Full Breakdown of Heat’s Latest Draft Pick: Nikola Jovic

“With the 27th pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Miami Heat select: Nikola Jovic.”

That was the call from NBA commissioner Adam Silver on draft night, as speculation continued to loom on what the Heat would do. Will they trade the pick? Will they take a Kentucky prospect still on the board? Do they grab a falling EJ Liddell?

And much like most Heat draft nights, you can’t predict the next move.

Once they officially took Jovic who has played overseas for many years, it created a youtube highlights spam to find out who this young kid really is.

While most people were just getting an initial look at him, Adam Simon, who is the assistant general manager for the Heat and on the front-line of these draft selections, noted that “he’s been on our radar for a couple years.”

So, let’s not waste anymore time. Who is Nikola Jovic on the court?

The Spot-Up Jumper

When evaluating any type of talent, starting with the outside jumper always feels key. I should clarify that he’s a 6’11 stretch big with guard like skills on the offensive end, which is quite the label to kick off a late first rounders description.

He shot 36% from three this past season with Mega Basket in Serbia, while Adam Simon noted that some of the extracurricular off the dribble shooting allowed that to decline a bit.

Yet the spot-up shooting is what truly stood out with his perimeter game, and they’re very confident in. Looking at some of the clips above, he has a grounded base, decently quick trigger, and a very smooth looking jumper.

Oh and let me remind you again, this isn’t a wing shooter. He’s around 6’10, 6’11. The shooting is far from his best asset when going about his offensive game, but it definitely is quite the icing on the cake. If this type of thing carries over against quicker and lengthier bodies closing out, then it really could be something.

A PnR Eye Opener: a 6’11 Creator

Now to the good stuff, pick and roll mechanics are always addressed for bigs when entering the NBA. But that usually includes long dialogues about a guy as a roller. Not the ball-handler in those sets.

Yet for Jovic, the ratio between being the handler and roller at his size was a bit wild to say the least. He was the team’s creator for the most part in Serbia, and his pick and roll control is truly an asset.

His solid handle, which I’ll discuss in a bit, allows him to slide into certain gaps, but his high IQ passing forces defenses to eye him at all times.

In the clips above, you see a pro level pick and roll player, and that’s not an exaggeration. The control to bounce off the recovering defender that just got screened, hold the dropping big in place, and drop the ball into your big isn’t just ‘another clip in the file.’

Yet in the following clips, you see his pick and roll gravity on display, as opposing teams continue to blitz out and double him to eliminate his scoring mechanics in space. And well, there are two more dimes to the rolling big.

I’m really intrigued to see what he looks like as a roller, which will most definitely be tested in Summer League, but the primary element of his experience will be to put the ball in his hands as much as possible. Do the passing tendencies carry over? Will physicality play a factor? Will the patience shown in these clips stick?

I actually believe so. There are things that could decline a bit at first for any player drafted, but there’s a lot of confidence in his pick and roll game in space, which he will have plenty of chances to showcase.

But let me just add: the PnR stuff isn’t just passing…

That previous clip where he kept getting doubled out may have made you wonder what has led up to this. So, watch this clip above for your answer.

Back in a normal drop, Jovic gets flowing downhill to his right, uses his shoulder to create some extra space, and steps back for a tough shot right over the contest. Bucket.

The key to a good pick and roll player is this exact combination: high IQ passer and an ability to create shots for yourself against different coverages.

The recovery speed will definitely be a lot quicker at the NBA level when he generates opportunities like this, but the length he has to shoot over the top is what makes this all come together.

So, Jovic-Yurtseven Summer League pick and rolls, anybody?

Tight Handle into Tough Shot Making

Can we keep the theme of this piece to: remember this guy is 6’11 by the way? Yes, yes we will.

He’s a very tough shot maker, yet the linking element to that is his tight handle allows him to get to his spots on the floor at any time. The second clip above is the perfect example: right to left crossover in isolation to get the defender back-pedaling, plants his right foot, and steps back for maximum space to let it fly.

Jovic has a deep bag of step-backs, which that type of foot-work is usually a staple for a lot of guys coming from overseas.

But the most important thing when talking about “tough shot making:” he’s been in a ton of those scenarios. Sometimes talented offensive players breeze through a college play-style by putting up points under the radar against base coverages, yet Jovic has had so much thrown at him for a guy that’s somehow 2 days younger than me. (lol)

As Adam Simon said last night, “he has the versatility of not just being a catch and shoot guy.” He even threw in the idea of a “nasty approach” in terms of his willingness to go and attack the basket. So yeah, the tough shot making is nothing new.

Running the Open Floor

Other than the PnR control, one of the first things that stood out about Jovic was that he wasn’t afraid to run the floor. If there was a turnover, he’s gone and has one hand up for his passer to locate where he wants it thrown.

He may be a big man, but he’s pretty quick specifically once the ball is in his hands. Yet while transition is always viewed as the “first man down the floor to score,” his approach of finding numbers and feeding others on the break was a really intriguing asset.

And if you’re thinking big picture, a Jovic-Bam lineup running the floor could be fun.

I also asked Adam Simon about his transition game translating to the NBA, which he said: “I think he’ll be good in transition and I think he’s got some versatility in the half-court as well. The handle’s there.”

And to tie a bow on this topic, his control in the open floor really makes me think it could carry over to the big league’s as well.

(Side note: the word “control” is just so fitting for Jovic in every offensive category. If you want the adjective that makes him good, there it is.)

The Low Post Game

Jovic had an interview with Slam magazine very recently, where he was asked about his go-to move down 1 late in a game. He quickly responded that he’d want the ball in the mid to low post, so he can flow right into a little fadeaway jumper.

Yeah, not the normal response.

When looking at his post game in some videos, there are a lot of times where it’s mostly using his size to his advantage once he gets low enough, which is always good to see, yet not always a major factor of NBA translation.

Now the turnaround jumper stuff with solid footwork, on the other hand, is the element of NBA translation.

When comparing to what the current Heat team needs, I think back to early regular season Markieff Morris. He began killing teams in his stints with the mid-post stuff, and it was clear that Miami lacked that more than anything else at the front-court position.

Bam Adebayo has the mid-post jumper, but there’s a big drop-off from there. PJ Tucker, Caleb Martin, Dewayne Dedmon, and Omer Yurtseven all played extended front-court minutes at some point or another, but none were mid-range threats to any degree.

So this will be a pretty fun wrinkle to keep an eye on. When a guy’s favorite move is one of your team’s biggest weaknesses, I’d say that’s a pretty decent fit.

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The defensive side of things doesn’t have much of a film dynamic. There just doesn’t seem to be much tape on that side of the ball for him aside from some blocks here or there, which makes this very interesting.

Jovic mentioned being “a big guard who can switch everything,” but that may be a bit of a stretch. There won’t be much expectation for him on that end, but I’m just curious if he will be a drop big or indeed switch in most scenarios.

After Pat Riley hammered home the defense point in a recent press conference, I asked him about where he thinks Jovic can develop on that end. “I think the kid’s athletic enough, quick enough, long enough to be able to play defense the way that we want.”

But much like anything, only time will tell. The Heat’s Summer League will kick off July 2nd as we get our first look at the twin towers of Jovic and Yurtseven.

I don’t know if this was the expected pick, but it’s absolutely intriguing to say the least. There’s a lot of potential sitting there, and the perfect place for it to be molded is in the Miami Heat’s developmental program.

 

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The Hypothetical X’s and O’s Fit of Bradley Beal with the Heat

It almost feels like I’ve written this type of piece before, mostly because I probably have. The name Bradley Beal continues to strike conversations year after year, and the Miami Heat continue to be the linked team for a multitude of reasons.

But when addressing past rumors and situations where Beal and the Heat was potentially a possibility, I don’t think it’s crazy to say that it’s most realistic this time around.

On the Heat’s side, they need an experienced 3 level scorer of his caliber and currently have the assets to acquire him. On Beal’s side, he has the opportunity to relocate to Miami with known acquaintances Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, yet it all comes down to him making that decision.

Could he opt back into his deal, meaning a trade is probably looming? Could he opt out, restructure his deal, and continue to stay loyal to Washington? Both are possible outcomes, but much like I always say, this piece isn’t for that type of speculation.

This is about the X’s and O’s of how things would actually translate from a certain talent to a specific team. So let’s just hop right into it…

The Obvious Scoring Talent and Mid-Range Excellence

Step 1: Pure Isolation Dominance

When addressing Beal’s game, the starting point just has to be the pure shot creation and one-on-one game that he’s shown over time. He really is the linked definition of a 3 level scorer.

Even after having a slightly down shooting year from deep, there’s complete understanding of what he can do as a 3 point shooter off the dribble. If they send two, he can still find ways to hit slots and make plays.

The bread and butter of his game is no doubt the mid-range, though. Looking at some of the clips above, his mid-range game is different than most of the league’s maestro’s in that area.

That’s simply because most inside the arc pull-up shooters operate primarily off screens, since it’s easy to flow into that coveted pull-up against drop bigs. Just think about Chris Paul’s mid-range excellence as he snakes around screens into his comfortable spots.

Now relating that to Bradley Beal, he has an inevitable dribble package that can get him open when going one-on-one, just by thoroughly stopping on a dime, stepping back, or shooting over the top. As seen in those clips, even PJ Tucker and Bam Adebayo had a tough time keeping up with all of his tricks.

