Doncic, Dallas close to knocking Los Angeles pair out of playoffs

Midway through the third quarter, TNT broadcast two hunched-over billionaires stressing out during the game. Mark Cuban and Steve Ballmer, owners of the Mavericks and Clippers respectively, stared dumbfounded from their courtside seats, as their season’s biggest game unraveled. Despite the success their business savvy afforded them, they would not own this moment. Unfortunately for them, neither would their teams.

Often, great playoff games elevate the competitive fervor between opponents, only for one to come out on top. Not tonight. Tonight, even in the waning moments of a game desperately begging for someone to seize control, neither team could hold on. The Clippers couldn’t hold on to home court advantage. The Mavericks couldn’t hold on to a 16-point lead. Kawhi Leonard couldn’t hold on to past shooting performances. Luka Doncic couldn’t hold on to the ball. Even fans couldn’t hold on to their breaths. In a postseason typically defined by games where out of two worthy winners, one must lose, tonight was a game of attrition, where one team had to win.

In Game 5, the Mavericks won. It wasn’t pretty and at times was downright difficult to watch. Though Luka Doncic scored 42 points, 27 of which came in the first half, his shooting touch was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter. After getting off to a blistering start, Doncic went 1/8 from the field in the final frame and had a crucial turnover with just over 18 seconds remaining in a one-point game.

Momentum was squarely on the Clippers’ side. Falling behind 16 points with 11:42 left in the fourth and trailing by 10 points with 2:13 left in the game, Los Angeles mounted a furious comeback. Once again, the Clippers fell short at home. A missed layup by LA’s Nicolas Batum and two made free throws by Dallas’ Tim Hardaway Jr. led to Kawhi Leonard’s corner three. From the same spot he sank the Sixers’ season in 2019, Leonard air-balled a three to further sink the Clippers’ postseason hopes.

Now, the series heads back to Dallas, where the Mavericks will try to turn their 3-2 first round lead into their first series win since Dirk Nowitzki’s 2011 championship run. Meanwhile, the Clippers will seek out another win on the road Friday night to salvage their tumultuous season and title window. Mark Cuban and Steve Ballmer will almost certainly be in attendance. If there’s anything they should keep in mind, it’s that this series belongs to the first team to win at home, a situation unseen since the 1995 Western Conference Finals, when the Spurs and Rockets split the first five games on the road, before Houston closed  out at home in six.

Whether Dallas can follow suit behind Luka Doncic, their 22 year old superstar averaging 32.8 PPG which trails only Michael Jordan’s 33.4 PPG as the highest playoff production of all time, or Los Angeles can force a Game 7 behind the tandem of 2-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and perennial All-Star swingman Paul George, will largely determine how the teams’ seasons are viewed. Either way, that defining moment arrives Friday night. It’s up to both teams whether they own it or not.

Who Does Pat Riley Consider the Core and How Will They Be Maximized?

Pat Riley had his post-season presser this afternoon, which can be discussed from a hundred different angles. But I’m going to discuss the thing that stuck out most from this 45 minutes discussion: their core.

We heard that word spread out throughout the press conference, which is something that is pretty obvious to people that pay attention to this Heat team. They are confident in their top two players, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but they need to fulfill that core and surround them as best as they can.

But, is there more to that current Heat “core?”

Riley seemed to think so, as he was asked about Tyler Herro’s down year and late-season slump, he responded, “He’s a core player. That’s all there is to it.”

There are always certain guys that Riley talks about with a certain energy and it’s not just saying what you want to hear. He did that with Herro today.

Of course that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t be included in a trade if the right deal came along, but he seems to like their young prospect and the trajectory that he is on.

Other than Herro being included in the core, another interesting point was made about a certain someone in that core, Adebayo. When asked about Adebayo increasing his aggression, he shifted his answer saying, “I think Spo has to evaluate a bit how he uses Bam. Bam is one of our primary ball-handlers, gets us in offense and sometimes there is a disconnect between running offense and really being effective as an offensive player.”

That just furthers the discussion that we’ve had over the last few months. Yes, Adebayo is an incredible passer and the offense is based around that play-making, but when backs are against the wall, your star must have the ball in his hands with a scoring mentality. He followed that statement with: “I think all of these things will be worked out.”

This may be the core at the moment, but it’s far from a finished project. He ended the presser saying, “There will be a lot more news coming along the way.” They know that they’re going to be active in all avenues within free agency, sign and trades, and even the draft, since he mentioned: “I can guarantee I’ll probably get a couple good players out of this draft somehow.”

We will see what happens over the next few weeks, but Riley seems fairly confident in their current spotting and current core, so it should make for an interesting off-season.

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Five Takeaways from Eric Rowe & DeVante Parker’s Press Conference

Throughout the 2021 NFL season, players and coaches will meet with the South Florida media to discuss everything surrounding your MIAMI DOLPHINS—and we at Five Reasons Sports will be with you every step of the way.

Here are five things we learned from yesterday’s (6/2) Press Conferences.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Eric Rowe has a new look.

“Well, really it’s my wife’s idea. She was like, ‘let’s change it up.’ I said no at first. But she was like ‘no, no. I want you to change it.’ So I was like ‘let’s just do it.’ Now it just kind of stuck to me.

So, after I did it, I was like, ‘oh, I’m feeling it.’ And she was like, ‘I told you.’ I was like ‘ok, ok.’”

