Before free agency even truly began for the Miami Heat this off-season, two things were clear in my eyes in terms of guard play: a starting point guard would be added, and Gabe Vincent would be bumped up to back-up PG.
As Miami continued to fill the holes on the roster, it was pretty obvious that a role was opening for the guy who just received a regular contract following his two-way year. The unique thing about being a two-way player this last season was that it was basically a “one-way.” There was no G-League, and he was needed on the regular roster.
It was known that Coach Erik Spoelstra trusted him greatly out the gate. Some contract tracing issues led to games with eight available players, meaning Vincent was the starting point guard for certain stretches. And well, the way he was originally perceived quickly flipped.
When he originally got a chance with Miami two years ago, many felt like Vincent was strictly a spot-up shooter, who would fly off screens and not put the ball on the floor much. Yet, his role ended up being the exact opposite.
After playing as an off-ball guy for most of his life, he was asked to quickly transition into facilitating mode for their offense. But as time continued, a realization occurred that offense may not even be his best side of the ball.
When defensive issues were at its peak, the Heat went to plenty of 2-3 zone, which usually meant a 2-2-1 press. And to give it a nickname, the 2-2-1 press could’ve been called “Vincent minutes” this past season, due to the fact it was only used when he was in there pressuring the ball.
But heading into this season, he’s no longer the two-way wild card or an all-around spark. He’s a rotational piece who will be relied upon in crucial moments, so let’s hop right into some of the film of how some things will look in his role, as well as certain lineup combinations…
Immediate Off the Catch Production
Like I said previously, Vincent came into this league as an off-ball player with his ability to shoot off the catch. And although that slightly changed for him this past year, it feels like he will shift back into that role much more frequently.
One reason for that is his projected back-court pairing, Tyler Herro, since it seems he will get plenty of touches off the bench, which I’ll dive much deeper into down the line.
The other reason that role wasn’t very fitting this past year was due to his struggles from beyond the arc. He finished the season shooting 31% from three, and part of that was a developing jumper behind the scenes.
When he spoke with media after the season, he mentioned that he began to alter his jumper mid-season to maximize both consistency and range. And now with a full off-season, including plenty of reps with Team Nigeria, that jumper should be as comfortable as ever heading into the season.
Some players on the roster will have a changing offensive focus this year, but Vincent’s will be really simple in terms of being effective in the offense: knocking down the open triple. If he can provide high level shooting off the catch on that bench unit, it helps Miami’s initiators like Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler tremendously.
As seen in the clip above, we’ve seen him time and time again being the guy who plays off the strong side action. It is known that he can take advantage of defenses in those spots as well, but it just comes down to the overall consistency he brings in that space to begin the year.
Two-Way Contracts to Two-Man Sets
Vincent and Max Strus aren’t the first undrafted guys in the Heat system to propel onto the scene into true production in the rotation. There’s been a theme of certain groupings doing it together, like Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, which is exactly where Strus and Vincent will fall.
After Nunn and Robinson played well in Summer League, it felt like the two always shared the court together when the season began. There was a known chemistry there, and the coaching staff was testing the young guys. Obviously, the new situation is a bit different.
For one, Vincent and Strus won’t be jumping into the starting lineup like the other two did. And secondly, this won’t be as much of a surprise when they get a true role on the team. This isn’t a trial thing for Miami, since they’ve developed them in real NBA games for quite some time now.
Now, the two of them will be a big part of the benches scoring outlets. As much as Vincent will benefit off the ball at times, there’s no doubt he will have the ball in his hands quite a bit with Strus running off screens, Markieff Morris spacing the floor, and Dewayne Dedmon going through the usual screen and rolls.
Getting Strus going from deep will be important in terms of Vincent’s facilitating skills, but it all falls back to previous points. In the two clips above, there’s a mutual outcome between both plays: the spacing between Vincent and Strus.
When skip passes aren’t being involved and it’s just natural swings or base pin-downs, Vincent will have to make his defender afraid to leave him. If he can become a respectable deep ball threat, it leads to defensive reluctancy which eliminates those easy doubles or switches onto shooters.
