The Future is Bright for Miami Heat’s Omer Yurtseven

The Miami Heat have an interesting past of finding diamonds in the rough. When all eyes were on the 13th pick in the NBA draft on Miami’s Summer League team in 2019, other guys emerged into the team’s focus. Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn went from undrafted guys fighting to make a roster, to immediate starters on a team that eventually made the NBA Finals.

It’s safe to say Miami has a pretty good eye in that department specifically.

Toward the end of last season, some young 7 footer was added to the roster in hopes of potential off-season developing. While there may not have been many expectations on this young kid, it kind of felt like deja vu was striking Heat observers.

Omer Yurtseven had a monster Summer League a few weeks ago, leading to him earning a regular deal and roster spot for next season. And although it’s a contending team with a crowded front-court, the Heat always find ways to work in these young, hungry, and supreme talents.

So, let’s continue my Heat preview series, answering some questions from you guys about individual players on the roster. Why is the future so bright for Yurtseven?

After watching him in action through different environments, including playing with Turkey and Heat’s Summer League team in Vegas, it’s clear that his offensive bag is pretty broad. When watching this 7 footer on the offensive end, the first word that comes to mind is versatility.

In this instance, a lot of stuff is going to tie back to Miami’s young centerpiece Bam Adebayo. The reason for that is the overarching point to these discussions is asking how they would potentially mesh in the future. And well, that transitions us right into how he will be used most on the offensive end.

For starters, I’ve said this frequently, but I believe many of Yurtseven’s spot minutes will come next to Adebayo this season. He’s going to be the sub-in starter if injuries were to occur, and the Dewayne Dedmon back-up plan since he won’t be playing close to 82. It’s the Gabe Vincent/Max Strus role of last year.

To that point, Yurtseven’s two best offensive skills are probably Adebayo’s two weakest skills at this stage. The first one is the outside shot since his high release point means it’s close to impossible to alter. With Adebayo occupying space on the roll or mid-range off the catch, he needs a floor spacer next to him at all times.

The second offensive wrinkle is post-play. As the league continues to evolve, you see more and more bigs picking up Yurtseven’s shooting trait, instead of his back to the basket trait. And when the footwork continues to improve against bigger defenders on the block, it’ll only make that soft touch down low even deadlier.

Ultimately, his role will be very watered down and simplified. They will most likely run some double screening/horn sets for Adebayo to roll and Yurtseven to pop, just due to the fact it maximizes spacing and places Yurtseven at a favorable spot at the top of the key. He may be able to knock down the corner three consistently, but above the break popping will be his home-base.

Once that offense is perfected, the all-around expansion and added layers can begin to be flooded in.

This is a very good question, and I think it should be evaluated from a few different angles.

Once again, we have to start by relating this to him playing next to Adebayo. In those minutes specifically, he just has to do what he’s done at a high level for some time now: protect the rim, deter drivers, block some shots, and grow in that drop coverage.

That would be Adebayo’s safety blanket in a lot of ways. It would allow each of them to play to their strengths in terms of defensive capabilities, which is what I see them using at different points in the regular season to switch it up.

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Now, back to the question, I’m not sure the “quick twitch” or “quick feet” is something I would really bet on in his immediate future. He has very good defensive instincts from what I’ve seen, but the other original attributes don’t really jump off the screen to me at this time.

Due to that, I don’t think I see him being an “above average defender,” but I can see him being an average one who can make plays. If he gets some extra reps by the basket, improving his all-around pick and roll defense, then I can see him being an above average rim protector.

But addressing “NBA defender” as a whole, I don’t think I’d put that expectation on him. His true skill is on the offensive end of the floor, since there aren’t many players with that size who can utilize the level of touch on the ball that he possesses.

I spoke briefly before about the opportunities that he will be given, but I just don’t see this being his breakout season with the role he will be given.

As much as I’ve said he will get plenty of spot minutes, sprinkled in starts, and chances to prove his game, the roster construction just doesn’t mirror this being his big year. Once again, this team did a total 360 from a crowded back-court to a crowded front-court.

Obviously other than Dedmon off the bench, nobody has the undeniable size and skill that Yurtseven has, which is why he will get his chance. If he came out and dominates whenever given that opportunity, then that’s a different story. That would lead to a bench front-court punch of Yurtseven-Dedmon minutes, which would be quite a handful.

But realistically, that doesn’t feel to be the case. He will progress behind the scenes, receive playing time to get a taste of what he needs to continue to develop, and make the eventual leap that so many undrafted Heat players have in the past.

There feels to be an in-house formula on how it’s done, and I believe Yurtseven’s formula is the easiest to predict this upcoming season. They now have another young wild card that they can utilize if things were to go downhill, which is something Coach Erik Spoelstra won’t be afraid to use.

The final takeaway: his future is bright. From what I’ve seen up to this point, there’s so much potential within his current game, and he just turned 23 years old. The Heat may have dug up a hidden gem once again, and this time, there isn’t an unorthodox fit with other skill-sets. Instead, it blends in quite perfectly.

 

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What are the Next Steps for KZ Okpala?

The Miami Heat kick off their first preseason game in less than 4 weeks, which leads to the beginning of some season previews. I’ve already broke down the roles, fitting offensive actions, and needed improvements from everybody on the roster, which leads us into this new article series.

I’ll be going through the entire roster once again, answering any questions you guys may have heading into the new year. And when evaluating certain player’s next steps in their game, there’s no better way to start than KZ Okpala who has plenty of questions to be answered.

Now, I think the only one who can truly erase some of those question marks is Okpala, and it’s most likely going to have to come behind the scenes. Anyway, let’s hop right into the future of Okpala in this league.

The answer to the first question above is absolutely, and I’ll tell you why.

For starters, there isn’t one part of his offensive game that has shown any flashes. An inability to create separation on the attack, no smooth element as a scorer, and a lack of a three-point shot. But with that said, the one thing that can actually be developed and save his overall production is outside shooting.

It doesn’t mean he has to be a great three-point shooter. He just has to do enough to survive on that end of the floor.

3 and D is best case scenario when talking about Okpala’s offensive focus, and as mentioned in the second question, I also agree that corner shots are most important. The reason for that is Okpala won’t ever be used within offensive actions in the near future, but if he’s put out on the floor, he has to occupy space beyond that corner three.

When talking about guys who take up space in the corner without a consistent jumper, I think of the way defenses treated Andre Iguodala in past years with Miami. As much as that was an offensive headache for some, it was schemed around at times due to his high IQ to cut at perfect times and hit the middle of the floor to play-make.

That just won’t be a staple of Okpala’s game. To have a chance at cracking the rotation in the future, that three-point shot has to fall consistently, and the urge to continually try and drive to the basket will probably have to lay back.

Although I highlighted the role of Okpala that would be most ideal, the point that I’m making is about the future. After seeing him in Summer League a couple weeks ago, there aren’t any major on-court offensive strides taking place, meaning there isn’t a specific offensive scheme that stands out from the others.