Translation: At first, I didn’t believe my wife when she said a blonde streak going down ¼ of my head would look nice. I thought she was crazy. But as we all learn at one point or another throughout our life, a happy wife= happy life. I like it. 

Is Jevon Holland ready to step up in Bobby McCain’s absence?

“The Bobby decision, that’s just how the NFL goes, right? At the end of the year, teams are always switching out players, adding players, letting go of players. That’s just the business side, so I really can’t say much on that. I’m not upstairs making roster moves. But as far as Jevon, I’ve worked with him the past couple of weeks. He is athletic. He has nice size; and then I’ve talked to him and he’s a smart guy. He’s picking up the defense pretty fast. We’re just doing walkthroughs right now, but I see him picking things up pretty quick.”

Translation: Look, it’s the NFL. This is a business, and every day, players are cut for one reason or another. I don’t know why Bobby was cut. That’s probably something you should ask those guys upstairs. But what I do know that Jevon Holland is working exceptionally hard to get better. Will he be the starter? That, I’m not ready to proclaim. But if he continues to work hard and pick things up quickly, McCain’s absence won’t be missed.

DeVante Parker is excited to have Jaylen Waddle in Miami

Translation: Y’all saw the offense last year, right?. Cousin Grant was dropping 55-yard dimes, and Tua Tagovailoa tried to fit the ball into non-existent spaces. Personally, I could not be happier to have an explosive playmaker like Jaylen Waddle in this offense. Now you got me, Will, Bowden, Waddle, Gesicki, Unicorn…the list goes on and on. This offense is going to be dirty. 

DVP on what he’s trying to improve on this offseason

“I would say just routes, period. Just getting out of my break quicker.”

“I’m just trying to get quicker, faster and more explosive.”

Translation: I know some fans tried to trade me before Jaylen Waddle was drafted, but that doesn’t bother me. I will continue to do what I need to do to get better and be the dominant No.1 wide receiver that I know I can be. I’m working hard at becoming quicker, faster, and more explosive in and out of my routes this offseason. Don’t worry, Stephen Gilmore. Daddy is coming home #soon. 

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Parker on working with Tua Tagovailoa this offseason

“Footwork. (Getting) the ball out quicker. All of that.”

When asked how he can build chemistry with Tua this offseason:

“It just comes down to getting a lot of reps in with him and just taking it to the game. That’s all it comes down to.”

Translation: Say whatever tf you want about Tua Tagovailoa’s rookie season; the dude is doing everything he can this offseason to improve and get better. The Left Arm of God is looking jacked, and you’re starting to see him become a more vocal leader both on and off the field. This offseason, Tua texted the squad, and we all got together to throw some pigskin. Parker added that he noticed a difference in Tua’s mechanics this offseason.

What was your biggest takeaway from Wednesday’s media availabilities? Let us know in the comments section below!

Josh Houtz wrote this article. You can follow me on Twitter @houtz.

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882

How Has KZ Okpala Progressed Over Time?

After diving into Precious Achiuwa in the first piece of this new series, it’s necessary to follow that up with another young Miami Heat prospect, and asset, KZ Okpala.

Many people’s expectations were high coming into the season regarding Okpala, mostly due to the known fact that Miami was so high on him in the draft, that they would’ve selected him with their lottery pick if Tyler Herro was already taken. That statement raises a player’s perception, and well, here we are heading into his third season and he’s yet to have a consistent role.

The circumstances feed into this a bit, since as I’ve reiterated many times, the lack of a full off-season and Summer League impacted him majorly. Something I’ll dive a little deeper into down the line is that there’s only one thing that can lead to an evolving Okpala: playing time. This team is in win now mode which makes things slightly difficult, but spot minutes just won’t cut it for a guy with that type of play-style.

The hope is that this year’s Summer League can propel that development a bit, but only time will tell.

Anyway, let’s take a look back at some of Okpala’s moments this season, highlighting his immediate strengths and the improvements that will majorly need to follow quickly…

Strengths:

Good Length = Good Defense

No surprise here: KZ Okpala’s strengths begin with some defensive notations. The first thing that jumps off the screen when going back and watching his possessions on that end of the floor is his length. He thrived in the 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone, since he has an ability to muck up passing lanes time and time again.

Speaking of the press, this clip shows Okpala recovering on the broken down press and swatting away the floater, since well, he’s very active and knows how to utilize his lengthy wingspan. The issue is that it sometimes gets him in trouble, which I will discuss in the weakness section.

The thing about this quality is that it screams potential. As much as we will connect Okpala and the word inexperience throughout this piece, that is something that just can’t be taught.

The reason that I don’t like highlighting this element too much, is that many people use it to the extent that it negates his other abilities on defense, which is why I will point that out now…

Length Isn’t His Only Defensive Tool

His defensive success does not solely derive from a good physical frame. When I wanted to showcase this in this article, I said to myself, “When was this ability showcased most this season?” And well, this Brooklyn game sums it up perfectly.

There weren’t many games in the regular season that the Brooklyn Nets’ big 3 all played on the same night, but they did when Okpala was filling in for Jimmy Butler in the starting lineup. Erik Spoelstra always discusses throwing players in the fire, and that’s exactly what this was for him.

Switching from one of the league’s best scorers ever, onto one of the league’s best ball-handlers ever, while sprinkling in some time on Kevin Durant who is just a freak of nature. And yet, he held his own throughout this game.