Beal had an effective field goal % of 47.1% in isolation this past year, and for some context, Tyler Herro’s mark was 35.7%. That’s probably the one major difference when comparing a growing talent and a current talent. The ability to make plays by yourself against some of the league’s best defenders.

Even with an awkward scoring season for himself this past year compared to his usual numbers, he still shot 46% on mid-range pull-ups, which is totally aligned with some of his best scoring seasons.

The last of the 3 levels is scoring at the rim, and that could be one of Beal’s most underrated elements. We immediately think about his ability to be a perimeter player, but his driving game just sneaks under the radar, while it’s blaring on opposing scouting reports on a nightly basis.

He attempted 8.3 field goals this past season off drives, which ranked as the 4th highest in the league, and still shot 47% from the field in those spots. He’s just simply elite in a lot of areas, and can be plugged into so many different scenarios offensively.

One of those being off-ball, which I will touch on extensively later in this piece. The other one being a chain reaction of on-ball shifting.

Step 2: Elite Screen Navigation

Being able to dominate in isolation is clearly needed when talking about the things this Heat team needs, but there’s still “keeping the main thing the main thing.” By that I mean this team still prides themselves on a heavy dose of on-ball screening, dribble hand-offs, and pick and rolls.

Yet he’s equally as talented in that department.

There are good pick and roll players, and then there are experienced, pro level pick and roll players. When watching the single clip above, you would quickly find out that Beal is the latter.

Comes off the screen, gives Bogdanovic the bump from behind, and still keeps a slow paced dribble alive as he snakes inside for a paint touch. He gets to the back of his rolling big, and immediately flows into shooting motion for the floater.

That type of control is just a different layer of offensive savant.

Much like I discussed in my latest Donovan Mitchell piece, the goal will be to take as much pressure off Jimmy Butler in the regular season as possible. Give Beal the keys during many of those pockets, instead of running so many of the team’s vets into the ground.

And well, this pure mix of an isolation bag and screen navigation is the exact type of player that can be trusted to get your team to a certain checkpoint.

This is a guy that just averaged 31 points per game for two straight seasons prior to this past year. It’s game changing for a coach like Erik Spoelstra to incorporate so many new wrinkles to the offense.

The Underrated Passing Element

If you followed this Heat season rather closely, just think back to November 20th. The Heat just beat the Wizards at home on the 18th, but took a flight right up to Washington to meet them again two days later.

The Heat were dominating that game as well, but Washington stormed back. The game got close, the Heat’s defense was focused on one player and one player only, and that one player made Miami pay for that.

Heat are up 96 to 93 with 2 minutes left and Wizards have ball. Caldwell Pope is being guarded by Bam, yet slips the screen for Beal to the right wing. Beal now has both Bam and Tucker standing in front of him as the focus was all eyes on him.

Swing to Pope. Tie game.

Fast forward to the next offensive possession, Beal begins to take Herro one-on-one on the left wing. Tucker knowing what’s about to happen, shades all the way over to the top of the key for maximum help. Beal then lobs it over the top to Dinwiddie on the right wing who was supposed to be guarded by Tucker, and he hits the triple to eventually beat Miami in an impressive comeback.

Why did I go through this entire dialogue from a random regular season game in November? Well, all that to say Beal’s passing has not only improved this past season, but he showcased it in big moments, which is intriguing to any contending team out there.

If you like base stats, Beal went from averaging 4.4 assists last year to 6.6 this season. Some of that has to do with a change in usage and role, while adding in the fact he played less games, but it’s still another proposition to a Heat offense that could use that type of play-making scorer.

Kyle Lowry had the ability to feed Bam on the roll quite a lot this season, but there wasn’t enough scoring pressure in those reps to make the combo elite.

Butler provoded more than enough scoring pressure in those PnR sets with Bam, yet the ratio of feeding him on the roll wasn’t a great number.

Now add in a guy like Beal who can clearly score out of the pick and roll, while also being able to feed Adebayo frequently following a screen. That’s how Bam Adebayo’s offensive game gets elevated.

Just look at the late season success of the Herro-Adebayo PnR. Herro was peaking as a downhill scoring threat, and most of all he was confident while only seeing single coverage. For the first two games of the 76ers series, neither one of them could be stopped, until adjustments were made.

The idea would be to create a similar formula without the worry of their water being turned off, since it’s just harder to do so against a guy like Beal.

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Excelling in Miami’s Movement Offense

So to save the best for last, this is why I believe Beal is the best option of the bunch when discussing guys like Mitchell and Zach LaVine. (Not that the Heat can choose the “best option,” but I guess we can still speculate that.)

After discussing all of the things that Beal is as a player, the main reason he fits the Heat’s offense best is because he’s equally as effective as an off the ball threat.

No, this doesn’t mean standing in the corner while Butler creates since he can hit the spot-up triple. It actually means that he can be freed up off the ball to flow into his best looks.

It’s hard to do this as a one-man show in Washington since all the focus is on him even if he doesn’t possess the ball at a given time. Yet we have seen some flashes from him over time that could be expanded upon.

How can it be expanded? Insert him into a nonstop movement offense next to a pure point guard (if the deal can be made without including him), a star powered Butler, elite screeners like Adebayo and Tucker, plus some level of shooting on the weak-side.

For some examples, let’s start with the first clip above. Beal swings the ball to the left wing and clears. The ball finds the big in the middle of the floor, just to set up Chicago action, which is just a weak-side pin-down into a dribble hand-off.

Beal flies off the pin-down and receives the DHO from Gafford, knocking down the pull-up three from the top of the key. We can watch highlight crossovers and crafty finishes from him all day, but this is the type of stuff that makes it effective in theory. This is the stuff that the Heat organization would be eyeing.

Fast forward to the second clip above, it seems as if we could be seeing a similar thing. Beal gets off the ball, looking to flow into the weak-side as a relocation point. Instead, he reverses direction back to the strong-side corner with Gafford ready for the pin-down. The angle of his cut forces his defender to fly up to the wing, giving him an open corner three off the catch.

That’s exactly the Heat’s offense. Just re-watch that imagining Bam as the passer, Tucker as the hammer screener, and well, Beal as the movement shooter. This is what I mean when I say Spoelstra can add these extra wrinkles when bringing in a player of this caliber.

Once again, things will have to break just right for this Beal thing to be a real possibility, since it comes down to him opting in and saying his preferred destination is Miami. Trade packages would be rumored, the timing of things would be important.

But there’s no reason not to talk about fit this time of year, and even though star players can fit in any system, it’s pretty evident that Beal fits Miami more than many of the guys in social media jersey swaps.

 

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What Would Donovan Mitchell’s On-Court Fit with Heat Look Like?

Is a better world coming? If you read way too far into quotes on hats while sitting next to your team’s franchise player, then maybe so.

But it’s more than just that silly quote.

It feels like the name Donovan Mitchell has come up often when it comes to the Miami Heat searching for the biggest stars around the league with a subtitle of the possibility they could break away from their current organization.

Yet with so much unknown around Mitchell and the Utah Jazz at the moment, it creates an intriguing dynamic.

This should be prefaced by saying that all things must align to initially kick off this process of getting Mitchell out of Utah and onto a team like the Heat. He would have to ask out, say Miami is his preferred landing spot, and Pat Riley and company would need to put together a good enough package that the Jazz would be willing to accept.

So, there are some obstacles. But as Riley once said, there also are none.

Even though it may be a bit early in off-season time, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t prepare for the scenario that this process accelerates quickly. This isn’t about mock trade packages or silly updated Finals odds. Let’s just look into what this may look like on the court if it got done…

The Driving Game: Elite Control/Paint Touches

Finding that three-level scorer seems to be on many minds when it comes to the Miami Heat. Could that be internally? Yes. Could that be through a trade such as Mitchell coming available? Absolutely.

When looking over some Mitchell film a bit more, one thing is blatantly clear: his pick and roll attack and control in those paint touches is simply second to none. Turn-around jumpers, little floaters, physical attacks (which I’ll discuss next), and pure athletic finishes.

But more importantly than that, there’s a certain number that has stuck out on this Heat roster that is a Mitchell strength across his entire career.

The Heat ultimately fell short in the playoffs because the shooting tailed off, but another thing that occurred was that driving numbers were slowly decreasing from Jimmy Butler’s supporting cast, including Tyler Herro having a tough time getting to the rim once that post-season switch was made.

In Mitchell’s five seasons in the NBA, his attempts less than 10 feet from the basket have increased from the regular season to the playoffs. His role is clearly different when it comes to his usage sky-rocketing in general, but it isn’t easy to continually get those paint touches and high efficiency looks when teams lock in on that game-plan to stop you in a specific series.

In the playoffs this year, Mitchell shot 55% from the field off his drives, while averaging the 4th most drives per game in the league.

We had a similar discussion about rim pressure when Kyle Lowry arrived on the scene last off-season, but that was one expectation that didn’t come into fruition since his burst wasn’t at the usual standards for extended pockets of time. He did great as a lead play-maker, but rim pressure was noticeably not a consistent element.

Yet for Mitchell, that’s exactly what this would be for Jimmy Butler, which flows into my next point…

Physicality as a Second Attacker?