I will say that getting out into transition would be hugely beneficial for him if he’s used as a plug and play guy at different points of the season. That’s where he was effective in college at times, due to his length and speed beating others down the floor for easy buckets.

And by the way, his baseline to baseline ball pressure led to plenty of that as well. On a defensive team with the updated Heat roster, we should see an increase in frequency when discussing getting out on the break.

Now to the second question above, I’ve watched more than enough film on Okpala to know that his defensive perception isn’t a myth. He has the prototypical length and quickness, but that’s not even the part that carries him on that end of the floor.

He’s fantastic one-on-one, which we saw on a different level when Miami played the Brooklyn Nets, leading to him defending Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant from possession to possession. I’d say his number one attribute is just pressuring full-court, which was seen in the 2-2-1 press throughout the season.

Although there are plenty of positives about his defensive skill-set, there are two very clear issues that will need to be cleaned up. The first one is foul trouble, due to his over-aggression consistently leading to a frenzy of whistles in his direction. A lot of that had to do with him trying to prove himself as a player when he got on the floor, meaning he was going to be up in everybody’s grill to show his tenacity.

The other issue that has been problematic at times was mentioned in the parenthesis in the question. There have been a bunch of lapses in his team defense, and there’s a couple reasons for that. The first one is the obvious answer, which is that team defense comes with playing time, and there’s a good shot it would look better once his offensive game grows enough for him to stay on the floor.

Secondly, as I said before, he’s a ball-watcher. It’s one of the main reasons he is so good on the ball, but it seems to get him in trouble frequently off the ball. Corner spacers see his eyes lurking, leading to simple back-cuts for easy lay-ins.

None of that should be worrisome, since the positives far outweigh the negatives, but it’s just something to monitor. But back to the original question, if there are some that think his defensive perception is a myth, you’re completely wrong.

I’ve talked about the importance of him leaning away from the driving game, but I haven’t addressed the reason why.

He’s had plenty of isolations in Summer League, receptions off the catch in real games, and back-cuts to relocate defenders. But when any of that occurs, I have the same takeaway: that just won’t ever be a strong suit of his game.

In my honest opinion, I don’t feel that a tighter handle will move the needle enough for him to be a better rim attacker. As we saw in Summer League, his issue isn’t about getting to the rim, it’s finishing at the rim. There were moments where he beat defenders off the dribble, or threw some elbows to create space, but lacked that true soft touch to finish the play off.

It just seems a bit unorthodox to worry about developing at this stage.

The other part about his downhill ability is that the scoring element isn’t even the section with the most question marks. It’s actually decision making with the ball in his hands as a passer.

When getting reps last season with the real team, defenses adjusted to his game quickly. The reason for that was him putting the ball on the floor to the middle of the court meant one thing and one thing only: a kick-out to the weak-side wing. He never looked at the rim in that scenario, it’s just stuff sideline to sideline. Defenders began to front the perimeter which eventually resulted in the turnover issue.

Now, I do believe a tighter handle can enhance other things. If he was to become a quicker decision maker over time, then that handle can bail him out when he’s looking to play-make.

But there’s yet another overarching takeaway when discussing this: there’s so many “ifs.” Okpala doesn’t have to eliminate all of those ifs right now to be effective. It just has to be one or two of them to progress in a decent fashion to make the team feel good about it.

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We will see what happens with Okpala in the near future, but I will say that I don’t think the current roster construction is benefiting him. Previous opportunities came up due to the team’s roster consisting of back-court depth with no true front-court depth.

And now, the tables have turned. Following the projected starting group of Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker, Miami will have some options considering the bench usage of Markieff Morris and Dewayne Dedmon, while Omer Yurtseven feels to be next in line.

It’ll come down to the development behind the scenes for Okpala, and in my opinion, spamming some work-outs of straight outside shooting would probably be the best off-season decision.

 

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5 Potential Miami Heat Lineups that Fulfill a Specific Skill

Plenty of things can be debated about this updated Heat roster. Are they missing total scoring production off the bench until Victor Oladipo returns? Will the newest front-court additions make the difference? What level will Kyle Lowry be playing at during the regular season?

While there is some truth to a lot of those questions, one thing is universal when evaluating this team: Erik Spoelstra has way more weapons on both ends of the floor. And well, that is more important than anything else heading into the season.

To that point, they will have a lot more flexibility with specific lineups. Of course we know what the starting lineup or closing lineup will look like, but how about the creative lineups that fulfill a specific skill on the roster?

That’s what I’ll be diving into here, so let’s hop right into some lineups that may be intriguing as potential sparks throughout the season…

1) Maximizing Offensive Actions with Creativity

Lowry /Robinson /Strus /Adebayo /Yurtseven

When I went through this exercise of thinking about truly creative lineups, this is the first one that came to mind. I’ve gone over a bunch of offensive sets that Miami will be running this season, and it’s clear they will be looking for certain lineups that truly plug every hole in that type of utilization.

The Heat’s offense rides off total movement off the ball on the weak-side to trigger specific actions within the set. That would be the Duncan Robinson and Max Strus role here, since they can start them on the same side, and run them off a baseline screen to flow into the weak-side. That’s the type of pull that makes a Miami Heat offense run.

Obviously Kyle Lowry would need to be the head of the snake in these lineups, since his passing is so dynamic that he can put the ball into the spots of his teammates to make a play, while possessing a deep ball threat to keep his defender honest from totally going for the double.

And of course, the Bam Adebayo and Omer Yurtseven factor. Yurtseven won’t be a part of the rotation in any way, but as I’ve reiterated many times this off-season, he’s going to get plenty of minutes. And I believe a lot of them will be next to Adebayo.

The reason that front-court combo is needed here is to truly maximize Robinson and Strus’ shooting abilities. Using Yurtseven as a potential popper and Adebayo as a roller makes things work much more smoothly. Horn sets with Lowry at the top, and Robinson/Strus in corners can be so effective with the bigs at the elbow.

We’re going to look into some other lineups that are much simpler and probably more likely, but this one specifically feels like an Erik Spoelstra wrinkle.

2) Importance of Non-Butler/Lowry Minutes

Oladipo /Herro /Robinson /Tucker /Adebayo

This lineup is one that will hold high importance late in the regular season for Miami. How much will Lowry and Jimmy Butler be used before the return of Oladipo? Well, that’s a question I don’t have an answer to.

They want to find ways to preserve those two guys as much as possible due to the fact this is a team built for the post-season. Miami just has to find a way to get there at a decent spot in the East to make that late push.

These five guys together is intriguing for a couple reasons: 1) there’s enough of a mixture between offense and defense and 2) there are two combos within the lineup that can be the difference makers for the Heat this season.

On paper, Oladipo and Tyler Herro as a back-up back-court can be deadly. Herro gets a partner in crime who takes pride in the defensive end and puts pressure on the rim, while Oladipo gets a floor spacer who will have the ball in his hands a ton. If these two can develop a rhythm, it makes the lives of Lowry and Butler so much easier.

