If there was ever a year to have a two-way contract in the NBA, the 2020-2021 season was the one. It was clearly unlike any other, meaning the unknown factor of Covid implications meant you didn’t know who you would have out there on any given night.
Due to that point, the league expanded rosters to allow two-way guys to be a part of the team for all 72 games and playoffs, which is quite the experience. Gabe Vincent and Max Strus took advantage of that opportunity, since Miami dealt with those implications all year.
Not only did that mean they got to see the floor a lot of the time, but even got some starting opportunities.
We had a good idea of who Vincent was as a player, which ended up being completely wrong, while there was not a true definition of who Strus was. But well, we got to see exactly what they were made of, so let’s dive right into their play this season.
Instead of highlighting strengths and weaknesses with these two guys, it feels necessary to group them together into the main categories, while shooting is the most interesting, in my opinion, for a couple reasons.
Before comparing them, the job that Strus did as a movement shooter was truly unexpected. Having to fill the shoes of one of the best movement shooters in the league, in Duncan Robinson, is quite the task, but he seemed to do so after a rough start.
To be honest, the shooting did not look like a strength in his first few games with the Heat. An 0 for 8 night from three against the Los Angeles Lakers is a main one that comes to mind, since they just were not dropping, but he refused to stop shooting. And that’s a tendency that Erik Spoelstra loves.
Taking a look at the clip above, he slips the screen and spots up at the wing, immediately pulling with zero hesitation. That was a sticking point with Sturs when looking back at his shooting, due to the fact that every shot looks the same, forgetting about the result.
If I was to point out a weakness in that area, it’s that there was limited side-steps, pump-fakes, and things like that, which meant he trusted his jumper so much no matter the contest he was getting. That’s a positive thing, but only to a certain extent.
Anyway, he played his role to perfection whenever he was thrown in off the bench ice cold. Anre Iguodala joked around earlier in the season that he’s never seen a player make his first shot every single night in any circumstance. The key with that statement is that he was always ready, and that’s something the Miami Heat look for.
To cut over to Gabe Vincent as a shooter, it’s been an interesting ride for him. Everybody remembers from the year prior that his biggest strength was shooting from the outside, with an inability to do anything other than spotting up. But well, the shooting consistency was clearly an issue this season, and there were reasons for it.
For one, he mentioned after the season when speaking with media that he changed his shot a bit mid-way through the season, which clearly takes some getting used to. The natural perception from people observing this Heat team is that Vincent shot the ball poorly this season, while Strus shot it well from deep, and that doesn’t really translate to the numbers.
Strus shot 50 of 148 from deep this season, while Vincent shot 46 of 149 from three. Yes, sometimes numbers can be misconstrued, such as some of Vincent’s coming late in games or Strus’ early struggles plummeted percentages, but either way, the way Vincent has been viewed just isn’t accurate.
He really struggled as a catch and shoot guy, shooting slightly under 30% as a spot-up guy. But lucky for him, he wasn’t in an off-ball role much this season, which I will discuss a little bit more down the line.
Vincent really showed most of his shooting flashes off the dribble, as seen in this clip. He pulls up off the high pick and roll and knocks it down, mostly since momentum pushing him forward leads to a certain rhythm that he’s comfortable with. Spot-up shots play much more into the mental game, and it’s a main reason he adjusted his shot to expand range and make it a bit quicker.
He is very aware that the consistency must get a lot better if he wants a role in this league, and the best thing for it is what he will get this off-season: playing time. With both the Olympics and Summer League approaching, he will get plenty of floor time.
There hasn’t been much discussion about the defensive attributes of Strus, but it feels like it must be touched on before diving into the scrappy Vincent.
Strus has the ability to play physical on that end of the floor due to his stocky build, but post defense wasn’t his only area of strength. He surprisingly had some good defensive possessions in the pick and roll, fitting the switching scheme perfectly whenever he was inserted.
Young guys, as well as two-way guys, are always energetic when entering the game on the defensive end, especially on a Heat team that takes pride in it. I remember the first thing that stuck out about Strus when he played early on was his eagerness to eliminate soft switching, which was an issue at the time.
