Well, the Miami Heat had a picture perfect performance against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, mostly since their young prospects stepped up more than anybody could’ve expected. Since it’s preseason, it’s obvious that my takeaways begin there, so here are my five takeaways…
1. Well, KZ Okpala has been unleashed.
Many Heat fans have been so intrigued by the unknown of KZ Okpala. And well, now it’s known. Before discussing his offensive showing, his defense should not be overlooked. His perimeter defense is clearly a huge strength for him, and that’s been Miami’s weakness as of late, especially against a team like the Raptors. Seeing KZ put an immense amount of pressure on guys like Paschal Siakam was a great sign, mostly since he truly knows how to utilize his length to his advantage. Now to the offensive side of things, I don’t think anybody could’ve expected him to come out firing like he did, scoring 16 first half points with 4 threes. The corner three seemed to be there and he took advantage of it. I mentioned we’d see an aggressive KZ after he looked over the film, and that’s exactly what he did. He was confident putting the ball on the deck and driving to the rim. A confident KZ Okpala is a dangerous KZ Okpala.
2. Max Strus comes out firing.
Max Strus’ name was getting thrown around following Miami’s first preseason game, but in a very different manner. He struggled a bit early on Monday, but many seemed to forget that he was getting thrown into the fire. But well, it only took one game for him to get acquainted, going 3 for 3 from beyond the arc once subbed in. One thing about Miami Heat youth is that they have something to prove. Those are the types of guys that Miami targets, and it was clear he was ready to showcase his worth. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we’ve seen this story before with the Miami Heat. And when they begin to rave about their performances in training camp or practice, it should be no surprise that they are talented. Now it’ll be interesting to see how he is utilized moving forward.
3. Precious Achiuwa makes the necessary adjustments.
The things I mentioned were necessary for Precious Achiuwa to adjust were things involving the dribble hand-off and pick and roll. He came right in and began to set good, hard screens, which was clearly something they went over in film. That is a great sign for his ability to learn and adjust fairly quickly. Those hard screen then lead to easy points around the rim, especially when Goran Dragic is directing traffic. Goran set him up a few times, since Precious’ burst of energy after setting a screen is unmatched. And as discussed previously, he has great touch around the rim, which is something that you can’t teach. It’s obvious after evaluating Miami’s three young projects that the Heat’s development program deserves an immense amount of credit.
4. Bam Adebayo, playing at 20% speed, still looked impressive offensively.
Bam Adebayo definitely wasn’t a main topic from this game, mostly since he didn’t need to be. He clearly wasn’t playing at the same speed as usual, which is a good thing, but still showed huge strides of his offensive game involving his jumper. He displayed different variations of it, including the jab step, dribble pull-ups, and more. Once again, there’s not much to dive into when discussing Bam in this preseason game, but these flashes of his shooting ability is really a great sign. The confidence level when attempting them is what stands out most, since that’s been the question when talking about his full offensive package. And once again, there’s still so much more that we haven’t seen.
5. Just a friendly reminder that Jimmy Butler isn’t playing yet.
My main takeaway from this game is that their superstar, Jimmy Butler, wasn’t playing, and at times you may not have realized. One thing about Jimmy is that he has such a great impact when he’s on the floor, that he makes everybody better. And Miami getting some floor time without their leader may hold more value than you think. Duncan Robinson’s gravity is always being discussed, but what about Jimmy Butler’s gravity? When he begins to attack, it allows for Tyler Herro open threes or Bam Adebayo open dunks. So making Tyler and Bam have to create for themselves was important in these two games. Ultimately, Jimmy Butler will be returning on the first game of the regular season, which means every one of the players discussed will improve greatly.