The other combination that I’ve discussed is Herro and Robinson. With those two guys being the only weak defenders on the team following the departures of Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn, the two can be used together more often. And the expectation that some sort of offensive leap will occur from each of them makes this even more intriguing.

This lineup may explain the projection of this Heat team. Can Adebayo step up as the guy in the non-Butler/Lowry minutes? What level of play will Oladipo be at? Can Herro create offense enough to allow Robinson to work next to him for long stretches? If a couple of those questions end up being a yes, then I have Miami a lot higher on my season board than previously.

3) Death Lineup

Lowry /Oladipo /Robinson /Butler /Adebayo

It’s always necessary to address the death lineup that can be used heading into a season. When people debated this entering the bubble, there was an expectation that the Heat’s death lineup would be Butler at the 4 with offensive weapons surrounding him.

But as we quickly found out, Jae Crowder was the full-time “death lineup” 4. And as much as I feel Erik Spoelstra will develop that confidence in PJ Tucker in a similar fashion, the team’s deadliest lineup this year would be Butler at the 4 depending on the match-up.

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Many are excited about the defensive lineup that Miami can use with Tucker instead of Robinson, but that all depends on Oladipo’s offensive production when he returns. If he’s that same shot creator that he was previously, then that defensive five can be a problem. If that isn’t the case, I don’t believe there’s enough offense within that group.

But throwing Lowry, Oladipo, Butler, and Adebayo on the floor late in playoff games with Robinson as the spacer seems like the inevitable move. Obviously Robinson hasn’t been much of a closer over the years, either due to foul trouble, defensive worries, or just scouting reports eliminating him by that point of the game, but that should 100% change this season.

I believe he closes a bunch of games this year and not just because he’s getting paid like a closer. For those defensive lineups to work, Robinson must be on the floor, since frankly, he’s what makes this five a “death lineup.”

4) Front-Court Size, But No Front-Court Length

Lowry /Herro /Butler /Morris /Tucker

There’s no doubt in my mind that Tucker will be the starting 4 for Miami this season and Morris will be filling in for him off the bench. But will they end up seeing the floor together?

Some have brought up the point about Morris playing the 3 next to Tucker at the 4 at times, but once again, I just don’t see that as an offensive possibility. Well, unless one of Tucker or Morris have a Jae Crowder bubble run in the regular season.

To that point, I can see Spoelstra trying some stuff with Tucker at the 5 and Morris at the 4, but definitely not for long stretches. It all depends on match-ups, but it’ll be interesting to see some stuff that can be ran in a five out offensive with some extra versatility.

With a roster that has Adebayo, Dedmon, and Yurtseven, you may be wondering why they would want to go that small. And honestly, I would agree with that point. There aren’t many opposing lineups that will enhance Tucker at the 5, but it’s all about finding small wrinkles that can be adjusted to potentially.

This is what I mean by extra weapons. Maybe Miami had more offensive weapons previously when subbing in similar back-court players like Nunn and Dragic, but now the Heat have roster diversity and flexibility. And that was needed after the Heat flamed out in the post-season.

5) The Rebounding/Rim Protection Go-To

(Insert Backcourt of Choice) /Yurtseven /Dedmon

There’s a common theme when going through this exercise and I bet a lot of people caught it. Bringing up names like Nunn and Dragic showed they had more back-court depth last season, but one thing they didn’t possess was front-court depth.

They took late-season chances on two guys that didn’t play for over a year, in Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon, which definitely worked out to a certain degree. Now the team has 5 strong front-court players, and another guy that Miami has hoped would be one soon, in KZ Okpala.

With this many guys in that department and a previous rebounding struggle, why wouldn’t the Heat use the exact opposite of that last lineup discussed? You can use whichever back-court combination you’d like next to Dedmon and Yurtseven, since the whole point of it would be to throw out some size and rebound the basketball at a high level.

Possibly a Pat Riley regular season request.

Now, I’m not totally sold on Yurtseven’s rebounding ability yet, especially since he hasn’t gotten any run at the next level, but his size and length alone makes this possible.

The mold of this team is clear, and it makes things much simpler for the coaching staff. You don’t want total inconsistency at the guard position, and that’s exactly what they had before. By playoff time, they will have their strong 4 of Lowry, Robinson, Oladipo, and Herro which means they won’t have to stray off.

But the position they can stray off from is the coveted power forward/center spot next to Adebayo. There’s enough flexibility in that area that doesn’t ruin game flow when constantly interchanging, leading to the overarching point that the team’s off-season roster construction was a success.

Some of these lineups may look better on paper, but it’s a trial and error thing. And it’s very obvious that Coach Spoelstra will do a ton of trial and error with this group.

 

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QB Controversy Brewing in Gainesville?

This past Saturday, Florida played FAU in its first game of the season, defeating the Owls, 35-14.

 

Redshirt junior Emory Jones patiently waited his turn since 2018 to become the starter this year after Kyle Trask got drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Going into this season, Jones has played in 24 Florida games, making the FAU game his 25th game to play in and his first career start. There was a lot of preseason hype surrounding him, as he’s on the Johnny Unitas and in some conversations for the Heisman. This being said, Jones didn’t play as well as we all expected him to. He finished the night 17-27 with 113 yards, 1 TD pass and 2 interceptions. Jones did contribute to the team’s 400 rushing yards, with 74 total. The two interceptions were definitely surprising, with the first one a forced pass to the end zone. There was also confusion on 4th and goal in the first half when Emory ran a quarterback sneak with coach Dan Mullen visibly upset afterwards. 

 

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I’m not going to sit here and say Anthony Richardson, otherwise nicknamed as AR or AR15, was perfect when he came in but his energy was just great. He finished 3-8 for 40 yards passing but what stood out to me the most was his rushing attack, running seven times for 160 yards. Two of his carries were electric, which included a 73 yard rush touchdown and a run for a first down in which he hurdled over the defender, both coming in the 4th quarter. With AR in the game, the energy was just different and you could tell he needs to have playing time because he’s got something special.

 

After the game, coach Dan Mullen said, “Obviously Emory’s our starter.”

 

We certainly don’t want to count Emory out after just one game as a starter, but it will be interesting to see who will have the most playing time with a key game in just under two weeks against top-ranked Alabama. This weekend, Florida faces USF, who didn’t look great in their season opener against NC State, losing 45-0. Only time will tell but there’s definitely a quarterback controversy brewing in Gainesville.

 

Photo from Al.Com 

Miami Heat’s Second Two-Way Contract Pathway is Clear

When you receive a two-way contract from the Miami Heat, it’s pretty different from other teams. The main reason for that is while most teams are looking for supreme talent, the Heat are on the lookout for a possible filler for team weaknesses.

