Guts Check: Try to win now or wait for 2021? Heat can do both

Welcome to Guts Check by Greg Sylvander. A weekly Miami Heat column aimed at bringing readers my perspective on all the hot topics surrounding the team. You can expect a regular balance of sourced information, analysis and feeling the Heat down in my soul. In the name of Trusting the Spocess, let’s call these weekly columns position-less.

 Since we last touched base:

  • Won at Indiana 122-108
  • Lost at Brooklyn 117-113
  • Lost at New York 124-121
  • Current Record: 27-12, 3rd in the East, tied for 4th best record in the league

 

Win Now or 2021 Plan? Or both?

 

Today a clip from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst began circulating regarding the Heat’s plans to build another super team. Which could as a surprise to no member of Heat Nation.

It was then punctuated by tweets from two former players that elude to the possibility of the best player on planet Earth (& current Milwaukee Buck) Giannis Antetokounmpo being the Heat’s top priority.

I think everyone realizes by now that every team will have Giannis as a top priority that summer. The mystique surrounding Riley, allure of Miami as a destination and the fact that Antetokounmpo & Heat star Bam Adebayo share an agent all have added flames to this fire.

However, as the Heat come off 2 bad losses to subpar teams, with question marks about the sustainability of their hot start and the current team’s ceiling, fans have been firing up the trade machine since Sunday evening.

Can the make a win now move without sacrificing 2021 plans? Some have been skeptical.

Could they trade for a player that the franchise’s new superstar Jimmy Butler has advocated for – Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday – without sacrificing this shot (of all shots worth shooting) at the Greek Freek in summer 2021?

Let’s investigate.

First, we must establish that this reckless fake trade speculation is arriving on your doorstep in far less elaborate packaging than say the great Albert Nahmad has done here.

This is just rough math (let’s call it Culture rounding) aimed at giving you a snapshot at how the Heat could conceivably position itself to acquire a player such as Holiday before the February trade deadline and also preserve the flexibility necessary to sign Giannis.

To know how much the Heat will have to spend in 2021, we first would need to speculate on what contracts need to be included in the trade for Jrue Holiday.

For the sake of this exercise – let’s assume it takes at minimum a package that resembles Justise Winslow, Kendrick Nunn, Kelly Olynyk and a draft pick of some kind.

One important note about the following potential scenario – it would unfortunately make it hard for the Heat to retain Derrick Jones Jr and Goran Dragic – although there could even be ways of making that happen if the players and organization were aligned on plans.

If we then operate under the assumption that the Heat make no other long-term salary commitments prior to 2021, and renounce any lingering cap holds, this is what the Heat’s cap sheet would look like heading into that summer:

  • Jimmy Butler $36M
  • Jrue Holiday $26M (lets assume he opts IN – which could be considered unlikely)
  • Tyler Hero $4M
  • KZ Okpala $1.8M
  • Chris Silva $2M cap hold
  • Bam Adebayo cap hold $12.8M
  • Duncan Robinson cap hold $2M
  • Ryan Anderson dead cap $5M
  • 2020 1st Round Pick 2nd year salary: $2M
  • 4 minimum roster charges: $4M

That brings the total committed salary to $95M or so heading into summer 2021.

The salary cap for 2021 is projected to be $125M

That leaves the Heat with somewhere around $30M in cap space.

Giannis Year One Max is projected to be $37M.

So, the Heat find themselves around $7M short.

However, if you can find a team to take KZ Okpala and the player you select with your 2020 1st Round Pick (if it hasn’t been traded by then) you gain back $4M.

That get’s you to $34M in cap space.

Renounce the cap hold of Silva and you get to $36M – only $1 million short of the year one Giannis max total.

Then all that would be left to do is convince Giannis to do an unprecedented, unfathomable act, something that has never been executed in Miami Heat history.

He would have to sacrifice a relatively small amount of his year one annual income (relatively speaking) to land in Miami on a super team. And yes, seeing how this version of the Heat would have Butler, Holiday, Giannis, Bam, Herro & Robinson as its core – I think we could deem them a potential super team.

Sounds impossible, if we hadn’t already seen players do it to team up down here in the past.

What’s Wrong With the Miami Heat’s Defense?

This is bad.

A 1-2 road trip isn’t the end of the world. Heck, losing to the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks (yuck) isn’t all that bad. They’re two losses in an 82-game schedule that, to this point, the Heat have probably overachieved in.

The way that those games were lost, however, is pretty frustrating.

241 American points were given up over the weekend, all in regulation. The Kyrie-and-KD-less Nets — with a rusty Caris LeVert to boot — probably shouldn’t have that sort of success. Neither should the Knicks, a hodgepodge of trade fodder surrounding a wet-behind-the-ears wing with a questionable jumper.

But alas, this is the way the Heat’s defense has been trending.

If you’ve been following The Launching Pad, you would’ve picked up on the Heat’s weekly defensive rating rising every week. Since December 1st, the Heat have a defensive rating of 111.3 (23rd). They’ve gone 14-7 in that stretch, but a 21-game sample means their defensive shortcomings don’t classify as a blip.

The Heat’s defense is like an onion — it stinks and it’ll make you cry, if it hasn’t already. More importantly for this discussion, there are layers to this problem.

Understanding the Scheme

DISCLAIMER: You’re more than welcome to skip the next section if you’re even marginally X’s & O’s inclined.

To understand where the cracks in Miami’s defense are coming from, you must understand what the Heat want to accomplish, and how they want to get there.

The Heat employ a “Drop” scheme against ball screens, which calls for the perimeter defender to fight over screens while the big man drops (aha!) into the paint. When done correctly, a drop scheme:

1) runs the perimeter player off the three-point line and funnels him inside

2) Puts the defensive big man in position to take away a (clean) rim attempt or a lob attempt to a rolling big

3) Allows help defenders to stay attached to guys in the corner, since pick-and-rolls are defended 2-on-2

4) encourages pull-up 2s or floaters, which are generally less efficient shots than 3s or shots at the rim

There are natural holes in that scheme. Pick-and-pops are coverage busters since the defensive big is tasked with hanging in the paint. It’s partly why guys like Karl-Anthony Towns are nearly impossible to deal with.

