Three Realistic Options for Miami Heat As They Look For Bargain Big Man

The Miami Heat Coming into the 2012-13 NBA season as defending champions. That doesn’t mean that the Heat aren’t still tinkering with the formula that brought them the first title of the ‘Big Three’ era.

The Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals without a true point guard (unless you count LeBron James) and a true center. Miami used Chris Bosh as their main center in the Finals with great success and could probably move forward with that game plan.

However, like their signings of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis showed, Heat president Pat Riley isn’t making the same mistake he made after winning the franchise’s first title in the 2005-06 NBA season. That mistake was keeping that roster completely intact.

Thanks to the new salary cap, the Heat find themselves with very little room to maneuver. Having used their mini mid-level exemption to sign Allen, Miami can only offer the veterans minimum to sign players. That has taken the Heat out of the running for some of the prominent big men in the free agent market this off season.

Faced with this reality the Heat have been looking for a big man at a bargain price to fill the team’s remaining one or two roster spots. With this in mind here are three realistic options Miami has in their quest:

Chris Andersen

Known throughout the NBA as ‘Birdman,’ Andersen is associated more with his tattoos than his play on the court. His career averages of 5.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.6 rebounds don’t jump off scouting reports. Andersen makes up for that with his energy while playing.

Last season in his second stint with the Denver Nuggets Andersen fell out of favor in a way with head coach George Karl. He seldom played throughout the season and was virtually written off when Denver traded for JaVale McGee. Things got worse for Andersen as detectives from the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office searched his home and computer as part of a child pornography investigation. While he was never charged, the Nuggets excused Andersen from team activities.

In the off season Denver waived Andersen under the NBA’s amnesty clause. He has cleared waivers and is now a free agent.

Andersen will have to bring more than just his energy should the Heat sign him. He’ll have to show that his conditioning can meet the demands of both Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra.

Darko Milicic

Despite being labeled one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history, Milicic has been a serviceable center with career averages of 6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. In his NBA career he has bounced around playing for five teams (Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, and Minnesota Timberwolves) with ever really finding a home.

Last season he was initially the starting center for the Timberwolves. An injury took him out of the lineup and allowed Nikola Pekovic to take the starting job. Pekovic went on to finish third in voting for the NBA Most Improved Player award.

Milicic was waived by Minnesota via the amnesty clause in the offseason. He has cleared waivers and is now a free agent.

Should the Miami Heat sign Milicic, they will have the #1 (James), #2 (Milicic), #4 (Bosh), and #5 (Dwyane Wade) overall picks of the 2003 NBA Draft on the same roster. Miami had a similar distinction when Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning, the #1 and #2 overall picks of the 1992 NBA Draft, both were on the roster.

Josh Harrelson

Compared to the last two players mentioned, Harrelson is quite young at 23 years old. Initially drafted by the New Orleans Hornets in the 2011 NBA Draft before being traded to the Knicks for cash, Harrelson would serve as a little known reserve for New York backing up both Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.

Last season Harrelson only played in 37 games and started in four of those games. He finished his rookie season averaging 4.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks per game.

In the off season Harrelson was one of the players the Knicks sent to the Houston Rockets in their sign-&-trade deal for Marcus Camby. He was later waived.

While being very young and having had a decent college career, Harrelson can be seen as more of a project than a finished product. Miami already has a project of their own at the center position in Dexter Pittman. Should the Heat sign Harrelson it will be interesting to see if he and Pittman will actually compete for a starting job.

These three players could come to the Heat for the price the team wants. Whether it’s actually a good decision will remain to be seen. As stated before, Miami could just continue having Bosh as the starting center. He plays the position during international competition so it won’t be too much of an adjustment. Riley does love having a big man though, and he’s always looking for the diamond in the rough.

With training camp not too far away, things will get interesting for the Heat as they prepare to defend their crown.

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