Why We Should Care About Sports


Given we are in the midst of a global pandemic, you make ask yourself – why should I care about sports?

A simple trip to the grocery store can induce crippling anxiety.

The news is a constant cycle of hopelessness.

Leadership stateside, is let’s just say questionable.

We’ll debate politics when (if) this is all over during 2020, already one of the worst years in recent memory.

For now it come down to waiting desperately in seclusion.



“Adapt or die” has never held more significance.

That is why a wholesome distraction such as sports is therapeutic.

With the global news consumed by COVID-19 the world turns to outlets such as ESPN, the “Worldwide Leader” for some normalcy.

We should be enjoying a different kind of March Madness right now.

Opening Day in Major League Baseball.

Meaningful NBA and NHL games as the Heat and Panthers fight for postseason position.

The Miami Hurricanes baseball team was real good.

All now an illusion, a mirage when seems as distant as when you could say hello to your neighbor.

And shake their hand.

The NFL Draft is moving ahead as planned, sort of.


It will happen in a way we have never seen before.

We can’t wait!

Fill out your mock drafts until your hearts are content.

Even if they are unconventional, or irrational.

Enjoy a newfound camaraderie with fellow sports fans.

Maybe even reach out to your favorite athletes and say hi.


The Five Reasons network is committed to bring sports fans even more content during this time.

Subscribe to the 5 on the Floor Miami Heat podcast here.

For the latest Miami Dolphins the 3 Yards Per Carry podcast has you covered, subscribe here.

Five Rings Canes is rolling out new content regularly, you can find them here.

We also have a YouTube channel where we discuss all things in the world of sports and beyond.

Guts Check: Heat Draft Notes, Summer Strategy, Goran Good Graces

Hope still exists that the 2019-20 NBA season resumes and the Miami Heat can make a playoff run. Heat Nation is looking forward to finding out who this team is, as is the organization. Unfortunately, that day may not come any time soon, if at all.

If the season does not resume, the reality is the Heat may currently be equipped with all the data they are going to get heading into the off-season.

So while playoff runs and real basketball are still the hope, this down time inevitably provides valuable moments to evaluate options related to the NBA draft and free agency.

When games are not being played and practices are at a halt, it gives top level executives and coaches a unique opportunity to work cross functionally with the scouting department more than usual.

2020 NBA Draft Notes

Should the Heat elect to keep its 2020 1st Round Pick, which is probably 50/50 if I had to put odds on it at this way too early of a moment, here are some names I think Heat fans should be keeping close tabs on for now:.

  • Kentucky Wildcat Guards Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans are both on the Heat’s radar if either were to be available when Miami selects (in the first round or elsewhere) according to a league source. Riley loves his Kentucky players.
  • The POA defensive chops of Duke’s Tre Jones appeal as a back-court player to supplement the already potent offensive young core in Miami.
  • The Heat are especially enamored with the potential of Florida State’s wing Devin Vassell according to a league source. However, Vassell is currently projected to likely go before Miami picks in the first round.
  • Duke freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. and Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu are among the frontcourt players the Heat have registered interest in as prospects according to a source.
  • The Heat may shift more focus to the front-court in this draft it they plan to move on from Kelly Olynyk and unrestricted free agent Meyers Leonard. In that case the list of viable big man prospects will expand in the next few weeks/months.

This all operates under the assumption that the Heat even keeps this 2020 first round pick.

Summer Strategy

League circles suggest the Heat may attempt to package the 2020 1st round pick with a useful player/expiring contract such as Kelly Olynyk to consolidate for multiple purposes.

Those purposes include:

  • Trading up or down in this draft to acquire a player they like (Vassell or Oturo are speculative examples of players they could target in pre-arranged trades to be executed after new league year)
  • Shed the $13.6 million left on the contract of Olynyk along with the salary associated with the 2020 1st Round Pick. In efforts to clear over $40M in cap space for this summer.
  • This could help the Heat get extra creative and retain all the current core FAs it desires – on 1-year contracts – and remain out of the luxury tax. (Core FA for 1 year deals = Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder & Leonard)
  • Derrick Jones Jr. projects as the only potential multi-year contract player considered viable. But only if the per year salary number is in line with 2021 spending. Dragic, Leonard and Crowder are all candidates to receive 1 year maybe-just-maybe-slightly-above-market-value offers. All in efforts to not sacrifice flexibility for Summer 2021 and remain out of the luxury tax next season.
  • Create additional flexibility to pounce if Joel Embiid, Victor Oladipo, CJ McCollum or Bradley Beal become available via trade. Those are the names to watch closest from the star trade market by my view. A lopsided salary swap, where the Heat absorbed additional salary along with any of those noted All Stars is one path the Heat will explore. Some folks around the league think these targets appear far more realistic than Giannis Antetokounmpo for Miami. Not sure I’m buying that personally.

Goran Good Graces

Recently reports surfaced that Goran Dragic may be gearing up for a lucrative, short term contract to remain in Miami next season.

After almost trading Dragic last summer, only to have him come back to Miami and embrace his bench role in 6th man of the year fashion, the Heat are looking to find a way to make it work with its former All Star. The Dragon & Jimmy Buckets bromance has only reinforced the sentiment to find a way to retain Gogi. However, don’t rule out the possibility of Dragic being open minded to working with the organization from a salary perspective if it were to allow for a significant upgrade to the roster. Goran wants to win.

Heat’s Jimmy Butler Offers Insight Into 76ers “Process”

Jimmy Butler recently appeared on the JJ Redick podcast and shared some thoughts on his former team the Philadelphia 76ers.

Philadelphia has lost three of their last four, including a 118-114 loss at Golden State on Saturday.

They’re slipping deep into the sixth seed, while the Heat are firmly in fourth and chasing Boston.

Might as well kick them while they are down, right?

And Butler is comfortable with Redick, having played half of last season together.

From the JJ Redick podcast, courtesy of phillyvoice.com (edited due to language):

JJ: Was last year difficult for you? Not just getting traded, but the whole s*** in the summer, preseason? 