If this move was hypothetically made, I think there would be a big expectation for Mitchell to be the first offensive option as an attacker for the majority of the regular season. Emphasis on regular season. The goal would be to give a good chunk of usage to the young blood, so Butler’s skill can be preserved for the long haul, before he picked up the name-tag of primary option once game 82 passed by.

So if that time came, a secondary attacker of Mitchell’s caliber would be scary to say the least. As much as I talked about on-ball control and crafty finishing, he’s just as physical as it gets when talking about straight line drives.

Getting to the second level is one thing, which many guys on the Heat’s current roster possess, but the ability to strongly take it up on that drop defender or help-side guy instead of immediately going for the pull-up is a change of pace.

In the Heat’s system, I’d imagine we’d see a lot of those drive-kick-drive scenarios to maximize personnel and keep the defense totally at bay. Butler drives in the right slot with help at the nail, kick-out to Mitchell on the left wing with the second drive coming and a rotating defense. That type of stuff is tough to beat with two star level players and physical attackers, which would make those offensive wrinkles interesting for Coach Spo and the coaching staff.

The Pull-Up/Self Creation Dynamic 

Now, when people think about Mitchell or any star powered three-level scorer on the market, this is the stuff being imagined. Just a hooper making things happen with the ball in his hands.

Isolation buckets, some flashy cross-overs, and most importantly, a solid pull-up game to fully balance out the previous stuff discussed off the attack.

This past season, Mitchell avergaed the 5th most pull-up threes per game in the NBA, while shooting them at a 36% clip. For some context, Steph Curry attempted the 4th most pull-up triples and shot them at a 37% clip.

Now for even more context, Herro had a great pull-up shooting season as well this past year while shooting 37.5% on pull-up threes, yet he only attempted 3.4 a game in comparison to Mitchell’s 6.2 a night.

Once again, this all feeds into the usage and role thing when it comes to his current position in Utah, but it’s always expected that those numbers would further increase in Miami’s current offensive system next to guys like Butler and Adebayo.

Yet to close off this section, it’s probably more about creation than it is actual pull-up numbers. Being able to make a team pay if Butler gets doubled, while also having counters for doubles himself when that time comes. Simply because he can create off the dribble at a high level mainly through the defensive fear of a strong attack or blow-by being his next move.

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Oh, the Mitchell-Butler Pick and Roll

Finally, I must say when it comes to certain pairings, some of us may be focused on the wrong one. Many immediately think about the Mitchell-Adebayo pick and roll, which does make you think a bit.

Mitchell loves operating out of the high pick and roll because open space is his closest friend, simultaneously thinking about the success Herro and Bam had late in the season with the high PnR pairing.

But for some reason, the Mitchell-Butler sets feel to be the most intriguing.

Two seasons ago, what was the best PnR pairing for Miami? Goran Dragic-Jimmy Butler pick and roll.

What set was run late in games this past season when a fully healthy Heat team was on the floor? Kyle Lowry-Jimmy Butler pick and roll.

Butler has been incredible in every category since joining Miami, but he’s been unlocked as a pretty dominant force on the short roll, since he can bull-doze, turn into a post-up, or make reads as his play-making skills make its way into the picture.

Now add a scorer of Mitchell’s caliber, who just averaged 26 points a game this past season, into that PnR equation. Looking at some of the clips above, we saw Mitchell’s role in the playoffs turn into a roll man feeder to his role players, since Dallas did a fantastic job of trying to stop his one-man game in the half-court.

He continued maximizing the court with 4-on-3’s, which shifts back to my thinking of inserting Butler into those spots: how do teams generally choose to defend that combination in an empty corner?

Giving Erik Spoelstra those type of outlets in the half-court, and more specifically in clutch time, really could be the fix to the Heat’s offense in itself.

Now, I know the other thing everybody’s thinking about is that this is completely offensive centric and there’s another side of the floor. Yes, it’s pretty clear that Mitchell has been a negative defender during his tenure in the NBA so far, but there are two points that must be made.

For 1) surrounding him with a cast of characters like Butler, Tucker, and Adebayo make things look much different, just as they’ve done for so many role players over the last few years by turning them into serviceable defenders. And 2) if he keeps up this offensive success that I discussed in this entire piece, the defensive stuff doesn’t stand out as much.

It has stood out for guys like Herro this past playoff run because the scoring averages weren’t completely transferred over from the regular season to playoffs. If Mitchell does what he does best which is score the basketball at an extremely high level, that topic isn’t even probably being discussed.

Anyway, this is still extremely hypothetical. As I said earlier, things will have to completely fall into place this off-season to even get this thing started. But in this fantasy world of predictions, I would say that this Mitchell fit wouldn’t be half bad for what Miami is trying to do next to Jimmy Butler.

 

 

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TBT

Team Defeat Diabetes Competing in TBT 2022

The Basketball Tournament, known by fans these days as TBT, stands as one of the more popular forms of summer basketball to enjoy. This year, the tournament hosts 64 teams playing in a single-elimination bracket for a winner-take-all $1 million. The teams are made up largely of professional and former college stars, some representing their former schools while others play on sponsored teams, like team Defeat Diabetes.

TBT 2022 will be ninth installment of the tournament, with games being played in July and August, aired on ESPN and ESPN2. South Florida basketball fans might recognize the Category 5 team, made up of University of Miami alumni, including the recently graduated Chris Lykes and former Canes stars like Durand Scott. Miami Heat fans might recognize former Heat players Jamario Moon and James Ennis, playing on teams, amongst others.

This event provides players an opportunity to showcase their skills in the States, in an effort for some to make or return to the NBA. This includes former first-round NBA Draft picks and, for the first time, frontline NBA Draft prospects. The Overtime Elite squad features twins Amen and Ausar Thompson, both of whom are projected top-10 picks in the 2023 draft.

But beyond that, many of these teams find themselves playing to support of important causes, like Type-1 diabetes. There are squads representing a variety of foundations, including those for ALS, autism, cancer, mental wellness, and muscular dystrophy.

Team Defeat Diabetes to Debut in TBT 2022

In its first year at TBT, the Defeat Diabetes team hopes to benefit those individuals living with Type-1 diabetes. The squad is sponsored by the JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They will donate a portion of their winnings to the foundation.

Former University of North Florida star Jalen Nesbitt co-founded team Defeat Diabetes with his fiancé, Cristina Desemone. Nesbitt, a Spartanburg, SC, native, sports seven years of professional basketball experience in Europe.

Desemone, who has been living with Type-1 diabetes since 2006, is a registered dietitian specializing in performance nutrition. She works with athletes to help them reach their performance goals and prepare them for an elite level of play. The couple felt TBT provided a solid platform from which to advocate for those with diabetes.

The team will play out of the Xavier Region at the Cintas Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have a growing presence on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, as well as YouTube. They continue their funding efforts on GoFundMe.

Defeat Diabetes TBT Team Roster

The Defeat Diabetes roster sports 10 players, headlined by former NBA forward Gary Forbes. The 37-year-old Forbes spent two seasons in the NBA, playing with the Denver Nuggets (as a teammate of former Heat fan-favorite Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen) and Toronto Raptors. Interestingly, he was part of the trade package that sent current Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry from Houston to the Raptors in 2012.

Forbes played in previous TBT events for the Talladega Knights (2017) and Gael Nation (2018). He played collegiately at both Virginia (2003-05) and UMass (2006-08). Forbes earned Atlantic-10 Player of the Year honors in 2008.

Gary Forbes is one of three players with Type-1 diabetes to play in the NBA. Following his stellar college career, Forbes joined Chris Dudley and Adam Morrison as the only other players in NBA history with Type-1 diabetes. Only one player, Lauren Cox, has played in the WNBA with Type-1 diabetes.

In committing to team Defeat Diabetes for TBT, Forbes said he wants to “represent those living with Type-1 diabetes.”

The team’s co-founder, Jalen Nesbitt, recently played for Almansa in the Spain-LEB Gold league during the 2021-22 season. Nesbitt starred at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville, from 2013-15. As a senior, Nesbitt started in all 35 games for UNF while averaging 10.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He helped UNF capture the program’s first Atlantic Sun Conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Nesbitt says he’s “excited to bring awareness to Type-1 diabetes”. The 28-year-old shooting guard stands “ready to compete and win this million dollars.”

Rest of the Roster

Joining Forbes and Nesbitt on team Defeat Diabetes for TBT are veterans of both NCAA and international professional basketball.

Donovan Donaldson played collegiately at Tusculum University in Tennessee. The 25-year-old guard has played in Germany, North Macedonia, and most recently Hungary with PVSK-Veolia.

Arthur Edwards played at Alabama in the 2015-16 season, starting all 33 games and averaging 9.5 points-per-game. The 29-year-old guard has played in the NBA G League, Bulgaria, and most recently Switzerland.

Demonte Flannigan excelled at Cleveland State. He played under head coach Gary Waters, who also coached former Miami Heat guard Norris Cole. After college, Flannigan has played in the top leagues in the UK, Denmark, and Georgia.

Cameron Forte comes to team Defeat Diabetes as a TBT veteran, including a 39-point/23-rebound performance the 2018 event. At Portland State during the 2015-16 season, he averaged 19.2 points-per-game, earning All-Big Sky Second Team honors. Forte has played professionally in Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, and Iceland.

JJ Frazier averaged 18.8 points-per-game during his senior season at Georgia and earned All-SEC First Team honors. He has played professionally in Italy and Turkey. Frazier’s also played for the Memphis Hustle of the NBA G League.

