Breaking Down the Dynamic of the Heat’s New Bench Unit
There was a lot to takeaway from the first Heat preseason game in a positive manner, but it’s important to have a realistic approach to it as well. We may have seen the baseline to what the team could look like when they’re clicking, but it’ll take all of the preseason games to really give us the plot on this Heat roster.
I touched a lot on that starting lineup from Monday night, but the bench guys truly had their moments as well. And up to this point, that’s been the one part of the roster that many have been skeptical about.
So, let’s touch on some of those guys who will be seeing the floor quite frequently this season…
Gabe Vincent Balancing his Role On/Off the Ball
When I talked to Gabe Vincent earlier in the week, I asked him a lot about balancing that on/off ball role. The reason for that is he’s been primarily used off the ball in past situations, while Coach Spo has fully used him as a true point guard to now back-up Kyle Lowry.
But I also don’t believe it’ll be as much on-ball reps as originally expected.
When I left the Miami Heat’s scrimmage last Friday, there was one takeaway that stood out from the others: Tyler Herro will have the ball in his hands a lot. And with Vincent and Herro currently consisting of that back-up back-court, it’ll make for an interesting dynamic.
As seen in the first clip above, it was good to see Vincent shooting the ball from deep at a good rate off the dribble, especially since that was a major off-season focus. And in many ways, that three-ball could ultimately determine his minute distribution.
Bam Adebayo-Duncan Robinson DHOs are not going to be spammed as frequently this year, but as seen in that first game, it’s going to be a role player staple. In that second clip, Vincent flows right into the hand-off with Herro on the right wing, leading to an immediate fire.
Oh, and by the way, that ball spinning off the fingertips with 19 seconds left on the shot clock is something new.
Some were a bit worried about shot-creation off the bench, but if Herro plays like that while Vincent’s jumper is revived, there’s nothing to be skeptical about as they await the return of Victor Oladipo consequently.
Max Strus….Still Getting Loose?
When bringing up scrimmage takeaways, Max Strus was one of them in a totally different manner. He didn’t totally pop out with extreme play, but his all-around consistency spoke major volume.
We know the efficiency will be there from beyond the arc to a certain degree, and you don’t usually have that immediate trust in a guy that literally just received his first official contract following the two-way deal.
Strus did his thing in that first preseason game, while they utilized him in different ways throughout to generate good looks. They ran plenty of staggers for him to fly off pin-downs to fire immediately, but a specific usage stood out more than the others.
Just take a look at the first clip. A simple slip screen is all it takes. With the court spread out with two guys in the corners and a big on the block, the top of the perimeter is clear. The options are to hit Strus on the relocation so he can shoot without a double team in sight, or Vincent can drive hard to the right to force a defensive collapse.
Cam Reddish hesitated quickly and it signaled to Vincent and Strus that the ball must hit him on that left wing, which he buried it. Miami’s going to use Strus in a bunch of ways, but it seems like the simple stuff fits him better than anything.
Caleb Martin: A Two-Way Gem…Literally
When the Heat acquired Caleb Martin on the two-way deal, it instantly made a ton of sense. A guy with experience to potentially use when needed, a plug and play ability, and essentially, an offensive talent that many at the bottom of the roster don’t have: pure shot-creation.
While I’ve focused on that one skill, Martin has shown in training camp and the first game that he’s more than that. He may have the two-way label in terms of contract, but he’s also a literal two-way player.
He doesn’t take possessions off on that end. Hounding his match-up off the ball, playing the passing lanes, and even soaring up to the rim for a couple surprising blocks. Not only is he athletic on the offensive end, but the defensive athleticism has been a surprise.
Looking at the first clip above, that is Caleb Martin. Getting a steal on one end and finishing wildly on the other. Do you know what that play screams? A player that is a spark.
Coach Spo loves guys at the end of the roster that can be a spark when things breakdown. If Herro isn’t generating looks on the ball or shots aren’t falling for Vincent on a certain night, Martin’s name could be called quickly.
This team doesn’t use two-way slots as a developmental holding place. It’s for production when needed.
Bench Unit Offense: Force Mismatches
Although shots were falling for that second unit on Monday night, that won’t always be the case. Most of the time, one of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, or Kyle Lowry will be on the floor, but how can they potentially maximize that other short period of time?
Well, one way to do it is by forcing mismatches. In the clip above, it obviously helps when the on-ball defender is playing that high up, but double drag seemed to be the answer.
When Robinson is in the action, many times it just looks like a wide PnR. The reason is that Robinson’s defender won’t even think about doing a little “show and go,” since that pop-out three is the focus.
That means Vincent will get the big in space as Dewayne Dedmon can post-up the guard on the block. This possession specifically didn’t end up going anywhere, but you can see what can be generated from moving defensive assignments around.
We will see a ton of that stuff from Butler and Lowry, but if this grouping can do that as well, it won’t be as much of a substitutional scramble to get some starters back in.
All Eyes on the Inbounder
This may not seem like it holds high importance right now, but it was an interesting pattern when watching some of the reserves.
When that ball went out of bounds for Miami to throw it in, the defense always seemed to forget about the most dangerous player on the floor: the inbounder. Vincent and Strus taking turns to either sprint off some staggers or flow into a DHO for a good look from three, which actually worked flawlessly in this game.
Both instances above consisted of a short clock or a ticking shot-clock, but the point still stands. When watching this team in these situations, be prepared for a good look from three to come out of it. And more importantly, watch how the first or second best shooter on the floor is the inbounder.
A Markieff Morris Wrinkle
When Markieff Morris joined the team, we knew what the stat-lines and production levels would look like. He’s not the most efficient player, which means the shooting numbers from the outside won’t always look pretty.
We got a taste of that on Monday, but I feel there’s something deeper to take out of this. Even before this game, I’ve been saying there are certain spots on the floor that fit him better than being a “floor spacer” on the outside, and the clip above is an example.
Things work better for Morris when he gets to the middle of the floor on the move. The quick hand-off and slip is one way to go about it, and allow him to navigate from there. It allows him to make simple decisions: a mid-range jumper or corner kick-out.
The reason this is so important is they must keep the offense moving in these lineups. When Lowry isn’t on the floor, there can’t be immediate stagnant offense with limited movement. And Morris becoming a straight spot-up threat is a product of that.
Shots will eventually fall from the outside for him here and there, but harping on it too much may become problematic. The utilization as a roller, though, could be a completely different story.
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