It’s one thing to have your top guys like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo rolling right out the gate, and it’s another thing to keep it sustainable throughout an 82 game season.
The first part of that has a lot to do with Kyle Lowry. As many have highlighted nonstop since the season began, Lowry has allowed guys like Butler and Adebayo to become those true scorers and not have to worry about the facilitating side of things as much.
The second part of that regarding sustainability has less to do with Lowry or Butler/Adebayo themselves, but instead the slack the role players are picking up to start the season.
For one, it definitely helps when you have a specific bench guy who is on track for the sixth man of the year award 6 games into the season, especially when that player is a 21 year old Tyler Herro.
Herro is the guy who can pace some of the star veterans the most, just due to the scoring burst he can provide night in and night out. Plus, unlike some others, he is actually capable of running lineups himself with the bench group around him. Erik Spoelstra has done a good job of keeping one of Butler, Lowry, or Adebayo on the floor next to him, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Shifting into the front-court off the bench, I think we all pretty much knew what Dewayne Dedmon is as a player. He’s not up and down at all, is extremely efficient around the rim, and adds some physicality and toughness which translates to the results on the boards.
Comparing that to the back-up big last season, it was quite the opposite. Nothing against Precious Achiuwa, but he was a rookie without a true off-season and had to do so many things on the floor in that role. He’s undersized so rebounding wasn’t great, and he indeed was up and down on the offensive end due to those limitations.
Markieff Morris was an interesting addition to this squad, and as I noted when he was acquired, the one way to maximize his play is to limit three-point attempts as much as possible.
So far, Miami has done that.
He’s actually pretty effective when he gets in that mid-range, and it’s not just due to the shots falling so far this season. Placing him in the middle of the floor in the non-Adebayo minutes gives the Heat’s offense a release valve to find him and allow him to make the next decision from there.
And finally, Max Strus capped off that nine-man rotation so far this season, and after an awkward fall on Saturday night against Memphis, he received good news this afternoon that the MRI came back negative.
Strus just had one of his better games of the season against Memphis, really shooting the ball well due to the fact that his reluctant ways didn’t kick back in. No matter the situation, no matter the contest, he was pulling it.
The best way to utilize him is the way they did in that last game. Less standing around in the corner, and more top of the key actions by slipping screens into pin-downs on the wing. That should be his homebase.
Now, he still will miss some time, but the severity of the injury was the focus. I’d expect two-way standout Caleb Martin to step right in, and play the picture perfect “plug and play” role that we know he can. Decent shooting, strong attacking, and hounding defense, which was a surprise to me to this extent.
The point is that this Heat team’s bench has really stepped up so far, and more specifically, role players have won them games multiple times this season.
That wasn’t the case last year.
The Heat currently lead the league in bench points at 47.2 PPG, while the Detroit Pistons are second with 42.2 PPG.
To put that in perspective, the Heat were 22nd last season in that category. Once again, this is a small sample size, but the trends we’re seeing so far have been quite intriguing.
And well, this bench group isn’t done growing yet. Victor Oladipo will be on his way into that 9 man rotation at some point this season, and that’s when things will get scary.
Some may point to the necessity of a back-up point guard, but the correct term may be that they need a third string point guard. The reason for that is I can’t really see a point guard cracking their playoff rotation once acquired.
If they decide to hit the buyout market later this season, like I’d expect, they should try and grab some Kyle Lowry insurance, but other than that, it’ll be interesting to see how they go about it.
“I found that interesting already this year that people on the outside have sometimes questioned the depth,” Coach Spoelstra said. “We’ve always felt the depth was one of our biggest strengths.”
And that has shown to be true.
To refer back to an earlier point, the way these bench guys are helping Butler, Lowry, and others is due to the elimination of the rushing substitution that occurred so much last season.
With Butler on the bench, he’d look up at the scoreboard and see it getting worse and worse and worse. This season, on the other hand, there’s been points when he takes a couple more minutes rest since the bench is just “rolling.”
A pure point guard changes things, the emergence of young players changes things, MVP level play from Jimmy Butler changes things. But don’t overlook the bench production and the hot start from the role players.
Once again, they didn’t have that last season.
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