Butler: “Hell yeah it was difficult. It was so different and on any given day, me as a person, as a player I didn’t know who the f*** was in charge, that was my biggest thing. I didn’t know what the f*** to expect whenever I would go into the the gym, whenever I would go into the plane, whenever I go into the game, I was as lost as the next motherf*****.

Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown is squarely in the crosshairs, not only with Butler but with local media and fans as well.



It seems “The Process” in Philly is a convoluted one to put it mildly.


For a team that sits at 38-26 and seemingly a lock to make the NBA postseason, the cracks are surfacing at an inopportune time.


Thankfully for Butler, and Heat fans, he now plays for an organization with a real culture.

We really want that 4-5 matchup. Or 3-6. Or whatever.

Just play in the playoffs.

Subscribe to the 5 on the Floor podcast for exclusive Heat content here.

Olynyk has Emerged as a Catalyst for Miami Heat

Kelly Olynyk has emerged into an offensive catalyst for the Miami Heat.

We all know the Heat have some creative ways to get open looks from beyond the arc.

We did not know that they had this.


Miami has regained their form after their All-Star Weekend triumphs, and Olynyk is a big reason why.

Olynyk has scored in double figures in five of seven contests entering Friday night and has regained his spot in the rotation with emphasis.


With Meyers Leonard out Olynyk has been able to keep the spacing intact and regain coach Spoelstra’s trust.

This resurgence has been brewing for over a month and he is making the most of around 15 minutes per game.

Olynyk shot over 47% from three-point range in February and has carried that into March, going a perfect 6-of-6 to open the month in two games.


In the 10 game stretch mentioned above, Olynyk is shooting 61.1% from the field and an absurd 66.7% from deep.

His rebounding leaves a lot to be desired and a regression to the mean on offense is not out of the question.

Yet his reentry into the mix and solid contributions as the season has progressed are encouraging.

Miami has All Stars in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, along with rising stars Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro.

Olynyk has earned and embraced his complimentary role, changing the narrative on his season.

A once maligned player on the fringe of the rotation has fought his way back.

What is more symbolic of the Culture than that?

Subscribe to the 5 on the Floor podcast for exclusive Miami Heat content.

Season Ticket: It’s your time, Bam. Now take your team.

What’s a Bam? 

It isn’t our intention here to call more attention to the national media ignoramuses, even if it is tempting to directly illustrate their ignorance. So the radio blowhard, the one based in and obsessed with Los Angeles, the one who apparently didn’t know Bam Adebayo’s name back on October 5, 2018, shall not be named.

Well, not by us.

But this isn’t about that guy anyway.

It’s about the Miami Heat’s first-round pick in 2017, the one they likely wouldn’t have been in position to acquire if they had done the right thing by Dwyane Wade in 2016; the one whom they privately described on draft night as the “anti-Hassan” in comparison to the numbers-before-team big man they had unfortunately re-signed to a max; the one they researched more thoroughly than any previous draft prospect without finding a single red flag; the one many Heat fans didn’t want at the time but was anointed by the Heat’s historical frontcourt royalty as the next to carry the franchise tradition; the one that the fickle, unforgiving Jimmy Butler tells associates is “the best teammate I’ve ever had.”

The one who is now a certified All-Star.

And needs to believe he can be more.

It’s your time, Bam.

Take your team.


There was so much symbolism at the someday-to-be-renamed American Airlines Arena on February 22nd that some statements slipped under the radar. There was Wade, the franchise icon, the representation of all the struggle and success that comes with carrying that burden, sitting at the podium in the interview room in the bowels of the building, while Bam Adebayo — still only a few months older than when Wade entered the NBA — was absolutely wrecking the poor Cavaliers on the floor, sinking his first seven shots in a rout.

Wade didn’t watch the first half (why would he?) but he has known about Adebayo’s potential before rejoining the Heat in 2018 and becoming his teammate for a season-and-a-half. But at the time, Adebayo was blocked by the pouting presence of Hassan Whiteside, with the Heat wary of removing Whiteside from the starting lineup too soon, for fear of losing the max player’s interest entirely. So this Adebayo is different. And now different questions are being asked.

Not whether Bam’s ready to be a full-time starter. He’s proven it. All his metrics are better with more minutes.

Not whether he’s unique and special. We sensed that. Now we know that.

But whether he can be next.

Whether he can be Wade, in a sense.

And so, yes, the symbolism.

Wade revealed during that press conference that on his path to the court, he turned to Zaire, the one who wants to follow in his family footsteps, the one who is playing prep ball in California, and said to his son simply:

“I’m getting out of your way now.”

And so….

He’s out of Bam’s way now too.

In the Heat family.

No more Last Dances. No more personal documentaries. No more jersey ceremonies.

But a worthy successor, possibly.


“One thing about today’s society, you can reach out to anybody and talk to them,” Wade said at that same presser. “I found myself a few times being that older veteran guy who reached out to people and being like, ‘No, don’t do that.’ Or just giving them advice. But someone like Bam, man, right away when I got back to Miami, I knew, you could feel he was special. He’s a special person, right? Basketball, the sky’s the limit for him. As I continue to say, we set a bar. My points, my assists, was a bar that set before me, it was set by Alonzo, it was set by Tim Hardaway, it was set by the greats before me. And that’s all I’ve done. I’ve just set a bar. And I told Bam a couple of weeks ago, before he got announced to the All-Star Game, go take it, go do it, go set a bar for the next kid, and the next child. He may not even be born yet. But continue to set bars….”

When Wade left in 2016, under those unfortunate circumstances, there was no one here to grab the baton. Waiters? Whiteside? TJ? JJ? No way. Now, though, there is. And it’s not Wade’s Marquette buddy, as exemplary as Butler has behaved with the Heat. Butler is 30. He has shown in his six months here that if you care about winning, he cares about you, and you could argue that no one outside of Adebayo’s beloved mother has been more supportive of the 22-year-old, pushing Bam to fulfill his potential, ceding his own standing in similar fashion to what Wade and Chris Bosh did to allow LeBron James to become the best version of himself — even more remarkable when considering what James was when he came here, and how comparatively little Adebayo had accomplished prior to this season. But Butler’s reputation is bruised. The players voting him sixth among frontcourt players, behind Adebayo, was further proof of that. The perception may not be reality, but it exists. For that reason alone, he’s not the ideal heir to Wade in terms of one of Wade’s most important roles: serving as the smiling face of the franchise, the chief recruiter, the one who draws others in.