Just ask Heat’s Gabe Vincent and Max Strus how that worked out. After they picked up a skilled two-way guard and a straight flame thrower from deep, they’re currently being plugged into the rotation this upcoming season. That is just the Miami Heat way.

This doesn’t mean that’s going to be the case every single year, or better yet ever again, but that’s been the way they’ve gone about things up to this point. So why stop now? The answer is they aren’t.

Miami already locked up a collegiate defensive player of the year winner in Marcus Garrett, which was highly anticipated, but now the conversations shift to that second spot. A player with that level of defensive solidity was not going to be passed up on, and it wouldn’t shock me if he gets spot minutes this year if injuries were to occur.

After the team had some issues in front-court depth in the past, that is no longer a worry. They signed PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris, resigned Dewayne Dedmon, gave a regular contract to Omer Yurtseven, still have their youthful project in KZ Okpala on the roster, and obviously Bam Adebayo isn’t going anywhere.

In my opinion, that list of names is an indication that they don’t need to use that other two-way spot on any sort of big. The current scouting pathway is to find a scoring wing who can just put the ball in the basket. That’s a skill-set the Heat would love to try and utilize if the roster breaks down at any point.

As much as DeJon Jerreau was on pace to get that other two-way spot, it probably wasn’t the best choice to grab two defensive guards who aren’t true scorers by any means.

This team will most likely be looking in many different directions to find that exact build, but in terms of the guys that are under their umbrella, they have a couple options. And those options begin with a guy that I’ve been talking about since he was scooped up by Miami after the draft, DJ Stewart.

There wasn’t any moment during the Heat’s Summer League run that made you look twice at Stewart during his minutes, but that seems to never really matter. He never had a true Vegas breakout game, but he pretty much carried over all of the things he did in College that impressed Miami in the first place, which was all he needed to do.

And if you don’t think Miami is heavily looking for this one skill-set for that specific contract, then look no further than the Heat’s eagerness to lock Stewart up on an Exhibit 10 contract. Giving him that deal basically means he will be a part of training camp before the regular season, and it gives the team time to truly evaluate him.

The reason I was so high on him coming in was due to the fact he gives them something different. He has good size for a guard at 6 foot 6, and plays the perimeter even bigger with an extremely high release point on his jumper.

Not only was he a successful three-level scorer at the college level, but he showed a bit of everything in Vegas as well. I don’t love him as a facilitator in any offensive scheme at the moment, yet he’s the bucket getter that can be used occasionally.

Three-point shooting will be something to monitor at the next level, his mid-range game has always been extremely good with his comfort at the elbow, and he’s shown to be effective when he gets to the rim with that tight handle and crafty finishing ability.

I don’t know if the Heat always overly consider upside with their win-now mentality, but this guy has just that. And if he was to get both NBA and G-League reps if given that contract, I don’t see a reason why he couldn’t be a Vincent or a Strus flashback.

 

Now, there is one more guy that I don’t want to overlook. RJ Nembhard had a very intriguing Vegas run with the Heat, exploding in this game against Denver with pure scoring from all levels. He looked to have the smoothest jumper from three out of all of the young guards they picked up, and that’s obviously very important considering the Garrett signing.

One reason that this would make a lot of sense is due to the fact I believe he will be better in NBA usage this upcoming season over Stewart. Are they basing this pick-up off the possibility of them playing decent minutes like Vincent/Strus did last season? I think it’s highly likely.

Nembhard also competes on the defensive end at a high level, and can be utilized as a plug and play guy much more freely. The inconsistent minutes in Summer League might’ve thrown some people off with certain games he didn’t play, but that may be a positive thing. Maybe they knew what they had in Nembhard and were getting a longer look at others.

When I asked Heat assistant coach and Summer League head coach Malik Allen after Vegas about his evaluation of Nembhard, he responded: “Since the first day, he’s been one of those guys that his natural leadership and natural voice, he picks things up quick. He not only knows how to mange the game himself, but he also knows how to get guys organized which is important and what we need from that position.”

This type of reaction from people around him with the Heat is important. Not only did he play at a high level. Not only does he fit the build of what they need in that two-way deal. But he seems like a Miami Heat guy.

Like I said before, Miami could be looking in other places for that second spot, but there are two potential choices sitting right in front of them. Both of them have their pros and cons, but as long as they lock up a guy with that type of skill-set, then they will be positioned very nicely.

 

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Brian Flores

Brian Flores definitively puts Dolphins QB controversy to rest

Brian Flores is many things, but there is at least one thing he is not. He is not particularly fond of repeating himself. Undoubtedly, that’s a trait he shares with the majority of the world. Who wants to say the same thing over and over as if no one heard you the first time? But it seems that the Miami Dolphins head coach has been dealing with this for the past two weeks, as rumors swirl about the status of QB Tua Tagovailoa.

To be clear, Brian Flores has been saying the same thing all through the offseason. Apparently, in his mind only, Flores has been abundantly clear. All of the outside noise, it doesn’t matter. All of those rumors regarding acquiring Texans star QB Deshaun Watson, more noise. But ever since Yahoo Sports’s Charles Robinson reignited the firestorm with his report of Miami discussing a trade with Houston, it’s been hard to ignore. Flores directly addressed this issue on Tuesday.

“I think there’s always rumors. There’s always speculation.” He said Tuesday. “There’s always some form of distractions and I think as a team we’ve got to block that stuff out and play. I thought they did that yesterday and I think that’s something that all players deal with in the National Football League. There’s always something going on. There’s always something that – some form of speculation or controversy and we just block it out, ignore it and move on.”

But the speculation continued, and it even reached a point where Flores felt compelled to make a statement to the entire team.

A statement that Flores would prefer remains in-house.

“You guys know this, I don’t really get into conversations I have with the team, players.” Flores said on Wednesday. “Those conversations are private. Like I’ve said before, I think it’s just common courtesy to keep those conversations between myself and the player or the team. I will say that Tua is our quarterback, I think he’s had a good training camp, I think he’s made a lot of progress. I think he’s made a lot of improvement and we’re pleased with where he is. He’s going through his preparations for New England the way he should be, and that’s where we are as a team.”

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Now that should have been enough. He said Tua Tagovailoa is the starting quarterback. But speculation continued, because Flores still hadn’t outright said that Miami was not interested in Deshaun Watson. So again the question was asked. Is Tua Tagovailoa the starter? And again, Flores repeated himself. This time though, the frustration came through.

“I don’t know if I can be more clear. I don’t know how many times – I don’t know how much more clear I can be here.” Flores said. “Tua is the starter. Do I need to say it again? I will.”

Later that same day, Tua Tagovailoa added his own comments. He made it clear he appreciated his coach coming up to bat for him.

“I think it means a lot with it coming from the head coach. The support that I have from him and from the team, it means a lot. But for me, I’m just focused literally on trying to get our guys ready for next week.”

Even if Brian Flores doesn’t say the specific words everyone’s looking for, the message is clear. Not to mention the message has been consistent all offseason long. The answer is always the same. Tua Tagovailoa is the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. Maybe there is some truth to the rumors that owner Stephen Ross wants Deshaun Watson.

