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Miami Heat’s Young Core vs. the NBA

How do you evaluate an NBA team’s young nucleus?

Typically, it comes down to the potential of their rookies and whether any of their recent rookies have elevated closer to star status.

Well, the Miami Heat have both.

And they’ve done it without the high picks of other teams.

The Heat have not even taken the projected player in their past few drafts. Bam Adebayo was not expected to go to Miami at 14, and Tyler Herro was not supposed to be the number 13 pick. This is because the Heat not only pick the player who best fits the team, but also who most fits the culture. Bam and Herro are both proponents of the culture with their work ethic and winning mentality.

The Heat also have a history of cultivating and empowering undrafted prospects. Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, and Derrick Jones, Jr., did not make it to this point the traditional route. This means that they already had a bit of Miami Heat grit upon entering. Now, they play huge roles on a top 4 seed and are hardly finished products, even though Robinson just turned 25 and Nunn is 24.

Well, here’s where they fit among the rest of the NBA…

The criteria for this list is players under 25 and is ranked based on potential of the young core.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves 

Karl Anthony Towns, D-Angelo Russell, Jarrett Culver, and Josh Okogie

The Minnesota Timberwolves are ranked 5 due to the new addition, D’Angelo Russell, via trade with the Golden State Warriors. There is chemistry between Russell and Towns since they came up together through high school and AAU. Jarrett Culver is an intriguing young prospect who has gotten quality minutes this past year along with Josh Okogie. Josh has made himself known through his toughness on the defensive side of the ball and scrappiness. These four guys elevate this team to number 5 on this list.

4. Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Romeo Langford, and Carson Edwards

Jayson Tatum has had a breakout season as a No. 1 or No. 2 option, averaging 24 points per game and validating his choice on the All-Star team. This goes the same for Jaylen Brown, a defensive stopper with versatility who was in the All-Star discussion also. Boston has other young pieces, but Carson Edwards, Romeo Langford, and Tacko Fall have not shown much in their rookie years so far. If they do start to show improvement, especially Langford, there’s a chance this core could be on top.

3. Miami Heat

Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Derrick Jones Jr

The Miami Heat have made the biggest jump when discussing young cores after drafting Tyler Herro, picking up Kendrick Nunn, and molding Duncan Robinson. Bam Adebayo went from being a guy that had a good amount of potential to being indispensable with limitless upside. Derrick Jones Jr has also been a big time role player for the Heat, especially with his defensive versatility, though it’s questionable whether they will be able to re-sign him, even though he wants to stay.

 

2. Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr, Brandon Clarke, and Justise Winslow

Ja Morant looks like the Rookie of the Year, not only averaging 18 points a game and providing highlight dunks, but leading his team to a surprise playoff position with his distribution and late-game playmaking. Brandon Clarke has been historically efficient as a rookie, a polished player who is a perfect complement to Morant. Jaren Jackson Jr has made major improvements in his second year, becoming a 17 points per game scorer with shooting range. And of course, if Winslow can stay healthy, we’ve seen what he can do. The question is how he will fit off the ball with Morant, after seemingly assuming point guard duties in Miami.

 

1. New Orleans Pelicans 

Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Jaxson Hayes

There’s no surprise here with the amount of young talent they’ve gotten in the last year. They were able to trade for Lonzo Ball, who is one of the best passing point guards in the NBA, and Brandon Ingram, who finally flourished and became an All-Star this year, showing some Kevin Durant lite qualities when Zion Williamson was out. Jaxson Hayes also showed signs of improvement as his rookie season progressed. This young core has the most potential over the next couple years.But this, of course, is mostly about Zion, the most intriguing prospect since LeBron James, who started to dominate prior to the shutdown.  Now the Pelicans just need some veterans, other than just Jrue Holiday, to help them consistently compete for a top seed in the West.

 

Miami Heat waste another strong effort from Bam Adebayo

The Miami Heat fought hard, but on Monday night, they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime. Suffering defeat by a 125-119 score, the Heat wasted another strong effort from Bam Adebayo.

The power forward played in 41 minutes, and he made the most of every single one of them. He scored 22 points on nine-of-15 shooting. He also managed to grab 13 rebounds, 12 of which came on the defensive end.

It seemed like he was involved in every single play. Chipping in nine assists and four blocks, he brought energy defensively. The nine assists matched his total from Saturday. He also proved to be somewhat of a pick-pocket, recording three steals on the evening.

If there was one negative to his game Monday, it was the turnovers. He had six on the night. However, when you consider how many touches he had over the course of the game, that is not a horrible number. Even still, that is a number you would like to see on the lower side.

Monday night was a strong bounce-back game from Saturday night. Saturday, Adebayo managed to score 15 points in 26 minutes. However, he was lacking in the rebound department, only recording three on the evening.