Pull-up artists — your Dames, your Kembas, your Trae Youngs — are particularly lethal if they can run their man into a screen. With the big in the paint, there’s no real chance for a contest on a quick pull-up unless you’re sending help elsewhere.

The Numbers

By virtue of their scheme, the Heat want to take away rim attempts first, corner shots second, above-the-break threes third, and let offenses feast or famine on in-between shots.

The Heat are doing precisely one (1) of those things well.

Via PBPStats, the Heat rank 9th in percentage of shot attempts allowed at the rim (30.6). They’re 26th in percentage of corner threes allowed (10.5), 28th in above-the-break threes (32.0), and don’t particularly force long mid-range shots either.

When you look at the efficiency of those shots, the story basically flips.

Despite the Heat limiting rim attempts, they’ve been the NBA’s worst defense at actually defending those shots (66.86 percent). Enemies haven’t had success on their above-the-break threes (31.9 percent, 4th), corner threes (35.1 percent, 4th) or long mid-range jumpers (37.3 percent, 4th).

That kind of split begs the question: why are the Heat so bad at shot prevention?

Problems at the head

It starts up top, figuratively and literally.

The key to a drop scheme is the perimeter defender staying connected to the ball-handler. If he doesn’t do that, the burden shifts to the rest of the team to scramble. With the NBA being spacier than ever, scramble drills feel like death sentences. Cracks turn to craters reeeeally quickly.

This isn’t an example of a scramble drill. In fact, I’d say this was one of Miami’s best defensive reps from the Nets game. Meyers Leonard does a surprisingly good job of meeting Spencer Dinwiddie at the level of the screen. He hesitates on the contest, and Dinwiddie makes the shot. That’s still a pretty solid process with an unfavorable result.

What this is an example of, however, is Kendrick Nunn dying on a screen. This has been happening quite often since the first month of the season. He started the season hot as a point-of-attack defender, often “jumping” the screen — feeling where the pick is coming from and getting into the ball-handler’s body before the screener can even make contact — and staying attached.

Teams got privy to that, and we saw more guards start to back-cut him. Since then, Nunn has been a bit slower in his approach to attack screens. It’s led to less backdoor cuts, but he’s allowed himself to get screened, putting the rest of the defense in limbo.

As productive as Goran Dragic has been offensively, he’s been … let’s say the exact opposite of that on the defensive end. Dragic’s inability to stay connected on screens is a big reason why he’s in a bench role to begin with.

Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson have been mostly fine as team defenders. They know when and where to rotate, and can execute simple dig-and-recover sequences when they aren’t directly involved in the action.

When they are attacked, either on or off ball, their lack of quick-twitch athleticism make them liabilities. Robinson in particular has struggled to stay connected. Here’s an off-ball rep:

Aaaaaaaand here’s a pretty important on-ball rep:

Not great!

The Nets sought out Robinson late in the 4th and essentially got what they wanted every time down. The clip above also sheds light on an obvious but not-discussed-enough fact of the Heat’s defense: they really don’t like switching.

Overcompensating

Super Bam highlights aside, the Heat want to keep things simple. Via Second Spectrum tracking data, the Heat have ranked 25th in screens switched per 100 possessions in each of the past two seasons.

That’s not inherently a bad thing. But when the crux of your defensive principle is staying attached, and your players can’t do that, you’re going to give up the shots the Heat have been giving up.

First and foremost, this is a fantastic set play from the Nets. A big reason this play works is because they knew Leonard didn’t want to leave the paint. Running Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot off a screen to occupy Bam was a smart wrinkle to take him and Leonard out of the play simultaneously.

Having Bam and Leonard switch that initial screen would’ve allowed Bam to hang at the top of the key to help defend the Joe Harris-Jarrett Allen action. Instead, Allen washes out Robinson with a screen, which leads to a scramble drill.

In lieu of switching, the Heat try to compensate by flooding the middle of the floor. I’ve talked a little about the Heat’s defense at the “nail” — the point of the floor slightly above the middle of the free throw line. Jimmy Butler has played a ton of free safety from that area this season, which has led to plenty of pick-sixes.

It’s a risk-reward dance that Butler has mostly won this season. In addition to jumping passing lanes, Butler also has the freedom to “dig” more aggressively into the paint for surprise strips. Things can go pretty poorly whenever Butler loses a bet.

 

The Heat’s commitment to taking away the middle is a big reason why they play so much zone. Having guys like Butler and Derrick Jones Jr. makes middle penetration and entry passes darn-near impossible. When teams are able to find the soft spot of the zone, bad things happen pretty darn quickly.

 

The Heat’s zone has generally been used as a change-of-pace option; as of late, it feels like its usage has come out of necessity.

How does it get better?

Depending on how you consume Heat basketball (or, I guess, basketball in general), this answer will either anger you or excite you.

This isn’t getting better without some personnel changes. It’s hard to imagine Erik Spoelstra deciding to get more switch-y. With this group, I’m not sure you can really afford to. Simplifying things can only take you so far.

If you guessed that this would be the section that I mention the name of one Justise Winslow, you would be correct!

It’s hard to overstate just how important a healthy Winslow would be for this defense. At his best, he’s the Heat’s second best perimeter defender and their best screen-avoider. Giving some of the Nunn, Dragic, Herro, or Robinson minutes to Winslow would be quite the upgrade.

(I’d also encourage you to check out the timeline of our own Christian Hernandez — @ICanBeYourHerro — if you want some of the ugly lineup numbers the Heat have dealt with at guard.)

Sadly, Winslow is still dealing with a back injury. There’s no telling when he’ll be 70 percent, much less when he’ll be back to his calling-Ben-Simmons-a-BAN self.

Maybe another week of this convinces Pat Riley to hit up Pelicans GM David Griffin to inquiry about Jrue Holiday. On a less exciting note, calling up the Sacramento Kings to check in on disgruntled Dewayne Dedmon to beef up the front court would make some sense.

Until then, your best bet is to hope some rest, good ol’ fashioned film review yelling, and home cooking can reinvigorate this group.

Should Miami Heat Embrace Villain Status Once Again?

Being the villain worked for the Miami Heat once, can it again?

The Miami Heat took care of another road win Wednesday at Indiana 122-108, but the storyline was not the result.

Instead the focus was on a battle (one-sided) between Jimmy Butler and Indiana’s T.J. Warren.