On the other hand, several reports came out that Ross won’t force football decisions and has faith in Tagovailoa. That should be the end of the discussion. Brian Flores is as clear as he can possibly be. He isn’t going to make an official statement about Deshaun Watson, no matter how much anyone pries. He’s been consistent about that ever since he arrived in 2019, and he reiterated that philosophy last Sunday after the Bengals game.

“Reports (and) speculation are not things we really get into. Look, I understand the question; but as I’ve said in the past, any conversations we have or don’t have with other clubs are going to be internal. I’ve been pretty steadfast about that – with our players, with other clubs – and that will remain the case.”

Will this satisfy the skeptics who still insist the Miami Dolphins aren’t happy with Tua Tagovailoa? Probably not. But Brian Flores isn’t going to change his personal philosophy just to appease the media or the fan base. However, there is a counterargument. Why would Brian Flores be so evasive about Deshaun Watson, and yet so definitive about Xavien Howard when rumors swirled around him?

Everyone will remember last month when Brian Flores went on record to tell the media to write down they didn’t want to trade Xavien Howard. He couldn’t have been more clear. So why not do the same now for Tua Tagovailoa and Deshaun Watson?

The simple answer: He’s been clear about Tagovailoa. But Watson is not on the team. Therefore, Flores is not commenting. Is it the best strategy? That’s up for debate. Nevertheless, that’s who Brian Flores is, and everyone just needs to accept that.

The easy way to make this all go away, obviously, is for Tagovailoa to become the player he was in college. All preseason signs point to that being the case this season. If Miami wins games, if the offense looks good, the Watson talk will vanish into the ether. If he struggles, however, Flores has a lot of repeating himself to look forward to. He’s put down the rumors every which way, but there’s only one thing that will kill them.

As the old saying goes: Winning cures all.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

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The Importance of the Herro-Robinson Offensive On-Court Combo

Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson have had an interesting NBA journey together up to this point. Both drawing more and more eyes in Las Vegas Summer League before Herro’s rookie season, leading up to an eventual run to the NBA finals where both of them were pretty big reasons they ended up in that position.

It’s continually been Robinson running with the starters through some historical shooting seasons, and Herro being utilized as a bench spark when Robinson comes off the floor. But in a lot of ways, it’s going to be much more about their minutes together this season.

The new roster fits the idea of them playing alongside one another. The reason for that is there aren’t as many defensive holes as there once was. They aren’t staggering other poor defenders like Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic anymore, meaning there will be much more freedom.

There won’t be anymore stress about poor defensive lineups, since other than that Herro-Robinson one-two punch, the rest of the rotation will be pretty sound defensively. And now that they’re going to get plenty more reps, it’s time for more and more actions being run through them to maximize their offensive skill-set.

And well, it all starts with the extra on-ball reps for Herro this upcoming season…

When many were pondering the reasons that Miami would let Nunn walk like they did, the consensus was that they were clearing a pathway for Herro to take that next step. And while the most necessary statistic jump will be spot-up shooting, which I’ll address down the line, the ball will be in his hands very frequently.

We constantly talk about Robinson’s offensive gravity beyond the arc, which means Miami will have to pair that up with a hopefully more experienced pick and roll oriented Tyler Herro. The play above is one of the main ways to use them with those specific skill-sets: two guys in the weak-side corner, Herro-Adebayo PnR, and Robinson at the top of the key.

Now, it should be noted that the Heat will be simplifying Herro’s offensive role in many ways. An example of that is shown on this possession. He will essentially be told to watch Robinson’s defender, Kemba Walker, and react to what is given.

If Walker drops down in the slightest, it’s a win for them with a semi-contested Robinson three. If he doesn’t slide down, Herro can either pull up for a mid-range with his coveted baseline jumper, or lob it to Adebayo.

But the point is that it shouldn’t consistently be both Robinson and Herro off the ball. They have to be worked into the scheme together if this team wants to take a regular season offensive leap, and it feels like Erik Spoelstra and the coaching staff wouldn’t hesitate to run this type of stuff more often if they’re rolling.

 

Whenever I discuss certain players or offensive actions, I always bring up the term “layers.” Since well, the Miami Heat love adding layers, especially in the time slot seen in the clip above: the beginning of the third.

For starters, the beginning part of this play should be used more as well. Allow Robinson to slip some screens for Herro in an empty corner and see what comes from it. Most of the time both players won’t accidentally leave Robinson on that pop out, but it happens here.

In this clip, Adebayo is stationed in the perfect spot. He’s essentially the Herro safety net if he got trapped or the Celtics blew it up, but he makes himself even more useful. Once Boston goes into a rotational frenzy, Adebayo sets a screen for Robinson as Nunn cuts off the weak-side. Easy pass, easy lay-in, easy set to run for the Robinson-Herro combination.

Looking at this past season, it’s not like the two weren’t used out on the floor together a bunch. They were seventh on the team among two-man grouping minutes, but an interesting stat is connected to that. Obviously these type of offensive rating numbers could be a bit clouded, but among the team’s nine most used duos, Robinson and Herro were last in offensive rating.

And well, a lot of that had to do with role and usage, but that seems to be changing this year.

When talking about them sharing the floor together, it’s not like the other premier players won’t be out there as well. I have a weird feeling that Lowry-Herro-Robinson minutes could end up becoming a staple at times with the team’s previous lack of sitting Butler and Adebayo at the same time.

As much as on-ball actions with the two of them can create stuff, the same goes for off-ball movement. And a perfect game to evaluate this was when they faced Philadelphia early in the season with eight available players, and Herro/Robinson as the headliners.

This play above was most likely triggered following the defensive coverage seen out there in the first minute. With Tyrese Maxey playing that high on Gabe Vincent, it’s not hard to run back-screening for a good look in an open half-court.

Kelly Olynyk initially sets some off-ball screens for Herro and Robinson to flow into the weak-side. Olynyk then relocates himself off a pin-down, leading to an open look that obviously didn’t drop.

It’s not important who that popper would realistically be on this squad, but the point is that there’s ways for this team to generate wide open looks without Herro or Robinson even touching the ball. If Herro can blend into a Robinson-lite role in terms of overall movement to manipulate defenses, this stuff becomes even more deadly as the season continues.

And lastly, they just have to straight up hoop.

In a lot of ways, that’s what the two of them did in the bubble. They were shooting the ball at a very high level, not only with efficiency levels but also volume. They need to have the confidence to play off each other like they did in that Orlando environment.

Take a look at the clip above. A quick Robinson swing to a Herro pump-fake, side-step, and pass to a contested three-point make from Robinson. I just don’t remember seeing this stuff this past season.

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Like I alluded to earlier, a lot of this type of production rides on the spot-up shooting of Herro out the gate. When evaluating his numbers last season, everything pretty much increased in the slightest fashion, but the one thing that took a major hit was that catch and shoot three.

