The legendary coach John Wooden once said “The best way to improve the team is to improve yourself.” While many are turning their attention to transactions after the Heat’s disappointing loss to the Celtics, let’s look within and provide a focus for each of the current Heat players for this summer.
Entering his second summer with the Heat, Javonte needs to put his strengths on display to have a chance to make the Heat’s roster next season. In his final year at LSU, he led the SEC in 3 point shooting percentage. He also scored nearly 22 points per game with Sioux Falls this season. He’s proven to be a scorer, but at 6’4” he needs to show his ability to be a playmaker at point guard while being able to defend at a high level.
Omer shined last summer, and previewed flashes of excellence this season especially on the glass, but the leap to regular rotation minutes is enormous. He must improve his foot speed to stay on the floor in today’s NBA. He also must improve his finishing, where he was below league average finishing compared to other bigs at the rim and in the mid-range. With a big summer, Omer could be in line to overtake the backup big minutes behind Bam.
Similar to Javonte, this could be a make or break summer for Highsmith – especially with the Heat having a contract guarantee deadline in mid-July. After shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc this season in the G-League, Haywood has proven his ability to shoot but his path likely requires him to prove that his 6-7 athletic frame and 7-foot wingspan can be impactful on the defensive end of the floor. The path for Highsmith to make the roster and find meaningful minutes seems difficult, but it’s also hard to doubt the Heat’s ability to develop shooters.
The Heat called up Mulder in March from Sioux Falls, after he averaged 18-5-3 with the Skyforce. Mulder is 27 years old (2017 NBA Draft) and so his window to land in the NBA permanently is slowly closing. He needs to show the shooting potential that we spoke about with Highsmith, but at only 6-3, his ability to defend both guard positions is critical to keeping his two-way contract next season.
After gains last offseason, Tyler needs to have another offseason getting stronger. He’s still only 22 years old, but his body still hasn’t matured to that age. With his added strength, he
should be able to add more physicality to his game. He’ll never be Jimmy Butler – but the ability to be more physical on drives, absorb contact and still finish (or create more free throw opportunities) will boost his scoring output. The strength will also help him survive better on defense when teams look to hunt him. His continued development as a playmaker is going to elevate his game from the 6th Man of the Year to a star talent who is a threat to score 25+ nightly while also recognizing opportunities to set up teammates. Finally, continuing to sharpen his strengths in shooting while creating a quicker trigger on his jumper (especially off the dribble) will take his game to another level.
While many point to Bam needing to add a three point shot, I tend to disagree (for now). You have to learn to crawl, then walk, and then run. Bam first needs to become confident in shooting from the 14-16 foot range. Adding the threat of a jumper from the short corner, elbows, and nail puts the defense on notice. This would keep Bam within one dribble of the rim to layer counters with simple shot fakes, or back down smaller defenders. In that range, he can continue to also utilize his comfort zone of the DHO to initiate offense. According to Cleaning the Glass, Bam showed growth in the 2020-2021 season, shooting 14% more mid range shots (9% more long mid range) and hitting 16% better on those long mid range while shooting 7% better from mid range. However, this season Bam saw a 4% decrease in mid range shots (5% decrease from long mid range) and his accuracy dropped 3% from mid range and a significant 7% drop from long mid range. Add a 14-16 foot jumper to 24 year old Bam and you’re invested in a perennial All-NBA player for the rest of this decade.
Like most young guards, Gabe can afford to add strength that will make his improving skills more effective. He could also continue sharpening his ball handling especially against pressure. He’s more of a combo guard than a true point guard, but the added experience, strength and improved handle will make his ability to initiate even easier. After only hearing about his shooting abilities, Gabe put all the doubters on notice this season shooting a career-best 37% from behind the arc. With his improved shooting, he should expect defenses to adjust to his strengths moving forward. Adding a mid range shot that can be utilized as a counter to teams running him off the line, but also to add another weapon to DHO and ball screen actions that he often passed up on during the playoff run.
Another gem for the Heat’s scouting and player development, Caleb proved this season that he belongs in the NBA. His defensive versatility is his definite strength and should not fade anytime soon at only 26 years old. His two-way ability should be highly sought after in the free agent market, but the price he commands is most determined by what he can provide on offense. He improved 15% from behind the arc to 42% from his previous season. His shot mechanics won’t be part of any instructional videos, but more important than the visuals are the
efficiency and consistency. In addition to his outside shot, adding to his offensive toolbag beyond relying on his elite athleticism seems to be the path to more consistent minutes.