 

Butler goaded Warren into an ejection after an offensive foul on Butler drew taunting applause from the Indiana forward.

The two were going at it all game and the physicality finally reached a boiling point.

Perhaps Warren did not realize that Butler is probably only the third baddest you-know-what on the Heat.

 

Butler’s teammates have quickly rallied behind their leader, while social media has been in a frenzy about it.

Meanwhile some, let’s say, old school basketball minds think Butler was in the wrong.

A bad example for the young fans of the National Basketball Association.

 

The league office took notice as well.

 

Perhaps you receive less punishment if you forget the whole thing ever happened.

 

Fans of teams from Butler’s past (cough…Philly) have continued to perpetuate the false narrative that Butler is a bad teammate.

A problematic malcontent.

Except he isn’t.

 

The thoughts of those outside the Heat organization typically hold little to no influence on those inside.

Yet the us-against-the-world mentality has not exactly been a burden either.

When Lebron James and Chris Bosh joined the Heat in 2010 after the infamous “Decision”, it manifested into a polarizing era.

The ceremony with proclamations of multiple championships drew the ire of many.

ESPN’s “Heat Index” consumed every ounce of Heat Culture during the Big 3 Era, and rightfully so.

That Heat team was not a lovable champion to a lot of NBA observers outside of Heat Nation.

Instead a juggernaut formed with a singular end goal, that was ultimately achieved twice.

The venom fueled Lebron to get his first two championship rings.

So why can’t it do the same for Jimmy Butler?

This Heat squad is a much different team, a group already ahead of schedule.

The early success this season has drawn a lot of positive praise nationally.

While Butler has been under the microscope for his shooting, despite his team’s success.

Why?

Butler fits the Heat model to the tee, a selfless general with only one goal.

His actions in Indiana were savvy and galvanizing to his team.

But he didn’t make any friends in the Hoosier State.

They can take a number behind those in Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Chicago.

Because Jimmy Butler and the Heat don’t care.

Get ready for more contentious nights on the hardwood before this season is complete.

Just how we like it.

 

Guts Check: Harmless Hassan Heckling, Airplane Mode, Justise Better

Welcome to Guts Check by Greg Sylvander. A weekly Miami Heat column aimed at bringing readers my perspective on all the hot topics surrounding the team. You can expect a regular balance of sourced information, analysis and feeling the Heat down in my soul. In the name of Trusting the Spocess, let’s call these weekly columns position-less.

Since we last touched base:

  • Won vs Toronto 84-76
  • Lost at Orlando 105-85
  • Won vs Portland 122-111

Heat record: 26-10, 3rd in the East, 4th best record in the NBA

Harmless Hassan Heckling

A portion of the Heat fanbase, and media for that matter, certainly took a strange position this week.

It appears they reprimanded Heat fans for jeering and booing Hassan Whiteside during Sunday night’s Heat victory over the Portland Trailblazers. Some even accused Heat fans of acting as ugly as Cavs fans did to LeBron James when he visited Cleveland (as a member of the Miami Heat) for the first time after leaving his home state in 2010.

Give me a break.

No batteries were thrown, no obscenity laced outburst in the tunnel, no middle fingers from the stands, no signs with bold insults. Boos and a “We got shooters” chant pale in comparison to anything the folks up in Cleveland dished out towards LBJ. Making the comparison is downright laughable.

Heat fans wanted to give Hassan that type of ovation long before he was traded away.

Whiteside had the opportunity to be the greatest example of Heat Culture in franchise history. He had all the tools, the things you can’t teach, yet appeared unwillingly to learn the things you can.

Heat fans wanted it to work out. I, for one, was in favor of maxing Whiteside in 2016. We saw the triple doubles with blocks, the dominant stat lines and the playful personality. However, all that is endearing if the team is winning and it’s happening within the team construct. Those moments were few and far between.

Heat fans will move on. Don’t flatter the Whiteside apologists by allowing them to think the fanbase is going to acknowledge the Hassan era with a decade of boos. It will only be for the few initial visits.

There just wasn’t enough accomplished on the court or off for Whiteside to remain some type of villain in Miami long term.

The Heat fan’s contempt for Whiteside is much more rooted in disappointment and frustration than malice or ill will.

How ironic is it that Hassan’s reaction to being traded was “We got shooters” and now the Heat having its best collection of shooters since the Big 3 era.

We wish Hassan Whiteside all the best in his life, but we are also happy he is on a different team.

Airplane Mode Activation in Chicago

I have gotten a lot of questions related to the tweet shown below.

Listen, DJJ hasn’t gotten the official invite yet. (reminder – nowhere did I mention anything about an invitation) So I totally understand the push back and mildly frustrated comments that have came my way regarding my declaration that DJJ will participate.

However, I stick by what I tweeted, that he will participate this February in the Slam Dunk contest. Be a bit more patient for things to become a bit more official. Same goes for Duncan Robinson in the the 3 point shootout.

Healthy Heat? Fingers Crossed

Sounds like the Heat could play their first game fully healthy all season on this upcoming trip. All indications are Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow will potentially return to the lineup tomorrow in Indy.

This is the moment the front office has been waiting for – that Heat fans have been waiting for – to see the full compliment of talent.

Justise Winslow’s productivity and potential fit will be spotlighted. As the swiss army knife player this Heat rotation needs, Winslow has the chance to put all trade rumors to bed if he comes back and flourishes.

An added benefit to a fully healthy roster, comes the opportunity for the front office to evaluate this roster as a whole. To identify the ceiling and what pieces are truly expendable.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to get some extended looks at the trio of Winslow, Adebayo and Butler.

If his twitter activity is any indication, #JustiseBetter now, Better Now.

What Hassan Whiteside means to where Miami Heat stand now

Hassan Whiteside’s polarizing return to Miami perfectly symbolized where the Heat stand since they dealt him last summer. 

 

Try and remember Fall 2014. A few months after LeBron James’ sudden departure. The Miami Heat are off to a shaky start to the post-LeBron era, and early in November end up cutting former high-flyer Shannon Brown in order to sign Hassan Whiteside, a relative unknown. Heat fans and NBA fans alike had no idea what was coming thereafter.

 

Whiteside, after putting together a few positive games, including multiple triple doubles with blocks as well as a few national TV moments, to then a few positive weeks, to, eventually, three-fourths of a positive season, became a per-36 darling and was playing like a seriously impactful big man. 

