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The Heat don’t need Erick Dampier, but they could surely use him

Nov 15, 2010, 3:54 PM EDT

Erick Dampier

Count me among those that sees Miami’s rough start as a temporary turmoil. It’s only a matter of time before the pieces start clicking just right, if only because the level of talent between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade breaks dimensional bounds and head coach Erik Spoelstra won’t rest until the offense is structured and executed correctly. The Heat will figure out how to best utilize the scoring talents of their core (a healthy Mike Miller included), and fire will rain from the heavens. Book it.

So in terms of what Miami needs, time is paramount. This widely watched pot will finally begin to boil at some point, and there isn’t too much that can be done to speed up that process. However, adding Erick Dampier to Miami’s fleet of centers would be more than just a cosmetic change, even if Damp’s presence isn’t flat-out needed. The Heat can get by without him, but why would they want to? Given Dampier’s play throughout his entire career, why not bring him in to play some defense, hit the glass, and drop in a dunk every now and again?

Tom Haberstroh sang Dampier’s praises at The Heat Index, and pondered why the Heat haven’t been more aggressive in their pursuit of a useful, proven center:

At 6-foot-11, Dampier has consistently been a skilled rebounder in his NBA career, who at one point had earned the crown as the very best in the league in 2003-04. As a 34-year-old last season in Dallas, Dampier collected an estimated 11.6 percent of the Mavericks’ missed shots while he was on the floor which ranked him in the top 10 among regular centers. His glasswork has depreciated over the years but he should still be a substantial upgrade over Miami’s current alternatives.

In contrast to Anthony, Dampier’s long enough to block shots without relinquishing his box out position or getting into foul trouble. The 35-year-old veteran was above average in both shot-blocking and defensive rebounding as a center in 2009-10. The Heat may tout Anthony’s visible effort in blocking shots, but they’d be bar better off overall with Dampier’s more conservative approach that doesn’t leave the paint vulnerable to put-backs or routinely send his opponents to the charity stripe.

Offensively, Dampier represents a veritable upgrade to Anthony as well. They’re built from the same mold in that they each fall under the category of low-usage and offensively limited centers. But Dampier’s a more efficient option beneath the basket. When your scoring responsibility is restricted to easy put-backs, Anthony’s career 48 percent field goal percentage should be of great concern. However, Dampier has enjoyed a similar offensive role over the last four seasons in Dallas and has connected on no fewer than 62.4 percent of his field goals in any of those seasons.

Damp has long lived as a punchline due to a painfully ridiculous contract thrown his way by Donnie Nelson, Mark Cuban, and the Dallas Mavericks, but he’s more than serviceable in the middle. Defensively, he’s equipped to tackle the big-bodied conventional center types that give Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony trouble, all while playing solid (though as Haberstroh notes, conservative) help defense.

Toss in a low-usage, high-efficiency approach around the rim and solid offensive rebounding numbers, and it’s quite curious that Dampier hasn’t found a home already. Haberstroh later goes on to wonder how much health and age have factored into Damp’s free agent pinballing, and though neither is a pressing concern (he was effective last season for Dallas), I’m at a loss as to what else could leave a competent center unattached. Miami is but one team that could use Dampier’s size, and he has yet to find an NBA landing spot nonetheless. Color me perplexed.

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