Brevin Priztl led the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage during conference play (53.5) as a junior at Wisconsin in the 2018-19 season. He has played professionally in Serbia and Denmark since then.

Zac Seljaas played four years at BYU before playing professionally in Georgia for BC Vera. The 24-year-old averaged 22.1 points-per-game and 12.0 rebounds-per-game during the 2021-22 season.

Emmanuel Wembi finished his college career Lenoir-Rhyne before playing overseas in Croatia and most recently Estonia. This past season he averaged 12.2 points-per-game and 8.2 rebounds-per-game for Tartu Ülikool Maks & Moorits in Estonia.

Support Team Defeat Diabetes at TBT 2022

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5 Potential Draft Options for the Miami Heat

The Miami Heat are in a pretty unique situation when it comes to the 2022 NBA draft. They do currently possess the 27th pick in the first round, but to be completely transparent, there doesn’t feel to be much confidence that they’re actually selecting a player in that spot for themselves.

As the Heat continue to lurk in the trade market, that draft pick will be one of the assets to throw into a specific package. But well, there’s still that small percentage they end up drafting someone, so we’re going to dive right into that.

Another funny thing, though, that points in the direction of them trading the pick is that all of the players that are coming in for workouts are in that second round range. If you’ve kept up with Greg Sylvander’s reporting from Five Reasons Sports, you would know the list of names.

And yet, some of those names are aligned with the ones I’m discussing here. So let’s get right into it…

#1: Justin Lewis (6’7, 245 lbs, Marquette)

If you’ve kept up with my twitter feed when discussing the Heat’s options in the draft, you would know that there’s one specific name that I’ve been pushing often: Justin Lewis.

Lewis isn’t the most flashy name or somebody that’s being discussed often, but when I began diving into some prospects, he stood out for the Miami Heat specifically.

Not only because that Marquette tag usually means good things, just ask Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, but he also fits the strong, quick, and tough wing build that I believe Miami will be searching for.

If you listened to Pat Riley’s comments after the season ended, it’s clear that any young player they bring in will have a high defensive motor to counteract this current roster. And well, Lewis has just that.

He’s both strong and laterally quick, meaning he can really bother opposing offensive players on the perimeter and the interior. Very great at contesting shots, and most of all, he’s pretty versatile for his age, which will get the Erik Spoelstra sign of approval.

I also believe he has a pretty fluid offensive games, just in terms of his jumper. A lot of guys in this range who can defend have slightly funky mechanics and form, which is another thing that allows him to stand out. It feels as if he can be a serviceable shooter on that side of the floor to be a 3 & D wing.

Lewis is also in the category of players that have worked out for the Heat, as Greg Sylvander reported. But this is a guy specifically I have kept some tabs on for some time for the Heat to grab. Maybe not with that 27th pick per se, but possibly if they buy a second rounder.

Keep an eye on him.

#2: Caleb Houstan (6’8, 205 lbs, Michigan)

Much like Marquette always seems to come up, the same goes for Michigan with the ties to Juwaun Howard. They’ve already worked out big man Moussa Diabatte from there, but I have a different Wolverine in mind.

If the Heat do stay in their first round slot, a lot of it will be based off “best available,” or sometimes a better way to phrase it: “most talented.”

Caleb Houstan is a guy that entered college as a lottery type talent, but things didn’t go as he probably planned his freshman year. Yet, he still has the high level mechanics and talent to be a valuable piece, specifically in the Heat’s developmental program.

It should be initially stated that he is an incredible shooter, both off the catch and on the move. He has a super smooth jumper with a good amount of length, which is a pretty good formula for his build.

In terms of the defensive stuff, he may not be as great as some of the others on this list, but his length means that he has some upside. He can bother shooters and I’d guess he would be gaining a bit more muscle as he enters the NBA.

If any team will know something, it’ll probably be the Heat with insider Juwaun Howard, which is why I think it’s a decent option for a late first rounder.

#3: Julian Champagnie (6’8, 215 lbs, St John’s)

Before even entering into some hoops talk, Julain Champagnie fits the build with his 6 foot 8 frame and 6’10 wingspan. But that’s not what caught my eye after it was reported that he worked out with Miami as well. It was simply his game, instead.

Lewis might be a bit more defense than offense. Houstan a bit more offense than defense. But Champagnie, on the other hand, feels to be a true two-way threat.

He has a solid jumper, but the fact that he can rise right over the top of you is his true gift. He can pull-up reasonably quick, since all he needs is to turn into face-up position, and he’s got you.

The defensive stuff is semi-aligned with some of the others I’ve discussed, since his physicality can really carry him at times. But when watching more and more of his defensive possessions, he really seems to have a high IQ on that end: knowing when to force left, when to dip off, when to explode.

So, if all of this is so great, why is he ranked so low on the boards?

Part of that starts with his abilities as a downhill threat, since there isn’t a lot of confidence in him at the moment as an attacker or finisher. He’s not an isolation, “I’m going to break you down” type of player, but in situations like Miami, he wouldn’t need to be.

Not that these type of players would be in their rotation anyway, but when you get picked up into a bad team, they let you off the leash to kind of go wild with your skills. With Miami forcing him into a certain role right out the gate, that fits his play-style really well.

So, once again, keep an eye out.

#4: Dalen Terry (6’7, 195 lbs, Arizona) Keon Ellis ( 6’6, 175 lbs, Alabama)

I’m personally not of the mindset that the Heat need to lean guard by any means, which is why I’ve been heavily talking about certain wings, but if there was an exception: it would be these two.

The reason I packaged them together is they fit two different scenarios. Dalen Terry with the late first rounder, and Keon Ellis as the potential second rounder snag.

Terry is definitely in their pick range, and he’s definitely in their player history. When watching his game on the defensive end, I feel like I’ve seen this movie too many times to not include him. He’s lengthy with incredible on-ball skills to bother any ball-handler trying to push pace or get into the initial set.

He also has good play-making instincts and can attack quite a bit, but the only thing holding me back is team need. Yet I don’t think that’s how the Heat are looking at it, since if they believe he’s the best player sitting there, they will grab him.

Keon Ellis, on the other hand, is someone a bit lower on draft boards, yet equally as fiery. And by the way, he also worked out with the team recently.

In the same manner, he’s a high level defender specifically on the ball, yet I may lean in his direction in terms of my confidence in outside shooting.

He’s shown to be a comfortable catch and shoot threat this past season while playing in many different spots on the floor. Ellis is also very explosive and enjoys running the open floor, which means exactly what you’re thinking: he’s a strong finisher.

The Heat have been in these type of scenarios before, and it feels like they always lean in the same direction: if a late first rounder and a second rounder/undrafted prospect are similar, they will always go with the latter.

So, that’s something interesting to monitor.

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#5: Jabari Walker (6’9, 215 lbs, Colorado)

The last one I’m touching on swings right back in the direction of lengthy wings, which in this case is another guy who the Heat have worked out: Jabari Walker.

Defensively, he screams versatility with his ability to constantly switch all over the place, since that’s all he did in college, which is enticing to this current Heat group. Plus, he possesses a 7 foot wingspan to go along with the natural mechanics.

Something that differs from past prospects on that end is he proved to be equally as elite off the ball defensively as he was on it. Hitting passing lanes, tagging off the weak-side, recovering back to the corner shooter. He’s somebody that’s probably a bit more known than the other prospects, but he should still be on the board by 27.

Not to mention, he also has a good spot-up three like I’ve discussed with others, but ideally I don’t think you want him creating much off the bounce.

When discussing guys in this range, they all have some form of limitations at this stage, but the idea is to find the guy that can break-through those barriers the fastest.

And with so many guys to choose from, these are just a few of those options that I believe would hold a high level of interest to the Miami Heat’s organization with the NBA draft about a week away.

 

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Tyler Herro: The Scoring Tweak to Fully Expand his Offensive Menu

When evaluating the Heat’s current off-season, the name Tyler Herro comes up a lot. Yet when you see that name pop up on the internet, you know it’s probably involved in a mock trade of some kind.

But that’s pretty much what the off-season is for. Fantasy trades, predicting possible outcomes, and trying to pinpoint the direction of a team a couple months in advance. Except, nothing can be predicted in this league, since you can only control what you can control.

With that said, if a star does present themselves, you go for that guy, which Pat Riley pretty much noted in his presser after the season.

But there also must be some perspective and realism: Tyler Herro isn’t just a trade chip. He’s a valuable player to this current Heat build, and has a good chance of being the team’s starting 2 guard by game 1 of the 2022-2023 NBA season.

So, that gets me back in my element of discussing specific developments, instead of the constant jersey swaps that are popping up on the daily. What will be the focus of Herro heading into next season?

The initial answer would include adding some extra muscle to become stronger as an attacker and finisher around the rim. Gaining that also could gradually improve his defensive abilities, since strength just slightly piles onto everything in a positive manner.

Yet that isn’t the main focus heading into next season.

This entire discussion must be based around Jimmy Butler. He’s the superstar of this team that the front office is trying to build around, whether that be internally or externally. And if it ends up being the internal route, a lot of weight will fall onto Herro’s shoulders to fill the gaps that are necessary to counteract Butler.

A primary way of doing just that: isolation, isolation, isolation.