 

After being out of the league and playing on multiple different continents as well as multiple different D-League teams, he had Heat fans extremely excited about the prospects of unearthing yet another project big man after Whiteside finished off the 2014-2015 campaign with a 14/12/3 (points/rebounds/blocks) statline post All-Star break.

 

A couple more seasons of playing like a giant Defensive Player of the Year candidate passed by, and Hassan Whiteside was considered to be in the crop of the top unrestricted, max-contract free agents.

 

A 5-team bidding war proceeded, and Whiteside remained loyal to the team that gave him a real shot at redemption, re-signing with the Heat in the infamous Summer 2016 to a near-$100 million deal that would keep him as the highest paid player on the roster after the Chris Bosh debacle went down, and after having traded (and re-signed) Goran Dragic that year. 

 

No one could’ve known then that he’d be getting consistently booed in his return to the Miami Heat in his last season of the four-year contract he inked.

 

The reality was, after a gradual athletic and subsequent performance decline, as well as a couple of public spats regarding his role and playing time, Hassan’s time in Miami was dwindling, and came to a climax last summer when they dealt him to Portland in return for Meyers Leonard, in order to help facilitate the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade.

 

Now, in the early days of 2020, the Miami Heat have gotten off to a strong 25-10 start, playing at about the level of a top 10 team on both ends since the season tipped off, coming into this game. In the summer, Hassan Whiteside subtly went at the Heat with his now-infamous “We got shooters” line. 

 

Then, a perceived shot at Hassan came around after the Heat’s last game before Whiteside’s return to Miami, when Head Coach Erik Spoelstra was talking up all the things Jimmy does on the floor, even while not shooting well.

 

 

During the introduction and throughout the game, Whiteside was getting booed in every second he was involved in. There were also plenty of “We got shooters” chants meant to mock Whiteside going on as well. He made it known post-game that he never meant to send shots at the Miami Heat, reiterating his intended message.

 

 

Although I’m getting serious walk-back vibes there, (Hassan forgot to mention the part where he said something to the effect of “We got shooters that can actually dribble”), Hassan Whiteside doesn’t deserve the amount of ire he continues to receive from Heat fans. 

 

 

At the same time, his post-game comments had some Heat fans re-evaluating their feelings on Whiteside.

 

 

 

While myself and many others were chirping for the team to trade him since the start of his decline, he was still a very productive player all throughout his tenure in Miami, finishing with just about a 15/14/3 statline in that span.

 

We shouldn’t forget just how much of a fan favorite he was those first few years, with many expecting him to be a perennial All-Star and DPOY candidate for years to come. 

 

It just…. Went the opposite direction when we least expected it to, something that happened more than a few times throughout the post-LeBron era.

 

It’s fitting then that, in the same game, his former partner-in-crime Goran Dragic went off for 29 points and 13 assists off the bench, (11/17 from the field, 7/10 from three), while the man who ended up taking his place, the younger Bam Adebayo, put up a 20/8/6/1/1 statline, with his sole block in the game coming on Whiteside and the player he was traded for, sunk three threes, further emphasizing what Whiteside never brought to the table.

 

The Heat were up double digits and in the twenties for a good chunk of the game, and ending up with a relatively easy win, despite playing without Jimmy Butler. In a game where CJ McCollum did not play due to [South Beach] sickness, despite Damian Lillard shooting 50% from both the field and from three, as well as Whiteside going 9-of-12 from the field, putting up a gaudy 21/18/2 statline, the Blazers never really put up a fight in this game. 

 

Maybe that’s all we really need to know about who ended up being on the right side of winning. 

 

We saw more indicators of where the 26-10 Miami Heat stand: a relevant, playoff-level team that is showing the signs of being a team that could go on a prolonged run in the Playoffs. 

 

Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers, after reaching the Western Conference Finals last spring, now stand at 15-22 for the season, after dealing some longtime wings and acquiring Whiteside as the fill-in for the injured Jusuf Nurkic. 

 

Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to, check: ‘Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls. So, to properly contextualize this timeline, Wade’s departure led to Jimmy’s arrival and subsequently, the return to national relevance, just like the Whiteside trade did. 

 

In that case, was Hassan Whiteside just the purgatory, or rather, the symbol for the transitional period the Heat were in post-LeBron and, eventually, post-Bosh, to lead us directly into this newfound Jimmy-Bam era? Life can be funny that way, huh?

 

Alex Toledo (@TropicalBlanket) appears regularly on the Five on the Floor podcast on Five Reasons Sports Network.

Launching Pad: Tyler’s Herroics, Jimmy’s Jumper, Heat’s Handoffs

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: 24-8 (3-0, 2nd in the East)

• Offensive Rating: 110.8 (111.6)

• Defensive Rating: 106.3 (110.3)

• Net Rating: plus-4.5 (plus-1.3)

• True-Shooting Percentage: 58.6 (55.1)

• Pace: 99.59 (97.13)

• Time of Possession: 14.7 seconds (14.9)


Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)

Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Jones Jr., Meyers Leonard

• Minutes: 12

• Offensive Rating: 103.4

• Defensive Rating: 86.2

• Net Rating: plus-17.2

• True-Shooting Percentage: 57.1

• Pace: 97.8


The Big Number: 12.3

It’s easy to scoff at the importance of role-players, particularly when their contributions aren’t sparkly on the stat sheet. Cliches are boring — we want highlights and arbitrary benchmarks that put you in the air with legends!

There’s still value in doing your job. The #LittleThings, if you will. Meyers Leonard does exactly that.

He’s the Heat’s most valuable screener, consistently springing guards free with smart angles. His reads have become better in that regard. He still pops more than he dives to the rim, but his ability to find those pockets of space allow the Heat offense to flow.

Defensively, Leonard is comfortable as the “Drop” big or the backbone of the zone. Bad things can happen when he’s forced to defend in space, but his size and spatial awareness make him effective at the rim. Opponent shot just 50 percent at the rim against Leonard this week, per Second Spectrum.

Absolutely none of what I described is conventionally exciting. Leonard’s averages from the week — 6.0 points, 6.7 rebounds in 23.5 minutes — don’t call for Player of the Week chants. But the Heat were 12.3 points better per 100 possessions with him on the court.