That is Bam.

It is obvious after every game, with every embrace of an opponent, with those rivals approaching him to share kind words and easy laughs. Pat Riley may have abhorred this fraternization when he was a coach, putting restrictions even on the closest friends (recall Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing?) but it is ideal for his ambitions now. Prized 2021 target Giannis Antetokounmpo, in true Riley style, is against offseason workouts with other stars, turning them down with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, among others. But he works out with Adebayo. Same agent? Sure. But that will assist too.

So he is the face now.

It’s OK for that face to growl a bit more, like Zo’s did.

It’s OK, when you’ve established your unselfishness, to step into a jumper like Chris Bosh did, even when Wade and James were open.

It’s OK, when everyone knows your motives are pure, to call out others like Udonis Haslem has, for nearly two decades.

It’s OK to take it.

And not to wait anymore.


What stood out about Bam Adebayo’s All-Star weekend?

Winning the Skills competition, beating two other bigs (including closest clone Pascal Siakam and potential playoff opponent Domantas Sabonis) and a guard who had won that title before (Spencer Dinwiddie)?

Not the performance, as remarkable as that was.

It was the press conference.

Brazen Bam.

He had seen on Twitter that no one really believed he could win the competition — well no but the Heat fans who jumped on the outlandish odds. It was like Vegas had set the number based on the rantings of uninformed radio hosts who are fixated on Alex Caruso rather than centers averaging six assists per outing. 

And he let them know.


This is the Bam the Heat need.

The defiant Bam. The emboldened Bam. Even the little-bit-irritated Bam.

The one who “felt great to prove a lot of people wrong” in winning the skills competition.

The one who realized late in the All-Star Game, as he looked down the bench, that “I’m an All-Star.”

The one who later announced that he expected to return for many future weekends.

“Yes,” he said. “I have high confidence in myself that I will be back… and my teammate Jimmy.”

He has high confidence, for sure. He couldn’t be here without it.

But he also has a modesty that, while quite becoming, is also becoming less necessary.

At the end of what had been Wade’s night, in the locker room Wade ruled for so long, Adebayo spoke about his conversations with Wade in “little brother” terms, the kid who keeps it light, respectful of his elders, the clown to keep them young.

Some reality, however, was required.

In the past year-plus, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem — along with Wade — have identified Adebayo as the ideal culture-bearer, even when fans had yet to view him that way.

Bam blushed, laughed and turned his kid when reminded of this.

“Bam, at this point, Zo called you the next one, UD said he was passing the mantle to you, Bosh has said it, Dwyane has said it,” was the statement, er, question. “This is like the Mount Rushmore of the Miami Heat. At some point, are you no longer the kid, and are you the guy?”

The somewhat reluctant response?

“Uh,” Adebayo said. “Yeah, I’ll take that. I’ll be the guy. I’ll take that on my shoulders. Since Mount Rushmore, Miami Heat Hall of Famers saying it.”

Then he got serious.

“But they see something in me. And that’s the thing. It hasn’t hit me yet. Like, it hasn’t hit me that I’ve been to an All-Star Game, and all the work I’ve (done to get) to this point. It really hasn’t me. Just cherishing those moments and hearing those wise words from those guys. It’s a beautiful thing for me. Just for them to show their support and how much they believe in me.”


Once February turned to March, and it became just about the season, and this team, his team, Bam Adebayo was asked again in a quiet locker room moment about the All-Star experience.

And how it changed his view of himself.

Yes, it did.

“Just because you’re in the room with a group of All-Stars, like superstars,” Adebayo said. “So you do, you do get an extra, extra energy about yourself. And your confidence kind of shoots up, because you’re like, you look around, and it’s like, ‘I’m an All-Star too!’ So it’s kind of like, wow, why can’t I be one of the top tier players in the league.”

Was there a pinch me moment?

“A.I.,” Adebayo said of Allen Iverson. “A.I. had a conversation with me. And he knew who I was. And coming from a guy like A.I. who changed the game. You just kind of think, ‘You know who I am?’ I mean, Charles Barkley gets paid to know who we are. But A.I. doesn’t get paid to know who Bam Adebayo is. That’s just real. And just for him to come up to me and give me advice and tell me to keep working was a big pinch me moment.”

Iverson told Adebayo he enjoyed the latter’s passion.

“That’s how I’ve always played,” Adebayo said. “Hard nosed, with passion.”

Maybe the radio hosts don’t know, as they harp on Kyle Kuzma’s hair.

But The Answer does.

So what’s the answer?

What’s a Bam?

Whatever he believes he is.


Ethan J. Skolnick has covered the Miami Heat since 1996 and now hosts the Five on the Floor podcast and runs the Five Reasons Sports Network.

Launching Pad: Bam Baking, Olynyk Off-Balling, Crowder Cashing

Welcome to The Launching Pad, a weekly roundup of Miami Heat basketball. Who’s playing well, and who should pick it up? What numbers should you be watching? What was that beautiful play Miami ran in the second quarter? You can find all of it here, every Monday.

The Stats (Weekly stats in parentheses

• Record: 36-20, 4th in the East (1-1)

• Offensive Rating: 112.0 (118.7)

• Defensive Rating: 108.7 (110.9)

• Net Rating: plus-3.3 (plus-7.8)

• True-Shooting Percentage: 58.6 (61.2)

• Pace: 99.58 (105.0)

• Time of Possession: 14.7 seconds (13.5)

Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)

Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Bam Adebayo

• Minutes: 12

• Offensive Rating: 131.0

• Defensive Rating: 85.7

• Net Rating: plus-45.3

• True-Shooting Percentage: 63.7

• Pace: 114.64

The Big Number: 57

The Bam Adebayo-Duncan Robinson partnership has been a revelation for the Heat’s 8th ranked offense. Adebayo’s ability to pass and screen, paired with Robinson’s ability to shoot off movement, makes for a natural fit. Most of their two-man dances come via dribble-handoff, burning teams that dare to employ drop coverage against them.