The first thing that stands out here on this play is defensive IQ, even though at times his defensive decision making becomes a real downfall. He stays locked in on James Harden, not wanting to switch onto a rolling Jeff Green. He recovers and flows into a switch onto Kyrie Irving, doing a great job of stay complacent before the jumper, leading to a brick off the rim.

It’s not all about the length with him, since his foot speed and lateral quickness on that end of the floor is a real gift. He just needs some things polished up, and once again, floor time is the only thing that will do it.

Freedom Off the Dribble

Now, the final strength that stood out from this season occurred on the offensive end. Much like Achiuwa, he would just try to do the right things whenever he got out on the floor, meaning he played tense and not to his absolute ability.

But he also had flashes like this, where he would showcase his ability to get downhill, which was quite impressive. Trust me, this wasn’t the only moment. There were so many plays this season where he would put his head down and allow his skill-set to take control and it led to some great things. His offensive package is not broad, but he does have a very promising off the dribble attribute that can very well be expanded.

For one, he covers an unbelievable amount of ground when he attacks, since his long strides and slow pace around the rim lead to an unorthodox, yet effective, combination. Mentioning the phrase “slow pace” may seem a bit odd when referring to Okpala, since the young and inexperienced label always equals fast pace and out of control.

The thing is that he is out of control in many spots, well, except when he is going to the rim. That’s because it’s a comfort area, and he hasn’t been in many well fitted spots this season, which I’ll dive into down the line.

Weaknesses:

Over Aggression Leads to Over Fouling

The weakness section with these young guys is very important due to it being the beginning of the off-season. The goal is to come back around by training camp with these few things polished up a bit, and let’s start it off with his only defensive downfall.

This two play sequence is not the only time foul trouble has been an issue for Okpala. In his second season, he recorded more personal fouls than assists, turnovers, steals, and blocks combined.

Yeah, that’s something that must be cleaned up.

The reasoning for that is he takes pride on that end of the floor, and wants to create opportunities in transition. To that point, he has been overly aggressive on defense every chance that he’s gotten, reaching in at the wrong time, falling for pump-fakes rather easily, and getting off his feet no matter the circumstance.

As mentioned earlier, his potential on that end of the floor is unreal, but that one element is currently holding him back from being fully effective. That’s something that is instilled into him, which is why it’ll be interesting to see how he chooses to alter it.

Not Looking at the Rim

The side to side browsing with the ball in hand is a discussion that I’ve had about Bam Adebayo a little too much throughout the season. Only this instance is not the same as that.

Many want Adebayo to takeoff as a scorer, but the reason he’s doing it is that his play-making is so elite that he tries to get others in their spots. Okpala’s reasoning is just going through the motions a bit to get the ball out of his hands.

This play above ended in a good result after he handed it off to Gabe Vincent, but that’s not important. The essential part to note is that this trot through the middle of the floor became a normal occurrence when he got out on the court this season, and that just can’t be the case.

These inadvertent movements led to awful spacing at many points this year, which makes it so hard to play him next to other guys such as Precious Achiuwa or Andre Iguodala, since the opposing team just doubles ball-handlers the entire time.

It’s another moment that we will refer back to comfort, due to these non-aggressive examples just show that his play-style wasn’t translating to the offense. Or was he just not being put into the right spots?

His Role

This point isn’t as much on Okpala as it is on the team. His offensive role basically became corner spacer as the season progressed, which is less than ideal. Yes, he can make the occasional three, but that is not where he will thrive in the short term or the long term.

Combine that thought process with a guy who is not shy about taking those shots whenever he’s out there and you have a complete mess. He had some moments where the shots were falling, but there just weren’t many that make you think that’s where he should be placed.

As stated earlier, he has shown an outstanding ability to get to the rim whenever he is confident and in a rhythm, which makes me think he will be placed into that role in Summer League purposely, so he can shift back into the team space cleanly.

What’s Next?

The interesting part about KZ Okpala is that the question, “What’s next,” is very well unknown. The term unknown is a perfect description of Okpala in his first two season with the team. After his rookie year, many were awaiting a breakout sophomore season that clearly never really occurred. Now that mindset seems to be carrying over to year three.

As I’ve been saying, this Summer League experience will be absolutely crucial for his future in this league. The reason I said “in this league” and not “with the Heat” is due to him being an asset that could be used at any moment. We saw at the trade deadline that teams perceive Okpala as a very enticing young prospect, while Miami seems to be searching for win now guys.

When I asked Okpala about his biggest focus this off-season to improve on, excluding polishing up his all-around game, he still decided to say that his whole package will be the focus. Although that may seem a bit unrealistic, I believe that is the exact thing he will need to do moving forward.

I believe he is still trying to find himself as a player, which means diving into every facet of his game is necessary. These next few months will be some of the most important of Okpala’s young career, and only time will tell how he decides to utilize them.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882

Evaluating Precious Achiuwa’s Game in the Past, Present, and Future

We’re starting up a new article series to kick off the off-season.

With plenty of time to look forward into free agency, first off we must discuss this past roster, evaluating the season’s that each player had, while also addressing the next step, or even the next team, of each individual.

So, let’s make our way up the roster, starting with a guy who just wrapped up his rookie season, Precious Achiuwa.