Weekly Trends

1. Tyler Time

This is the sequence of the season so far.

That is Tyler Herro, allegedly a rookie, calling his own number with a stepback three facing a two-point deficit. Clearly he’s a descendant of Stonehenge.

Not even two minutes later, Herro takes — and makes — an even more difficult shot.

Initial action breaks down. Improv. Herro receives a pitch, then steps back into another triple to give the Heat a one-point lead.

In both cases, Herro is sharing the court with a perennial All-Star (Jimmy Butler) and a former All-Star (Goran Dragic). He’s still confident enough to say “Nah, I got this.”

Herro isn’t scared of anything. This is something we collectively knew, even if it was something I undersold. Not only is he fearless in big moments, he’s pretty darn good in them.

Per 36 clutch minutes, Herro is averaging 25-8-2 with a 53-54-100 shooting split. Only Butler is averaging more clutch points for the Heat, though that’s because he’s averaging more free throw attempts than Herro is averaging shot attempts.

As usual, the “how” matters more than the “what” here. Herro’s feel for the game really shines through, particularly in 2-on-2 scenarios. Playing “Drop” coverage against him is an invitation of death. Though he’s a two-level scorer at this stage, he’s able to compensate for his rim-finishing woes with cotton-soft floaters and timely passes when the big commits.

Very loudly, Herro is showing the kind of secondary creator chops needed to raise the Heat’s playoff ceiling. Him becoming a pull-up artist isn’t necessarily a surprise; doing it against elite defenses, and this soon, is almost absurd.

2. Is Jimmy Broken?

On the other end of the spectrum … it’s time to talk about it.

Jimmy Butler has mostly been a godsend for the Heat. He’s been all about empowerment, on and off the floor.

Butler has made a point to blend in with teammates; his relationships with Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Goran Dragic have been well-documented to this point. He’s sharing the ball, posting a career-high in assists (6.7). When the time comes, he can still take games over with shoulder-checking drives to the basket.

But good lord, man, what is going on with his shot?

Per Synergy, Butler’s 28.5 percent clip on jumpers rank 162nd among 168 players that have taken at least 100 of them. His 0.703 point-per-possession mark on those shots rank 165th.

He’s been a mess on guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers (23.1 percent), unguarded looks (33.3 percent), and jumpers off the dribble (30.8 percent). The latter is especially important because of how often he operates in pick-and-roll.

Teams ducking under picks against Butler isn’t a new strategy, but it’s one that has particularly bothered him against the Sixers this season. You need pull-up shooting to neutralize their size and length; Butler hasn’t been able to do so.

Butler’s been able to to compensate from an efficiency standpoint because of his forays to the rim. He’s still driving like a madman, and ranks third in the NBA in free attempts per game (9.4).

But those kind of windows close in the postseason. Butler’s career postseason free throw rate (39.3) is nearly 10 percentage points lower than his regular season clip (49.2). Defenses will get more blatant with their give-him-space strategy. He’s going to need to prove he can make defenses respect him off the bounce.

3. Gettin’ Pitchy With It

On a recent episode of Five On The Floor, my colleague Alex Toledo talked about Bam Adebayo and the gap defense he faced against the Sixers. He noted that there were three ways for Adebayo to counter that: attack the basket (#FloaterGang), take open jumpers, or use the defender’s space against him by flowing into handoffs.

The latter point is especially key, because it was a huge part of Miami’s offensive success this past week.

Adebayo ranks in the top five of screen assists (5.1) and points via screen assists (11.8) this season, per Second Spectrum. Those numbers skyrocketed to 7.3 and 17.7 respectively during Miami’s 3-0 stretch.

Take these plays from the Utah game for example. Watch how far back Rudy Gobert is from Adebayo. Conversely, watch how quickly Adebayo is able to generate these looks:

Shockingly, the Heat lead the NBA in points via dribble-handoffs (289 total, 9.0 per game) and are second in points per possession (1.062)

They’re essentially condensed pick-and-rolls that don’t give the big time to recover. Having shooters like Herro and Duncan Robinson that can fling off-movement triples give the Heat’s offense a layer of unpredictability that teams can’t really account for.

Set Play of the Week

Post-Split Pandemonium 

There is a lottttttt going on in this train reaction of an opening set.

Before digging into what happens — and why it works — it’s important to understand what Philadelphia wants to do. It’s easy to point out their scheme with the big (Joel Embiid) — they want to drop back and close off lanes to the rim. But that also affects they way they defend the perimeter.

The Sixers don’t just want to run shooters off the line, they want to funnel everything inside to Embiid specifically. Within that lens, peep how high Josh Richardson plays Kendrick Nunn, and the positioning used to force him left. On the other side, it’s notable that Tobias Harris is basically face-guarding Robinson.

Now, this is why it works for Miami.

After Nunn enters the ball into Butler, he wraps around Butler and cuts baseline. Because Richardson is trailing him in an effort to funnel him inside, Ben Simmons stunts to disrupt Nunn’s cut. On top of that, Embiid drops further down to cut off that path.

Robinson and Leonard are reading all of this, and kick off their action right as Nunn begins his cut. With Embiid occupied with Nunn, there’s no path to him to disrupt any sort of pindown. Al Horford is technically in position to help, but that opportunity disappears when Leonard dives.

Robinson essentially fakes a flex screen (down-screen for Leonard) before flying off a screen from Adebayo. Harris has no chance of tracking Robinson, and there’s nobody up top to help him out either.

This is a fantastic example of the Heat using opponent tendencies against them.

New Year Resolutions Came Early for the Miami Heat

As 2020 approaches, replete with all of the resolutions and commitments to diet and exercise that come with a fresh New Year, the Miami Heat are exempt from such firm declarations at this time.

In the life cycle of every Miami Heat player, the in-house expectation is always the same regardless of calendar position: to become your absolute best, getting and staying in world class shape is a demand, not a request.

Pat Riley acknowledged as much in his end of season press conference last April.

“I set the template for it back in 1995 when I got here,” Riley said. “It’s academic. It’s a culture that I think every professional team should start with…. They want their players to be world class athletes first and knowing that if they become that, their basketball skills can become more efficient when they’re in great condition.”

