Well, the Miami Heat beat the Houston Rockets to begin their West Coast road trip, and somehow Jimmy Butler putting up a stat-line of 27, 10, and 10 wasn’t the biggest story of the night. The actual story of the night was Max Strus getting some unexpected playing time, and absolutely shining. He scored 21 points off the bench, while knocking down 6 triples.
So, let’s take a bit of a dive into Strus’ performance last night…
– Oh, so this guy can shoot.
In the first half, Houston didn’t seem very afraid of the two-way guy who hasn’t seen much playing time in the NBA, but that changed quickly. Jimmy Butler was getting a lot of attention at this point in the game, for obvious reasons, which allowed others to get going.
Strus runs a slip screen for Butler at the top of the key, which catches Victor Oladipo staying put instead of switching. He knocks down his first triple of the night on a pretty wide open look from Butler, which isn’t surprising since Strus mentioned Butler constantly telling him to shoot the ball when he gets it.
– Physicality over everything
If there’s one part of Strus’ game that is like no other, it’s the level of unexpected physicality he brings on both ends of the floor.
As seen here, Strus gets the ball in transition and doesn’t hesitate to rise up on Oladipo to draw the foul. He’s had limited playing time this season, but probably has hit the floor like this more than anybody on the team.
Sometimes players that are trying to prove themselves need a bit of an X-factor. And that X-factor being grit and physicality on a Miami Heat team is the perfect fit.
– Speaking of X-factors
This part of Strus’ game has been on display in his limited minutes as well, which is something not many could’ve expected.
Instead of analyzing this very impressive and unexpected throw-down from Strus in itself, let’s look at the importance of it for his overall game.
He doesn’t have the tightest handle, which is normal for a catch and shoot guy, but being able to get downhill at this rate elevates that weakness. As mentioned earlier, he’s a physical player who will put his shoulder in your chest when attacking the rim. So, putting even the slightest second thoughts into a defender when having the shooting ability that he does, leads to a very intriguing attribute in his game.
– The Duncan Robinson effect
Now, there’s a couple things to discuss in this play regarding Duncan Robinson. For one, Strus showing the ability to run the usual Robinson sets through dribble hand-offs with Bam Adebayo was great to see. As the defender went under the screen, it gave him just enough room to get into his normal shooting motion for a three.
But also take a look at what Robinson did on this play. They ran a set where Robinson screens off the ball to get Strus running around the perimeter, while the defender can’t leave Robinson’s hip even across the court.
That’s the part about Robinson and Strus that can’t be compared. This notion that Strus can replace Robinson in his role is just false at this stage. Although he can replicate three point makes, the things Robinson does off the ball every single night cannot be easily replicated.
– The Strus-Robinson lineups look good
To take a break from people discussing Strus and Robinson from a comparison perspective, let’s take a look at them together.
This was the most intriguing part about yesterday’s game, since the lineups with Strus and Robinson were very effective offensively. As seen here, there’s not a moment on this play that Robinson isn’t covered by two defenders. After trying two consecutive times to find open space for a three, he passes it inside to Adebayo, who can make the decision on the weak side to pass to the open man.
Andre Iguodala was the one who got covered on the box, which led to yet another Strus triple. These are the reasons these lineups work so well, since Robinson’s gravity allows more opportunities for Strus. And before long, teams won’t be able to just focus on Robinson in these lineups.
– Perfect shooting balance
The first thing to look at when evaluating a catch and shoot guy is the consistent balance that they shoot with. And well, it’s been clear since Strus first stepped on the floor early in the season that he’s polished in that department.
As seen here, it’s yet another dribble hand-off from Butler. If it was Robinson in this situation, he would allow his body to carry him into his shooting motion on the move before releasing. Strus, though, doesn’t lean or continue momentum when running a DHO, since he grabbed the ball and already had his lower body set to release it.
Obviously both ways of doing it are difficult to do and effective to use, but it’s just interesting to look at certain ways guys are comfortable.
Once again, Strus gets the ball running up the floor, and is already in his stance before releasing. Did you notice anything between these past two plays?
Well, it’s that no matter if it’s a pull-up catch and shoot opportunity, a dribble hand-off, or something else, he shoots the exact way every single time, which just showcases the well known thing that he’s just a natural three point shooter who doesn’t get rattled easily.