The Miami Heat started off the second half of the regular season with a win over the Orlando Magic, and although Jimmy Butler was a huge reason for that, Kelly Olynyk deserves a lot of credit.
He was forced to play a role that he doesn’t usually play since Bam Adebayo was out, and he filled that spot quite effortlessly. So, let’s take a look at what stood out last night from Olynyk’s overall performance.
– A different role, same Olynyk
As mentioned previously, this play showcases the difference in Olynyk’s role last night. Although it seems like a simple and ordinary Olynyk drive to the basket, it’s a bit different.
For one, this is usually the part of the game where Adebayo is the screener and Olynyk is the floor spacer, but that wasn’t the case yesterday. He went up to set the screen for the mismatch, since Nikola Vucevic was out of the play guarding the corner. Olynyk reading that, received the ball in the post and went straight to work, getting an easy bucket at the basket.
It’s something I will point out a little bit later, but Olynyk’s feel for the offense has really seemed to make a jump this year, mostly due to consistent minutes.
– The silent play-making
Since Miami has one of the best play-making bigs in the league, in Bam Adebayo, Olynyk’s passing abilities get swept under the rug at times. But on night’s where he’s basically the only big, that part of his game shines.
This play shows the defensive respect of him as a passer, since after Duncan Robinson got his defender in the air and cut, the defender stepped back to prevent that. Obviously the defense must do that no matter the passer on the perimeter, but it just shows the many options in his offensive game.
When he noticed this happening, he immediately got into his shooting motion with zero hesitation, which is pretty much the motto with him every time, and I will discuss later.
Here’s a great example of that play-making trust. It was a designed play for Butler off of a great Tyler Herro off-ball screen, and the pass couldn’t have been put in a better spot for that dunk.
It was obviously a tight game down the stretch, so to see this team’s continued trust in that part of Olynyk’s game, working the offense through him late in the game, truly shows the growth of him on this Heat team.
And if Miami could run some creative stuff like this when Adebayo returns, it may be the perfect time for Bam’s scoring leap that many have been awaiting.
– Running the floor
Olynyk has always been a pretty decent transition player, since he knows when to run the floor, due to an advanced ability to read the pace of the game.
Before addressing Olynyk’s side all together, Kendrick Nunn’s point guard abilities continue to shine, especially on this play. A lot of guys that try to blend into that position have trouble keeping their head up and eyes lurking on the break, since they’re used to that push the ball and put your head down scoring technique. So seeing these flashes on a nightly basis is a great sign for him as a player and the current state of this team.
But now, back to Olynyk, take a look at the direction he is looking on the break. Obviously he’s looking at the ball-handler, but he also noticed every defender on the floor jogging with their eyes on Nunn. As he speeds up to the rim with no one in sight, he finishes at the rim with ease.
– A season-best defensive performance
Whenever I dive into Olynyk film, it always consists of his offensive play primarily, since defense is not one of his strengths. But last night, it was a strength for him, since it was one of the best defensive games he has played.
This article could go on forever with video examples of his constant denial on Vucevic all night, but I’ll only show a few. The one above just shows his defensive IQ, since although he had his hands full with Vucevic, he immediately went to help Goran Dragic with a clear mismatch, leading to an impressive swat.
Now, this is one example of the constant denial I just mentioned previously. With the Orlando Magic short-handed, it was even more obvious that the offense would go through Vucevic in the post from just about every spot on the floor. So, he fronted him on every possession, making him as uncomfortable as possible.
You may look at Vucevic’s 24 points and say, how did he have a great defensive game? But during his spurts on him, he battled the entire time, while also being a major proponent of the offense, which is another example of his role change.
If he could do this consistently with opposing 5’s, it’ll make this defense even better by giving Adebayo the luxury of playing the perimeter more often than he already does. And it’s pretty promising to be discussing areas of growth for their defense, since they’re already the number one team in defensive rating over their last 15 games.
– The shooting element
Well, it was one of those nights for Olynyk where the shots were dropping from outside the arc often. Real often.
The first clip showcases that Jimmy Butler downhill gravity that is constantly discussed, since Vucevic sunk in all the way from the top of the key. And when you do that, it’s a known thing that Butler will find the open man, even when getting caught in the air.
In the second clip, Herro and Olynyk run a type of pick and pop, while both defenders go with Herro, leading to a switch. But take a look at how Olynyk drags his defender back in for a second, before back-pedaling out to the three-point line for a triple. That slight movement caught the defender ball-watching, leading to another offensive possession generated by Olynyk.
– Reading the defender, cutting off the ball
This was the most impressive play of the game in my opinion, and not just because Butler made an incredible bounce pass.
Take a look at Olynyk’s patience on the opposite wing, allowing Butler to operate in the post. As soon as Vucevic turns his head toward the ball, Olynyk immediately sprints toward the lane, ending in an easy finish at the rim.
These off-ball cuts have become a staple of Miami’s offense recently, mostly due to defenses overplaying the three point line and three-point shots not falling a lot lately. Although it’s a big part of the Heat’s offensive scheme, adjusting on the fly like on this play reflects totally onto the individual player. And this individual player basically kept Miami afloat all night, other than Butler’s constant all-around takeover.