It wasn’t mechanical. It wasn’t confidence. I just believe it was a clustered role.

So, following a true off-season and a clear role pathway, a team goal throughout the year should be to bump up the usage on the two of them together. The more they can find ways to not fully rely on the team’s top veterans like Butler and Lowry, the better this team will be positioned heading into the post-season.

 

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One Single Attribute Changes the Game for Heat’s Two-Way Marcus Garrett

According to Adrian Wojnarowski this morning, the Miami Heat officially signed Summer League standout, Marcus Garrett, to a two-way contract. This was expected for some time now after his high level play in Las Vegas, but it was more about when the signing would come than if it would come.

And the unique thing about a Heat two-way deal is that they’re going to get plenty of reps on the real team. If injuries unfortunately happen, there are some roster spots at the bottom that aren’t true fillers. That means Garrett will be called up to bring his best and most comfortable skill to the table: defense.

So what has that really looked like up to this point?

Plenty of high level defenders trot their way through Summer League. Some are just quick and hounding on the ball. Others know how to navigate through screens off the ball. Or just a high IQ of how to defend at this level.

When evaluating the game of Garrett, there wasn’t one defensive weakness. Not one.

He can pressure ball-handlers baseline to baseline, can fight through screens like it’s nothing, and has better anticipation than plenty of guys in the NBA currently. On that end of the floor, he truly is special.

His ability to rack up a bunch of steals in the stat-sheet is the most interesting part about him. Not only is he forcing ball-handlers to give up the ball and relocate, but if they try and test him, he capitalizes. Pick pocket here, pick pocket there. And well, now he’s earned himself a nice two-way deal.

The offensive stuff is the part of his game that led to him landing in the undrafted market. You may be asking yourself: if he’s this great of a defender, why wasn’t he drafted? And my answer would be too many question marks for some teams to take a chance.

But what if I told you there’s one thing he can do to totally eliminate those question marks?

 

Before totally discussing that element, I should address his overall offensive usage. He got some on-ball reps in Vegas, and I had a couple different takeaways from those minutes.

For one, he’s never going to be a facilitating guard at the next level, and frankly, he won’t ever be asked to do that. He reads the game well for his age, but there isn’t enough fluidity to truly put him in a point guard slot, meaning he will play a bunch of two if he gets the chance.

And let me just say, slotting Garrett next to Tyler Herro off the bench when the roster spots become slim is not the worst back-up plan in the world. He fills every hole of Herro’s game in many ways.

Looking at the clips above, you see his ability to finish at the rim. That was something that came as a surprise to me, since I was curious about his driving capabilities, but there still seem to be some worries in that role.

If he gets to the rim, good things will happen. He’s creative enough to utilize smooth looking up and unders or a straight up shoulder to the mouth with his physicality, but I’m not so sure he will have the opportunity to get down there often. He took advantage of some match-ups for simple blow-bys, but that just won’t be the case if he’s plugged into a Heat system.

But there is one thing that will undoubtedly transfer over if he chooses to do so…

3 & D. That’s a term we hear often for plenty of one-dimensional shooters in this league. Keeping the role simple is always an indication for a 3 and D label, but that’s not quite the case for Garrett.

The reason that must be his role at the next level is due to them finding ways to keep him from being an offensive liability. Looking at past projects like KZ Okpala who were just dominant defensively, the offensive stuff never came together because there was no true role for him.

Okpala’s not an on-ball attacker. He’s not a fantastic finisher off the short roll. And well, the shooting never came along.

But if I’m Miami, I’m drilling outside shooting with Garrett on the offensive end and absolutely nothing else. In the first two clips above, the play is simple: spot-up three in the corner.

And that should be his Miami Heat role on the actual squad.

If he wants to be a part of the future rotation, that corner three must fall at a decent clip. With his defensive capabilities, he doesn’t need to be great on the offensive end. He just has to survive.

Saying that Okpala should become a 3 & D guy is quite an unrealistic expectation. But Garrett has shown enough flashes in a very small sample size to make me think it’s possible. And as much I don’t like him as an on-ball scorer, take a glance at the final clip above.

Two dribbles, pull-back, mid-range jumper. If that stuff came along out of nowhere, we’re talking about a completely different beast.

But for now, the Miami Heat have a very intriguing young prospect who has some undeniable strengths on the defensive end. And much like Erik Spoelstra did with Gabe Vincent last season, that ability makes me think Spo will trust Garrett frequently when he’s forced to get out there and play.

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The Unique Combos of a Miami Heat Pick and Roll

As we continue to go through some of Miami’s base offensive sets heading into the new season, we must dial back a bit. In many cases, the way actions are triggered are through normal pick and roll/pick and pop sets, since the true damage in a Heat motion offense is occurring on the weak-side off the ball.

So, this piece is going to be all about personnel combos. There weren’t many PnR weapons in the past with limited resources and a bunch of guards who carried the same type of skills, but that changes now. This Heat team has diversity throughout, so let’s immediately jump into some of the ways different players will be used in these actions…

Duncan Robinson Ghost Screening

When I think about Kyle Lowry’s insertion into pick and roll sets, my mind doesn’t immediately go to Bam Adebayo lobs, known as 1-5 PnR. It actually goes to Duncan Robinson being used as a popper.

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I’ve talked about this in past pieces, but Robinson’s ghost screening is the key to spacing whenever things look jumbled up. If the gaps are closing within the lane, sending Robinson to set a screen and pop out has a tremendous pull not only on his defender, but all defenders.

That’s why you hear the word “gravity” linked to him so frequently.

We’ve seen it used with Adebayo a ton, but also with Jimmy Butler at the top of the key. But what makes Lowry different than the Butler combo?

Well, it’s just about the above the break pull-up threat. When it’s run through Robinson and Butler, good things can come from it with a hard drive from Butler, but it doesn’t create extra space. The reason for that is defenders can go right under the screen for a cut-off, basically daring Butler to shoot a contested mid-range pull-up, which is essentially the third option in that action.

First option is a Robinson three. Second option is a full back dive from Butler. Third option is a corner spray. The defense wins frequently when Miami settles for that fourth option.

Looking at the clip above, defenders must consistently go over the screen on Lowry. We saw it a lot with Fred VanVleet spraying out in Toronto, but once again, Robinson’s pull is just different.

The looks Robinson will be getting in these actions may not look much different, but it’ll look a whole lot better for Lowry and crew. It basically leads him into a top of the key isolation possession like he’s playing one-on-one in his front driveway. That’s the getting a bucket feature Lowry brings, and Robinson will be the key to trigger that.

The Late-Game Go-To

Throughout this past season, Miami had a pretty effective go-to down the stretch of games. You always want to put the ball in the hands of your best player, and Butler-Adebayo pick and rolls enhanced that.

Speaking of playing a game of one-on-one, that’s what many of Butler’s attacks looked like late in games, throwing himself into the dropping big to create an offensive advantage. And even though Lowry will be on the floor late in games, this combo will still be a common go-to.