Adebayo has assisted on 57 Robinson threes, making them the NBA’s most profitable duo. The rest of the top five, via PBP Stats:

2) Damian Lillard to CJ McCollum, 53

3) Chris Paul to Danilo Gallinari, 49

4) LeBron James to Danny Green, 47

T-4) Jrue Holiday to JJ Redick, 47

Weekly Trends

1. Bam off the bounce

If it feels like Adebayo has been covered a ton in this space, it’s because he has been.

We touched on his empowerment early in the season. We highlighted his struggles against the Sixers, and again against the Nets when they aggressively sagged off of him. We also talked about him gaining comfort as an intermediate scorer.

Now, Bam is stylin’ off the bounce.

He has basically quintupled his drive volume from last season (0.8 to 3.9) while raising his efficiency from 38.7 percent to 59.6, via Second Spectrum tracking data.

You read that right: Bam’s conversion rate has skyrocketed nearly 21 percentage points while driving five times more than he did last year.

With teams catching on to his tendency to drive baseline, he’s started to counter with in-and-out dribbles and drives from the triple threat position. This jab-and-jam sequence against Tristan Thompson was absolutely filthy.

It’s not uncommon to see Bam take the ball up the floor. Thanks to the free-flowing nature of Miami’s offense, we’ve been treated to some impromptu pick-and-roll reps.

Very quietly, Bam has generated 53 points on 50 pick-and-roll possessions (1.06 PPP, passes included), via Synergy. If you thought the James Johnson-Goran Dragic inverted two-man game was fun, imagine what Bam-led pick-and-rolls are going to look like moving forward.

At this point, three-point shooting is the only hole in Bam’s offensive game. If his work in the Skills Competition is any indication*, that’ll probably come within a year.

*It shouldn’t be, but work with me here.

2. Unlocking Kelly Olynyk

With Meyers Leonard still on the mend with an ankle injury, the Heat have leaned more on Kelly Olynyk. It’s been an up-and-down season for him, to say the least. He struggled to adjust to Miami’s offensive shift to begin the year, which made his defensive shortcomings look even more glaring.

The Heat haven’t leaned on Olynyk’s improv work like they did last season. Instead, they’ve made more of an effort to utilize his shooting. Pick-and-pop bigs already serve as kryptonite against drop schemes. When you have a guy like Olynyk flying off flare screens, you’re putting even more strain on defenses.

First off, that’s a solid (if not slightly illegal) lead block from Kendrick Nunn. Olynyk gives the subtle shove, receives the pitch and fires in one fluid motion. It’s a guard-like sequence that he makes look easy.

Olynyk has only logged four (4) off-screen possessions this season, via Synergy. He’s scored nine points on 3-of-4 shooting, including that clip above. The Heat flow out of HORNS Flare all the time. Inverting that action for Olynyk is probably something they should go to more often.

3. Jae Crowder just can’t miss

We’re only working with a five-game sample, but Jae Crowder has been Miami’s most productive acquisition from their deadline deal. He’s defended well across both forward spots, and has mostly held his own against guards on switches.

That was expected, though. Crowder has been a serviceable-at-worst defender for most of his career. The real surprise of the Crowder Experience has been his three-point shooting.

Crowder is shooting a blistering 54.8 percent from deep on 6.2 attempts. Not only are those well above his career marks (33.7 percent, 4.2 attempts), he’s feasting on a diet of shots like these:

Since joining the Heat, Crowder is generating nearly 1.3 points per spot-up possession, and over 1.6 points per transition possession via Synergy. To put those numbers into perspective, Crowder has been a more efficient shooter than JJ Redick (1.09), and has scored at a more efficient rate than Giannis Antetokounmpo (1.12 PPP).

The regression is going to come at some point, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the shot-making Crowder has provided so far.

Set Play of the Week

The Sneak Attack

Sadly, I don’t have the technical name for this one. However, Miami’s opening set against the Cavs immediately caught my eye.

The possession kicks off with a pitch to Duncan Robinson on the right wing. Nunn attempts to set a down screen for Derrick Jones Jr, but his defender (Cedi Osman) is already hanging below the free throw line. He’s able to duck under the screen, though this is mostly decoy action.

Nunn pops back up to receive the ball from Robinson, kicking off a 1-5 pick-and-roll. This is the point where the positioning matters.

This is a left-flowing pick-and-roll, which is key for two reasons.

1) Nunn is driving to his dominant hand.

2) Adebayo is rolling right, which means the only defender that could “tag” him on the roll is Collin Sexton. Who is Sexton guarding? Only the most dangerous off-movement shooter in the league right now.

Sexton naturally drops for a second. He quickly realizes that Adebayo isn’t rolling to the basket. Adebayo cuts his roll short before setting a screen for Robinson to pop out to the top of the key.

You already know how it ends.

Examining the Miami Heat’s Young Core

All-Star Weekend was a busy one for the Miami Heat.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo were the headliners, becoming the first pair of Heat teammates since LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to grace the All-Star game floor.

Adebayo added a Skills Challenge trophy to his cabinet — and some money to Butler’s ongoing three-point tab. Between that and Butler ethering the Raptors, it’s safe to say the Heat stars showed out.

Beyond that, the Heat were able to put some of their “others” on display. Tyler Herro was set to play in the Rising Stars game, but an ank- er, foot — injury during Miami’s blow-out win over the 76ers knocked him out.

Kendrick Nunn was there to carry the mantle, scoring 16 points in Team USA’s 151-131 victory.

Duncan Robinson represented the Heat in the three-point contest, though his score (19) underwhelmed relative to his regular season success.

The winner of the weekend, as controversial as it may be, was Derrick Jones Jr. To say he entered the weekend confident would be a massive understatement.

