Tag Archive for: Max Strus

Max Strus: Preparing for the Overplay

When looking for some breakout seasons in the NBA last year, the Miami Heat would be a good starting point.

Somebody like Caleb Martin, who signed on a two-way contract, earned himself a pay-day as the Heat retained him this off-season.

A guy like Gabe Vincent who has had his ups and downs, finally found himself as a high level role player in this league. After Kyle Lowry went down for extended periods in the post-season, he stepped into that starting spot, and ended up being one of few Heat players whose numbers didn’t decline.

Then there’s Max Strus.

Somebody that mid-way through the season was viewed as a fringe rotation player. Can definitely provide shooting with the best of them, but where would they find playing time for him?

Spoiler alert: they found a spot for him. A starting spot at that.

Not only did he take advantage, but he excelled through and through. Somewhat saving a declining Heat starting lineup late in the regular season.

Fast forward to present time, things are viewed much differently around the league when it comes to Strus.

In a matter of months, he became the name nobody could pronounce correctly to one of the league’s most efficient volume three point shooters.

Last season, he attempted 6.5 threes a game and knocked down 41% of them. That only trailed Desmond Bane in efficiency with a minimum of 6 and a half triples attempted.

And to that point, he’s a known figure now.

Heat fans are familiar with this storyline slightly when it comes to Duncan Robinson. Specialist that nobody knows begins hitting the scouting reports.

It’s just the name of the game.

After Robinson struggled a bit this past season, it was clear there were a mixture of issues: a lack of confidence after some rough patches and teams simply overplaying him as a deep threat.

So that gets you thinking, during a point in the off-season where every evaluation must be in the minor crevices of player’s games: how is Strus going to deal with the similar overplay?

Well, let’s start by unpacking the dribble hand-off a bit…

 

 

Robinson perfected the hand-off on this Heat team, basically until defenses decided to completely turn the water off on him. Teams won’t directly approach that the same with Strus, simply due to the fact the DHO isn’t his homebase.

He has been more of a slip screen, spot-up, shoot in the face of his defender kind of shooter. Yet it should also be stated: Robinson and Strus approach the DHO much differently.

As many of you know, Robinson’s focus was to always stay glued to his screener after the catch. Stay locked shoulder to shoulder to eliminate the defender from slipping over the top easily, but that simultaneously means there’s less ground to cover.

Strus does the exact opposite.

He expands from the screener with an escape dribble, pretty much forcing his defender to pick up more speed. Why would you want that? Well, speeding up a defender means you’re taking away their control. Now you can make your next move as a counter.

By the way, both are good options. It just comes down to the comfort of the player.

Looking at the clip above, I show this because it looks like Strus’ training reps. When he works on his hand-offs, he stays loose and takes up major space with one or two lead dribbles, since that’s his primary comfort area.

You may be thinking, why does any of this matter? The answer is that minor tweak in his hand-off dissection will be the way he deals with defensive overplays in the natural flow of the offense.

Just take a look at this shooting pattern…

Other than the extra ball-handling reps in Summer League a year ago, Strus hasn’t been asked to do much with the ball in his hands. He attempted 6.5 triples a game last season, while 5.4 of those attempts he didn’t even put the ball on the deck before shooting.

Clearly that is no surprise, but it shows that he’s been planted strictly within his own role. And more importantly, he utilizes things that get him into his shooting rhythm.

But the catch high, keep high method hasn’t been the only thing to get him into a fluid shooting motion. While on a small sample size, he shot 41% from three following a single dribble, which included 44 shot attempts.

Much like his way of exploding from the screen on a DHO, this will be his way to create separation on over-plays. And trust me, there will be plenty of those over-plays next season.

Going back to some of the clips above, it’s a comfort process that is only growing this off-season: shot-fake, one-dribble side-step, and pull.

It’s pretty simple when breaking it down in these terms, but these are the things that will break him free as he rides the outside arc. Plus there’s the added factor that he is not fazed by heavily contested shots.

At all.

Hand in his face, two defenders blitzing. It doesn’t matter. He will shoot it the same way, with the same flick and the same lift. I’m very confident that teams won’t be able to eliminate him if it becomes a focus, but like I just pointed out, he’s going to have counters in the vault waiting.

The final counter may be the one that sees the biggest increase this season. While the roster doesn’t have a true 4, it’s obvious they do have an excess of guards. The way they will utilize them is to elevate the movement offense with extra mis-directions and motion with Bam Adebayo at the helm.

Meaning the higher the frequency in Strus mixing in these back-door counters, the better. Play-makers will be surrounding him in most of these lineups, so they’ll find him more times than not.

Lineup data is never a good starting point, but it’s always a good checkpoint to back-up a specific topic. When looking through some of the Heat’s best offensive duos this past regular season, there was a not-so undercover trend. (Minimum 400 minutes logged)

The top one was Max Strus and Bam Adebayo.

We’ve seen Bam dominate with prolific shooters around him before, so maybe this is just coincidental…

Number two was Max Strus and Jimmy Butler.