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It’s a true statement that the “playoffs tell,” but that doesn’t mean you have to always throw away the things you learned in the regular season. Herro grew in so many major areas of his game this past season on his way to winning the 6th man of the year award, including his shooting from deep, control in the pick and roll, play-making, and much more.

Yet the only slot of his game that didn’t stand out in the category of pure improvement was his isolation game. In his rookie season, he scored 0.69 points per possession with a 3.4% frequency. That jumped up to 0.84 points per possession in his second season on a 5.2% frequency, yet declined back down to 0.78 PPP this past season while simultaneously shooting up to a 9.3% frequency mark.

He was so skilled off the screen that it almost wasn’t noticeable. No matter if it was the high pick and roll, a dribble hand-off attack, or a set that landed him in catch and shoot position, he just continued to shine and prove to be a high level offensive player.

So, if that’s the case, why is the isolation stuff so important?

Well, here’s your answer…

The injury restricted him in the Eastern Conference Finals from being effective, but the constant blitzing and doubling was the cause in the second round against Philly. He became the decoy which opened up Butler on their way to a series win, but when discussing internal improvements next to Butler, a decoy isn’t the current need.

Back to the original point, this is where the isolation need comes into play. We can talk all we want about “beating the blitz,” but the next layer is not allowing the opposing team to blitz you from the jump.

The need for the screen fell right into the 76ers’ plans to stop Herro.

Now, you mix in a good amount of isos into that shot profile, and it could be an entirely different ball game.

His usual go-to when going one-on-one can vary. If it’s a big that’s guarding him on an iso, a pull-up triple of some kind is always the outcome as he shoots over the top. If it’s a regular match-up, there’s a good chance a step-back mid-range is the answer, since he found a lot of success in just shooting over the top of guys when gluing them to the floor. Then the last option is when he knows a weaker defender is the match-up, in which he will get into his crafty finishing bag around the rim.

The issue with that above: being able to pinpoint a player’s upcoming move in a game of one-on-one is problematic.

It felt like at times teams know what’s coming in those spots, and when that transitions into playoff ball, the half-court offense shrinks, the strong-side corner shades over, and left handed skip passes are required.

A lot of this is viewing stuff under a microscope, which is necessary with players of Herro’s caliber, but it just illustrates how a little bit of 1-on-1 polishing could shift his entire scoring menu.

Once again, top tier players could force their way out of their respective teams, meaning Pat Riley begins picking up the phone, but that just doesn’t seem like a very likely scenario in my personal opinion.

Changes will be made around the edges, but it still comes back to patching up the holes in the boat. Butler is the boat, and Herro would be the hopeful patch.

Isolation will never, and shouldn’t, be anything close to his base. But it must be available to him when needed, since that’s the next step. He’s only gotten better the past 3 years in a Heat uniform, and I don’t believe that’s plateauing now.

 

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The Miami Heat’s Summer Goals

The legendary coach John Wooden once said “The best way to improve the team is to improve yourself.” While many are turning their attention to transactions after the Heat’s disappointing loss to the Celtics, let’s look within and provide a focus for each of the current Heat players for this summer. 

Javonte Smart 

Entering his second summer with the Heat, Javonte needs to put his strengths on display to have a chance to make the Heat’s roster next season. In his final year at LSU, he led the SEC in 3 point shooting percentage. He also scored nearly 22 points per game with Sioux Falls this season. He’s proven to be a scorer, but at 6’4” he needs to show his ability to be a playmaker at point guard while being able to defend at a high level. 

Omer Yurtseven 

Omer shined last summer, and previewed flashes of excellence this season especially on the glass, but the leap to regular rotation minutes is enormous. He must improve his foot speed to stay on the floor in today’s NBA. He also must improve his finishing, where he was below league average finishing compared to other bigs at the rim and in the mid-range. With a big summer, Omer could be in line to overtake the backup big minutes behind Bam. 

Haywood Highsmith 

Similar to Javonte, this could be a make or break summer for Highsmith – especially with the Heat having a contract guarantee deadline in mid-July. After shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc this season in the G-League, Haywood has proven his ability to shoot but his path likely requires him to prove that his 6-7 athletic frame and 7-foot wingspan can be impactful on the defensive end of the floor. The path for Highsmith to make the roster and find meaningful minutes seems difficult, but it’s also hard to doubt the Heat’s ability to develop shooters. 

Mychal Mulder 

The Heat called up Mulder in March from Sioux Falls, after he averaged 18-5-3 with the Skyforce. Mulder is 27 years old (2017 NBA Draft) and so his window to land in the NBA permanently is slowly closing. He needs to show the shooting potential that we spoke about with Highsmith, but at only 6-3, his ability to defend both guard positions is critical to keeping his two-way contract next season. 

Tyler Herro 

After gains last offseason, Tyler needs to have another offseason getting stronger. He’s still only 22 years old, but his body still hasn’t matured to that age. With his added strength, he

should be able to add more physicality to his game. He’ll never be Jimmy Butler – but the ability to be more physical on drives, absorb contact and still finish (or create more free throw opportunities) will boost his scoring output. The strength will also help him survive better on defense when teams look to hunt him. His continued development as a playmaker is going to elevate his game from the 6th Man of the Year to a star talent who is a threat to score 25+ nightly while also recognizing opportunities to set up teammates. Finally, continuing to sharpen his strengths in shooting while creating a quicker trigger on his jumper (especially off the dribble) will take his game to another level. 

Bam Adebayo 

While many point to Bam needing to add a three point shot, I tend to disagree (for now). You have to learn to crawl, then walk, and then run. Bam first needs to become confident in shooting from the 14-16 foot range. Adding the threat of a jumper from the short corner, elbows, and nail puts the defense on notice. This would keep Bam within one dribble of the rim to layer counters with simple shot fakes, or back down smaller defenders. In that range, he can continue to also utilize his comfort zone of the DHO to initiate offense. According to Cleaning the Glass, Bam showed growth in the 2020-2021 season, shooting 14% more mid range shots (9% more long mid range) and hitting 16% better on those long mid range while shooting 7% better from mid range. However, this season Bam saw a 4% decrease in mid range shots (5% decrease from long mid range) and his accuracy dropped 3% from mid range and a significant 7% drop from long mid range. Add a 14-16 foot jumper to 24 year old Bam and you’re invested in a perennial All-NBA player for the rest of this decade. 

Gabe Vincent 

Like most young guards, Gabe can afford to add strength that will make his improving skills more effective. He could also continue sharpening his ball handling especially against pressure. He’s more of a combo guard than a true point guard, but the added experience, strength and improved handle will make his ability to initiate even easier. After only hearing about his shooting abilities, Gabe put all the doubters on notice this season shooting a career-best 37% from behind the arc. With his improved shooting, he should expect defenses to adjust to his strengths moving forward. Adding a mid range shot that can be utilized as a counter to teams running him off the line, but also to add another weapon to DHO and ball screen actions that he often passed up on during the playoff run. 

Caleb Martin 

Another gem for the Heat’s scouting and player development, Caleb proved this season that he belongs in the NBA. His defensive versatility is his definite strength and should not fade anytime soon at only 26 years old. His two-way ability should be highly sought after in the free agent market, but the price he commands is most determined by what he can provide on offense. He improved 15% from behind the arc to 42% from his previous season. His shot mechanics won’t be part of any instructional videos, but more important than the visuals are the

efficiency and consistency. In addition to his outside shot, adding to his offensive toolbag beyond relying on his elite athleticism seems to be the path to more consistent minutes. 

 

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Max Strus 

Strus seized his opportunity shooting 42% and making 130 more three point field goals from the previous season. As we’ve seen around the league, the one dimensional shooter is being pushed away for guys who do “more”. Max said himself that his goal this summer is to “be more complete” which would assume he plans to add more playmaking and counters to teams limiting his opportunities behind the arc. Similar to the conversation last summer with Duncan Robinson, adding a shot fake and 1-2 dribble pull up would serve Max very well. He also could improve as a playmaker creating off the dribble and when using his athleticism to get into the paint. In addition to his offense, Strus needs to continue the growth on the defensive end of the floor. 

Duncan Robinson 

After a historic season shooting 45% from behind the arc in 2019-2020, Duncan has seen negative regression in each of the past two seasons. Over that time, he has shot 8% worse and made 36 less threes (on 30 more attempts). In the context of the entire league, 37% and 226 3PTM is very, very good – but what has lacked is consistency. On nights when he’s on, he can drop eight threes, but on nights that he’s not, he is unplayable at times. Most importantly, Duncan needs to restore his own confidence in what is undeniably an elite talent. If his shooting is restored, you can then look at counters (shot fake, 1-2 dribble pull up) when defenses try to take him away. With his defensive struggles, you could point to lacking strength, but that added muscle has to come without hampering his shooting or slowing him down even more. 

Victor Oladipo 

Of the entire team, Victor’s offseason program might be the most interesting. Because most of his time was spent rehabilitating rather than developing, this might be the first time that Victor can focus on sharpening skills and adding to his game since 2018. While strength and conditioning will certainly still be part of his summer, continued development on the offensive side of the floor is crucial. He shot better than his career numbers behind the arc this season, but can that last over the course of an entire season? His playmaking as a combo guard is apparent, but can he be more efficient in that role and reduce turnovers. 