Jones Jr. didn’t quite live up to his nothing-but-50s prediction, but he was able to bring the title home over Aaron Gordon. Not only did he rack up high scores in the contest, he was able to secure a shoe deal with Puma to cap off his weekend.

Now, the real fun starts. The Heat (35-19) have 28 games left to build up good habits and solidify their rotation. They’re currently the 4th seed — a fine place considering their competition, and in line with their preseason goals for home court advantage.

“We’re getting to the point of the season where the rubber’s kinda meeting the road,” Duncan Robinson tells Five Reason Sports over the weekend.

“We no longer want to be that ‘fun’ team or whatever. We want to push into that next level. With the playoffs on the horizon, our main focus is to position ourselves the best that we can.”

This also serves as an important stretch for the Heat’s young guys. The Heat need them for the playoff push, sure. But if we know anything about Pat Riley, it’s that he’ll push the chips to the middle of the table for a bonafide star.

The Heat are set to make splashes in each of the next two summers. If maneuvering is needed, some of the young pieces will be casualties, for lack of a better phrase.

With that, let’s take stock of the Heat’s young gunners.

Tyler Herro

Key stats: 13.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 39.3 percent from 3 (5.5 attempts)

Current role: Floor spacer, secondary creator

This one will be brief.

The Heat love Herro, their bleep-you, guard-me-if-you-can rookie with some big moments under his belt. He’s been better than, um, some people have anticipated. His offensive feel, three-point shooting, intermediate touch, and pick-and-roll chops are positives already. As he continues to adjust to NBA speed and physicality, Herro should shine playing off the Butler-Adebayo combo.

The defense is a bit of a problem. His off-ball instincts are fine, but the lack of length and burst — lateral and vertical — limits his ceiling on the ball. Miami has been a better team with Herro on the bench. That isn’t a massive indictment — it’s normal for rookies — but his defense is worth monitoring.

Status: (virtually) untouchable

Herro has been taken off the table in trade talks. Bradley Beal, a “former” Heat target, is probably the worst player the Heat would consider trading Herro for.

In short, unless a top-10 player that is 28 or younger becomes available, Herro is going to be a member of the Heat.

Kendrick Nunn

Key stats: 15.3 points, 3.5 assists, 34.1 percent from 3 (5.7 attempts)

Current role: secondary creator

Nunn kicked off the season on fire. He scored from all three levels offensively, and consistently blew up ball-screens on the other end. The makings of a two-way terror were on display; the Rookie of the Year award was heading to Miami.

Then, we hit November.

Nunn started getting back-cut. The missed passing windows become more egregious. The three-point shooting regressed a bit. He was still fine — good, by rookie standards — but some of the allure wore off.

Now, Nunn is working his way back from an Achilles injury. It’s been rough lately — 9.9 points with a 30/24/80 shooting split over his last seven games — but we shouldn’t lose sight of what Nunn is, and how far he’s come.

His three-level scoring chops are still legit. You can trust him to take the right shot against Drop coverage. His comfort around the elbows with jumpers or floaters will be important against teams like Philadephia. The game has slowed down a bit, evidenced by his moderate bump in assist-to-turnover ratio since December 1st (1.5 to 2.4).

Like Herro, Nunn is still a bit of a screen magnet defensively. It’s a bigger issue because he’s at the point of attack, and the Heat have been squishy on the interior. Him becoming a competent screen navigator is wildly important to his ceiling.

Status: important but movable

Nunn is the kind of secondary scorer the Heat need alongside Butler, who is more battering ram than pull-up artist. The Heat were also reportedly willing to include Nunn in a three-team deal that would’ve netted them Danilo Gallinari.

In short: Nunn is a prime candidate to be cashed in.

It’s important to note that there is no real attachment to Nunn; he was an end-of-season signing that has blown up more than anyone could’ve reasonably projected. He serves an important role, but selling high for an established guy isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Duncan Robinson

Key stats: 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 43.8 percent from 3 (8.1 attempts)

Current role: off-ball weapon

Robinson is, at worst, a top five shooter in the NBA. He’s nearly automatic on catch-and-shoot looks, and is Ellington-esque as an off-movement shooter. The Heat leverage his marksmanship by involving him in countless dribble-handoffs, and using him as a low screener to flummox defenses.

Before the season, Erik Spoelstra said Robinson was one of the best shooters in the world, and that it was up to him to prove it.

It’s, uh, safe to say he’s proven it this season.

Status: important

Robinson is arguably Miami’s most important offensive player. Their offensive rating drops over seven points with Robinson on the bench. He’s their best weapon against drop coverage; his off-movement shooting via dribble-handoffs put defenses in impossible situations.

As good as Robinson is offensively, he’s just as much of a mess defensively. Teams have begun to pick on him more aggressively, and that will ramp up during the playoffs. The Heat desperately need to become average — or slightly below — to fully maximize him.

Even with that, it’s hard to imagine Robinson being expendable. He’s essentially a 6’8 Ellington with more passing chops. The Heat have the defenders to flank Robinson with — Butler, Adebayo, Andre Iguodala, and Jae Crowder to name a few. If Herro or Nunn hold their weight as on-ball defenders, the Heat can probably survive with Robinson as the only minus defender on the floor.

Derrick Jones Jr.

Key stats: 8.7 points, 4.2 rebounds (1.0 offensive), 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks

Current role: Defensive specialist, freelance-4

The champ is here!

[insert drums here]

The champ is here!

Miami’s confident high flyer finally has the hardware to solidify himself as the game’s most absurd dunker.

Jones Jr. is more than a dunker, though. He’s a prolific offensive rebounder, sneaky-good half-court finisher (1.29 PPP, 79th percentile via Synergy), and a bit of a terror defensively. We know what Jones Jr. does in Miami’s zone, but his on-ball defense has improved immensely from last season.

Jones Jr. still feels a bit incomplete offensively. His handle is improved, but still loose. The footwork on drives gets a bit iffy. The jumper, or lack thereof, is the canyon-sized hole that needs to be closed. For what it’s worth, he recognizes that his jumper will unlock everything.

“If I have to choose one thing [to work on], it’s my jumper,” Jones Jr tells Five Reasons Sports.