Monday night, he was able to put it all together.

Adebayo surging for Miami Heat

Ever since the All-Star break Adebayo has played well. He scored 28 points against Atlanta on February 20, and follow that up with the decent showing against Cleveland on Saturday. This post-break surge bodes well for a Miami Heat team that needs all of their stars to start rounding into playoff form.

Adebayo needs to continue to play at a high level. Particularly in the rebounding department, he is the main source of boards for this team. His stock is definitely soaring right now, and he is proving he can be a reliable option game after game. This bodes well for the future.

Miami Heat: Team needs to win rebound battle on Monday

As the Miami Heat get set to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, they need to clean up one thing. Rebounds were a huge problem for them in Saturday’s game. Even though Miami won by a 124-105 score, Cleveland significantly beat Miami in the battle for the glass.

Larry Nance Jr. and Cedi Osman each had seven rebounds. Andre Drummond had six. Off the bench, Tristan Thompson had seven and point guard Dante Exum had eight . Cleveland cleaned up the offensive glass particularly well, holding an 11-4 advantage.

For their part, Miami did manage to do a decent job on the glass. Derrick Jones Jr. led all starters in rebounds with four. Off the bench, Udonis Haslem had five rebounds. He didn’t make much of an impact in the scoring department, missing all five field goals he attempted. However, he did a solid job on the glass, especially when you consider that he only played 10 minutes.

Cleveland and Miami are pretty even on the glass. Miami has recorded an average of 44.7 rebounds per contest. Cleveland has recorded an average of 44.4 rebounds per game.

Miami Heat need to watch Andre Drummond

As the Miami Heat get set to take on Cleveland Monday, Miami needs to watch out for Drummond in particular . He has been active on the boards sense he came to Cleveland.

The six rebounds he tallied on Saturday night were actually his fewest so far in four games with the Cavaliers. In his first game with the team on February 9, he recorded 14 rebounds. He followed that up with a 15-rebound performance against the Atlanta Hawks on February 12. Prior to the Miami game, he tallied 12 against Washington on February 21.

Drummond has quickly helped the Cavaliers become more of a force on the boards. Miami will have to be cognizant of that.

The Heat will have to watch out for Cleveland on the glass Monday. If they are able to contain the Cavaliers, then they should be able to come away with the victory on the glass.

After having only three rebounds in 26 minutes of play on Saturday, Bam Adebayo should be in line for a much bigger game. If he can bounce back, the Miami Heat should be able to offset Drummond and others. That matchup in the post is certainly one to watch for on Monday.

Bam Adebayo’s Breakout Weekend Continues with Skills Win

He’s not our big little secret anymore.

Bam Adebayo, the subject of a glowing profile by ESPN’s Zach Lowe this week, has been one of the breakout stars of All-Star weekend, as media members gravitate toward his story and his sunny personality.

And now, he’s about to become even more well known.’

Adebayo was the underdog (as much as +1200) among eight participants in the Skills Challenge — because many bettors aren’t familiar with his unusual versatility. But really, the only question was whether he could make the three-pointer at the end. The dribbling? The layup? The passing? Those are easy for him.

Well, now the world knows how gifted he is.

Adebayo beat Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, converting all 3 of the passes on the first try, which gave him a sprinter’s start into the final leg. And yes, he made 3-of-6 three-pointers.

Highlights from a remarkable performance…

First, Dinwiddie…

Next, Siakam…

Finally, Sabonis…

Then he let the world know how happy he was, and how wrong they were…

With a smile, of course…

Remember that bet where Jimmy Butler has to give Bam money for threes made?…

 

Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo selected to All-Star Game

The Miami Heat will be sending two representatives to the All Star Game in Chicago. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will both be there, as the reserves were announced Thursday night.

For Butler, this will be his fifth All-Star appearance. Adebayo will be appearing in the game for the first time.

Butler is having a great year for Miami. Many thought he was snubbed for not being a starter, with the selections taking place last week. On the season, Butler is  averaging 20.2 points per contest to go along with 6.9 rebounds per game and 6.4 assists per game.

Both are thriving for Miami Heat

Butler’s impact goes beyond the statistics sheet however. He is a veteran on a youthful basketball team. While the team itself may have flaws, Butler has helped carry this group and masked those deficiencies. By all accounts, it seems like he is embracing the role of being a leader. His guidance is allowing Miami to stay in the hunt for a top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. In what has been an overachieving year for the team, he has led the way.

Adebayo is having a tremendous year himself. He is averaging 16 points per game on the season to go along with 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per contest. The rebounds, assists, and points are all career-highs for him. He has established himself as a dependable player for Miami. Miami has been waiting for him to have this type of year ever since he came into the league in 2017.

