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Big Z joins the party

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Zydrunas Ilgauskas will join fellow Cavalier teammate and close personal friend, LeBron James, on the Miami Heat next season.

He will accept a two-year contract at the veteran minimum salary. The first season will pay him $1,352,181. The second will be a player option at $1,399,507.

The Cavs offered Ilgauskas a guaranteed contract, but he elected to go to Miami, where his wife Jennifer has family. He was a beloved member of the Cavaliers franchise for the past 14 years.

Ilgauskas, who will officially execute his Heat contract after Mike Miller, is a nice complement to the Heat’s star-studded lineup. Big Z is a solid mid-range shooter, stretching out to between 15 feet and 20 feet. He is also an effective offensive rebounder, often using strong hands around the basket to tip in missed shots. He figures to round out a starting rotation that also features Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, though the rotations figure to be something of a fluid concept.

However, Ilgauskua, 35, is an aging center whose defensive capabilities are oftentimes not on par with the expectations of a Riley-run organization. He often struggles against more athletic opponents, particularly in pick-and-roll situations.

The more athletic but less coordinated and “big” big man, Joel Anthony, figures to spell the 7’3″ center for large portions of the game, including key stretches during close ball games. But he is by no means a definitive answer. Joel has certainly come a long way over the past two seasons, but he is still not somebody you would trust to catch a basketball, let alone take in and place it in the basket. And while his shot-blocking prowess is absurdly good (third in the league last season in blocks per 48 minutes, at 3.96), his rebounding prowess is not (9.0 per 48 minutes, good for 71st in the league).

The Heat still hasn’t found itself an ideal starting center. Given the limitations at the position, the Heat might be better served shifting Chris Bosh to center, James to power forward, and Miller to small forward. With Chalmers and Wade in the backcourt, the starting rotation would become an offensive juggernaut built around ideal floor spacing.

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