Who will be the Miami Heat‘s starting power forward?
Erik Spoelstra will need to make an important decision soon. When the Heat captured the 2012 NBA championship, Shane Battier started alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the front court. But after Battier sprained his MCL, Spoelstra toyed around with the Heat starters a bit replacing Battier with Rashard Lewis for two games and Udonis Haslem the last two games.
Haslem is the better rebounder and starting him would give the Heat a more conventional line up. The Heat are ranked 29th in the league in rebounding and have struggled against point guards who can penetrate and get to the rim due to their lack of size in the paint. But Battier is the better on-ball defender and his ability to stretch the floor and bring opposing power forwards out of the paint makes him an equally valuable choice.
Looking at the big picture it might be better for the Heat to start Haslem. Part of the advantage of using a smaller front-court is that over a seven-game series the Heat are hard to defend against because the game is slower and teams score in the half-court setting. During the regular season the game is faster and less intense and that playing style will only work for Miami if James and Wade are in postseason attack mode. Starting Haslem will lower the chances of James and Wade burning out at the end of the season. In past seasons when Bosh did not accept playing the center position the Heat used veteran big men to play short minutes and only be used in the regular season then reverted to their best line-ups in the playoffs.
Haslem is averaging less than four points per game, just under five rebounds per game and shooting over 50 percent from the field in under 18 minutes of playing time per game this season. Battier is averaging under seven points per game, less than three rebounds per game and is shooting almost 47 percent from the three point line and 46 percent from the field in just under 26 minutes per game this season. Both will change how the Heat play when starting and both could be the ultimate piece that makes Miami a better or worse defensive team.