“But every now and then, I used to call it, you got to tighten the screw if there is some slippage” Riley added. “And there will be changes next year. Not a new culture but tightening the screws on a culture that sometimes erodes just a little bit.”

Last year’s Heat team appeared to have rested on their laurels. “One Last Dance” with Dwyane Wade was the focus, and for all the warm and fuzzies that dance provided, it couldn’t offset the slippage.

Fast forward to the 2019-20 Miami Heat, and the screws have been tightened.

Riley made good on his promise of changes. Roster changes, lineup changes and absolutely no tolerance for approaching the process with anything less than total commitment.

Expectations were set on the first day of training camp, a message Coach Erik Spoelstra delivered to the team promptly.

“Look, we have a level of expectation and professionalism that you’re going to have to uphold. Period.” Meyers Leonard recalled as Coach Spo’s message to the team back in October.

What does the process of getting in “world class shape” look like?

Nutrition is a natural starting point.

Heat starter Duncan Robinson has made this a primary focus and has seen the results pay off in big ways. Robinson literally looks different this season.

“For me, what I tried to emphasize was my diet. I worked with a dietician and started cooking my own meals that way I knew exactly what was going into my body. Being locked in and consistent with that helped me put on the weight.” Robinson told Five Reasons Sports.

“I think the biggest difference is the emphasis and consistency they put on it here (in Miami).”

When we think of athletes training to be in world class shape, sometimes the assumption is athletes are asked to turn down food to maintain their chiseled physique.  Robinson paints a different picture.

“It was a hard adjustment to add more calories. The big adjustment was in the morning, eating such a big breakfast. I was having like 1,300-1,400 calories for breakfast. I wasn’t used to it.”

The team tracks their macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Players do not need to guess when it comes to meal prep. “I was given a meal plan and a shopping list” Robinson added.

Robinson had to go as far as cutting out one food item that is near and dear to all Floridian hearts: Publix subs.

“I had to cut out Pub(lix) subs. The chicken tender sub is really good. They’re not the healthiest thing in the world, but they are good for sure. There’s a saying that “cut” is in the kitchen. You’ve got to be eating the right stuff, especially if you’re working out as much as we are. That was the biggest adjustment from college to here.”

Leonard has a similar regiment.

“I eat between 4,800-5,000 calories a day. Most of it clean. It’s honestly kind of like a second job. I eat two pounds of protein per day,” Leonard told Five Reasons Sports.

“The focus off the floor is so important when it comes to how you’re going to perform on it. I want to look good, feel good, and perform well.”

The Heat training staff makes it easy for players to become educated and connected to the proper resources.

“The Heat have done a great job putting together a staff that allows for players to ask questions and get better. When you’re putting yourself through the ringer like that, you also have to have a staff and a support system that understands what you need and will work with you,” Leonard said.

Kelly Olynyk has transformed his body since his arrival in Miami, but it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s tough. It’s dedication and a lot of it is sacrifice. You’re not going to be eating the things you want to eat. You can’t take days off. You have to make sure that you’re giving a conscious effort day in and day out. I have to do something every single day. If I take days off, it hits me harder than it hits others. My body will lose body fat if I’m disciplined,” Olynyk explained.

Discipline, to the extent that Heat Culture demands, is not for everyone. The starting front court in Miami has embraced the process.

“I love it. I think that we are, first of all, blessed to do what we do, and also we’re paid pretty damn nicely. So, to stay in shape and be ready and do the little things that matter should be an expectation anyways,” explained Leonard.

Heat star Bam Adebayo takes the responsibility of carrying Heat Culture into the next decade seriously.

“There’s no limit in being in even greater shape. We just go out there and try to keep our body fat as low as possible, maintain our weight at a good playing weight, and eat right,” Adebayo told Five Reasons Sports.  “They hold us responsible for it, so whatever you put in your body is going to show on the court. We play fast, so if you can’t keep up, then it’s obviously in your diet, and that’s pretty much the Heat Culture, for real.”

Heat rookie sensation Tyler Herro now knows the reality of Heat Culture after spending a year in the college ranks at Kentucky.

“It was definitely an adjustment. Coming from Kentucky, they prepare you to be a pro. I think that’s the reason why you go to Kentucky. But it’s definitely been an adjustment in all aspects. I’m still adjusting. Taking it one day at a time,” Herro told Five Reasons back in October.

This year’s Heat team is a working embodiment of everything Heat Culture stands for, and it shows with what and who we are seeing on the court.

“It’s not really an option, so if you don’t want to do it, then you probably won’t be playing for the Heat much longer,” said Herro.

That sentiment has proven to be much more a promise than a threat – and it is paying off for the Heat this season.

Tightening the screws has led to a happy new year indeed.

Brian Goins contributed to this story.

Launching Pad: Bam’s Buckets, Nunn’s Growth, Zone Success

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: 21-8 (2-1, 3rd in the East)

• Offensive Rating: 110.7 (116.8)

• Defensive Rating: 105.8 (113.5)

• Net Rating: plus-4.9 (plus-3.3)

• True-Shooting Percentage: 59.0 (62.1)

• Pace: 99.84 (99.00)

• Time of Possession: 14.6 seconds (14.8)


Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)

Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Meyers Leonard

• Minutes: 41

• Offensive Rating: 124.4

• Defensive Rating: 102.4

• Net Rating: plus-22.0

• True-Shooting Percentage: 66.6

• Pace: 97.8


The Big Number: 40.0

“We just didn’t guard nobody, man, from the beginning of the game. I think that’s the direction that we’re trending in right now. I feel like we got to take it personal. That doesn’t mean enough to us right now, to man up and take the challenge.”

That was was Jimmy Butler following the Heat’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizz dropped 118 on the Heat, including a 13-for-36 outing from three. The attempts matter more than the makes here; they came often and easy, much as they have all year against the Heat.

Per tracking data from Cleaning The Glass, the Heat allow the second largest share of three-point attempts in the league. 40 percent of enemy shots come from beyond the arc, slightly besting the Toronto Raptors (40.1) for the highest clip in the league.

The Heat have survived because those shots … just haven’t gone in. Opponents have shot just 31.2 percent on above-the-break threes (2nd in the NBA) and 36.2 percent on corner triples (8th) this season.