It’s been quite the introduction to the league for Achiuwa, joining a team that he was previously rooting for while they were going toe to toe in the NBA finals against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. No true off-season, no Summer League, no normality.

That’s just been the motto of everybody throughout this unique season. Not only did Achiuwa have to get through all of that, but then he was forced to back-up one of the league’s most promising young big men, Bam Adebayo.

A bench role is not something Achiuwa has ever had. Not in middle school, not in travel ball, not in high school, not in college. But he was forced to adjust rather quickly.

He had some good moments, but ultimately the inexperience was shining through with the team’s hopes of making a playoff run. The addition of some veterans left Achiuwa observing from the sideline, and well, these few months may be the most important part of his young career.

So, let’s hop right into those highs and lows from his rookie year…

Strengths:

Above the Rim Roller 

It’s important to start off with Achiuwa’s most known offensive skill, and truthfully, one that I didn’t expect to become effective this soon.

This play above was the final basket from the Miami Heat’s season, meaning many Heat fans may have already changed the channel after a disappointing loss that completed the sweep by the Milwaukee Bucks. But take a look back at this possession for a second, since even though it didn’t hold high importance, it shows a flash for the future of Achiuwa.

Once again, Achiuwa hasn’t been used much up to this point of the playoffs, which is why a key component of a player’s mindset is their IQ of plays no matter if there is only 20 seconds left on the clock before elimination.

He sets the off-ball screen, resets and receives the ball for a DHO and screen back in that direction. He dives quickly and receives the ball in motion to throw it down. He’s had plenty of these sequences this season where he’d throw down a lob, but none of them looked this polished.

There always seemed to be a minor error, either in the ball screen or the pivot into the dive, which frankly is normal for a rookie. The thing is that some time on the sideline, and most likely more time in the film room, has already prepared him for a hopeful leap this off-season.

His rolling ability was noticed as soon as he hit the hardwood back in December, but he never seemed to have the pacing down. And the more reps that he’s gotten, the more the pacing is slowed down. If he rounds out some others parts of his offensive game, this base leads to a very intriguing prospect moving forward.

Battling on the Offensive Boards

Achiuwa is not your traditional center. He’s also not your traditional stretch big. Although he lacks a ton of size and range, one thing that you know you’re getting with him is constant fight on the offensive boards.

The efficiency stat may look a little weird at times for a guy who doesn’t shoot from the outside, but that’s because of second efforts. He may miss the first or second tip in around the basket, but there’s always that feeling that he’s going to get it in there somehow with the way he fights.

Something he will need to be a bit smarter with on those plays is just securing the ball and resetting offense. There were plenty of instances where he would basically try and score until the other team had possession. That can’t be the case, but also, these are rookie examples.

The next, and final, strength basically ties into this, since I believe that type of play is just in him, and won’t go anywhere. Looking back to high school, ESPN’s Paul Biancardi, who watched him from junior year on, told me that the two things that have stuck out to him most over the years, were energy and rebounding.

And well, those two things go hand in hand when looking at the clip above. He takes the contact, lands, and immediately explodes back up for the tip-in in traffic.

And well, speaking of exploding….

Explosiveness 

Another thing ESPN’s Biancardi told me before the season about Achiuwa, is that he is an incredible athlete. We got an introduction to that at times with the high bounce off the short roll, but take this play above as an example.

Yeah, he may not have been able to throw it down, but there are only a few players that are capable of putting themselves in a position to possibly catch a body in that regard. As that possession showed, there is no doubt in my mind that he has quite the explosiveness attached to his offensive game.

The reason that it’s essential is not just because of possibly making the SportsCenter top 10, as seen here, but more importantly, the way it opens up his game once he has an entire offensive package in his sophmore season.

There are times when that explosive fire is great, but well, there are also times when it’s his biggest downfall…

Weaknesses:

Transition Control

Once again, when pointing out weaknesses in rookies, the same takeaway occurs: uncomfort, inexperience, and too fast.

This clip here is not a one time occasion for Achiuwa, since it was a recurring theme whenever he had a chance to get out on the floor. It mostly occurred in these small stretches at the end of games, which makes sense since he’s trying to use his time wisely to make plays and prove himself.

The issue is that doesn’t wow coaches at these points of the game. What actually wows them is smart basketball, slow paced sets, and a polished game-plan, which is exactly what we saw in that first clip from the final possession of game 4 in the post-season.

The upcoming events this off-season will be crucial for him to get some reps as a player that can go all game playing under control, especially knowing that the ball must find your ball-handlers in transition. The Heat coaching staff wants to see Adebayo-like finesse on the break, instead of Derrick Henry trucks as we’ve seen throughout the year.

Free Throw Shooting

This weakness is one that many are aware of in the coaching staff, as well as Achiuwa himself. 110 free throw attempts this season, while only making 56 of them. A 51% free throw shooter just won’t cut it at the big man position, especially when evaluating the upcoming leaps in his game.

When players have free throw shooting issues, it’s either they’re incapable and uncomfortable of shooting the ball in general, or it’s a mental game. For Achiuwa, it’s the latter, since he’s proved to have some soft touch whenever he gets to his spots without thinking.

That’s something I’ve discussed about Adebayo, who is a great free throw shooter, but he shoots best when he isn’t reluctant and doesn’t overthink it. Same goes for Achiuwa.