Now, it appears he is delivering. Not only that, Adebayo looks extremely comfortable within the offense.

With two Miami representatives in the game, there will certainly be something for Heat fans to watch. In what should be a fun weekend overall, these selections give the game a little extra meaning for players and fans alike.

Miami Heat need to lockdown the paint against Spurs

The Miami Heat need to clean up their play inside the paint.

The Miami Heat are getting ready to take on the San Antonio Spurs. In doing so, they are looking to snap a two-game losing skid. San Antonio will not be an easy test.  Miami needs to clean up one major aspect of their game: points in the paint.

Against the Knicks on Sunday, they struggled mightily with this. Miami gave up 72 points in the paint, compared to only 46 for the Heat. New York’s big men feasted on inside scoring. Taj Gibson and Julius Randle had 14 and 26 points respectively. Miami could just not seem to stop the inside presence New York had.

San Antonio could provide easier challenge for Miami Heat

Against San Antonio on Wednesday, stopping points in the paint needs to be a priority. San Antonio is not a team that scores in volume in the paint. They average 44.4 points per contest from inside. They are tied with two other teams with that number. One of those teams is the New York Knicks.

Bam Adebayo and Myers Leonard are two players that have the potential to stop this. They will have their work cut out for them on Wednesday.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 11 points on four-of-10 shooting against the Raptors on Sunday. He should be the primary paint presence for San Antonio. Throughout his career, he has established himself as a player that can lower his shoulder and get whatever he wants inside. The Miami Heat will have their hands full with Aldridge.

Miami should focus on playing the paint tightly and not allowing drives in the lane. Stopping the big man is only one half of the problem. The other half is eliminating easy drives to the basket. If Miami can take care of those things, that will put them in a better position to succeed.

The lack of limiting inside baskets is a problem that Miami has been having, and they can rectify it against San Antonio. They need to, or else it could be another long evening.

 

Winslow, Butler Practice for Miami Heat, Will Travel

For all their success this year, the Miami Heat have yet to accomplish one important goal . . . fielding a healthy roster.  The Heat came into the season missing their newly signed superstar, Jimmy Butler, due to the birth of his first child.  And there were the self-inflicted setbacks, most notably from high-paid reserves Dion Waiters and James Johnson.

But most concerning has been the rash of injuries that has plagued the Heat’s back court rotation of Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic.  The injuries to both of Miami’s point guards has led to an increased burden on Butler and a “playoff-style” rotation of 8 or 9 players that has seemingly shown in weary legs at the end of road games and back to back scenarios.  Even with Dragic’s recent return and stellar play, the shortened rotation has still been in place thanks to the uneven play of forwards Kelly Olynyk and Chris Silva.

Reinforcements, however, look to be on the way with a breakout game from Johnson Sunday night against the Blazers.  Johnson’s size, playmaking ability and defense were on display for the first time in months as he finally received the nod from Coach Erik Spoelstra with Butler taking the night off.  “We stay ready around here,” replied Johnson when asked how he was able to shake off the rust of weeks on the bench to impact the game in such a fashion.

And it would seem that the return of Winslow may be on the horizon as he was upgraded to questionable on Sunday night, even though he didn’t play.  Monday Winslow was seen swimming with dolphins and teammate Bam Adebayo and Tuesday Spoelstra told media that he practiced with the team and was travelling to Indiana for Wednesday’s game against the Pacers, a positive sign.

Butler practiced with the team as well, which is a good signal that he will be available as well on Wednesday night.  So a fully healthy Heat squad is finally a real possibility in the coming days which should be a welcome sign to Spoelstra and his staff, as well as present new rotation challenges.  But after weeks of riding an 8-man rotation, those are great challenges to have.

Attrition may Have Uncovered Potent Lineup for Heat

A potent lineup for the Heat may have revealed itself.

The Miami Heat have somehow managed to maintain course despite crucial injuries to Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic.

 

Miami has started to show some vulnerability, as evidenced by their first truly bad loss of the year at Memphis.

Jimmy Butler needs a break.

However the team once again found enough gas Wednesday to end Philadelphia’s undefeated run at home.  The common denominators for most Heat lineups lately have been Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kendrick Nunn.  That trio has been in the top three lineups for Miami in terms of minutes per game, with Duncan Robinson and Meyers Leonard rounding things out.

Switching to Airplane Mode

One intriguing combination has been to bring in Derrick Jones Jr. for Meyers Leonard early and late.  Leonard typically opens each half but has not been utilized much, if at all down the stretch.  Jones, Jr. has been seeing a huge increase in minutes recently due to several factors, including the razor thin rotation Erik Spoelstra has to work with.  That faith has been rewarded as Jones continues to carve out a more significant role.  Over the last seven games, DJJ is averaging nearly 30 minutes per game and is starting to feel it from downtown.  He is 6-for-13 in his last four games and has scored in double figures three times in that span, while his defense has also made a huge impact.