“I have the ball-handling to do what I want. I have the athleticism to do what I want. Once I get that shot — I got it — but when it gets consistent, that’s a wrap.”

We shall see.

Status: safe for now

From my view, Jones Jr has been the most expendable part of the Heat’s young core precisely because of his offensive skill set. He doesn’t quite handle the ball well enough to play the 3, and isn’t a good enough shooter to provide real value as a stretch-ish 4.

To his credit, he’s done a fantastic job of using gaps to his advantage. More space from the perimeter has allowed him to build up runways for putback slams. He’s a smart guy off the ball, and that’s valuable.

The Heat deciding to trade Justise Winslow and hang onto Jones Jr, a free agent this summer, should be seen as a vote of confidence. They like what he brings to the table, and believe in how hard he works. If the shot does come around, the Heat may just have their 4 of the future.


Justise Winslow in Miami, promise unfulfilled

The Justise Winslow era wasn’t supposed to go like this.

When he fell to the 10th pick in 2015, the consensus was that Pat Riley and the Miami Heat got the steal of the draft in the form of a teenage wing with promising offensive potential and rare defensive versatility. He was a champion, a product of the Duke program that the Heat organization has been so fond of. Under the tutelage of Dwyane Wade Justise was supposed to blossom into stardom and take the torch from his mentor, leading the team into the next era.

None of that worked out quite right. After an impressive rookie year his mentor left, injuries cut his sophomore season short, a crowded backcourt forced him to play out of position more frequently than was preferable, and the holes in his offensive game made it difficult to fit him back into a rotation that was largely constructed in his absence.



When he was on the floor and not squeezed into an awkward spot in the lineup, he was undeniably good. He had his shortcomings, sure, but his defense was as good as advertised and his playmaking ability shocked a lot of fans. Before the acquisition of Jimmy Butler there wasn’t a player on the team who could make some of the passes Justise made with relative consistency. Winslow made huge strides as a shooter in a relatively short amount of time, and at times it looked like he was becoming the borderline all star everyone wanted him to be. If he had been able to stay on the court for a prolonged period he would’ve been incredibly valuable to a young competitive Heat team that struggles to defend the perimeter at time. Unfortunately, for Justise, that was a huge if.


Justise Winslow hasn’t had one recurring injury that would raise a huge red flag like in the case of Greg Oden or Joel Embiid (who has been successful despite health concerns), and it is difficult to know how serious his recent injuries are. What we do know is that he couldn’t stay on the floor for an extended stretch and it didn’t look like that was going to change in the near future. As fans and media members, we can talk about whether what they got back in the Grizzlies trade was an adequate return but, at a certain point, that’s all irrelevant. It has become clear that the Justise Winslow era in Miami ended some time before Pat Riley got on the phone with the Memphis front office. To fault either party for the deterioration of the relationship would require knowledge we don’t have. The only certainty is that the relationship was over.


The Grizzlies got a great young talent. If Justise Winslow thrives in Memphis, it should be a surprise to nobody. But his shortcomings as an off-ball offensive talent will always make it complicated to cleanly slot him into a rotation and Pat Riley understandably decided that a competitive Miami team didn’t have the time to continually work the oft-injured Winslow back into a rotation that is running relatively smoothly. Memphis is still young, they can afford to have the patience that a player like Justise necessitates.


Many Miami Heat fans (myself included) were attached to Winslow. He’s a promising, personable young player who has been refreshingly open about his mental health. Any success he has in Memphis should delight the fans who loved him. It should not necessarily serve as an indictment of the Heat organization. Miami needed the flexibility and Justise Winslow needed the fresh start. Best of luck to both parties.


Erik Spoelstra on Kobe Bryant’s legacy and his memories with him: “He was just unparalleled”

Season Ticket: Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat & Fresh First Impressions

He’s a toxic teammate. A terrible influence. A ticking time bomb.

Too demanding. Too selfish.

Too much me, not enough we.

That’s what we heard about Jimmy Butler, not from one spot, not from two spots, but from three.

Issues in Chicago. Trouble in Minnesota. Tension in Philadelphia.

A star, for sure, but not someone who could necessarily shine in a galaxy. Not someone you’d unequivocally trust on your side, especially when a squad started showing cracks. Not someone who would could lead as the primary piece, or support as the second, or sacrifice as the third. Not someone worthy of a maximum contract, certainly not of significant length, when he wasn’t capable of drawing out the maximum from those around him.

That’s what we heard.

From media. From executives. From coaches. And, yes, from players.

Now hear from his Miami Heat teammates about each’s initial meeting with the franchise’s new centerpiece.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression?

Here, finally at home, Jimmy Butler never needed one.



The Sidekick: Bam Adebayo

“His first impression was, he didn’t come in here with the ‘I’ mentality, or this is my team, or I’m gonna do it this way and nobody else can tell me (anything). He came in with open arms, he followed our culture, and he bought in. And now you are starting to see a different Jimmy. Jimmy isn’t the type of dude that wants to be the guy who other teams say he is. He says I’m the heart of this team but a lot of times we feed off of Jimmy’s energy. You know the Jimmy energy when you feel it. He’s just one of those guys, man, he’s all about winning.”

“I played against him a little bit, but we just knew each other because I knew D-Wade and he knew D-Wade. So it wasn’t like we had a first encounter then. But then we started playing pickup and we started building the connection, and you see it on the court. We developed the connection of basketball first and, once we got settled in, it kind of became more of a friendship and a brotherhood.”

“We are feeding off each other, we are finding each other. Coach Spo knows we are a great trigger together, and we are trying to really impose our will on teams with that.”


The Slovenian Soccer Pal: Goran Dragic

“I didn’t know him well. I knew that he was a great player. Usually when we played, sometimes he was guarding me, so I knew how tough he was. And then we just developed a chemistry. He’s a huge fan of soccer. Me too. So we bond with that. And then when we are on the floor, I try to look for him, I try to get him some easy baskets, and we got that chemistry. I don’t know how. But it’s fun. And I need to admit, he’s a really funny guy. I didn’t (think) he was so funny. But when you are around him most of the time, he’s a clown.”