You can blame, if that’s the word, a lot of this on the scheme. You’re generally banking on teams taking tough pull-ups against a “Drop” scheme. When you combine that with shaky defense at the point of attack (miss you, Justise), and some liberal help rules from the “nail” — you can get a brief intro here — the Heat are at risk of some swing-swing-shoot sequences that bleed open looks.

 

Pay attention to Tyler Herro in that clip. That ends up being a tough shot because it’s for Solomon Hill, but it was mostly open. There was no real reason for Herro to help down in the first place.

The Heat want to be disruptive in that area, but they have to be smart about it if they want to limit attempts moving forward.

Weekly Trends

1. Bam, thriving in the middle

When we saw Bam Adebayo face off against the Sixers on November 23rd, he was greeted with the most aggressive version of “Drop” coverage he had seen all season. Joel Embiid played no less than eight feet off of him, basically daring Bam to do … anything, really.

Narrator: he didn’t do anything, really.

Adebayo finished the game with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, though the impact went beyond those numbers. With Embiid conceding that much space, he effectively eliminated Miami’s cut-heavy offense. DHO action with Adebayo went nowhere; his indecision off the bounce stunted an already-limited offense. It was ugly.

Adebayo has turned into a true offensive threat since that game, particularly in the middle of the floor.

He’s sprinkling in jumpers with more regularity:

The floater is coming along, with either hand:

And, buddy, is he showing off some juice off the dribble:

Before that Sixers game, Adebayo had only eclipsed 17 points four times. He’s averaging 17.5 points in the 14 games since, with four games over 20. He’s shot 22-of-46 (47.8 percent) on shots between 5-14 feet during that time frame.

As he’s become more comfortable in the intermediate area, the offense has become more difficult to defend.

2. Kendrick Nunn is calming down

Nunn has been a revelation for the Heat this season. Not only is he the Heat’s second leading scorer (16.4), he’s currently the highest scoring rookie in Heat history.

(Yes, he is currently outpacing Dwyane Wade by 0.2 points.)

Nunn’s scoring repertoire is impressive. He can drill pull-up triples, has an assortment of moves in the middle, and can finish at the rim with either hand. Three-level scorers are incredibly hard to find; three-level scorers that can bring plus-value in other areas are nearly impossible.

Nunn is more of the former than the latter right now, which is still a win for the Heat. His limitations as a passer have been pointed out by yours truly. He has routinely called on his own number when making a pass might’ve been a better option.

To his credit, he’s seen the floor better over the past couple of weeks. It’s especially worth highlighting now because he’s been able to strike a nice shoot-pass balance while scoring effectively. He isn’t making CP3-esque reads in the half-court, but he’s hitting the easy stuff — and doing so in a timely manner.

Nunn may be an older rookie, but he is a rookie nonetheless. His decision-making has gotten better over time, and that should continue as he becomes more accustomed to the speed of the game.

3. Zoning up

The more things change, the more things say the same. Erik Spoelstra doesn’t mind getting weird to shift the odds in his favor. He’s done so with his growing usage of the 2-3 zone over the last three years, a trump card that has done more good than evil.

Only two teams — the Washington Wizards (196 possessions) and Toronto Raptors (189) — have played more possessions in zone than the Heat (145). Of the 14 teams that have logged at least 30 possessions, the Heat rank third in defensive efficiency. allowing 0.848 points per possession.

Having guys like Derrick Jones Jr. and Jimmy Butler at the head of the zone is patently unfair. Their length and instincts make it nearly impossible to thread the needle on skip passes. Their closing speed up top also makes it difficult for drivers to penetrate the lane.

As with most schematic things in the NBA, putting more reps on tape will inevitably lead to solutions. The Grizzlies and Sixers (particularly late in the 4th quarter) were able to swing the ball around and generate corner 3s. The Heat give up enough of those in their base defense; they don’t need to do the same in zone.

Still, the zone has been an effective change-up for them this season. The scary thing is that it could get better whenever Justise Winslow returns.

Set Play of the Week

Floppy, with a twist

In terms of half-court actions, it generally doesn’t get more common than “Floppy” — screening action near the baseline in an effort to spring a shooter (or two) free.

What you normally don’t see is a big man on the receiving end of the screen.

Kelly Olynyk is having a down year overall, and we’ll probably need to discuss his role at some point. When he is on the court, he’s still one of the more unique weapons in basketball. He marches to the beat of his own drum in dribble-handoffs, but at his most basic, he’s a darn good shooter.

The very nature of a stretch big stresses defenses out. It ruins “Drop” coverage because it either concedes open looks, or pulls enemy big men out of the paint. Olynyk brings an added element as an off-movement shooter. He’s an awkward watch, but still fluid enough to balance himself and fire off the catch.

The Knicks had no chance here, but have they really had one in 20 years?

Complexity of a Jrue Holiday fit for the Miami Heat

What the hell are the Miami Heat this season? Are they a contender? A feel good story? A team waiting for 2021? All of that? It’s weird, they are weird and with greater expectations comes urgency.

And that changes everything.

The Heat are loaded with contracts that make it easy to match any star player they would want, they have young attractive rotation players and now they are heavily linked to Pelicans guard, Jrue Holiday. For the Heat is the star guard worth cashing their chips?

The answer is kinda complicated and it doesn’t come without risks. Holiday has a 2021 player option for $26 million and should he opt in it will leave Miami without a max slot for the summer of Giannis. On the flip side, Miami could be a move or two away from the Finals and that’s all this organization wants. A chance. A shot at the title. 

The framework around the deal is the elephant in the room. If it does happen it’s conceivable that the package would include Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow and other salary to match. Considering the Heat are up against hard cap, it will take careful maneuvering and perhaps even a third team involved in any trade. It’s been said that the deal would have to include Tyler Herro which might be the deal breaker for the Heat. However if Pat Riley, cap wizard Andy Elisburg and company can negotiate around that, would the move make basketball sense? The question then becomes: does the move put them over the top into the conversation for the Finals?

Start here: Holiday isn’t a plus shooter by any means. His last three seasons, his three point percentages have been 34, 33 and 34. Playing him alongside Bam Adebayo, who doesn’t space the floor, could really limit the Heat’s offense down the stretch. Holiday would likely be a catch and shoot option in late game offense with Jimmy Butler triggering sets and Holiday is at just 34 percent on catch and shoot threes this season, consistent with his overall shooting. Thus, playing Adebayo, Holiday and Jimmy Butler (28 percent from three this season) in crunch time, as would be the case every night, would create spacing trouble. 

