Miami lacked offensively sound bench players on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which meant Max Strus would have another opportunity to step in and be effective.
He scored 11 points with 3 triples, but that wasn’t even the most impressive part of his performance. Let’s take a dive into Max Strus’ all around game in last night’s win…
– Getting to his strengths
It’s obvious that the primary strength with Strus is his three point shooting, not only on wide open attempts, but finding space to get into his favorite spots.
On this play, Kelly Olynyk screens the defender to allow Strus to drop down to the corner. He slides down as Jimmy Butler attacks, leading to a triple in the corner for his first points of the game. Also, take a look at his high release point as the defender flies out on him. It’s a hard shot to block when he’s in rhythm.
He’s not on any radars at this point in his career, while Duncan Robinson doesn’t have the ability to get free on a simple off-ball screen. So for now, he must take advantage of this ability.
– Reading situations, making the right read
As Gabe Vincent takes the baseline, he begins to find himself with no where to go. Strus realizes this, as his defender has his back to him, then immediately cuts toward the basket.
This forces a 2 on 1 opportunity at the rim with Bam Adebayo, which leads to an easy dump-off for a dunk.
Most shooters are known to move horizontally on the basketball court at all times, but Strus has been a guy that doesn’t rely on that the entire offensive possession. Miami has turned into a very good cutting team in general, but it also comes down to reading a situation as he did here.
– Showing flashes of play-making and penetration
This definitely isn’t something that many expected when they first saw Strus play, since he seems to be going through practice reps leading to this being showcased.
On this play, his shooting ability forced the defender to fly by him when he got the ball, so he immediately attacked the rim. This forced yet another 2 on 1 opportunity at the rim with Precious Achiuwa, except he displayed something a little differently this time.
He gave a great ball-fake to Achiuwa, which dropped Andre Iguodala’s man down a bit from the corner. He made the pass out to him and he knocked down the three, which is a sign of great growth since his first time getting minutes in this league.
– Defensive physicality
Miami lacks defensive abilities from their offensive players, but Strus continues to show great signs in that area due to his size and physicality.
There are a couple of things to dive into on this play. For one, when discussing Miami’s overall soft switching defense, take a look at what happens when Mike Muscala fakes the hand-off. Achiuwa looks to go for the switch for no apparent reason, but Strus fights through it to eliminate any type of mismatch.
He then immediately looks toward the ball, forcing him to slide down into position to take the charge. A defensive possession like this stands out more than any of his three triples in this game to the coaching staff.
– Constant shooting stance means fast release
One more thing must be noted about Strus’ shooting abilities, other than his high release point and deadly catch and shoot abilities: His constant shooting stance.
At times, players get lazy playing off the ball, which leads to guys not being ready for an immediate pull-up when the ball finds them. But well, that isn’t the case with Strus, since he is in his knee-bent, hands ready stance at every moment of the game.
Take a look at his body language on this play when he sees Achiuwa fighting for the offensive rebound. He was ready, fires it up leading to an And-1 three to spark Miami going into the fourth quarter.
– More defensive flashes
Other than describing Strus’ defensive abilities as physical every single time, his ability to cut off guys with the correct angle and move his feet rather quickly is an underrated part for him on that end of the floor.
On this possession, he slides down to cut off the dribble penetration, leading to his man catching the ball on the kick-out. He recovered quickly, and Lou Dort immediately took it toward the basket to get Strus off balanced. Except, he never was off balanced, and cut him off perfectly, while his great size forced Dort into an unorthodox shot that came flying off the rim for an easy rebound.
– The next step
Late in the game, it was just some extra time to get offensive reps in for a guy like Max Strus, and something stood out.
If Strus can consistently work a pick and roll as he did here, things change for his case to get regular playing time. He showed great patience as he began the PnR, while noticing it was drop coverage, he immediately pulled a three pointer. Although he missed, this shows a part of his game that hasn’t been explored, but very well can be in the near future.
Obviously those looks won’t be handed to him every night, but he can make defenses pay when running drop coverage, and utilize his passing abilities in certain spots, which I highlighted earlier.
Miami has something interesting with Strus, but the only question is where his rotation spot would be with a healthy Heat team.