Heat’s Recent Additions Could Leave Young Big Without a Place

Kevin Love

Getty Kevin Love is set to make his debut with the Miami Heat after the All-Star break.

The Miami Heat made a few key additions on the buyout market, signing five-time All-Star Kevin Love and veteran center Cody Zeller for the remainder of the season.

A veteran forward with a sweet 3-point shot, Love averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 20.0 minutes per game while with the Cleveland Cavaliers this year, also shooting 38.9% from the field and 35.4% from downtown (all stats via Basketball Reference).

Zeller hasn’t played yet this season. A leg injury cut his 2021-22 campaign short, and he hadn’t caught on anywhere yet this year despite spending training camp with the Jazz last fall. In 27 games with the Portland Trail Blazers last year, the 6-foot-11 center averaged 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game.

With the arrival of two new veteran bigs in Miami, some are wondering whether young center Omer Yurtseven might be the odd man out.

Omer Yurtseven Has Missed Time Due to Injury

After the Heat traded backup center Dewayne Dedmon to the San Antonio Spurs prior to the trade deadline, it appeared as though Yurtseven might be set to step into Dedmon’s role.

Yurtseven, 24, has yet to play this year. He impressed in his first season with the team last year, but a bone spur in his left ankle required surgery to repair. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Yurtseven “has been cleared for high-impact work,” and should be back after the All-Star break.

Perhaps the Heat aren’t comfortable with how Yurtseven is progressing in his recovery, or perhaps his recent injury makes them want additional depth at center, but the addition of Zeller more than clouds the Turkish star’s future in Miami.

During a 10-game stretch last year, Yurtseven averaged 13.6 points and 13.9 rebounds and looked well on his way to becoming the backup for All-Star Bam Adebayo.

Will Cody Zeller Surpass Omer Yurtseven as Heat’s Primary Backup Big?

So, what do the additions of Love and Zeller mean for Yurtseven?

“By going big and big with their two open roster spots it does raise Heat questions regarding Omer Yurtseven, who has to wonder what is going on,” Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote on February 20, adding:

“Part of it could be the Heat envisioning Kevin Love more as a power forward. But even then, Erik Spoelstra displayed a decided preference for the experience of Dewayne Dedmon over Omer last season, so it could well be that Cody Zeller jumps ahead of Omer. Or with Cody, this merely could be Luke Babbitt 2.0, when the Heat brought Luke back in but barely played him.”

In 12.6 minutes last season, Yurtseven averaged 5.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists. He showed definite flashes and had the fan base excited about his potential. It will be interesting to see if Spoelstra rolls with Zeller — who is 30 and also hasn’t played this season — over Yurtseven.

“They’re different,” an NBA scout told Winderman on February 21 about the two players. “Zeller’s not the rebounder. He’s a better athlete. He’s probably more switchable on defense. Zeller is serviceable. Does he get you to the Eastern Conference finals? No. But he fills the gap for them.”

We’ll know soon enough what Miami’s plans are for both bigs, but Yurtseven’s usage in particular will be something to watch over the remainder of the season.

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