“Man, where was the first time we met, bro….”

(Butler approaches in locker room)

“Was it training camp?”

“The first time we met?” Butler repeats. “All-Star weekend, motherfucker!”

“OK, but not then,” Dragic says. “This year, this year.”

“Uh, training camp,” Butler says.

“Yeah, training camp,” Dragic says. “He was working out at 3 a.m., I was sleeping.”


“Come here, my brother, see you tomorrow,” Butler says, with a hug and kiss. “Thank you brother.”

“Yeah, he’s a great guy. And I don’t understand. You know, you hear a lot of rumors in this league, when he was in Minnesota. I mean, I like that he challenges guys. You know? I like the challenges. Sometimes the guys are too sensitive in this league, and if he tells you something, it’s not personal, it’s only because he wants for the best of the team. And he wants the same thing from you. And that’s something that I really appreciate about him.”

It is suggested to Dragic that Butler doesn’t like entitled players.

And that the Heat, with only two top-10 picks, fit a different profile than past Butler teams in the NBA.

Butler, after all, was drafted 30th.

“He understands. Nothing was given to us. I’m not saying that the first rounders, it was given. But we have a little bit different path to get here. You know, I remember when Jimmy came to the league. He was basically only a defender. And you can see how he developed. I’m happy for him. He’s a great NBA player, and I’m happy to have him here.”

Friends of Butler say he has tried to model his Heat behavior after that of Dragic, since Dragic is the second-most tenured player on the team behind Udonis Haslem.

“With this kind of caliber of player, each team he goes, he cannot fit wrong. Because he’s got the ability to adapt, to fit into different systems to play. And he’s such a smart player. For me, when I came here, of course, it was D-Wade, CB (Chris Bosh), those were the main guys. I just tried to fit in. Those guys helped me a lot too. I personally talk a lot to Jimmy. I try to ask him what he sees, tell him what I see, especially when we play together. A lot of action goes towards him, and he backcuts, I try to get him some easy layups, because the defense keys on him, so it’s really tough to get those shots.”


The Sage: Udonis Haslem 


“Everybody asks me this, about what happened with Jimmy in other places. I don’t know what you want me to say. You put him in the cage with a bunch of cats, he’s gonna growl. You put him in a kennel with a bunch of dogs, he’s gonna be right at home. That’s really all I got to say about that. I don’t know what people want me to say. I don’t understand what they’re asking, about where he was. He fit in right here perfectly.”

“I already met him through D-Wade. The only thing I was really curious about was the country music thing, but he sold me. I got a couple country music things that I’m into right now. And I bought in. And I’m vibing.”


The Sniper: Duncan Robinson

“I didn’t know him at all. We played against him last year. I think I might have checked into one of the games we played against him. My first interaction was in an open gym. He just raised the level right away with his competitiveness. He and I had a couple of interactions where we went back and forth. I think that maybe it wasn’t necessarily something he expected from me but, at the same time, there are a lot of competitive guys in this locker room. He enjoys that. Just kind of having that competitive spirit be returned. He’s been awesome. He’s raised the level of our practices, our workouts, our games, obviously, and just been a great presence in this locker room.”

“Yeah, I vividly remember the first time. He went under a handoff on me, and I shot it behind and made it, and said, ‘Don’t ever go under my handoffs.’ I reminded him of that. And I think he proceeded to post me up on the other end. We just went back and forth. Just kind of normal jargon.”

“He definitely fits what this organization is about, and I think that’s why he was drawn here. He’s been awesome with me, and just pushing me, and really being in my ear. He’s been a tough critic on me, but I welcome that. And I think it’s made me a better player. He’s a great dude, man, he really is. I’ll (even) tolerate the (country music) more than other guys. I don’t really actively choose to listen to country music. But I don’t get annoyed with it like the other guys in this locker room. I’m kind of used to it.”


The Surprise Starter: Kendrick Nunn

“First meeting with Jimmy was probably in the locker room. He came in the locker room over the summertime. Right before training camp. He’s just a good guy. I’d seen him put in a bunch of work, so that was my first impression of him. I was just seeing how hard he worked. And the work he put in. I knew what type of guy he was up front. I knew we would have a connection because I’m the same type of guy.”

“He does appreciate (guys who didn’t have it easy). Of course I had to show him, because he probably didn’t know much about me. But just him watching me work and how I go about things, I think he appreciates that. He tells me too. He congratulates me on little things and he embraces it for sure.”

When does Nunn think Butler noticed him?

“Probably the preseason, when I had the 40 (against Houston). I mean, I caught a lot of guys with that. It was a different feel. He trusted me more on the court.”

Now they are starting together: what does Butler want?

“Just being accountable. It’s a collective effort on the court, where sometime during the game, where you need to hold your own. Whether that’s mano a mano of you guarding someone, holding your own. I showed I can do that, and he likes that, he embraces that. He tells me to continue to go about things how I am, continue to grind, work hard with my head down, and good things will come.”

Can he correct Butler now?

“Yeah. I’ve built that relationship with him. We’ve been starting the entire season together. So we have definitely been building communication. Our chemistry is building more and more every day. Spacing is one. Because I know guys normally stay attached to him. And he screens a lot and gets other guys open. So that’s what he usually tells me, when I try to go screen for him, he tells me to space out and then he’ll come screen for me and maybe he’ll draw two and leave me open. It’s been good.”


The Soarer: Derrick Jones, Jr.

“Me and Jimmy, when we met, we both let each other know our passion for the game, our love for the game, and our love to compete. First time actually meeting and talking, we were playing pickup. We got to see how each other work. We were on the same team the whole time. We got to see how each other played. And I loved it. I mean, people say this and that about Jimmy but, to me, he’s the ultimate competitor. He just wants to win, man. At the end of the day, that’s why I’m here.”