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Strus seized his opportunity shooting 42% and making 130 more three point field goals from the previous season. As we’ve seen around the league, the one dimensional shooter is being pushed away for guys who do “more”. Max said himself that his goal this summer is to “be more complete” which would assume he plans to add more playmaking and counters to teams limiting his opportunities behind the arc. Similar to the conversation last summer with Duncan Robinson, adding a shot fake and 1-2 dribble pull up would serve Max very well. He also could improve as a playmaker creating off the dribble and when using his athleticism to get into the paint. In addition to his offense, Strus needs to continue the growth on the defensive end of the floor.
After a historic season shooting 45% from behind the arc in 2019-2020, Duncan has seen negative regression in each of the past two seasons. Over that time, he has shot 8% worse and made 36 less threes (on 30 more attempts). In the context of the entire league, 37% and 226 3PTM is very, very good – but what has lacked is consistency. On nights when he’s on, he can drop eight threes, but on nights that he’s not, he is unplayable at times. Most importantly, Duncan needs to restore his own confidence in what is undeniably an elite talent. If his shooting is restored, you can then look at counters (shot fake, 1-2 dribble pull up) when defenses try to take him away. With his defensive struggles, you could point to lacking strength, but that added muscle has to come without hampering his shooting or slowing him down even more.
Of the entire team, Victor’s offseason program might be the most interesting. Because most of his time was spent rehabilitating rather than developing, this might be the first time that Victor can focus on sharpening skills and adding to his game since 2018. While strength and conditioning will certainly still be part of his summer, continued development on the offensive side of the floor is crucial. He shot better than his career numbers behind the arc this season, but can that last over the course of an entire season? His playmaking as a combo guard is apparent, but can he be more efficient in that role and reduce turnovers.
After a dominant playoff run and an All-Star season, even Jimmy has summer work to improve his game as he ages. As we saw with an aging Dwyane Wade, the ability to create and make mid range shots will be important to extending Jimmy’s star play. You can extend that out to behind the arc, but it’s such a small part of Jimmy’s game that I don’t know if it warrants a
summer focus. Part of extending Jimmy’s window is going to be treatment for his knee, which could require surgery.
After being a productive addition to the Heat, Dedmon’s effectiveness faded this season. At 32 years old, Dedmon likely isn’t adding major facets to his game at this stage of his career. This season Dedmon shot a career-best 45% from behind the arc on limited attempts, and that could be something as he ages that could keep him relevant as a back up big. You could also focus Dedmon’s work on developing better touch around the rim. If the Heat intend to bring him back, the summer work should revolve around how Miami intends to use him behind Bam.
Similar to Dedmon, Morris is at a stage in his career where he likely isn’t adding major facets to his game and his return to Miami is questionable. Missing much of the season after a flagrant shove by Nikola Jokic was unfortunate and his role never recovered. While focusing on strength and conditioning, Markieff needs to be an effective stretch big to have a role in this league. Enhancing his shooting from 16 feet out to behind the arc is the key to his ability to find minutes. Without it, he’s likely spending the end of his career nailed to the bench.
The first and foremost priority has to be his conditioning. The time away for personal reasons certainly impacted his conditioning during the season, and you could argue it never really recovered and may have played a role in his hamstring injury during the playoffs. As Kyle moves into the summer, the Heat should challenge him to come back into training camp in the best shape of his career. That will not only allow Kyle to thrive in his role, but provide the team the point guard they desperately need. As should be expected as he ages, Lowry saw career-lows in attempts in the paint this season. This makes his efficiency in the mid range and behind the arc most important to his scoring especially with the amount of opportunities he gets from DHO and ball screens.
Tucker shot a career-high 41% from behind the arc this season. If Tucker can continue to shoot at that clip and continue his consistent toughness, win-now teams will be lining up for his services. Beyond shooting, we saw flashes of playmaking from PJ that many did not know even existed. If he’s back in Miami’s system, the counters he can bring to DHO and short rolls make him a bigger offensive threat than most expected. Finally, being 37 years old, PJ clearly must maintain elite fitness to maintain his level of play as he ages.
You don’t send the soon-to-be 42 year old with summer homework. Udonis knows to continue to be an active player, he must continue to maintain excellent fitness and there is no doubt he’ll live up to that expectation. Keep that short corner jump shot polished, hold players accountable, and be ready for one more season as the standard-bearer of Heat Culture.