Longtime basketball coach says Miami Heat currently have best backup center in NBA

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Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Longtime basketball coach David Thorpe thinks that the Miami Heat have the best backup center in the NBA right now in Thomas Bryant.

Bryant agreed to a two-year, $5.4 million deal with the Heat in the offseason after spending the 2022-23 season with the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets.

The 26-year-old big man played his best basketball of the 2022-23 season when he was a member of the storied Lakers organization. Bryant averaged 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 65.4 percent from the field in 41 games played with Los Angeles during the 2022-23 regular season.

In February of 2023, the Lakers dealt Bryant to the Nuggets.

Bryant wasn’t nearly as productive for the Nuggets during the 2022-23 regular season as he was with the Lakers. He averaged just 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game across 18 appearances with Denver while shooting 48.5 percent from the field.

The big man appeared in just one playoff game during Denver’s title run. He saw the court in Game 3 of the 2023 NBA Finals against the Heat, logging less than one minute of action.

For as well as Bryant performed with the Lakers during certain points of the 2022-23 regular season, it wasn’t the best stint of his NBA career. He averaged 13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game with the Washington Wizards during the 2019-20 regular season. Bryant converted 58.1 percent of his field-goal attempts and 40.7 percent of his 3-point attempts that season.

The 6-foot-10 big man has played six total seasons in the NBA with three teams — the Lakers, Nuggets and Wizards — since the Utah Jazz chose him with the No. 42 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft then traded him away. The Heat will soon mark the fourth team that he’s played for in the league.

It’s debatable as to whether Bryant is the best backup center in the NBA right now, but his stats with the Lakers a season ago indicate that he’s, at the very least, one of the better backup bigs in the league.

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Jesse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA.