Tom Haberstroh of ESPN reports:

Udonis Haslem

udonis haslem

Rocks cornrows

Haslem may not be a center, but he usually replaced one when he was healthy. His inside presence allows the Heat to go “small” with him at the four and Bosh at the five. In fact, three of the four most frequent lineups with Haslem on the floor feature Bosh at center. And it’s incredibly effective. The score with those “small” lineups? Heat 203, Opponents 166.

The Heat don’t just suffer on the boards without Haslem. Offensively, the Heat’s floor spacing becomes congested around the rim with the Heat’s big men. On Wednesday night, the Thunder bigs routinely cheated off of Howard, Dampier, Anthony and Jamaal Magloire in the paint without consequence. For a team that depends on open lanes for Wade and LeBron to penetrate, the offensive deficiencies of the Heat big men become exponentially troublesome. It’s no longer a game of five-on-five.

Armed with a silky jumper, Haslem can hit shots inside and out. His presence can help stabilize the Heat’s offense and unclog the paint for his attack-minded teammates.

This is all to say that Haslem offers a specific skill set the Heat woefully lack: a hard-nosed rebounder who commands the attention of opposing defenses. No one else on the Heat roster fills that essential role. On Wednesday against the Thunder, Haslem’s absence was profoundly felt by the Heat’s thin frontline.