Jimmy Butler 

After a dominant playoff run and an All-Star season, even Jimmy has summer work to improve his game as he ages. As we saw with an aging Dwyane Wade, the ability to create and make mid range shots will be important to extending Jimmy’s star play. You can extend that out to behind the arc, but it’s such a small part of Jimmy’s game that I don’t know if it warrants a

summer focus. Part of extending Jimmy’s window is going to be treatment for his knee, which could require surgery. 

Dewayne Dedmon 

After being a productive addition to the Heat, Dedmon’s effectiveness faded this season. At 32 years old, Dedmon likely isn’t adding major facets to his game at this stage of his career. This season Dedmon shot a career-best 45% from behind the arc on limited attempts, and that could be something as he ages that could keep him relevant as a back up big. You could also focus Dedmon’s work on developing better touch around the rim. If the Heat intend to bring him back, the summer work should revolve around how Miami intends to use him behind Bam. 

Markieff Morris 

Similar to Dedmon, Morris is at a stage in his career where he likely isn’t adding major facets to his game and his return to Miami is questionable. Missing much of the season after a flagrant shove by Nikola Jokic was unfortunate and his role never recovered. While focusing on strength and conditioning, Markieff needs to be an effective stretch big to have a role in this league. Enhancing his shooting from 16 feet out to behind the arc is the key to his ability to find minutes. Without it, he’s likely spending the end of his career nailed to the bench. 

Kyle Lowry 

The first and foremost priority has to be his conditioning. The time away for personal reasons certainly impacted his conditioning during the season, and you could argue it never really recovered and may have played a role in his hamstring injury during the playoffs. As Kyle moves into the summer, the Heat should challenge him to come back into training camp in the best shape of his career. That will not only allow Kyle to thrive in his role, but provide the team the point guard they desperately need. As should be expected as he ages, Lowry saw career-lows in attempts in the paint this season. This makes his efficiency in the mid range and behind the arc most important to his scoring especially with the amount of opportunities he gets from DHO and ball screens. 

PJ Tucker 

Tucker shot a career-high 41% from behind the arc this season. If Tucker can continue to shoot at that clip and continue his consistent toughness, win-now teams will be lining up for his services. Beyond shooting, we saw flashes of playmaking from PJ that many did not know even existed. If he’s back in Miami’s system, the counters he can bring to DHO and short rolls make him a bigger offensive threat than most expected. Finally, being 37 years old, PJ clearly must maintain elite fitness to maintain his level of play as he ages. 

Udonis Haslem

You don’t send the soon-to-be 42 year old with summer homework. Udonis knows to continue to be an active player, he must continue to maintain excellent fitness and there is no doubt he’ll live up to that expectation. Keep that short corner jump shot polished, hold players accountable, and be ready for one more season as the standard-bearer of Heat Culture.

The Miami Heat’s Roster Season Review + What’s Next

Looking back over this season for the Miami Heat, they finished as the first seed in the Eastern Conference, yet capped out in the Eastern Conference Finals in game 7, one win, or one shot, away from another NBA Finals appearance.

So, now that it’s officially off-season time, it’s time to project forward. But you can’t fully look ahead until you evaluate the past, so let’s take a brief look throughout the roster to establish both what happened and what’s next…

Jimmy Butler:

What happened?

When talking about the Miami Heat, you must start out with the headliner, which is clearly Jimmy Butler. Sometimes a season is remembered by how you start, and other times by how you finish. And in Butler’s case, he capitalized in both of those fields.

From MVP ladder rankings to begin the year to a 47 point masterpiece in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals facing elimination, it’s no doubt that it was a terrific season. We all know about his defensive excellence when surrounded by strong defenders, but carrying the offensive load yet again to this degree was eye opening.

Y’all can have fun with NBA player rankings, but Butler cemented himself as a clear top 10 player in today’s league.

What’s next?

When talking about the next steps for individual players, I’m going to do a lot of talking about simple on-court improvements or the next stage of a contract/trade possibility. Yet for Jimmy Butler, it’s about just the opposite.

It’s just building a roster to get him that ring that he so very deserves, which was one of the primary reasons he landed in Miami in the first place. Watching him put it all out there in this post-season showed one thing that we probably already knew: build fully around Butler to get this group over the hump. Basically the playoff motto for the Heat in this recent run: get Jimmy Butler some help.

Bam Adebayo:

What happened?

Offensively he may have his ups and downs on picking when to go and be aggressive, but his impact was felt from game 1 to game 100. One of the league’s best defenders, even if the voters couldn’t recognize that. Games 3 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals showed flashes again on the other end, mostly about the hope of what he would look like as a full-time third option on the offensive end.

In the mix of things throughout the season, Adebayo receives a lot of blame from the public. When they lose, it’s easy to look over at his stat-line and make that the reason it occurred, but it truly isn’t the full story. There’s no doubt the aggression will have to pick up in a more consistent manner, but Adebayo did his job this season, and that game 7 proved the focal points of this Heat group.

What’s Next?

Clearly Adebayo is locked into contract and isn’t going anywhere, so what’s next for him is much more game-based. His defensive traits are here to stay, meaning the offense will always be the primary focus in an off-season.

When players talk about that specific focus, it’s usually prefaced by “perfecting my all-around game.” But when it comes to Adebayo, I don’t believe that to be the case.

The next step for him: a go-to offensive move that we’ve discussed for quite some time. Is it a post-up move? Face-ups? Jumper? It’s tough to say, but it comes down to his comfort level in certain spots.

Something to watch for though: Bam Adebayo loves that baseline. No matter if he’s in position for a post-up or a face-up, the end result is most likely going to be a baseline dash or a post spin down that line for position under the rim. So I’m thinking they’re going to find a way to maximize his skill down there.

Tyler Herro:

What happened?

As I stated earlier, the way you finish a season is usually remembered much more than the main chunk of your production in a certain time frame. And for Tyler Herro, he wasn’t even lucky enough to actually “finish” his season correctly after dealing with that groin injury in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But to zoom out a bit, he grew a ton this past season as an offensive player. Aside from winning the sixth man of the year award, he was right up there at the top of the scoring list with Butler in the regular season.

But it isn’t about the numbers, he grew as a creator in terms of finding healthy step-backs and fade-aways to get his shot off against good defenses. He even grew to the degree that teams through the entire playoffs threw different defensive coverages at him since they were so worried about him. Those obstacles slowed him down a good amount, but there’s no doubt he made strides this year as a scorer in this league.

What’s next?

When hearing what is next for Tyler Herro at this time of year, I know what you all are thinking. Donovan Mitchell. Zach LaVine. Damian Lillard. Probably even LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo. The point is that he’s going to be thrown into any conversation for those stars to improve the team, and I mean rightfully so. Everybody is pulling that trigger to land a star in this league next to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

But the realistic element: it’s not that likely. Yes top players always move around every off-season, but this is totally out of the Heat’s control. It’s 1) on the specific player to ask out and demand Miami and 2) the opposing team has to actually like the trade package you’re offering.

Aside from all of those fantasies, there are clear areas for him to improve on the basketball court. The first step is his driving game, which did make strides throughout the regular season, but the physicality of the playoffs blocked the rim off for him to attack.

He must find ways to draw contact on those stop signs standing in the lane, which may develop with his focus on adding some extra upper body strength.

The last thing is a combination of a live dribble and his play-making skills. That’s another thing that was peaking late in the regular season, but the constant blitzing and doubles he faced found ways to stall out both him and the team’s offense. Working on those quicker passing triggers will be key for his off-season development.

Oh, and the last thing to note, the next step for him personally is becoming a full-time Heat starter.

Kyle Lowry:

What happened?

I feel like the Kyle Lowry section is one of the hardest to sum up into words. He had a strong regular season in terms of carrying the team when guys went down, which was pretty much what the Heat needed when they acquired him.

But the other thing they needed was the two words he used pretty often in the regular season: “real season.” His ramp up process was hitting new levels late in the regular season, which Erik Spoelstra joked recently that they wished the playoffs could’ve started then. But well, they didn’t.

Lowry started off the “real season” pretty well with some strong performances at the beginning of the Hawks series, but the fall-off came a little after as injuries struck. In and out was his story-line the rest of the way, as that hamstring never truly allowed him to look right. He had a big game 6 in the ECF next to Jimmy Butler, but it capped off there.

I feel like he exceeded some of the regular season expectations with the hot pockets throughout the year when guys went down, but the playoffs plummeted quite a bit. Was it simply derailed by injuries? Was that usual burst to the rim and pull-up shooting gone? I’m not sure, but I do know that hamstring situation didn’t help.

What’s next?

Kyle Lowry is locked into a decent sized contract with this Heat team moving forward, meaning “what’s next” seems to be characterized by a potential trade for some. But let me just say this in simple terms: Kyle Lowry came to the Heat because of Jimmy Butler. Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler are close friends. Jimmy Butler isn’t allowing Kyle Lowry to be traded.

Maybe that last sentence has an exception if it’s grabbing a top tier star and he needs to be packaged, but even then it gets a bit cloudy. The point is that Lowry is a part of this current build, so the focus on what is next is how to maximize him.

And this isn’t young player development like improving on a specific skill, this is honing in on his body and physical build. Something Spoelstra danced around in his exit interview presser was the idea of Lowry getting into Heat shape, finishing the convo off with “I think Kyle will come back next training camp in the best shape of his career.”

That fixes a lot of what we’re discussing. He needs to be in great shape, preserve himself in the regular season, and be fresh by the time the playoffs roll around. That’s what Butler did this past year, and that’s what Lowry will need to do.

