The Miami Heat went down to the wire with the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night, and finally came away with a win. Jimmy Butler and Andre Iguodala returned tonight, while Goran Dragic and Avery Bradley were still out. Here are five takeaways from this game…
#1: Jimmy Butler is back, and looks like Jimmy Butler.
Well, Jimmy Butler scoring 20 first half points tonight says enough about him as a player. After missing the amount of time that he missed, he returned without skipping a beat. Miami struggled getting into a rhythm offensively throughout, and Jimmy did the things that he usually did in those moments, getting to the rim and the free throw line. He went 8-8 from the free throw line in the first half, which changes a bunch of things for a stagnant Miami offense. It’s automatically seen that Jimmy changes everything on both ends of the floor just through his presence. It’s just harder to notice when the players around him struggle from beyond the arc. The bottom line though is that a team with Jimmy Butler is a completely different team, and once they get some games together with the full team, improvements will be clear.
#2: Gabe Vincent gets his number called over Kendrick Nunn.
The big question after Kendrick Nunn’s recent high level play was where he’d fit in once everybody returned. And well, even with two of Miami’s guards out, Goran Dragic and Avery Bradley, he didn’t get the expected minutes. Gabe Vincent hit the floor for quite some time tonight, which is definitely surprising, but not a bad move. Vincent’s size allows him to compete on the defensive end much more, and on a night where three point shots still weren’t falling, he seemed like the right way to go. Kendrick was the correct decision when Jimmy was out, since he can run many of Miami’s offensive sets and get to the basket. The point is that it’s hard to predict the direction that Miami goes with any rotational moves, especially in this unique NBA season.
#3: KZ Okpala gets the start, but his weaknesses become clearer.
After KZ Okpala has shown many positive flashes in small spurts, his fit with a normal Miami starting lineup was finally seen. The weaknesses that have been discussed are on the offensive end, and it mostly has to do with his offensive placement. There’s still uncertainty about his offensive role, since he’s just not a spot-up shooter and that seems to be his current placing. The problem is that when he attacks or cuts to the basket off the ball, he doesn’t look at the basket, and that needs to change. Some problems were apparent on the defensive end as well, like unnecessary aggression leading to fouls or easy backdoor buckets. One-on-one defense out on the perimeter usually looks pretty strong, but when bigger players attack, it’s hard for him to stop them with his small frame. The expectation level he has come in with has hurt him a bit, but it hasn’t changed the outlook from the team and coaching staff.
#4: Tyler Herro continuing to build onto his offensive package.
I’m pretty sure everybody is aware of the current state of Tyler Herro as an offensive player, but his scoring improvements have been seen. The part that was shown tonight was mostly out of the pick and roll, since defenses are beginning to play him much differently. Once he notices the big back pedaling and the guard trailing, he immediately steps back in the mid-range area into a dead spot. That’s the part of his game that is most important, since the actual shot-making part is not much of a worry. This exact type of play was seen frequently tonight, which is promising for his overall offensive package. He did seem to take quite a step back offensively with the starting unit, since he played off the ball, but maybe that’s best in spurts for his overall effectiveness over an entire game.
#5: Bam Adebayo’s offensive role with Jimmy Butler still in question.
The big question coming into this Heat game tonight was how Bam Adebayo steps up as a scorer once Jimmy Butler returns. And well, it seems as if his motto still is efficiency over attempts, which may not be the best thing at times. Bam had a bunch of bigs being thrown his way tonight, and it seemed like stopping Bam was at the top of the scouting report, but when he is given the space to shoot the jumper, it needs to be taken advantage of. I’ve discussed the necessity for him to get to the basket, but with a packed paint tonight, his usual mid-range attempts should’ve increased. It’s only the first game that Jimmy returned, which means there’s plenty of time for this to progress.