Erick Dampier to the Heat?

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The Miami Heat currently has a grand total of zero centers under contract.

The team does have a commitment from the oversized Zydrunas Ilgauskas as well as a right-of-first-refusal on the undersized restricted free agent Joel Anthony, but either is hardly a definitive answer to the team’s needs at the position. And the free agent options are dwindling.

The Heat is one of five teams currently pursuing Bulls’ free agent Brad Miller, a list that also includes Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Houston.

Miller appears to be fairly accommodating to the Heat’s financial situation. “I’m in a good situation and realistic about my worth. I’m not worried about having to chase money. I’ve had security for a long time,” Miller said. “I can go to the situation that’s best for me. A very big thing is location and the team.”

While his name has been mentioned as a possibility in South Florida over the past couple of weeks, if the Bulls make the right offer the veteran big man would probably take it. He loves the team, the team loves him, and the Bulls have the cap room to offer substantially bigger dollars that the two years and $2.5 million the Heat can shell out.

But there could be another, and potentially more intriguing, alternative for the Heat: Erick Dampier.

Dampier is currently under contract. In fact, the Charlotte Bobcats acquired him in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, along with Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll, in exchange for big men Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca. But Charlotte is nothing more than a rest stop; he will very likely never suit up in Bobcat gear.

Dampier has one of the most appealing assets in the game today – a fully unguaranteed expiring contract. The Bobcats are certain to take advantage of it. Charlotte is currently $6.7 million over the luxury tax threshold, and is determined to avoid paying any tax dollars. Dampier’s $13 million salary is their salvation. The team will either trade him for value pieces or they will waive him outright.

“That contract is one of the most valuable contracts in the league,” Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins said yesterday. “The flexibility is the beautiful part: It might not be for Erick, but for the franchise.”

Erick is in a difficult situation. The Bobcats, or whichever team may acquire him in any subsequent trade, can afford to be patient. The team can essentially retain Dampier’s rights all through training camp, all through the preseason, and waive him on the eve of regular season play if nothing better comes along (or potentially even into the regular season, at which point his cap hit would become a prorated portion of his total salary). That severely limits Dampier’s options in free agency. Not that he deserves too much sympathy – he has been paid $60 million over the past six years.

The one certainty is that Dampier will ultimately be cut. He is simply more valuable as cap relief than he is as a $13 million center. At that point, which is likely to be around the time the regular season starts, Dampier would become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign a new contract with the team of his choice.

By then, most NBA teams will have their rosters filled out. But the Heat would be wise to leave a roster spot open.

Dampier didn’t live up to his seven-year, $73 million contract, but he’s still a quality player if only because he’s so quietly efficient.

He shot 62.4% from the floor last season, which didn’t lead the league only because he didn’t have enough attempts, marking the fourth straight season he hit such a mark. Throw in an impressive rebound rate and he was a solid if unspectacular starting center. A Heat starting rotation that features three of the best players this league has to offer doesn’t need much more.

The best thing about Erick is that he knows his role. Standing 6-feet 11-inches tall with a 265-pound frame, he is an imposing center who camps under the rim at both ends of the floor. He is one of the best offensive rebounders in recent NBA history, and scores most of his points on tip-ins and put-backs. He hardly ever takes a shot outside of the immediate basket area. Defensively, he blocks shots at a high rate and uses his size as an impediment to opposing post players. He also runs the floor well, which helps in transition defense.

Erick is no more perfect than is Ilgauskas or Anthony, but you’re simply not going to find a much better alternative between now and the end of October.

At 35 years old and on the cusp of the regular season, he figures to command no more than the minimum salary contract the Heat has left to offer. And Miami can also add something no other team can match – the opportunity to play big minutes on a championship caliber team in one of the best NBA cities. The 14-year veteran would surely like a title or two before he calls it quits, wouldn’t he?

12 Responses

  1. Cliff Buckson says:

    I’m sorry, but I’ve been to more Heat games than I can count. And Miami is not one of the best NBA cities… They’ve got a quite, disengaged crowd that dressed up in white tee-shirts because they were told to during their last legitimate playoff run.