 

The lineup featuring Butler/Jones, Jr./Adebayo/Robinson/Nunn has been used in just three games going into Wednesday.  Yet in that limited sample the numbers have been encouraging and perhaps worth a look.  Rebounding is a legitimate concern without a second traditional big however, time will tell how the scales balance in that aspect.

 

Butler has been all that Heat fans could have hoped for but is exerting a ton out there. He struggled in his latest return to Philadelphia and is logging a Thibodeau-ian amount of minutes lately.  Butler is playing almost 39 minutes per contest in December which is nearly six minutes more than his career average. His 26.3 usage rate this season would be the second highest total of his career if maintained.

While DJJ has been a key cog in the wheel, the emergence of Adebayo is what has held things together.  The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week has continued to carry the load on both ends.  Adebayo is the anchor, not only on defense but from the high post where his skill set shines.  Bam is averaging 18/11/5  in December and his ability to finish on the pick-and-roll, or run things from the top, has kept defenses off balance.

Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson have been inconsistent but when they are on, they give this group the scoring from the perimeter it needs.  Nunn erupted for 26 points at Philadelphia and has hit half his three-point attempts on this road trip. If he can start making the easy plays and distribute the ball, expect another nice progression from the rookie.  Meanwhile, Robinson has been feast-or-famine, but when he’s eating the whole offense changes.  He has become a comfortable second option on the perimeter when the initial action doesn’t hit, while doing just enough on defense.  Robinson is shooting over 47% from deep this month and is getting almost six minutes more per game.

The lineup is shooting 59.6% overall and 52% from deep, while averaging a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.  On the opposite end they are holding opponents to just 40% shooting, including 26.5% from beyond the arc.  Conversely, they are 6.5 points better overall than the opponent so far.  Perhaps that is why they were the “Five on the Floor” to close the game out in Philadelphia.

When Dragic (and Winslow?) return, it will likely shake up the backcourt rotation once again.

For now, we may be seeing this group again when it counts.

Heat’s Bam Adebayo Wins East Player of the Week

Bam Adebayo took home his first Eastern Conference Player of the Week award for games played Dec. 9th to Dec. 15th.

His stat line included his first two career triple doubles, and the Miami Heat went 2-1 in that span.

 

Lebron James was his counterpart in the Western Conference this past week, and showed his respect to the 22-year old Adebayo via Twitter.

 

James earned the honor in part to the Lakers victory over Miami last week, Adebayo follows Jimmy Butler as back-to-back winners of the award.

In case you were wondering, it has been a little while since the Heat had consecutive winners.

Adebayo has stepped into the spotlight with his usual workmanlike effort and is quickly gaining momentum as a Most Improved Player candidate.

Perhaps even greater honors could be in store.

With the arrival of Jimmy Butler Miami acquired the alpha they were desperately seeking.

What many outside observers may not have realized, there was another star quietly blossoming.

All Adebayo needed was the opportunity to show why he was coveted by Pat Riley and the Heat organization.

Now that the time has arrived, Adebayo is seizing the moment to enter the upper echelon of NBA big men.

We knew it all along.

Now the rest of the NBA world is finally catching up.

Follow us on Twitter for the most complete Miami Heat coverage anywhere @5ReasonsSports.

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Jimmy Buckets Doesn’t Hold Back on IG

All signs pointed to Miami losing their first home game last night after young Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young, hit Alex Len for an easy dunk to put them up 6.

Most considered this a dagger especially Young, which was considerable cockiness for a guy on a team that rarely wins.

This was followed by Duncan Robinson and Jimmy Butler hitting three’s on back to back possessions to send the game to overtime. Miami pulled away in overtime and ended up winning by 14. Shortly after the game, Jimmy Butler proceeded to clown the Hawks young rising star Trae Young with an Instagram video saying “this man @traeyoung is a teller of the future. he was right. game WAS over!” 

 

The comments were full of notable NBA players such as Dwade, Joel Embiid, Klay Thompson just to name a few cracking up over the post of Young prematurely calling game.  Young didn’t take the post to harsh poking fun at himself with a response on twitter laughing at his mistake and Butler’s post. 

 

 

To make things even better, Jimmy wasn’t the only person actively trolling last night either. Bam Adebayo said during his postgame press conference last night “We got shooters” a direct shot at his former teammate Hassan Whiteside. Bam couldn’t help but burst into laughter right after he said it after one of the best performances of his career posting his first triple-double. 

 

This team has been so exciting on and off the court, and it’s great to have an energy around the team we haven’t felt since the Big 3 era down here.