Naturally, it’s important to note that Justise Winslow is struggling this season even more than Holiday this season from deep, at 23 percent. Without question, Holiday is an offensive upgrade to Winslow.

I don’t think it can be argued that adding a recent All-Star and All-Defensive Team player would hurt the Miami Heat. Holiday makes them better no question, but losing two ball handlers for one brings Miami’s margin for error down significantly and Winslow’s size allows the Heat to be a more versatile defensive team. It’s a give and take that ultimately probably nets positive.

There are some concerns offensively but you trust that stars will figure those out, while you lose an elite wing defender you gain one at guard. Holiday would most likely move Kendrick Nunn to a bench role similar to what was being asked of Goran Dragic, to score in bunches and protect leads. The Heat would ask Derrick Jones Jr. to defend bigger wings more often, so long as he’s not part of a trade package. They still might be a wing defender short come playoff time, with names like Simmons, Harris, Brogdon, Giannis, Middleton, Siakam, Brown, Tatum, Hayward on the list of players Winslow would be asked to defend. Is Jones Jr. the playoff answer for that? 

Risking 2021 cap space for what would be Miami’s third best player also raises questions and this is why the move isn’t so cut and dry. This season the Heat have one shot at a needle-moving player because Dragic’s 19 million expiring contract is the big thing that would help them match salary and Winslow is the one attractive young piece the Heat might move. Saving these for a better player than Holiday might be the way to go, but it’s also possible a better player doesn’t become available. 

This team hasn’t been healthy lately as well, and to make knee jerk moves when their third and fourth best players have been out is premature. Without the extra ballhandlers Miami has been easier to defend, depending significantly on dribble-hand off sets and shooters hitting off the curls. It’s a far cry from the Heat’s Horns-heavy motion offense which feature multiple dribble and shooting threats that had Miami’s offense humming. 

It’s unlikely this trade alone puts them over the Sixers or the Bucks and it might come at the expense of 2021 if Holiday opts in. There is an argument to be made that with so many teams having cap space he would try for one last payday. Yet it’s still a risk that he punts on that or an injury would compel him to opt in. Theoretically the Heat can ask him to opt out and bring him back over the cap with his Bird Rights. So there are angles the Heat can play if things break their way. 

With the Heat ahead of schedule and Butler having a timer on his prime there is now a sense of urgency that wasn’t with the Heat in October. Even if they don’t make a move they still sit half a game out the two seed in the East (and half a game out of sixth), with a star, talented young players and a max salary slot in 2021. There are worse positions to be in and the Heat have to look in the mirror and decide what gambles are worth taking for the short term at the expense of 2021 flexibility.  The clock is ticking. To Jrue or not Jrue, that is the question. There’s no easy answer. 

 

Giancarlo Navas (@GNavas103) is the host of Miami Heat Beat.

Guts Check: Bam Adebayo has No Ceiling

Welcome to Guts Check by Greg Sylvander. A weekly Miami Heat column aimed at bringing readers my perspective on all the hot topics surrounding the team. You can expect a regular balance of sourced information, analysis and feeling the Heat down in my soul. In the name of Trusting the Spocess, let’s call these weekly columns position-less.

Since we last touched base:

  • Won in OT vs Atlanta 135-121
  • Lost vs the Lakers 113-110
  • Won in OT at Dallas 122-118
  • Lost At Memphis 118-111

After the emotional fatigue associated with the ESPN Heat Index of the Big 3 era, I am usually leery nowadays when the Heat get national recognition. Always equal parts grateful and guarded. I can’t help but feel a bit protective of our finally-fun-again basketball team.

Fun again being a key point I want to marinate on briefly. Yeah I know they lost last night in Memphis, but they were bound to have a short rotation and multiple overtimes catch up with them. Let’s not let one bad loss cloud our thinking. This has been FUN.

First, we marveled at the play of Kendrick Nunn for a couple weeks, then we got acquainted to the Bucket Bros, then came Duncan Robinson shooting flames, Goran Dragic carrying the team off the bench for stretches. Among all those storylines it’s amazing to consider that the leap Adebayo is taking is easily the most impactful development on the entire roster.

What Bam Adebayo is doing is impossible to ignore.

As I always say, he has no ceiling. It’s not mere hope trafficking folks, this dude is the truth. He’s a top 22 player at age 22. On his way to being top 10 or 12 eventually. He has 2 triple doubles already this season, becoming the youngest Heat player ever to accomplish that feat.

A big man getting triple double with assists. Adebayo subscribes to the “don’t talk about it, be about it” method of earning triple doubles. Not often does a player that isn’t ball dominant have the chance to become a top 10 guy. To call him a rare talent is an understatement.

The league is on notice. Evidence by his recent Eastern Conference player of the week award announced yesterday.

Adebayo is a Chris Webber, Draymond Green, Kevin Garnett hybrid. He seems to unlock a different part of his game each night and him becoming this good this fast is jaw dropping.

Of course, Bam has much to go to be mentioned with the likes of Webber and Garnett. Yet the way in which Adebayo works at his craft bodes well for his development into a player who can become as decorated as those greats. He has the chance to be that good.

At one time, Heat fans often considered Bam a player that potentially would have to be sacrificed in the move to bring a superstar to the team. Now it appears his presence on the roster may be the deciding factor in another superstar deciding to join Jimmy & co in Miami.

Oh, and just so we’re clear: Adebayo has been labeled essentially untouchable by Heat brass according to a source.

So as the trade deadline approaches, remember that any trade rumor you see that mentions his name can be dismissed as bogus fodder. I don’t think a single fan will disagree with that decision by the Heat either.

Now let’s get him to Chicago for the All-Star game so he can mingle with the league’s best all weekend and talk up the Culture.

Bam has a chance to be a superstar magnet. I don’t think it should be discounted how important it is for the Heat to have seemingly surrounded Jimmy with such a great cast. Adebayo’s ascension is the kind of happening that makes the Heat’s 2021 pitch an entirely different conversation than we initially expected.

The Heat insist they would have selected Bam even if Donovan Mitchell was available in 2017. At first, I scoffed at the notion. Now I have been left to praise.