    You want a “great NBA city”… Look at the Warriors… the Knicks… the Bucks….the Bulls… the Thunder….

    Those are great NBA cities…

  2. Albert says:

    @Cliff Buckson
    That is a subjective argument I don’t wish to debate. However, by one of the best NBA cities, I was referring to the actual city in which an NBA team plays. I would imagine the attraction of South Florida would be appealing to many free agents. I am not sure if the same can be said for Milwaukee or Oklahoma City (though I certainly mean no disrespect to those cities).

  3. JT says:

    I live in the Bay Area….and i don’t think the Warriors have a great NBA city. I don’t understand why commentators consistently mention that the Warriors have great fans. The Bay Area did support the team when they made the playoffs a few years ago….but most of the time, the fans are relatively apathetic.

    just my opinion…..

  4. lucas fb says:

    dampier is the best center we can get!!!
    then u have kwame,but not too close!!!
    i only hope we sign someine bigger and > than juan!!!

    big z,with all his size,need to be our enforcer,at least right now,so he can prety much practice a lot of rebounding specially in defense,and spot up and grab some boards on ofense!!!he also ll have the oportunity to make good assists for guys like wade,queen and bosh who ll be penetrating off the ball too!!!

  5. lucas fb says:

    big z needs to be in his best fit,in order to help us.
    cause if we faced lakers now,we sure would need him a lot!!!

    but chimestry reasons would decide who starts between him and joel.
    if joel keep improving,even not having ideal size he can be very worthy!!!
    specially cause u know u can count on his defense. he needs only to rebound and have his offense a bit >,so no more stone hands in offense!!!

  6. lucas fb says:

    if we add “dampier” and/or kwame,1or2 of “dooling”/ridnour/house/jwill and 1or2 from “tmac”,rasual,barnes

    we r more than set,to maybe start the 2nd greatest dinasty of all time(maybe even first,cause won something like 5,6or more titles,this recent times is much harder than it was “way back”!!!) when celtics won 11titles in 13years!!!

  7. Eric says:

    Is their any chance, Albert, you could let us know what salaries some of the minimum players would sign for? For example, I believe Matt Barnes has 8 years of service and would be able to get a 1-year $1,223,166 deal (sounds good to me). However, Ray Alston would no longer be on cheap this year and would need to be paid $1,352,181 (not as appealing to me for a 35 year old PG). Keep up the good work!

  8. Eric says:

    We could argue that the minimum-salary dollars are not an issue for the Heat this year, but I believe that Riles is looking to establish a majority of the players this year (before all the cap madness of next summer). The players ages, dollars and skill-set all play a factor in his decision making and I’d like to understand more of those stats.

  9. Eric says:

    Correction on my above post: Rafer Alston is 33 years old.

  10. Remote Heat fan says:

    @Eric

    Just click on the Salary Cap tab up top. Scroll down a little and you can see how much vets get based upon service.

  11. Albert says:

    @Eric
    So long as the Heat limits its contract offer to one season, it does not matter how much each veteran player would earn on a minimum contract depending upon his tenure. The Heat’s obligation would only be $854,389. The league would pick up the rest.

    If the Heat were to instead offer a two-year minimum salary contract, it certainly does matter how much each veteran would earn depending upon his tenure because the Heat would be responsible for all of it.

    The contract that Dampier would ultimately receive from the Heat, should be become available, would surely be for one year (or a prorated portion of it). Therefore, the Heat would owe $854,389 even though he’d be earning $1,352,181.

    Matt Barnes, as a 7-year veteran, would earn $1,146,337.

    Rafer Alton, as an 11-year veteran, would earn $1,352,181.

  12. docregi says:

    Memphis, a great NBA city? Are you kidding me? Memphis just recently started supporting that team and they were in jeopardy of losing that team. The team has been for sale for years and are constantly losing money. Milwaukee? People forgot they even had a team until recently. I know there are a lot of people who are Miami haters, but they are a much better sports town than any of the towns you named and they do support the Heat. Until the Bulls started winning, I remember when they gave away free pizza during the 70s and 80s if they scored more than 100 points.

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