This is not a mechanical issue whatsoever, since he’s been able to knock down free throw after free throw in practices before. If he can overcome that mental obstacle, which isn’t an easy thing to hurdle over, that’s yet another expansion that can be made for his offensive game.

Passing

When the Heat drafted Achiuwa, they envisioned a guy that can mirror some of the things their starting center, Adebayo, can do, instead of the traditional big that they always go away from but find themselves back with eventually.

There was only one issue to that comparison to Adebayo: he doesn’t have anything close to the passing gift.

For one, it’s not normal for bigs to be able to pass like Nikola Jokic or Adebayo, so holding young guys to that standard is unfair. But yet, average as a passer is a good bar for him to set at this period of time.

This clip shows that he doesn’t have great touch or timing on passes for cutters, but that’s not even the biggest instance that stuck out. A team that heavily based themselves around dribble hand-offs needs to have a center that can hand it off, but that was an issue early on.

I’ve mentioned the word comfort a few times, and that was an area that he showed zero comfort with early in the season. To push this back into a positive direction, go back and watch that first clip I inserted earlier of that final possession. A nice looking hand-off led to that dunk off the lob, and that’ll be necessary if he envisions himself getting major playing time in the near future.

What’s Next?

Now, the “what’s next” feature in this series can touch on a variety of things. It could be the next part for a player in free agency, the next improvement, among other things.

Clearly, Achiuwa is one of the few players under contract for next season, meaning we don’t need to discuss that. It can be mentioned that he has some potential that many teams are aware of, so if a trade is made during the off-season to improve this team, he could very well be included in that type of deal to get it done.

Other than that, what is next for Achiuwa is the continued development and growth of his game. This will be a busy Summer for him, as he could get plenty of playing time if he chooses to play for Nigeria in Tokyo, and then Summer League down the line in August.

When Achiuwa talked about the part of his game that he will focus on this off-season, he responded, “My jump shot is gonna be a big emphasis this summer.”

I always say that it’s more important to make the things you’re good at great than to expand range, but I feel like there’s an exception for him. As stated earlier, he’s an undersized big, and I think he realizes that his biggest chance to be successful in this league will be to develop that Adebayo mid-range as quickly as possible.

And yet, there will be a ton of stages to see that progression with him over the next few months, so it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Many are discussing the possible additions of a big in free agency, while the expectation is that Dewayne Dedmon will return. But don’t forget about the second year version of Achiuwa, since the positive signs he showed in his rookie campaign can very well carry over. And Coach Spo will not be shy to throw him into the fire once again.

Answering Your Questions: What is Next for the Miami Heat?

Well, it’s officially the off-season for the Miami Heat, which means the focus now shifts to the roster for the 2021-2022 season. There are plenty of decisions to be made by the front office, and still plenty of time, but why not dive into it immediately.

I’ll be answering some of the questions that you guys had about this upcoming stretch, so let’s just hop right into it.

This is a question that many seem to want an answer to, but I feel the answer depends on the person.

The two options seem to be a big next to Bam Adebayo or a true point guard to run the offense, and I heavily lean in the direction of the latter. My reasoning does not derive from short term memory, since many seem to immediately remember the one-sided battle in the rebounding category once again.

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But if we’re looking at this past series, the actual issue was the offense. Of course shots weren’t falling and players didn’t show up, but the true point guard element changes some things for this team’s stars. Jimmy Butler and Adebayo playing primary facilitator in this series truly caught up to them. The best players have to be able to put the ball in the basket, and yet, that didn’t occur.

A point guard takes some of that weight off of their shoulders to a certain extent. Both of them have that unselfishness locked inside them already, but it still felt like they didn’t have any other play-makers to lean on if they went away from it. The guard situation will be one of the most intriguing this off-season, since many of them may be on the move, and possibly, others coming in.

When discussing the players that will be on this roster next season, my answer is Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The rest remains questionable to a certain extent.

As mentioned before, plenty of contracts will be up this season and decisions will have to be made. Young guys may look to have some potential, but the trading block seems to be the place they will find themselves for a long period over the next few months.

The reasoning for that: the building mindset of this roster is to acquire win now guys. This has been a topic over the last couple months, and this off-season falls under that category even more. After getting swept in the first round, it’s pretty obvious this team will look different by the time training camp begins. Adebayo and Butler are the guys to complement, even after a terrible showing in the post-season.

If the whale is available, you do everything in your power to get him. And if it’s a guy that Butler heavily approves, you get that guy as well.

After touching on the point guard vs big man debate a bit, I feel it’s necessary to go in a different direction: A half-court scorer.

Victor Oladipo was the intention to fill that role, putting pressure on the rim and creating his own shot to help Butler a bit offensively. There’s a clear need for that, and this first round series further proved that. When Butler and Adebayo can’t get rolling, there aren’t many other options offensively, leading to 36 point halves.

Forget the positions on a team that Erik Spoelstra likes to call position-less. They just simply need a bucket getter, and more importantly, a bucket getter who can create for himself. It’s a bit too early to point out specific names, but I’ll be sure to dive into that a bit more in future articles.

To keep the theme, it definitely seems a bit too early to call it, but I’d say it’s very possible.

As stated earlier, they’re going to make major changes to create a contending roster, and the sign and trade market may become their best friend depending on what goes down in free agency. If the front office feels that’s the direction to go, I’d expect them to opt in and possibly use as salary fillers.