When he knew that he could make it over the screen, he’d fight through so Bam Adebayo didn’t just pick him up effortlessly. As times expanded, there was a realization that it wasn’t the worst thing in the world for him to switch onto the big and bang around in the paint.
Take a look at the clip above as an example, since he stays complacent to eliminate the lob, leading to a missed layup and perfect box-out for a rebound over Jarrett Allen. The shooting is obviously his strength, but the ability to fight on the defensive end kept him on the floor in many of these games.
As I mentioned earlier, we all believed shooting was the primary aspect of Vincent’s game, but it ended up being on the exact opposite end of the floor. Taking charges, hitting passing lanes, and well, finding a scheme that fit him perfectly.
There was a point early in the season where the 2-2-1 press could’ve been called the “Vincent and Iguodala chamber.” They basically waited for those two guys to check in before throwing it at opposing teams, and it worked perfectly.
As seen on this play, they thrived whenever a team didn’t have a true ball-handler in the game. They knew when to contain, then pounce on a certain guy for a double, leading into transition offense. The interesting thing about that statement is that we’re bundling up a guy who got a Finals MVP for basically handling LeBron James, and a two-way player with zero experience. That’s a pretty big compliment.
The reason I think the next step in his offensive game is so important is due to their being so much potential as a defender. Toning down some of the fouls and unnecessary reaches must come next, but once again, that comes with experience at this level.
If you asked me the one thing that surprised me most about Strus this season, my answer would be that he’s sneaky athletic. That didn’t seem to be listed on the player profile before the season, but his Heat teammates learned quickly whenever he got on the floor: he wasn’t afraid to go up and try to dunk on somebody.
When I mentioned previously that side-steps and pump-fakes weren’t included in his offensive package, catch-and-gos definitely were, which is important when a shooter gets going as he did in Houston during this game.
It’s not just about the highlight throw downs, since he’s actually proved to be decently methodical when flowing into a pick and roll to get to the rim. The ball handling factor isn’t his best attribute, but he definitely knows what to do once he gets to the rim.
To be completely honest, picking out clear weaknesses from his game this season would not be easy to do. He did just what he was asked to do, and much more. When discussing his future with the team, it’s pretty clear that he will be back next season, especially with the Duncan Robinson situation.
That doesn’t mean he can replace what he does or that Robinson is gone, but in Miami’s win now shoes, you never know if a trigger could be pulled on a deal, leading to that next man up mentality for Strus. When he was asked about his potential after the season, he responded, “Just look at Duncan. I feel I can be like him.”
That’s far from an easy task, but he’s shown some clear signs that Robinson didn’t even show in his first year.
Whenever Strus entered the game this season, his role was clear: DHO’s, catch and shoot, etc. But Vincent, on the other hand, had a much more complex role that he had to adjust to.
He has played most of his life as an off-ball guy, but was basically handed the keys to the offense when he was inserted. Not only when coming in off the bench, but even starting seven games this season to run their offensive sets with the starters.
Once again, that’s not his comfort area, but he had to adjust quickly after given the opportunity. It’s another reason I believe that he struggled at times from deep. Most young guys, or two-way players, have a specific job and role to fill, while Vincent’s job was to basically make sure everybody else was in their spots, while also checking on his own offensive play-style.
The attacking jumped off the screen in those minutes, as seen above. He’s running double drag with a scoring mindset from the beginning of the play, sprinting right at Joel Embiid for a score at the basket. That wasn’t ever Vincent’s game, but it became his game.
I asked Vincent about having to work on his on-ball attributes this Summer after being put into that spot this season, which he responded, “That part of my game will definitely need to grow, and it will grow. It’ll be very important, most of my career I’ve been off the ball, and now I’ve gone higher and higher throughout basketball, and the more on the ball I am.”
That will be the focus this off-season, since even though many may believe another two-way guy could step in, they trust Vincent’s play and that development will force the Heat to have no other choice but to give him another shot.
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