“It was just with us, in Miami. I mean, I knew of him before that, had conversations on the floor playing against each other, but actually being on the same floor, on the same team, it was different. I loved it. We got to feel out each other’s game. Like right now, I feel like when me and Jimmy are on the floor together, I told him, I’m gonna be man on ball, and you just go ahead and roam. Just do what you do. You’re a great on-ball defender but I feel like Jimmy’s best attribute is as an off-ball defender. Just let me guard the man, and you do what you got to do to get your steals.”

“Everybody in our locker room, we have a legendary work ethic. And I feel like we all gonna click regardless. We love to play the game, we love to win, we got ultimate competitors in here. When Jimmy first got to this team, like I say, I started watching all his highlights on YouTube and everything. I was just picking up on where he left off of. I see little places where I can help myself with him. Just put myself out there where I’m vulnerable to anything. I’m never the type to be mad about him criticizing my defense or anything. Whatever he got to tell me, I know it’s always gonna be good and it’s always from the heart. And we want to win, so whatever he got to say, I told him I’m all ears.”

“That’s our guy. That’s the culture here. We love it here, we love each other. They’re like my brothers. I’m never gonna let my brother go out there by himself. Whenever he got something to say, I got something to say right with him.


The Staunch Supporter: Meyers Leonard 


“Jimmy and I, shoot, we went to three meals in like a 16 hour span in Toronto. My wife’s like, ‘Dang, you’re spending a lot of time with Jimmy.’ I’m like, ‘I want to get to know the guy.’ And he invited me to dinner. I went and then, all of a sudden, the next day, we’re having lunch and dinner again. He gets it. And it does start from the top, which is Spo and his staff. And then a guy like Jimmy, you bring a guy like that in, that you wonder well, people have said, ‘Well, Jimmy Butler’s an asshole.’ No, no. Jimmy Butler’s not an asshole. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again. Jimmy Butler simply loves to compete, he’s competitive as hell. Wants guys to want to win, wants guys to want to work hard. And I don’t see any issue with it. We’re making millions of dollars to play basketball. That should be a pretty simple task.”

It seems like he doesn’t stomach entitlement from others, anywhere.

“Uh huh. Uh huh. I got to give you a couple stories, I just have to. I was telling (wife) Elle that I need to find a way to get to know Tyler (Herro), I’ve just got to find a way to do it. I had caught wind during one day of an offseason workout that Tyler was gonna be in early the next morning. So I said to Tyler, ‘Hey, what time are you showing up in the morning?’ He said, ‘I think we’re gonna be in at 6:30.’ I said, OK, perfect, I’ll be there. And I told Elle it’s because I wanted to get to know him, and I wanted him to start to trust me, and show him that he can come to me with any problems, any questions, anything. I mean, I’ve been around the league. And so I show up, and in a full sweat on the other end is Jimmy Butler. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘What in the hell? I didn’t know this guy was in town.’ But I respected that so much. So anyways, we get the work out done and Jimmy says, ‘Hey, big fella, good to see you man, I see you are working hard, this is gonna be a fun season.’ And now fast forward a couple weeks, now we’re in training camp, I catch wind that Jimmy now is gonna be working out at 3:30, or 3 a.m.  it was. And I was like, no way in hell I’m gonna let our leader be there by himself. I’m just not gonna do it. This has nothing to do with publicity. The only thing it has to do with, I’m gonna show Jimmy, if he’s gonna put this amount of work in, I’m gonna be right there next to him, by his side. Sure enough, we work out, it was great. It was just simply that I wanted to show him, I guess, my willingness to work hard and be right there alongside of him.

“And then the last piece was slowly but surely, Jimmy knows I care about winning, I play my role, I’m a locker room guy, I communicate, I do all those things. But I wanted to get to know him better. So again, we spent a pretty decent amount of time together, just talking about life, talking about basketball, on and on and on. Jimmy’s great, man. He really really is. And anybody who has been around him, in the right environment, would know that about Jimmy.”


The Savant: Tyler Herro

“I met Jimmy at his house in Chicago over the summer, when I went to work out with him. My first impression? I don’t know. I liked him. I liked the guy, I don’t know. Obviously, he took me under his wing. He’s like a big brother to me. He teaches me a lot on the court, even off the court I learned a lot from him. I don’t know what the assumption was, that he was a bad teammate or this, that or the third. But he’s been great for us and our locker room. Obviously, he’s our best player. And he’s a big reason why we are second or third in the East right now.”

“I hit him up, just know I’m the new rookie on the team. I don’t know if you’ve heard about me. I pretty much just texted him. I got his number through somebody and hit him up, let him know. And he was like, ‘If you want, you can come to Chicago and work out with me for a week. I was like, ‘Yeah. I’m with it.’ Yeah, yeah. We worked out for a couple days. We flew to Miami for a day, because he was buying a house. So I went with him to buy his house in Miami, and then we flew back that same night after a soccer game. I think Neymar was playing where the Dolphins play. And then we headed back to Chicago for a couple days and that was it.”

Why the quick connection?

“First, I respect him in a big way, everything that he’s done. I like guys who are going to impact a locker room, like this one, in a good way. He pushes everyone. When I first met him, I knew he was my type of guy when we were getting up at 5 in the morning going to work out. That’s the same stuff I do. I think once he sees that I was 19, and I was working like him, I think he respected me.”

“Probably the first time he came to Miami, for good, right before training camp, it was probably like September 20th I’d say. And we had an open gym run, 5-on-5, and I was guarding Jimmy and he was guarding me. It wasn’t like we were talking back at each other, it was just some competitive trash talk. I think that was another point where I think he respected me, I could talk to him like a grown man. Obviously I gained his respect. I’m continuing to build his trust.”

“Uno. We play a lot of Uno. He’s beaten me at that too. We played medicine beach ball. He’s beaten me at that. The only thing I’ve beaten him at so far is dressing.”


Jimmy Butler: The Star

Why is he so happy here?



Photos by John Kozan (@BrassJazz) other than Haslem photo by Ethan J. Skolnick. Jimmy Butler was offered for an interview for this story. We ultimately decided that his teammates said it best. Season Ticket is sponsored by Sirvanti Men’s Custom Clothiers in South Miami. Call Blanca at (305) 310-2085 for a consultation.