PJ Tucker:

What happened?

PJ Tucker simply exceeded all expectations in everybody’s eyes from the front office to teammates to fans. We knew he was a defensive dawg, but increasing the offensive display of a 37 year old isn’t easy. Speolstra talked about how he was surprised of this ascension, as he even carried the load of the front-court when Bam went down with injury for a month and a half.

Tucker told Spo that he used to play some point guard, and he didn’t believe him. When he reassured, Spo tweaked the December game-plan of giving Tucker some more play-making reps, which included a hot stretch of running some post-spits and different sets for him for a good chunk of time.

We also can’t just say he was great defensively while not punching that point home. He made Trae Young’s life horrible in the first round, handled both James Harden and Joel Embiid off switches all series long, and didn’t allow Jayson Tatum maximum comfort all 7 games. He was the rock of everything they did, and every Heat player has made sure to point that out all year.

What’s next?

Contract wise for Tucker, he’s one of those flexible off-season pieces to watch as he has that $7.4 million player option at the moment. I’m not the guy to fully project forward on what he will do with that, but it’s clear no matter if he opts in or out, the Heat will be very focused on bringing him back.

Yet as he isn’t getting any younger, the enticing part about his return would be making his life a bit easier with some type of front-court addition. More than anything though, he just wants to be out there and play, and it’s clear he fits Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, Jimmy Butler, and this organization to an absolute T.

Duncan Robinson:

What happened?

As Tucker may have exceed many expectations, it’s pretty clear that nobody saw the Robinson season coming at all. After receiving his healthy bag, he endured some shooting struggles to begin the year.

Spoelstra and the Heat stuck with him all the way through, yet he could never really find his usual comfort and consistency from deep, while it felt like the offense was being restricted at times to get him going.

One Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra fight and a 4 game losing streak later, a change was made. The Heat shifted the starting lineup and rotation to have Max Strus start at the 2, trying to find a spark in anyway possible. And that was exactly found.

Robinson then began to trickle down the Heat’s rotation little by little, eventually finding himself on the outside looking in by playoff time.

What’s next?

The next stage for Robinson is unclear, but the next stage for the Heat with Robinson is a bit clearer. As I pointed out earlier, yes, he’d be included in the big time deals for the star-powered players in Heat jersey swaps on social media. But the Heat’s off-season isn’t going to consist of waiting around for something that probably won’t even happen.

So, could a Robinson deal be done on its own to patch up some holes in the roster? Very much so. Talking about Tucker possibly needing some front-court help on the surface, the question becomes: who could Robinson get you as a potential stretch big?

We have a full off-season to talk about that now, but the point is that’s the next outlet for Robinson and the Heat. There are clearly teams that can use the shooting gift that Robinson possesses, and the Heat may need to shift in another direction.

Gabe Vincent:

What happened?

Entering this season, there was one hole on the Heat’s roster according to many Heat observers: back-up point guard. Gabe Vincent was going to be a fine third string point guard, but they needed a trusted back-up.

Not only did Vincent emerge into that, he progressed into a solid starting point guard for many slots of the regular season and the playoffs.

Not enough is said about the strides he made in his all-around game. Many were eyeing his shooting from deep since that’s what landed him on the roster in the first place, and that began to click as well. But more importantly, he became a big time defender, his play-making skills grew more than expected, and they transitioned him from a small 2 into a solid 1. In terms of production and progression, Vincent was one of the true success stories from this year.

What’s next?

Some may call Vincent or Max Strus sweeteners for a potential star-powered trade, but I don’t think it gets much sweeter than two highly productive rotation players on minimum contracts next season. That is just incredible value from a contractual perspective.

On the other side of things, I truly believe Vincent’s off-season development approach will be the cliche “improving in all areas.” It’s working on the consistency of the outside shot, the effectiveness of the pull-up, a tighter handle, and most importantly, quick play-making attributes.

Max Strus:

What happened?

As illustrated in other areas of this piece, Max Strus emerged this season from out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s not about fully jumping onto the scene, but just arriving at the right time. As much as we group Vincent, Strus, and Caleb Martin together in that young undrafted branch, many Heat observers compared them often.

Why is that? Well, there were only so many rotation spots, so the question continued to be ‘who was going to be the odd man out?’ For a good stretch of time with Vincent and Martin’s offensive game surging, that guy seemed to be Strus. But well, you know how that story ended up going.

Robinson struggled, changes were made, and Strus found himself in the starting lineup on the biggest stages. In the same breath as Vincent, he was a major success story for this Heat developmental staff who just continues to do it again and again.

What’s next?

Not to be too repetitive, but as described previously with Vincent, his contract is just an insane amount of value heading into this next season. But as much as that’s a thing, they’re going to be playing for even bigger pay-days next season heading into free agency.

For Strus individually, the shooting is clearly his staple. He had some flashes of strong attacks and defensive stops, but those will need to improve heading into this next season.

But since he’s going to be a part of this Heat offense yet again, he’s going to need something out of Duncan Robinson’s book from previous years: effectiveness off dribble hand-offs.

Strus is a tough shot maker and a clear movement shooter, but a lot of his shooting stretches came off slip screens or ghost screens into a spot-up jumper on the wing. Or just the usual catch and shoot from anywhere on the floor. But the smoothness of a Robinson hand-off would be crucial for Strus as the “best shooter on the team,” as he proclaimed with semi-air quotes.

I can say that he works on it a ton in practice after watching a ton of his post-practice shooting drills this season, but that’ll be a primary focus in the Summer.

Victor Oladipo:

What happened?

Victor Oladipo’s season consisted of an incredible comeback story and extremely small sample sizes. He made his return late in the season showcasing some high level defensive moments, yet the offensive insertion slowed down the Heat’s strides late in the year.

They shelved him for some time for that very reason, but when Lowry went down in the playoffs, his number was called again, and he answered the call. He did a very good job as a shot creator when they needed him to be, and a second half against Jaylen Brown and the Celtics in game 1 will be on his career highlight tape.

We know he’s a high-level talent, but the question was how he’d round into shape. He did a good job responding to that, but now the attention turns to what the title of his next chapter will be…

What’s next?

Oladipo is currently a free agent at the moment after he took a chance with the Heat earning the minimum, but now it’s about what his market looks like. The Heat do hold his Bird Rights, so they will have some level of control, but it’s much more on the rest of the league.

Personally, it feels like there’s a good chance he finds his way back onto this Heat roster, which quickly transitions into what is next in his production.

As much as I’ve highlighted individual improvements for much of the Heat’s roster, it’s more about role for Oladipo. Trying to blend him into their game-plan on the fly this season wasn’t the easiest thing to do, since a lot of his play was either standing in the corner as an off-ball threat or going isolation mode.

Once the Heat find out his plans in free agency, they’re going to jump on that pretty quickly. Dissecting what his job on the offensive end will be for this team, so the outline is totally understood by opening night.

Caleb Martin:

What happened?

I feel like I could just copy and paste the story-line of many of these undrafted players who climb up the ladder, since Caleb Martin falls right under that category as well.

Betting on himself by signing a two-way contract with the Heat after being cut by the Charlotte Hornets, then turned into a key rotation player who finished the season on a regular contract with Miami.

A big time game early in the year against the Milwaukee Bucks showed his abilities under the bright lights with so many guys out, but one major defensive run around January capitalized on his effectiveness. A point guard clamping tour from Steph Curry to Chris Paul to De’Aaron Fox to Fred VanVleet. The way he was able to size down proved to be very helpful, and he just fit the build of this team.

What’s next?

Martin is also a free agent, but they will throw him the qualifying offer as Miami can match outside offers if necessary. But after Martin spoke in the exit interviews on Tuesday, he voiced over and over again that he wants to come back to Miami.

So, to continue on what’s next for him personally, I’d like to retreat back to a point I made about Oladipo. When I asked Martin about his focus in improvements and role next season, he kept bringing up one guy’s name: PJ Tucker. The focus won’t be on an individual attribute, even though he noted his shooting consistency will be big, but instead his role is going to be laid out on the table from day one.

Screening, rolling, play-making off the slip. Martin wants to be that dirty work guy that can be relied on regularly much like Tucker has been this past season. This team had a lot of depth this past year, but now they need assigned roles to that depth. And Martin accepting that type of stuff can do just that.

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Dewayne Dedmon/Omer Yurtseven

What happened?

Yes, I’m going to merge two very different players who only share the same position, since both of them are in two totally different spots.

Dewayne Dedmon is coming off a year as the team’s trusted back-up big, while Omer Yurtseven was in an evaluating state as the third string big, who popped into the lineup when needed during Adebayo’s absence.

Dedmon had a strong showing early on, but the minutes declined rapidly in the playoffs as his production slowed down. Spoelstra began going smaller, which is always his most comfortable area, leaving Dedmon on the outside looking in.

Yurtseven, on the other hand, was a garbage time killer. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but his biggest moments came when he’d enter with 3 minutes left and come away with like 6 rebounds out of nowhere. That’s definitely a skill, and he has a good amount of skill while being very young,

What’s next?

The reason I grouped them together was much more about this section. Dewayne Dedmon will be a free agent with the Heat holding Bird Rights, but it pretty much feels like Miami got everything out of him that they needed. The next stage for him in terms of contract could be the end with his Heat tenure.