I feel the Goran Dragic side of things makes things very interesting. The personal element. The Jimmy Butler element. But well, I think that decision becomes the Kyle Lowry element. Yes, Butler loves Dragic as a teammate, but he also seems to like the idea of Lowry.

Once again, I can’t pinpoint those things at this exact time, but something I do know is that Butler will be very vocal this off-season, as a player that wants to win with this franchise.

This is another question that can interchange depending on the person, but it just feels like the Heat would lean stretch big.

We’ve seen time and time again that this team loves to stretch the floor and size down, even if that gets them in trouble at times on the boards. We finally got to see a rebounding big next to Adebayo in the playoffs, yet the situation was when the team trailed by 30.

Also, a stretch big is not the same as what they’ve used lately. Trevor Ariza and Jae Crowder are the stretch fours that Miami’s comfortable with, but if there’s a stretch big on the market, I’d expect Miami to go after him.

Obviously Dewayne Dedmon is not a long-term plan, but I would expect him back next season. So, if they have a rebounding big to roll off the bench, that doesn’t seem like the direction to go starters wise.

Changes will be made, but I feel like that mindset will stay the same.

 

This is a fair question. The issue is not that they have guards who only play on one side of the ball. It’s that they have a bunch of them. And they all play on the exact same side of it.

Like I said before, the guard play of this team could see many changes, and I feel it could be to this point of broadening the skill set of that position.

They clearly need scorers with what occurred lately, but they need guards who can score in different ways, instead of a semi-copy and paste version that we saw recently.

They’re looking to improve, and that will be the one point that we always come back to when evaluating where they go next in that specific position.

 

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5 Takeaways from Heat’s Series Ending Loss

Well, that’s all from your 2020-2021 Miami Heat. The Bucks finish off the Heat in game four to fulfill the sweep, which was far from an expected outcome. Anyway, here are my last takeaways of the season…

#1: Miami’s early offense based around Jimmy Butler in a passing fashion, but maybe too much.

The story of game three was that Jimmy Butler came out aggressive, but he was the only one able to knock down shots. The exact opposite occurred in this match-up, as he was getting to his play-making spots to really get others going. Six assists in the first quarter didn’t tell the whole story, since he was doing absolutely everything he could to find the open man. One of the main sets they went to for Butler to begin the game was side PnR’s with Bam Adebayo. That’s usually their late game go-to, but it was necessary to start off with their peak abilities. It led to an Adebayo floater and a Butler mid-range bank shot, which allowed Miami to expand back into everyone else. The issue was that the third quarter was a different story. Shots weren’t falling as often, and Jimmy’s motto seemed to stay the same. When that occurs, the aggression must become the primary ability once again, instead of being the number one facilitator.

#2: Trevor Ariza steps up to begin the game.

One of my takeaways from the last game was the non-existent play from the four spot with Trevor Ariza, but well, that changed in the first quarter of this game. Three triples and eleven early points gave Miami a great boost, since he was simply making the shots that were given to him. Through the first three games of the series, Miami’s had 102 open threes and made only 32 of them. If that Ariza three ball becomes a threat for Milwaukee’s defense, things shift for Miami offensively and lead to many good things. Many were wondering if Nemanja Bjelica would step into that starting spot after Ariza’s struggles, but Spo stuck with him and that was the right move. As the post-game story becomes off-season discussion, Ariza is important to note.

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#3: Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn do their job early: making shots in the dead spots.

There have been clear dead spots in the Bucks’ drop coverage that I’ve discussed time and time again, but Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn finally took advantage of it. Nunn, specifically, had some bounce to him when he was inserted, getting to the areas of the floor that he did all regular season. Pull-up mid-ranges on the move is the shot that was open all series, and it was falling in the first half. Herro got some good looks as well from beyond the arc, showcasing why the home crowd seems to play such a crucial role in his offensive rhythm. Of course, there were plenty of defensive lapses that occurred from each of them, but that was expected heading into this match-up. The key was that they do their part on the side of the ball that falls under their strengths, allowing the others to takeover from there. Spoiler alert: that didn’t occur.

#4: Offensive slippage leads to defensive slippage to begin second half, but then Nunn happened.

The Heat had a 7 point lead coming out of the half, but the offensive rhythm did not carry over to begin the second half. Shots were not falling for anybody, which always leads to defensive slippage. Once players start to notice the trend of clank after clank, it blends into the other end of the floor, which can’t happen against this Milwaukee team who has plenty of guys who can get going. Khris Middleton was the guy in the third who began to knock down the shots that he did in the first three games, while Miami had no answer. Well, until Nunn was subbed in. I discussed in the previous takeaway that Nunn was taking advantage of the open spots on the floor, but a late stretch in the third was primarily on-ball stuff. Back to back pull up threes and a baseline reverse led to a Bucks timeout, which didn’t seem possible with Miami on their heels. Clearly, it didn’t ultimately matter, but this would’ve looked very similar to games two and three if he didn’t show up.

#5: Well, Miami gets something they haven’t had in a while: an off-season. 

