While the Heat continue to maintain the best record in the Eastern Conference, the team has struggled as of late, playing sub-.500 ball so far in 2013. A few factors have contributed to Miami's recent slide, but the team's primary concern is its rebounding. The Heat rank dead last in the NBA in offensive rebounds (8.0) and total rebounds (38.6) per game. In Miami's last four losses, the club has been outrebounded 188-132, an average defecit of 14 boards per game.
Chris Bosh has offered to play fewer minutes if it means getting better rebounders into the game, and LeBron James has said the current roster has to figure out a way to improve on the glass, but so far not much has worked. Coach Erik Spoelstra and president Pat Riley are undoubtedly mulling changes, either to the lineup or the roster. So what are Miami's options, as the club looks to improve its rebounding numbers? Let's break them down....
The Heat have embraced the small-ball approach that helped propel them to a Finals win last season, with Udonis Haslem (19.5) and Joel Anthony (9.9) both averaging career-lows in minutes per game. Haslem, Anthony, and Dexter Pittman aren't exactly among the league's most-feared interior players, but increasing their minutes during the regular season could take some of the rebounding pressure off of scorers like James and Bosh. For what it's worth, Anthony's 11.6% rebound rate so far in 2012/13, while not exceptional, is the best of his career.
With no cap space or mid-level money left, the Heat can only offer 10-day contracts or minimum-salary deals, but that should be more than enough to draw the interest of rebounding specialists. Miami recently worked out Chris Andersen, a guy who could help on the glass, though it's not clear how much he has left at age 34. Andersen isn't the only veteran big man still on the market -- as our free agent list shows, other options include Kenyon Martin, Troy Murphy, and Dan Gadzuric. If the Heat prefer to go younger, players like Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody (14.7 RPG in six D-League contests) are also available.
Because the Heat have so few assets outside of their big three, it's hard to find many realistic matches on the trade market. Someone like Haslem, Anthony, or Mike Miller would probably need to be included in a deal for any player earning a decent salary, but those guys have undesirable long-term contracts, making them tough to move.
Miami's most valuable trade chip is probably Norris Cole or the 76ers' lottery-protected 2013 first-round pick. But even combining those two pieces would mean the Heat could only acquire a player on a very small salary, with Cole only making $1.08MM this season. That likely eliminates possibilities such as Jason Maxiell, Glen Davis, Jason Thompson, and Samuel Dalembert, since they're all earning $5MM+.
There are still a few intriguing options out there. Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair are inexpensive, and I'm sure the Mavs and Spurs, respectively, would be very open to swapping their bigs for that Sixers pick. Timofey Mozgov and Marreese Speights are also names worth considering, though the Heat don't match up particularly well as trade partners with either the Nuggets or Grizzlies. Still, if the Heat decide to explore trades, they'd probably be better off engaging these Western Conference clubs, since I doubt many Eastern Conference contenders would be eager to help the Heat patch up their biggest hole.
At 24-12, the Heat are hardly in perilious danger, despite their recent play. Even if the rebounding woes continue, I think Miami is the odds-on favorite for the No. 1 seed in the East, so we shouldn't anticipate a panic move. The Heat will likely experiment with different lineups and perhaps bring in a couple new players on 10-day contracts in the coming weeks.
If rebounding is still a major concern when the trade deadline approaches, a move for someone like Blair appears to be a reasonable bet. The free agent market will also be worth monitoring after the February 21st deadline, when veterans are waived or bought out. But considering this Heat team had similar frontcourt issues last season and still came away with a championship, it's probably not realistic to expect the club to make a major splash before season's end.