Well we know they have a great relationship off the floor, but it seems Strus was a good sidekick on the floor as well. Ah, maybe it’s just another coincidence.

Moving onto number three, we have Max Strus and Tyler Herro.

Hmmm. I know we’re strictly talking offense and Strus has told me in the past his focus on the floor with Herro is just to get him as many shots as possible, but it has to end there, right?

Wrong.

Number four ended up being Max Strus and Kyle Lowry.

All jokes aside, I know it’s just lineup data being revolved around the calculated offensive ratings with them on the floor, but I wouldn’t say this is way-off analysis. When going back through game logs, it was no secret things were clicking when Strus was waiting to take advantage of a defensive mistake.

But to tie this all back together, that most likely won’t be occurring as often next year. Defenses won’t adjust off of him, he will have to force the adjustment. We can go down the slippery slope of starting lineup hypotheticals, but stuff like this will be more crucial to keep an eye on.

Every shooter sees the overplaying defense after the breakout, but it’s just how you respond. Yet after laying it out there before, I’m confident he has the necessary counters to not only level out to last year’s version, but improve even more.

 

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The Vincent-Strus-Martin Ascension Spiraled into a Miami Heat Ascension

When covering the Miami Heat’s scrimmage during training camp, there were two names that I walked away from that game with that were clearly playing at another level.

Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin.

One guy fresh off a two-way contract, and the other brand new to it.

Martin came as a surprise for many, as this athletic kid, that recently played for Charlotte, was showcasing to be much more than just a simple “athlete.”

He showed that his jumper was becoming more consistent, and wasn’t just some isolation player that some seemed to perceive him as coming in.

More than anything, he was a legitimate defensive piece that showed flashes of being a real rotation piece.

Then the month of January hit in the year 2022. His name was already getting more buzz after an electric performance against the Bucks mid-way through December, where his 28 points without Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo led to a much needed win over the defending champs.

But well, the calendar flip was pretty much a defensive tour.

He made De’Aaron Fox’s night uneven with a 5 of 12 night, but it was clear that they had something aside from the Adebayo and Tucker switches. Martin followed the Fox night up with the assignment of Steph Curry, which he bothered enough to shoot 3 of 17 from the field at home.

Yes, they ended up dropping both of those games, but something was brewing.

Shortly after that two-game stretch, he held Chris Paul to a 3 of 9 night, Trae Young to a 4 of 15 game, and Fred VanVleet went 6 of 16 from deep with only one 2 attempted.

The point guard tour was real, but it was the true understanding of what he could be on this team, combined with the overall improvements in his offensive game.

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Rewinding back to Gabe Vincent, there weren’t a ton of expectations coming into the season. He was a situational piece when guys went down, leaving many saying that a back-up point guard may be a neccessity.

People were right, they did need a back-up 1. But that guy was Vincent himself.

When he first signed with Miami, he appeared to be an undersized shooter who would play mainly off the catch, which he showed flashes of. But last season, he had an uneven year shooting the ball from deep due to some mechanical shifts.

Yet while some focused on those numbers, he was rapidly excelling at the all around parts of his game.

He became the staple of Miami’s 2-2-1 press that debuted last year next to Andre Iguodala, just due to the fact that his perimeter lateral quickness was for real, and he had a clear knack for the ball.

Coming into this season, he just bounced off that two-way contract, and the next step would be could he make minor improvements on the ball.

Well, the improvements weren’t minor.

He was pretty much thrown into the fire of point guard reps, and he proved that the off-season did a lot for his game. The pick and roll savviness was really something, the catch and shoot numbers jumped up from under 30% last season to 39% this year, and his mid-range/driving game had surged.

His mid-range pull-up stalled out at 29% last year, which spiked to 43% this season. That isn’t gradual improvement. That’s turning the whole page.

Plus, speaking of big games mid-way through December, Vincent led Miami to back-to-back wins with a 26 point performance in Philly, then a 27 point night against the Magic. As the top guys kept dropping out of the lineup, these guys were ready to step up.

Not only are they great fillers, but they’re now potentially in a playoff rotation.

And when talking about certain guys stepping up, Vincent’s two-way companion Max Strus is the perfect example of that.

I wouldn’t exactly say Strus’ scenario was completely aligned with the other two, since it was more about situation and opportunity for him. He constantly would get the same looks no matter if it was last year or this year, but the sample size being greater this time around allowed for a true evaluation period.

Among the top 50 players in 3 point attempts a game this season, which includes around 50 players, only one player shot a better percentage from deep than Strus, with the stipulation of playing at least half of the regular season games.

Desmond Bane edged him out, but Max Strus trailed him with a 41% shooting season from beyond the arc.

It’s not easy to be that spark shooter who has to consistently perform as a guy with zero rhythm prior to entering, but he proved himself. Now he finds himself sitting in the starting lineup less than a week away from the start of the playoffs.

These 3 guys are extreme success stories for this Miami Heat developmental program, but they’re also examples of putting in the work, and performing at the highest level.

From fillers to playoff rotation.