Omer Yurtseven on the other hand could have a bit more responsibilities. I still believe that the Heat grab some extra front-court pieces either in a possible Robinson trade, or low level free agency options, but Yurtseven will have a fighting chance.

He will have another run in Heat Summer league, now as more of the focal point after Strus dominated the last time around. He’s been working majorly behind the scenes with the coaching staff, so I’m interested to see the way he’s grown by the time Summer league actually starts.

Either way, the back-up big slot feels to be the one area of speculation to kick off this off-season.

Markieff Morris/Udonis Haslem/Haywood Highsmith/Javonte Smart/Mychal Mulder

What happened?

Lastly, we can’t leave anybody off. Markieff Morris had some moments to begin the year, but one Nikola Jokic shove in the back basically ended his role on this Heat team, since his time of recovery kept being extended.

Guys like Haywood Highsmith, Javonte Smart, and Mychal Mulder didn’t really have any major impact on this Heat group, but they’re always important to keep an eye on in this Heat organization.

One moment they’re just some guys in Summer League, and the next thing you know they’re starting 12 games in the regular season. More than anything, the developmental group deserves all of the credit.

What’s next?

Morris will be a free agent as well after earning the minimum, so it feels like it could be the end of the road there, unless no other reserve 4’s come available in free agency. (I’m eyeing Thaddeus Young possibly.)

Haslem just never seems to be done, as his exit interview every year seems to go the same way. He said he will think it over in the off-season, which will probably mean he will be back breaking up bench altercations again next year.

And as I said before, Highsmith, Smart, and Mulder will have some chances in Summer League to show what they’ve got.

(Yes, that’s everybody on the current roster. No, I won’t be addressing the Kyle Guy’s and Mario Chalmer’s from earlier 10-days.)

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Celtics in Game 6

The Miami Heat force a game 7.

While the Tv shows were previewing a Celtics-Warriors Finals, the Heat were preparing a gameplan to go into TD Garden.

Jimmy Butler went LeBron James game 6 mode and absolutely dominated.

Here are some takeaways…

#1: Jimmy Butler entering that mode.

Coming into game 6, I had a consistent blueprint for the Heat. And well, that was Jimmy Butler. To put up a fight, they were going to need a LeBron like game 6 in Boston, and a 21/9/6 half-time stat-line was a decent start you’d say. He was attacking the basket to create perimeter shots, knocking down the outside jumper, and saving Miami late in the shot-clock. He was it for their half-court sets. Right before tip-off he walked from the bench to the scorer’s table for his usual hand-shake routine. The only change: no smile, no reactions. That’s the LeBron comp in that sense. He needed to be superman early on for Miami to give that opening punch, and he was just that.

#2: Boston’s defense forcing Miami’s passive players to make plays early.

Looking on the other end, there were times in that half where we were once again discussing the need for Butler help. But before talking about that, it’s important to mention what Boston was doing. It was clear in that first half Max Strus and Duncan Robinson weren’t the fits in this game. The Celtics were forcing him to catch the ball high to turn into a ball-handler, which is when they would pounce. That is the reason I said during the game they’d have to transition into all defensive lineups with the Vincent-Lowry back-court making a comeback, which is exactly what happened. The other guy Boston was forcing aggressiveness on was Bam Adebayo. He was searching for hand-offs, he was loose with the ball, and the attacks weren’t there. It was measured from the Celtics side, as he got his first couple baskets under a minute to go in the second quarter, 23 minutes into the game. But this topic just speaks to what Butler was doing even more.

#3: The free throw battle.

Looking at the free throw comparisons over the last 3 games, they’re pretty absurd. The Celtics continues to get to the line, while the Heat continue to struggle in that department. But I won’t go immediately to one-sided calls. Yes there are times when the whistle may sway, but this is an example of schematics. The Celtics current offensive structure is for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to make drives in the slots for force back-line rotations. The usual outcome is a take to the rim for potential contact. While that was the Heat’s gameplan for Butler for some time, the injury shifted things. He was a methodical transition and jumper threat in that first half, which led into some sprays for outside shots. That’s the key though: Butler and 3 point shooting goes hand in hand. The counter to a charity stripe disparity is balancing that middle ground, which was clicking in that first half.

#4: Third quarter: Butler getting the help he deserves.

The theme entering the second quarter: who would give Butler the necessary help? Or would it ever come? To kick off the third quarter, he came out clicking just like the first half. But the biggest difference: so did the supporting cast. A stretch that as crucial included a Victor Oladipo insertion after PJ Tucker’s 4th foul, leading to a big floater followed up by a massive step back jumper with Robert Williams hovering. Right after that, Strus flowed into the half-court as Lowry pushed pace, and Strus took a deep pull-up that extended the lead to 12. But then, Boston responded. The Heat began to ease up and the Celtics continued getting to the rim and the line, cutting it immediately to 6. Timeout. Yet, they responded again. Butler continued getting to his spots, but the crowd was on Boston’s side. Arena roaring, Butler driving, Oladipo swinging, Strus shooting. Silence. He loves quieting that crowd, and that shot was as big as any.

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#5: Forcing a game 7.

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Celtics in Game 5

The Miami Heat are now down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Continued struggles offensively, Jimmy Butler hitting a wall potentially due to injury, and others not playing up to their abilities.

So, here are some takeaways from this game…

#1: No Tyler Herro means troublesome bench. Or just the opposite…

The Heat’s bench in the first half of game 5 scored a total of 18 points, the same amount the Heat starters put up in all of game 4 in Boston. The offense wasn’t clicking to start this one either, but it was the same thing for Boston. All of a sudden, Victor Oladipo and Gabe Vincent trot into the game for Max Strus and Kyle Lowry, and well, things flipped quickly. Oladipo provided the shot creation they were missing, and Vincent provided the missing point guard element of somebody willing to shoot and bend the defense. Caleb Martin stepped into the mix as well, and he was vital. Corner threes, put-backs in the lane, smothering defense on Jayson Tatum. He might’ve been the most impressive of them all, while Duncan Robinson rounded out the 4 man bench unit. And we shouldn’t look past his gravity that was harped on so often. He created a ton of space for Miami’s weak half-court looks, and he deserved some credit early too. But much like all of this, the word “early” was a crucial element.

#2: The rotational adjustment many were waiting for.

Dewayne Dedmon has struggled as of late. Now that Miami found themselves tied 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, there’s less room for error. Yes, he may get a 6 to 8 minute stint, but that could flip a game. Consequently, many have been clamoring for some Markieff Morris minutes at the back-up 5, for both spacing and a bigger body on the front-line. Yet while I had many present that option to me, I had the same answer to it all: PJ Tucker should be the back-up 5. With so much on the line right now, minutes need to increase. And if Bam Adebayo sits at 42 minutes, give Tucker the other 6 to play next to Jimmy Butler and Caleb Martin to spark a space-ful run. Tucker was fantastic in that role early on, as his rebounding comfort was obvious from the jump on both sides. They may have fell short, but this was the correct rotation shift.

#3: Bam Adebayo has found the mismatches since game 1, but there’s inconsistency in capitalizing.

How did Miami counter the rough start yet again to kick this game off? Well, it was simply Bam Adebayo’s aggressive mind-set off big time put-backs at the rim, one over teammate Jimmy Butler. But other than that, it wasn’t looking good for Bam’s offensive impact for the first few minutes. Every set was being run through Butler and Tucker, while Bam was down low watching. That blended into Miami doing nothing about the mismatch of Brown on his back, til it clicked. The Heat began growing much more intentional in that space to get him the ball, and Bam responded well. Strong attacks in the post, activity on the offensive boards, and energy when the ball wasn’t in his hands for screening. With Butler struggling and Herro out, they needed him to begin this game, and he answered the call. But then the phone hung up. The Heat began to stall out beginning with Butler’s struggles, and Bam couldn’t create something out of nothing. Those advantages are there, but the lack of a go-to restricts the consistency of his attack.

#4: Third quarter trouble strikes back.

4 for 23. That was the Heat’s shooting numbers in the third quarter, and if you were watching the game, that wouldn’t be shocking. As much as I gave the bench unit props, that was equally highlighting the starting lineup issues. Jimmy Butler just didn’t look right. They’re throwing length on him any chance they get, which neutralizes him without the usual burst and attack to the rim. The third quarter sum-up for the Heat’s offense: it appeared they hit the wall. The Celtics did a good job of utilizing Robert Williams again, and Miami didn’t have the answer to him that I was expecting. He was everywhere as a shot blocker, just wrecking havoc on every perimeter shooter for the Heat. And once he rattled those guys, everything trickles from there.

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#5: So, what now?

When I said Heat in 7, I’ve been pretty much aligned with what has been happening in the series. A 1-1 split followed by a 1-1 split, while it eventually bleeds into a game 7 in the Heat’s house. But when I pictured game 5, I didn’t picture this. To be completely honest, it felt like each team would get one at home, but as Miami lost Tyler Herro, and Jimmy Butler in many cases, the Heat’s offense stalled even more-so. But what now? The Celtics now lead 3-2 in the series heading back to Boston. We often hear about culture and mental toughness with this Heat team, and that’ll be tested to the ultimate degree Friday night. I can sit here and discuss film adjustments or rotation changes, but this is mental now. Can the Heat overcome the shrugged shoulders and short jumpers? I don’t have the answer to that right now, but it’ll be tested completely in game 6.

 

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