They found a solution to that problem with Robinson, but he was surrounded by starters. In this situation, it feels like Vincent and Strus will be working off each other more than expected, since they’re both responsible for the other getting good looks.
A Chance to Navigate in Space
We all know that numbers don’t always tell the full story. Vincent obviously wasn’t consistently taking advantage of the wide open threes either, but a lot of it had to do with circumstance and spacing.
When I say circumstance, I mean the Vincent card was always used when the team was in a bad spot. Starters going down due to injury or contact tracing, Vincent was then asked to fill some big shoes.
The team needed some bench production from him, along with other guys at the bottom of the roster, he was forced to be the creator. And well, that task is far from easy.
Looking at the clip above, let’s take a look at the lineup on the floor for Miami. They have floor spacers in Herro and Robinson lined up on the weak-side, while Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala are filling up the lane for their defenders to essentially collapse on the ball-handler, which in this case was Vincent.
These lineups were one of the main reasons half-court offense was problematic at times. Vincent is forced into taking a very tough baseline step-back, which he somehow finds a way to bury it. Although this ended in a make, you don’t want to put this type of burden on Vincent.
He is at his best when he’s able to flow in the offense with true spacing around him, and up to this point, he hasn’t been given any open floor in the half-court with these type of reps.
But when running with Herro, Strus, and Morris in that bench unit, he won’t have the same problems, which truly makes me confident in his offensive usage.
A Big Man Adjustment Period
This should quickly be touched on since I don’t think it’ll be a big deal in the long-term. When I say that Vincent is better when offense is flowing, part of that means running pick and rolls, which forces 2 on 1’s by the rim.
He loves throwing that lob pass to rolling, athletic bigs in Adebayo or Achiuwa, but there will be a shifting big man combo. Vincent will be seeing quite a few minutes with veteran big man Dewayne Dedmon, which is a change in pace for a pick and roll ball-handler.
The reason I don’t think it’ll be a big deal is due to the fact that adjustment period won’t last long, but it is something to monitor. While it may be one less weapon for the young guards in that sense, it’s a positive thing from every other window you look through.
The bench back-court is going to be very inexperienced this season, and as we saw down the stretch this past year, Dedmon can grab a hold on specific lineups just through his veteran leadership.
Vincent and Herro may be losing an option in PnR sets from the rolling big, but it’s clear they are gaining much more from it.
The Tyler Herro Factor = Balancing Reps
And finally, the combination with Tyler Herro. The Miami Heat basically opened up a clear path for the role of Herro heading into the season, which will be a straight bucket getter off the bench when the team needs it.
As I’ve said in the past, although he will have the ball in his hands a ton, more spot-up opportunities will be mixed in. He struggled in that area this past season, and I would believe that’s an area of focus in off-season training. So, if he’s going to try and create space off the ball at times, who will have the burden of feeding him?
Well, I think we know the guy.
One surprise to Vincent’s facilitating development was smart perimeter passing. He can read the floor well, meaning he watches off-ball actions to await the perfect time to throw that lead pass for the movement shooter, which also refers back to my points about his combination with Strus.
But that doesn’t mean the Herro-Vincent duo will be a one-dimensional one.
Looking at the first two clips above, you can see that Herro will be creating for others when initial sets breakdown very frequently. Hence, the quick trigger of Vincent will do wonders.
On the other side of things, though, Vincent’s creation for Herro won’t just be for triples on the outside. As seen in the last two clips, it’s mostly about hitting Herro in stride to get to the basket, which will be one of his many avenues for success.
When I say Herro will play off the catch, this is what I mean as well. Finding ways to get him to the basket, other than an on-ball screen, will be a specific scheme that will be focused on as the season progresses.
When the new season officially begins, that spot will be waiting for Vincent to fully hold onto. He gets the first shot at it, and I fully believe it’ll be his for good if he can just utilize some of the things mentioned here, which all comes back to three-point shooting.
If that jumper that we’ve seen flashes of a few times in the past shows up to begin the year, the outlook of the team could look a whole lot different.
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