The Miami Heat should bring back Willie Reed, at the right price

Mar 26, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (35) reacts on the court during the second half of the Boston Celtics 112-108 win over the Miami Heat at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat are expected to go big in free agency, but this does not mean that Willie Reed should not return, as he is the perfect backup center.

The Miami Heat are going into this summer armed with a lot of cap room, and also with a lot of current players having team options, which gives Pat Riley more flexibility to try and work some of his magic.

Last summer, after missing out on Kevin Durant, Miami stacked its roster with players on “prove it” deals, including Dion Waiters and James Johnson. For the most part, the results were overwhelmingly positive, as nearly all of their signings had career years in Erik Spoelstra’s system.

One such player who joined up with Miami after stints elsewhere was Willie Reed, and he developed into a relatively reliable backup center for the team.

Reed was one of many redemption stories in Miami, as he had been cut by the Brooklyn Nets after spending the majority of his career bouncing around the D-League, before a short spell in the Dominican Republic.

Recently, Reed opted out of his contract with Miami in order to test free agency, as he believes that he could double or the triple the $1.5 million salary that the Heat were going to offer him. The decision was not a surprise, and Reed will likely go somewhere else and be a serviceable backup center.

Reed said in exit interviews that his preferred destination is Miami, but as the Heat are going after the likes of Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward, he may get bored of waiting and sign elsewhere.

The Miami Heat had a lot of really interesting storylines this year, but none are more heartwarming than Willie Reed’s redemption story, and he developed into a very reliable center for a team that was leaking points at the beginning of the season.

Reed’s primary function was as a defender, as he allowed a field goal percentage of around 53 percent at the rim whilst also being able to switch onto opposing small-ball 4s, something that is incredibly important in the Heat’s defensive scheme.

Reed was also a very good shot-blocker as he was 22nd in the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes, above the likes of Dwight Howard and Dewayne Dedmon. The Heat’s defense was three points better per 100 possessions when Reed was on the court, which shows that he was not a negative in the way that other backup big men can be.

The Heat have one of the elite rim protectors in the NBA in Hassan Whiteside, and Reed was vitally important because he essentially allowed the Heat to have 48 minutes of really good rim protection, which took a bit of pressure from their young wing defenders. It is because of this, that Pat Riley may want to offer Reed a contract, although he will have to balance this with his desire to go after some big free agents.

Many rim protectors offer very little on the offensive side of the ball, but Reed was actually serviceable, and really developed throughout his time with Miami. Reed was in a bench unit that was really based on swift ball movement, and he fitted into this well as he ranked in the 70th percentile as a roll man. He was also someone who set excellent screens for the likes of Wayne Ellington and Josh Richardson.

Willie Reed is the prototypical backup center, and it is for this reason that Pat Riley should try to bring him back, if the price is right. If someone offers Reed a deal in the region of $4 million per year, then Riley should stand back, but due to the way the league is moving, the market for Reed may not be that large. Reed could be a player who ends up signing a late deal, and the Heat could be the main beneficiaries from this.

The success of Reed suggests something more about Miami, and that is that the Heat are a franchise that is arguably the best outside of San Antonio at developing excellent role players. Reed was a player that no one else even looked at, but Miami developed him into everything you want from a backup center — rim protection and one offensive skill. Reed is not someone who could really play in a half-court system where the ball stops, but he is a great fit in Miami’s motion offense, and it is for that reason that staying in Miami might be his best option.

Bringing a backup center back to Miami might not be high on Pat Riley’s agenda, but bringing back Willie Reed should at minimum be somewhere on the list because he helped the team solidify their interior, and this, in turn, improved their perimeter defense and allowed Miami to become such a stifling team to play against.

Miami could probably find another Willie Reed as they explore multiple avenues, but that could be a risky strategy, and bringing him back for the right price could be one of the most underrated moves of what is sure to be a very exciting summer for the Miami Heat.

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