Every NBA team has what can be called a niche player. Someone who has one skill that keeps him on the roster and sometimes in the starting lineup. For the Miami Heat that player is Joel Anthony. The main skill that Anthony has used to sometimes vault to the starting lineup is his defense. That alone has not kept him there though. Here is what to expect from the man who is sometimes called ‘The Warden.’
Last Season: Anthony came into the season as the starting center, but it was mainly by default. A short training camp gave Miami little time to evaluate all their options fully. While his energy and defense showed well through the season, so did his main weaknesses. Those weaknesses are Anthony’s offense and ball handling. Despite showing improvement in those areas throughout his tenure with the Heat, it’s not nearly enough for opposing teams to worry about. Various comments have been made about how Anthony’s offense lets teams play four-on-five when he is on the floor. Those weaknesses were enough to have Miami go sign Ronny Turiaf mid season. Eventually Anthony’s weaknesses relegated him to the bench late in the season. He remained on the bench during the playoffs where he only started once.
Anthony finished the season averaging 3.4 points, a career high 3.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game.
This Season: Anthony has shown that he wants to improve his offense in his time in Miami. His dedication to this is has been noticed by Heat coaches. He will have to show great improvement if he wants to start start again. Anthony’s main reason for being in Miami, his defense, also has to improve since he is undersized for his position. A full training camp will aid him since he can spend more time with coaches who can teach him. He will likely begin the season on the bench with his minutes being given as a game situation warrants. There is a small window for him to once again start, but he has to show a drastic improvement in his offensive game.
If his trend line continues expect his offensive numbers to rise, but not by much.
Overall Prediction: Anthony can be best described as a basketball enigma. He’s a bench player that plays well enough to warrant starting him, but not well enough to warrant keeping him in the starting lineup. Anthony knows his offense is weak and works on fixing that diligently enough to have him at one point become temporarily banned from the Heat practice facility by head coach Erik Spoelstra. He will inprove his game in training camp enough to possibly become the primary backup of whoever starts at center for Miami on Opening Night.
For a player whose niche has kept him in Miami for five seasons already, that might suit Anthony just fine.