Throwing Lowry in the weak-side corner leaves that as a kick-out option when his defender slides down, which will be his spot no matter what if he’s playing off the ball. The reason for that is Robinson will be a strong-side staple if Miami leads into Butler-Adebayo pick and rolls down the stretch.

As seen in the first clip above, the defender is glued to him in the corner, not even thinking about ducking down to Butler. That is the spacing excellence that I’m talking about, and it’s why I feel Robinson will be closing many more games this season than he has previously.

Although these are two examples of Butler buckets, Adebayo will still get as many looks as Butler in this position, either throwing down the alley-oop or flowing into that push-shot in the lane. As orchestrated earlier, they have options.

A Butler-Lowry Inverted Punch

(I’m not going to ask this question again. I’m not going to ask this question again.)

Ah, nevermind. Why was the Butler-Dragic inverted pick and roll so effective last season?

This is not to discredit Dragic in anyway. He was huge for them in these spots as an oddly successful scorer off the roll last season, since he was physical enough to set hard and angled screens on opposing forwards. But the true reason it worked was the pure downhill dominance of Butler.

If you give him a good enough angle to use his shoulder bumping under the rim, the team is in good shape. Inverted pick and rolls will be huge when Butler and Lowry share the floor, starting with the fact that Lowry is a fantastic screener.

While this will be looked to often, normal pick and rolls will be just as effective. As seen in the last clip, Lowry knows when to hit guys on the short roll and Butler knows how to score at a high level off the short roll. It’s a perfect match.

Adebayo will just need to provide enough of an off the catch presence to maximize that two-man set.

What PnR Improvement Benefits this Team the Most?

I should start this section off by saying Robinson’s game is not going to be flying in a bunch of different directions just because he got paid. He’s going to continue to play his simple spot-up role, while a needed jump in field goal attempts will be the hope.

But if you were to ask what pick and roll asset changes things most, it’s Robinson ball-handling.

The reason for that is displayed in the clip above. He’s constantly blanketed when flying off the off-ball screens, which at times leads to Adebayo flowing into his next option. But as seen here, this is a fun wrinkle.

Reverses his direction with a swing through motion, keeps his dribble alive inside the arc, and finishes it out with a lob pass to Adebayo. The interesting part about this is it came a minute into the game, meaning that may have been a hopeful trial from the coaching staff to sprinkle in.

Of course it wasn’t great containment from the defense, since worrying about Robinson floating down the middle of the lane with Adebayo on your hip is an odd choice.

But if this can be used in a very small sample size, since over-usage will lead to fast elimination, it could be huge for their offense and a major headache for opposing defenses.

A New Markieff Morris Staple: Popping

Markieff Morris will no doubt be the back-up 4 for this Heat team. Other than a lack of true depth, the reason I’m more confident than others is that he brings something that the other front-court options don’t.

PJ Tucker will be stationed in the corner, Dewayne Dedmon will predominantly be a roller, and KZ Okpala won’t be a primary option. The only other guy who can portray this specific skill is Omer Yurtseven.

Morris was a huge part of the Lakers’ horn sets, where two guys are screening at the top of the key on each side with the other two players in the corner. He was the popper in these sets for a few reasons: 1) he’s a threat above the break as a shooter and 2) it’s the one spot of the floor he can truly play-make.

When Miami use him as a simple pick and pop threat, will defenses respect it enough to worry about it briefly? That’ll be the question when the season begins, but his task will just be as simple as knocking down open threes at a decent clip to make this work.

Morris is also a very physical screener which adds to this point, but everything comes back to him being the only rotational big who can pop out effectively and potentially make teams pay.

Could We See Some PnR Ball-Handling Reps for Adebayo?

What is your main takeaway from the play above?

Was it Adebayo’s decisiveness to flow into a hard drive? Was it the two hard clear-outs by Robinson and Victor Oladipo to give Adebayo space?

If it was either of those two, the same point is reached: the Heat have been trying to find ways to get Adebayo downhill. Even though he can probably do it on his own in space consistently, there’s been a plethora of back-screening, simple clear-outs, and more creative actions to get this done.

But what if they just find a 4-5 pick and pop duo with Adebayo as the ball-handler?

This may be something that could come up way down the line of the season, but it’s something that has crossed my mind when diving into this stuff. As I like to call it, it’s the Yurtseven move.

There is 100% going to be a point in the season when Adebayo and Yurtseven are sharing the floor, and it just feels like they would have to at least try it out. Guys like Meyers Leonard could shoot from deep, but there wasn’t enough versatility to quickly screen, spin out into his spot, and fire away.

Yurtseven has that.

If they’re facing a bigger team, they will place the slower big onto Yurtseven which is a clear Heat advantage. The reason for that is Yurtseven can bring that slow-footed big out to the elbow, giving Adebayo the green light to attack in space against a back-pedaling big with zero chance.

We could see a similar thing with Butler screening for Adebayo to get to the rim, but it just eliminates the kick-out threat off the pop. Like I said before, this is something that won’t be a feature early on, but I won’t be shocked if it eventually turns into a positive element in Miami’s offense.

A Change of Speed for Tyler Herro

Tyler Herro has built a recent rhythm with athletic bigs who are lob threats. It’s a perfect combination for young guards, due to the fact they play at a very fast pace and have that instinctive outlet.

An evolving chemistry with Adebayo to a positive looking bench duo with Precious Achiuwa. But now, Herro will have a slight change of speed with his big man side-kick Dewayne Dedmon.

He may not be that athletic rim rocker, but he is a veteran big who is very efficient around the basket and just needs that ball in catching range in the interior to get up a good look. And well, that is what Herro needs.

Somebody that will slow him down a bit, bring down the rushing levels from the last two seasons, and give him a simple big who isn’t asking for much. He’s going to rebound, set screens, and give Herro the pathway to be the fantastic scorer that he is.

That’s the picture perfect big man for Herro off the bench.

Now, of course Herro will still be getting plenty of minutes alongside Adebayo, so those fast-paced opportunities will still be there. But minutes with starters aren’t what many are worried about heading in, it’s his level of comfort with a bunch of on-ball reps with multiples reserves.

And yet, I think Dedmon is ultimately the guy that pushes Herro in the right direction offensively in his new role.

These two-man combos are endless when thinking through them, and that’s an absolute field day for Erik Spoelstra. Yes, most pick and rolls are just instinctive flows from players when things breakdown, but in a Heat offense under Spo, there’s always extra layers to the PnR that eliminates the early season predictability.

 

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Answering More of Your Off-Season Questions on the Miami Heat

As we get closer and closer to the start of the new NBA season, it’s no longer about evaluating the team’s potential moves or next steps in terms of organizational decision making. Now, it’s about projecting forward onto the season how specific players, or the team as a whole, will produce on the floor together.

