The prime objective for most of the participants on Miami's Summer League team in Las Vegas last week was to show off their skills to the rest of the NBA, rather than to the Heat organization. The reigning NBA champions will likely enter the upcoming season with the same group as last season also likely preventing any of the unsigned talent from making their way to the roster.
A lone exception to that could be D-League alumni and shot-blocking fiend Jarvis Varnado, who was a mid-season call-up by the Heat after playing with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. While in Sioux Falls, Varnado amazed scouts and fans alike because of his tenacious shot blocking ability, averaging 3.3 swats per game.
Unlike some of the more noble post-defenders in the NBA who use their size to deflect shots, Varnado relies on a high-energy approach to stop the opposing player. As apparent in both Summer League and Sioux Falls, he does most of his work as a close-out defender who uses mobility to get in front and stop an opposing player from getting to the rim.
That skill could be used to Miami's advantage because of the less than stellar on-ball defense by starting guards Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers. The only real big drawback to Varnado is his slight 6'9 frame, but his mobility should allow him to develop into a solid pick and roll defender, similarly to fellow NBADL alum Chris Andersen.
Varnado's offensive game has been a mystery since his time in college with Mississippi State, but he has steadily improved in the pros. Those same questions seem to have evaporated back in Sioux Falls, as Varnado averaged 14.5 points per game. Varnado spends a majority of his time working around the perimeter setting on-ball screens for his partner, and then rolling towards the basket. He's found success in the paint because of his solid footwork, while trying to develop a defined low-post game that could be crucial to his future NBA success.
His small offensive arsenal mainly consists of a series of a variety of low-post hook shots, but he's still more comfortable working on the offensive glass. While he will never be close to being a top-notice offensive big, Varnado could turn into a more effective role player for Miami if he continues to develop his mid-range jumper, which was on display during Summer League.
With Miami continuing to seek additional depth for the front-court, Varnado could be that effective defensive force. The only problem could be the similar playing styles that both Anderson and Varnado possess as mobile and defensive minded post players. With that said, Varnado could still craft a niche in the NBA because of his unique shot-blocking abilities.