By Diego Quezada
Before the new collective bargaining agreement was even ratified, the hectic player transaction period began before the NBA’s 66-game season. Shane Battier and Eddy Curry will join the team, and the Los Angeles Lakers even seemed to acquire Chris Paul earlier this evening. That was, of course, until the NBA – which owns the New Orleans Hornets – killed the deal.
Battier, who announced via Twitter that he was joining the Heat, will take a contract at the taxpayer mid-level exception worth approximately $9 million over three years. Battier’s decision not to demand the full mid-level exception, worth $20 million over four years, means that the Heat will likely retain Mike Miller. I had previously thought that acquiring Battier would necessitate Miami using the amnesty clause on Miller. The 6-foot-8 product from Florida and the 6-foot-8 former Duke standout can both play starter’s minutes when healthy. With Dwyane Wade and LeBron James on the roster, only one other wing can have a significant role on the team, I thought.
But then it donned on me that the Heat could do what I suggested a few months ago. The Heat could move to a less-traditional lineup, shifting James to the point guard spot. A five-man unit of James, Wade, Miller, Battier and Chris Bosh has enormous length and two deadeye 3-point shooters surrounding the Big Three. The lineup is small, but Battier can defend some power forwards – even Dirk Nowitzki – and Bosh has spoken of a willingness to play the center position more. This five-man unit would create mismatches all over the floor. Serge Ibaka would need to abandon his tendency for interior defense and guard Battier at the three-point line while Kendrick Perkins would have to defend the pick-and-pop with Bosh, just to take one example.
The Heat couldn't utilize this lineup until Miller returns from his sports hernia surgery, though. For the first month or so of the regular season, expect the Heat to use a more traditional rotation with Battier serving as the principal wing backup for Wade and James. Additionally, the fact that Miami can use lineups without a true point guard doesn’t mean that Pat Riley will let Mario Chalmers leave. I wouldn’t close the door on Miller receiving the amnesty boot next year; he needs to show more than just one good regular season game against the Toronto Raptors and a few moments during the Eastern Conference Finals to prove his worth.
When it comes to Eddy Curry, the move doesn’t surprise me at all. Riley has kept on eye on him for some time now, and the Hall of Fame coach has taken training-camp looks at Penny Hardaway and Jerry Stackhouse just in the last four years. As I’ve said before, Curry was never a good rebounder or shot-blocker during his productive years in the NBA, and I don’t see how someone whose lone proven NBA skill is scoring in the low post can help Miami all that much. The Heat don’t need scoring; three players scored 94 points in a game once. The similarities between Curry and Dexter Pittman still perplex me; perhaps Riley and Spoelstra are not pleased with the second-year player’s development.
I would not expect Curry – who has played in just 10 games over the past three years – or Pittman to get minutes early in the season. The Heat could still sign another center, but Riley only has the bi-annual exception worth $1.9 million and minimum deals to offer. I’m not convinced about the Curry acquisition, but signing Battier is a great move that has me salivating at the possibilities.
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