2011 NBA Free Agency: Samuel Dalembert to Miami Heat?

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By Diego Quezada

With training camps and free agency expected to start Dec. 9, Pat Riley will probably want to act quickly with his re-tooling of the roster so that the new members of the Miami Heat can have the two-week dash to the regular season to gel with the returning players.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said in a column yesterday that Riley plans to use the mid-level exception, worth four years with a starting salary of $5 million, on a center, with Samuel Dalembert believed to stand as the top choice. But will the 30-year-old big man serve as a significant upgrade over Joel Anthony?

The marriage of Dalembert and Miami makes a lot of sense. The Haitian-born shot-blocker has a home in Boca Raton. Moreover, the former Philadelphia 76er reportedly wants to play for a title contender, and no other elite team can offer Dalembert a starting position. The Thunder will still have Kendrick Perkins, the Bulls will still have Joakim Noah, Andrew Bynum will stay with the Los Angeles Lakers (at least until he gets traded), and the Celtics have Jermaine O’Neal under contract for another season. Mark Cuban won’t mind cutting Tyson Chandler a check because the luxury tax will remain dollar-for-dollar for the next two years.

Dalembert is no Chandler, however. While Dalembert is a pretty good rebounder, he won’t gobble up offensive rebounds and convert on second shot-opportunities the way Chandler does. It also remains to be seen how quickly Dalembert adjusts to Miami’s defensive schemes, especially since some have questioned his basketball IQ.

The nine-year NBA veteran is much more agile than Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erick Dampier or Jamaal Magloire, though. Although he doesn’t have much of an offensive game, he doesn’t have hands of stone like Anthony. Opposing defenses frequently ignored Anthony during the Heat’s playoff run, forcing Miami to play 4-on-5 on offense. No team will double-team Dalembert, but he can catch a pass and requires someone to guard him. He’s also a much better rebounder than Anthony, which will prevent the Heat’s perimeter players from crashing the boards and instead leave them to initiate the fast-break, where this team was at its best.

With the signing of Dalembert, Anthony will move to the position of the energetic defender off the bench. Playing time for Anthony will also decrease because Erik Spoelstra will likely use the intriguing lineup we only had a tease of during the Eastern Conference Finals: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh with Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem.

Despite the fact that the 6-foot-11 center does not check off all of the Heat’s question marks at his position, he represents a notable upgrade over Anthony simply because he won’t throw the ball back to the perimeter when he catches an offensive rebound. He won’t make Miami easier to defend once he checks into the game. It may be difficult to get him up-to-speed on the Heat’s playbook and stratagems in a compressed training camp, but he’s the best option in Miami’s price range and deserves a shot.

Get more Miami Heat analysis over at Hot Hot Hoops.