Instead of continuing my series on the different offensive sets and actions I think Miami will be using next season, we’re coming back to answering your guys’ questions about this new roster.

So, let’s hop right into it…

It’s important to begin this answer by making something clear: Goran Dragic has been absolutely huge for this team in recent years, which is an obvious statement.

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But at this point in Kyle Lowry and Dragic’s career, there isn’t one major attribute that Dragic does better than Lowry. So that pretty much sums up the positional upgrade from Dragic to Lowry.

Lowry is a better passer, shooter, defender, and this list can grow longer and longer. And that’s nothing against the skill-set of Dragic, but I feel the aging game of Lowry’s fits the mold of this Heat team much more. Someone who can get a bucket at all three levels whenever it’s necessary, gets Bam Adebayo in comfort spots, and changes the direction of their defensive status.

Even if you were to make an irrational statement and call the scoring comparisons a wash, the defensive end is the major upgrade. This team doesn’t want to have a bunch of weak defenders in their back-court in every possible lineup, which was a focus in roster construction this off-season.

It should go without saying, but Lowry is a huge upgrade over Dragic, especially come playoff time when things slow down.

Whenever I’m asked about the potential “ceiling” of players, I never want to go too extreme. Of course you’re projecting the best final product of a specific player, but it should be slightly realistic in that same sense.

To that point, Marcus Garrett’s ceiling is a very valuable 3 and D guard. When looking at KZ Okpala for example, that would be ideal to have that type of label in the near future, but up to this point, nothing has shown me that’s somewhat possible.

Garrett, on the other hand, has shown some minor flashes in limited amount of Summer League minutes. There’s no doubt in my mind he will be a lock-down defender at the next level, due to the fact he doesn’t have one single weakness on that side of the floor.

Active hands, quick feet, on-ball control, off-ball predictability. It’s not normal to have that within a skill-set this soon, but well, Garrett has shown that he has all that and more. And by the way, that means Miami should be locking in on securing him on a two-way contract as soon as possible.

But as I said before, his ceiling would be a sufficient spot-up shooter on offense. He can finish at the rim but I can’t see him getting down there often. He has a smooth mid-range jumper when he’s in space, but shot creating puts some things in question.

It all comes down to the development in the outside shot, and in a Heat system, I’m confident that he will obtain that quickly.

I think most people will agree that this Heat team will go as far as Bam Adebayo takes them. It’s not about pure domination offensively. It’s not about playing outside of his comfort zone. It’s just about believing in his own game to take the shots that are being given to him.

A lot of the Heat’s premier players will be around the same amount of shot attempts per game this regular season. But if he ends up being the team’s leader in shot attempts this year, I’m 100% confident saying this team is a 3 seed.

And well, that pretty much answers the fact that Adebayo is the true X-factor.

Now, in terms of who else can be an x-factor this season, it’s more about a specific position than a specific player. And that is corner spacing.

As I’ve noted while diving into Miami’s offensive scheme, the scoring production will heavily ride on the amount of pull their corner shooters have on a defense in the Heat’s base sets. Can PJ Tucker force enough reluctancy to eliminate constant lane close-offs? Can Markieff Morris take a shooting efficiency leap?

That’s the true x-factor. That will be the difference between Miami winning a playoff series and not even being competitive in one.

This may be a bit of an odd answer, but it is something I want to see more of: Bam PnR ball-handling.

We saw more of it with Duncan Robinson pushing his own defender into a screen for open lanes which worked perfectly, but there should be an expansion of that. Of course the addition of a true point guard may not make you think that, but it may be even better for Lowry and crew.

For one, continuing to see Robinson’s screening develop will be huge. When he slips screens and utilizes ghost screens, good things happen. You’re taking a chance on a possible defensive miscommunication, sending two out on Robinson, due to that continually being the main focus when he shifts out.

But what if we saw this stuff without Robinson?

This would be the Omer Yurtseven effect essentially. If Miami could end up running some 4-5 pick and pop with Adebayo having the ball in his hands, why not try it out?

Up to this point, the focus has always been about getting Adebayo to flow downhill in anyway possible. Pocket pass receptions out of high PnR, elbow touches, or the occasional lob pass.

But him gaining the confidence to take guys off the dribble in space to get to the cup would be huge for this team. And as Jimmy Butler said when I asked him about Adebayo doing this, “He’s damn near unguardable whenever he’s playing like that.”

I think this can be answered in a couple different ways, depending on if you’re evaluating it on paper or projecting forward, but there are some mutual points for both.

On paper, it’s pretty easy to say that the team will decline in bench scoring. Losing Dragic as a back-up point guard and replacing him with Gabe Vincent means you’re heavily relying on an offensive jump from Vincent. Tyler Herro will also be looked to as a much bigger option in their offense whenever he’s on the floor with the bench unit.

Obviously keeping Dewayne Dedmon means no drop-off and Markieff Morris can produce at a similar offensive level as Andre Iguodala with higher upside, but the back-up back-court will be something to watch. Can Herro make that offensive leap? That is what shifts them from declining to improving.

Another quick offensive decline that I see happening is less mid-range shots. That may sound a bit odd, but losing Dragic and Kendrick Nunn means a lot of that will fade-away. The hope is Adebayo takes more in that area and Herro continues to get there comfortably, but I feel this team will be a very heavy paint and perimeter team.

Now, in terms of the team’s improvements, I think we can start with offensive clarity and flow. Some may think the addition of Lowry in the offense is being overstated at times, but the difference in flow will be noticed from the jump.

You don’t have to rely on Adebayo and Jimmy Butler triggering actions each and every possession. Of course they will still be their play-making selves, but it’s a weight off their shoulders. That’s the offensive clarity that will be improved upon.

And the other statistic improvement that will be made this season for Miami is three-point shooting in my opinion. Last season, the Heat were 14th in three-point makes, 11th in three-point attempts, and 19th in three-point percentage.

If I’m projecting forward on this topic, I think they’re in the top 10 of at least two of those categories. And that’s a pretty big improvement.

 

As I’ve said before, Omer Yurtseven’s role won’t just be getting spot minutes at the end of the season. He’s going to get plenty of opportunities from different spots right out the gate.

One of the main reasons for that is due to the fact I just don’t see Dewayne Dedmon playing 82 games of the regular season. Why was he the best player for Miami in that first round playoff series against the Bucks? Well, he had fresh legs following a 16 game regular season slate.

So that’s one way Yurtseven will absolutely be utilized this season, plugging in as the back-up big whenever he’s needed.

Now, the other way he will be used is just a Miami Heat formula. When a starter like PJ Tucker goes out for 1-2 games, it’s never the back-up 4 that trots into the starting lineup. It’s always the Gabe Vincent on a two-way contract who gets plugged in out of nowhere so it doesn’t mess up the rotation completly.

That’s the Yurtseven role.

No, he won’t be in the normal rotation, but he will get some starts throughout the season. And he’ll get plenty of the necessary NBA level reps to continue to develop.

 

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