired.

That's a higher combination of points and rebounds than Dampier ever delivered for Dallas.

The perception may be that Ilgauskas is a dinosaur, but he is in fact just one month Dampier's senior. LeBron still believes he has something left in the tank and they have great chemistry together. I wouldn't be so sure that Ilgauskas will not have a better season than Erick Dampier.

3) Jamaal Magloire was actually an All-Star in 2003-04, thanks to a weakened class of centers in the Eastern Conference, the last year either player averaged a double-double.

Nowadays, it is pretty widely accepted that Dampier is a more reliable option.

The 32-year-old Heat center now has three advantages over Mr. Dampier. He is three years younger, has already accepted a bench role, and is the resident bad boy on the roster.

When the Heat and Celtics got into an altercation during last year's playoffs, Magloire was the intimidating presence that seemingly made Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett reconsider whether they should exchange blows with Miami players.

Stan Van Gundy said it best "Jamaal Magloire has a role and that role is to beat the hell out of people."

He is not going anywhere.

4) Dexter Pittman was picked by my Miami at the top of the second round ahead of potential lottery picks like Solomon Alabi and Hassan Whiteside.

When Riley says that he likes Dexter, you have to believe him, because he had a chance to draft either of the bigs that had lottery potential and passed in favor of the big man out of Texas.

By all accounts, he is not yet in optimal basketball shape. He had his ups and downs during summer league play, but that was to be expected from the prospect who once weighed over 400 pounds.

Losing weight is not new to him, because he was in a program at UT that helped shed around 100 pounds off of his frame. He has already passed his off-season conditioning test from Riley and company, which means he is progressing nicely.

He is one of the precious few, skilled big men to come into the league in recent years. Miami sees a lot of promise in him.

5) Chris Bosh is a natural power forward and would seem to be too skinny to play against many centers around the league.

Miami is likely going to ask him to bulk up into Pau Gasol range and ask him to cover both power positions in order for him to take that next step into greatness.

Yes, Los Angeles has a great young center in Andrew Bynum, but they have been able to participate in three straight NBA Finals thanks to Pau's ability to man both positions.

Expect Bosh to play the Gasol role in Miami if the other centers are not earning their minutes.

6) Udonis Haslem is not a center, he still impacts the center rotation because Coach Spoelstra will want to see last year's co-captain on the court for about 28 minutes a game.

Assuming Chris Bosh plays 36 minutes per game, it would push him to 16 minutes at the center position.

These numbers will fluctuate and it is possible that Udonis will have to settle for less minutes, but it gives you a pretty good idea that Miami has a pretty deep talent pool to fill the 96 minutes in their power rotation.

7) Juwan Howard surprised the few who watched the Portland Trailblazers play last season.

His averages of 6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 22 minutes of game action are really solid for a 37-year-old, but I was more impressed by the fact that he played in 73 regular season games.

Dampier provides a lot more muscle and defense than Howard ever could, but Juwan's versatility and willingness to ride the pine make him another great glue guy that could not be sacrificed.

8) Da'Sean Butler, Miami's other second round hopeful, is not in the power rotation but could have influenced the decision making process.

Assuming Miami did not cut any of their top seven guys in the power rotation, he would have been a likely candidate to get the boot.

Many draft experts had this swingman as a lottery pick before he tore ligaments in his knee. He is not expected back in time to compete for his roster spot, but with Miami giving away multiple first round draft picks to Toronto and Cleveland in the sign and trade deals that brought Chris Bosh and LeBron James to Miami at a serious discount.

9) Patrick Beverley, last year's first of two second rounders, was another possible casualty if another big man were brought in.

With point guards like Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, and Jameer Nelson to contend with in the Eastern Conference playoffs, perhaps a defensive minded point guard is of more consequence than a slight upgrade at the center position.

Last year, Beverley filled the role of defensive stopper off the bench for Olympiakos. In the European league final against FC Barcelona, he blanketed Ricky Rubio and forced him into consecutive turnovers that forced the Spanish phenom to the bench.

His offensive game is not refined enough at this point for him to be thrust into an NBA rotation, but he could be a good situational play and has plenty of upside.

10) The buyout season promises to be fruitful with Miami poised to make a serious run at a championship behind the new trio of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade you figure there will not be a shortage of players looking to fill in any spots that may need to be shored up.

The Heat can enter the season with the guys it currently has and then focus on upgrades of this sort after the trade market closes in February.

Many teams will be in rebuilding mode by then and accommodate a buyout for a serviceable veteran. This happens every year. As long as a player is not on another roster by March, he is eligible for the playoff roster.

Most would agree that Miami has more than enough to win 60-plus games in the regular season. The challenge is to construct a roster that wins 16 playoff games—and becomes NBA champion.

And for that, Miami is better off not tinkering with the roster until a significant upgrade becomes available.

1 comment:

  1. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/476375-miami-heat-why-erick-dampier-was-not-worth-a-guaranteed-contract

    My second effort of the day. Welcome to the new season!