That’s enough talk about a game that ended in a sweep for the Milwaukee Bucks over the Miami Heat, but now it’s time to take a step into the next stage. An off-season isn’t the most familiar thing in the world for the Heat, after a quick turn-around led them right into another season. Saying this series loss is a result of fatigue is a semi-lazy take, but it was clear that the locked in mentality wasn’t the case, except for a handful of stretches. One thing that they missed occurred in the fourth quarter when Goran Dragic got in a skirmish with Khris Middleton. That was one of the first times in this series that I saw some type of fire, and they’ve missed that type of action to spark some energy. Anyways, this off-season will be so interesting due to their being so many different decisions that must be made by the Heat front office. So it begins…

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5 Takeaways from Heat’s Game Three Loss to Bucks

The Miami Heat drop game three to the Bucks, reflecting how they played in the first two games in Milwaukee. Some of the same general issues loom, mostly due to the Bucks being a much different team from the one we saw a season ago. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game….

#1: The shooting woes continue for Miami.

A key for Miami in this series, when I previewed it a week ago, was the element of controlling the pace. And well, that pacing has been fully controlled by Milwaukee since the start of the series. That lack of pacing combined with a swarming Bucks defense leads to forced offense for Miami. We discussed taking advantage of the mid-range jumper, but not only the mid-range jumper. There’s been nothing else, and even when there’s been open looks generated, they just haven’t found the net. Aside from Jimmy Butler, everybody else was 8 for 33 from the field in the first half. Duncan Robinson didn’t have a shot make in the first half, which usually mirrors how the offense was flowing. Scoring 36 points in a half just doesn’t win you a playoff game, but it’s what occurred tonight.

#2: First half recap: Jimmy Butler.

When looking at the Heat’s lackluster first half, there was only one guy who was semi-clicking in that stretch, Jimmy Butler. 16 points on 50% shooting was his stat-line at the half, and a major reason for that was he was knocking down the shots being given to him. Everybody else was fighting to get to their usual spots that aren’t available, but Butler was making the shots when defenders went under screens. Not only from the mid-range area, but also behind the three-point line with two triples through the first 24 minutes of basketball. They got the aggressive Butler that many have been awaiting, but the supporting cast just couldn’t get anything going. Butler can only take them so far with his bully ball offensive mentality, but when shooters can’t make shots, it’s usually a long night.

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#3: One play summed up the offensive side of the ball for Miami and defensive side for Milwaukee.

To continue on the offensive theme, there was one play that summed up that side of the ball for Miami. I’ve touched on shots not falling, but Milwaukee’s defense deserves credit. The play consisted of Dewayne Dedmon at the extended elbow, looking for somebody to hand it off to. There was only one issue with this: he couldn’t find a person to give it to on the perimeter. The Bucks do a tremendous job of denying off the ball, not allowing Miami to break free to flow into their usual actions and offensive sets. That play ended in Dedmon turning twice, then facing the basket for an uncomfortable jumper that clanked off the rim. Even on their home court and in front of their home crowd, they were playing on the Bucks terms, and that’s an issue.

#4: One of the many holes not filled for Miami.

It’s hard to magnify one position or player in this game and series for Miami since there have been so many issues. But one interesting element has been the four spot. I hate the Jae Crowder discussion since it’s semi-useless, due to Miami making the right decision by letting him walk. But it’s not him that they miss, it’s what he brought. Crowder was clearly playing above his head for Miami in the beginning of the bubble, but it was a major push for Miami in many games in that Milwaukee series. Now, Trevor Ariza gave them pretty good minutes to finish the regular season, but hasn’t played to that level in the post-season. Once again, pinpointing Ariza in these three games isn’t fair due to everybody struggling, but it is something that hasn’t carried over into the playoffs.

#5: Umm, why was Nemanja Bjelica the best player not named Jimmy Butler tonight?

Yeah, this headline will tell you how odd this game was for Miami. Coach Spo decided to throw Nemanja Bjelica into the mix, and he gave them better minutes than anybody not named Jimmy Butler. Some much needed triples, good looking play-making, and even some decent defensive possessions. Dedmon and Bjelica being two of the biggest positives in this series so far is quite interesting, since both were unexpected mid-season acquisitions. “Positive” may be a bit of a stretch since it reflects negatively against the rest of the supporting cast, but that’s just how this series has gone, and more specifically, game three.

Heat’s Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn Entering an Awaited Environment

This has been far from an ordinary two year NBA career for the rookies of last season, and more specifically, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. The only normality that they found over this past stretch of time was a Summer League in Las Vegas, where they first entered the scene for Miami.

After being thrown into the fire in their rookie season, it led to them trying to blend into a post-season environment like no other, the bubble. Herro stepping up and Nunn stepping down didn’t tell the full story of the futures of each prospect.

Playing in front of fans on a zoom call was far from being the real thing, and it’s something that Herro specifically has thrived off of his whole entire life. No matter if it was overrated chants in high school or doubters telling him he wouldn’t play when he got to Kentucky, the one place he always proved himself was in front of his home crowd on the big stage.

And well, he has that tonight.

Kendrick Nunn may not have the apparent bounce that Herro has in that environment, but it very well impacts him too, just in a quiet manner. When asked about the fans tonight, he responded, “I know it’s gonna be exciting, and we’re gonna feed off their energy.”

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Aside from the story-lines and boosts that these two will get, they’re in a unique spot at the moment. Both of Miami’s second year guys were the focal point in attacking the Bucks’ drop coverage in this match-up, since they’re the ones who can truly get to the dead spots on the floor in the mid-range area. But that hasn’t been the case up to this point.

