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.
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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