One of the biggest takeaways from the Miami Heat‘s extremely lopsided loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals was their lack of defensive intensity. The Heat as a collective unit were extremely sloppy throughout the entire Finals series, but their lack of focus on the defensive end allowed the Spurs to play some of the finest precision basketball we have ever seen.
The Heat now head into a summer of uncertainty, as 13 of their 15 current players on the roster become either restricted or unrestricted free agents after June 30. The two lone players Heat fans are guaranteed to see next season though are Norris Cole and longtime Heat captain Udonis Haslem.
The frontcourt rotation has always been one of the Heat’s biggest weaknesses, but Haslem has been the silver lining for a frontcourt that at times has really lacked the intensity and size to defend well. The starting lineup for the Heat in these past Finals was Rashard Lewis starting at power forward, Chris Bosh at center and Haslem seeing a lot of minutes riding the pine. The only significant playing time he received were garbage minutes at the tail ends of Game 4 and 5 when the final outcome had already been decided. Haslem’s ability to defend in the post could have been just the spark the Heat’s frontcourt rotation needed had he received more minutes throughout the series.
That exact rotation is what the Heat will address this offseason, truly looking to bolster the frontcourt through youth and athleticism. Haslem may not be young, but he has the ability to defend opposing power forwards and occasionally centers better than most other players in the league. His lack of an offensive touch is a major reason he sat out the majority of the playoffs, but his defensive experience in this league could be just what the Heat need next season, especially if they draft or trade for a young power forward or center.
Depending on whom the Heat select this summer for their frontcourt, Haslem could be looking at a significant increase in minutes or another season riding the pine. Either way, Haslem has to be the Heat’s defensive anchor, whether he is on or off the court.