After the struggles in games one and two, this game holds high importance for their post-season hopes. As Herro described it, “Our backs are against the wall and tonight is obviously a make or break game for us.” If they don’t take advantage of this opportunity tonight to get back into the series, the organization’s focus may have a major shift.

So, that seems like a lot on the shoulders of two inexperienced guys who are still adjusting to this fast-paced league. When I asked Goran Dragic about his advice to Herro and Nunn heading into this unique setting, his message was much simpler than expected: “Enjoy.”

That response may seem a little cliche, but that’s honestly the most useful advice that he could give. Both of them are at their bet when they’re confident and in rhythm, which is why enjoying the moment without getting caught up in the stakes is more important than anything else.

As Dragic said, if they do that, “I believe they’re gonna be ready.”

It’s not only on them to be ready, since the Heat’s stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, will have to bring it after their struggles in Milwaukee. And if they do, that opens up the shooting of Herro and Nunn, which one shot dropping through the net is the only thing they’ll need to see to be fully effective in this environment.

There was pressure in the bubble, but this is much different. And yet, much more beneficial.

 

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Tua Tagovailoa

Breaking down the Miami Dolphins first open 2021 practice

For the first time since last December, the Miami Dolphins held their first open practice for the media to watch. With that first practice comes the opportunity to see and hear from the players in a real football environment and get an idea of where they stand.

As OTAs are voluntary, it’s no surprise to see that some players opted not to attend. The most notable absences were Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Jason McCourty, Emmanuel Ogbah, Justin Coleman, Jerome Baker, Benardrick McKinney, Will Fuller, and D.J. Fluker. Just looking at the list, it’s mostly veterans who didn’t show up. This is a regular pattern across the NFL and ultimately means nothing. It’s only when mandatory mini-camp arrives that attendance will matter.

“Like I’ve told them, you don’t just roll out of bed and jump back into it as if you’re in midseason form, so there’s a lot of working through some kinks, I would say, even just from a basic fundamentals, footwork, hand placement standpoint.” Head coach Brian Flores said before practice. “It’s good to get them out here and work through some of those things. We’ll see them these next few weeks to include minicamp.”

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Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns attended practice, with video being taken of Wilson catching a pass from veteran QB Jacoby Brissett.

However, Wilson will need every opportunity he can get to prove he still deserves a roster spot with all the weapons that have been added. This Miami Dolphins regime has shown over and over that no player is safe, no matter how good or respected they are.

Speaking of Brissett, it was reported that he and rookie Jaylen Waddle were getting extra work in after practice was over. This is a good sign considering Waddle is projected to be a big contributor to the offense in 2021. Why wasn’t it Tua Tagovailoa instead? One possible reason is he was preparing for a media session.

The offense and defense never faced each other in Wednesday’s practice. Both sides kept to their own work during practice and the players’ only real opponent was the grass in front of them. Part of the agreement the players reached with Brian Flores stated that OTAs would be a much lighter workload. So the session focused mainly on teaching and fundamentals.

After practice was over, players spoke with the media and dropped some interesting tidbits regarding their mindset and the surrounding chatter. One of the most candid of them all was tight end Mike Gesicki.

This is likely in regards due to the recent chatter coming from the likes of Colin Cowherd and others. The criticisms regarding Tagovailoa’s health, arm strength, durability and comparison to fellow QB Justin Herbert has dominated national airwaves. Fortunately, it seems that Tua Tagovailoa isn’t fazed by this talk and appreciates his teammate’s defense of him.

Later, Tua offered some insight on his strength and conditioning.

Obviously, this is excellent news. After all, one of the main concerns of 2020 was Tagovailoa’s health. Now instead of focusing on healing, he can focus on raising his peak physical shape. Everyone has seen the images and videos of Tua Tagovailoa working out, and it’s obvious that he looks much stronger than he did last season.

However, the quote that will likely make the national news regarded Tua Tagovailoa’s level of comfort last season. It was speculated by many that Tagovailoa looked lost at times in the huddle and wasn’t sure where to go with the ball. Tagovailoa confirmed these suspicions in Wednesday’s virtual press conference.

To clarify, Tagovailoa is not suggesting he did not take the time to learn the playbook. He clarified his comments, saying that when he was in the game, the playcalls were simpler, there weren’t extra alerts or things to take into consideration. He didn’t have the playbook down to such a science that he felt comfortable changing things on the fly, pointing things out, speaking with authority and helping his teammates execute.

Considering he was a step behind all season due to his rehab, this should not be a surprise. He did not get to really focus on learning every detail of the playbook because he had to spend time healing and getting back to his baseline physical shape. Plus, the offense was not catered to his strengths, and neither was the offensive coordinator. Last year’s offense was best suited for Ryan Fitzpatrick, a gunslinger. Not a surgeon like Tua Tagovailoa.

Granted, Tagovailoa takes responsibility for not knowing the playbook as well as he should have. But now things are different, now the offense is being built around him. That has already done wonders for his level of comfort, and it’s showing in the huddle.

As time goes on, there will be more opportunities to see what Tagovailoa is truly capable of. His teammates have made it clear they believe in him and they’re excited to work with him. All the other discussions outside the organization are being scoffed at or ignored.

It will be interesting to see where things progress from here.

Quotes aggregated by Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga), who is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast

Summary by Luis Sung (@LuisDSung), who has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for eight years.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at everythingtradeshows.com or call 954-791-8882