The untold national story of the Miami Heat’s 13-5 start is how much they’ve done with less.
When training camp started, it was assumed by many that Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Dion Waiters and even Derrick Jones Jr. would be integral parts of the rotation. After all, those are two of the team’s highest paid players, the projected starting point guard and a prospect the Heat have compared to first round value.
But Winslow missed three weeks with a concussion. Johnson wasn’t in Heat shape to start camp and has fallen out of favor. Jones has had an assortment of maladies. And Waiters? Well, you know.
Now, though, all are back.
That gives the Heat 15 available players as they face the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at the start of a compelling 3-game Eastern road swing.
So how will this shake out?
If you are gonna make a lineup change, maybe you make it all at once….
Not saying this happens.
— Five Reasons Sports Network (@5ReasonsSports) December 1, 2019
Start with the starting lineup. Since Winslow returned, Erik Spoelstra has inserted sixth man Goran Dragic in his place anyway. But the Heat are committed to Dragic as bench stalwart. So you’d guess Winslow gets back in the lineup, now that his minutes are up, to start to build offensive chemistry with Jimmy Butler — arguably the most important objective for this team in the short term.
But who is the guard between them? Still Kendrick Nunn? Duncan Robinson, who played so well as part of the five-man opening group with Winslow out? Or is this the time to insert Tyler Herro, the Bucket Brother who has undeniable chemistry with Butler?
Since Nov. 14, there have been 396 2-man lineups in the league play 100+ minutes.
➡️ No. 1 rank for net rating:
— Simon Smith (@SimonSperling) December 1, 2019
That, of course, will affect the bench. Assuming Dragic goes back there, does he pair better with Herro or Nunn? And what about the frontcourt? Kelly Olynyk has found his game of late. Does he replace Meyers Leonard in the starting lineup? What becomes of two-way surprise Chris Silva? In some games, the Heat have needed his energy. They’re not worried about his service time clock. Send him to the G-League for a week as Jones and Johnson get some run? Or stay with what’s working?
You’d always rather have more talent than less.
But some of Spoelstra’s decisions have been made for him so far, by circumstance.
Now, as even he has said, the decisions will get more difficult.
His motto: Force me to watch you, force me to play you, force me to make a tough choice.