It isn’t everyday that you see that, but from the Heat’s perspective, they aren’t surprised when it happens.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Trail Blazers

The Miami Heat played another late night West Coast match on Wednesday night, but got the win this time around against the Portland Trail Blazers.

This was an interesting one with an early Kyle Lowry ejection and a late ejection for Tyler Herro, but either way, Miami escaped with a much needed win in this tough stretch of games.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Max Strus comes out of protocols, Max Strus comes out firing.

After missing the last 7 days in the health and safety protocols, Max Strus found himself in the starting lineup in his return. And we saw a recurring theme within his game, which is that he never misses his first shot. Ever. Aside from that and his high level confidence from deep, it’s always much more big picture when bringing up this specific name. The reason is that with a healthy roster, which shouldn’t ever be an expectation in this unique time, Strus would most likely be shelved with all of the other talent on this roster. The thing about that is there’s absolutely no way humanly possible that could occur if Strus is playing the way he is at this exact moment. Who is the guy on the team that you expect his shot to drop every time he shoots? Well, that guy is Max Strus every time I watch these games, and it fits with the current clip he’s shooting at. And more importantly, he’s proven to be a clutch time shooter.

#2: Miami’s intriguing offensive sets in life without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

I constantly touch on mid-post touches when one of Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler are on the floor, but what does offense look like without the both of them? Well, it’s much simpler. Aside from the base perimeter sets like pick and rolls, hand-offs,  and drive and kicks, Miami’s found a unique formula with more shooting on the floor. One guy will set up on the wing with the ball in his hands in play-making mode, as the other 4 guys line up on the weak-side. Now, the next step is usually two flares and two off-ball screens, as one shades up to the top of the key and the other crosses to the strong-side, then layers are added from there. That base is so interesting with the many options within it, but it wouldn’t be possible without PJ Tucker. Who would’ve thought Tucker would be that on-ball wing play-maker at times? But well, he has been at times, and it has worked extremely well.

#3: Kyle Lowry ejected?

Kyle Lowry was going to be a takeaway of mine either way tonight, since it was originally expected that I’d be discussing his on-court play with 9 assists in 16 early minutes. Since for one, that is quite impressive. But the reason we’re bringing up Lowry now is due to his unexpected ejection in the second quarter. The first one was deserving after his extended chirping at the officials following a foul, which we’re used to. But the second technical came when he tossed the ball lightly at the referee. Literally. With the official not expecting it, he immediately reacted as if he threw a fastball down the middle, and ejected him from the game. Like I said, we’ve seen tech after tech on guys like Lowry and Tucker all season for obvious reasons, but this one wasn’t even close to being warranted. Yet on the bright side, some much needed extra rest came Lowry’s way, as his other top level teammates have gotten much more of that sideline observing.

#4: The flipping offensive nature that is PJ Tucker.

Seeing PJ Tucker in play-making mode as he is without Butler and Adebayo is one thing, but mid-post behind the back passes for layups is another thing. That leads us back a few years, where his name coming up always led to the label of “offensive limitations,” which would make you scratch your head a bit if your first time watching him was in a Miami Heat uniform. Not only as he surpassed that label, but he’s doing something that literally nobody could’ve predicted. No matter who exits the lineup, he fills the role. Only one guy can semi-emulate the game of Adebayo, Tucker can save them. Mid-post play-making in a Butler way, Tucker is there. You need him to play center for most of the game down so many bigs, he’s your guy. Versatility, comfort, and the trust factor: the story of Tucker’s season.

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#5: 10-days are dwindling, but is this the end for all?

Many 10-days have already been shut down as guys exit the health and safety protocols, such as Aric Holman, Nik Stauskas, and Heat fan favorite, Mario Chalmers. But there are a few others that are still getting chances and showcasing their skills. One of them is Chris Silva, who actually gave Miami a decent hustle boost in this one tonight, but doesn’t seem to be a fit for the future with his current skill-set. Kyle Guy is the hot topic among that group, who continues to showcase an offensive skill-set that stands out with his efficient scoring, flashy passing, and a surprising downhill threat and attacker. Lastly, Haywood Highsmith continues to get run even with Tucker back with the team, and I must say, I’m not surprised at all. When he was signed, that was the name I said to watch for. Not for a second 10-day potentially, but to see him back in the future. Miami always circles back, and this feels like another example.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Pistons

The Miami Heat played a wild one against a depleted Detroit Pistons team, but don’t let that distract you from Miami being just as slim.

Some big shots from Tyler Herro and Max Strus down the stretch iced it for Miami.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Down another body.

The Miami Heat have been dealing with availability issues recently, and not in the same way the rest of the league is. It’s not that they’re covered in health and safety protocol tags, but instead pure injuries. And well, it was a rough start to this one as another front-court guy on this team went down, and a pretty important one at that. Dewayne Dedmon going through his usual sets as the roll man, yet this specific play he ended up on the floor in a ton of pain. He ended up getting up on his own power and walked straight to the locker room, which ended up being called a knee sprain. Obviously Miami slightly dodged a bullet since it could’ve been a lot worse, but it’s yet another hurdle that Miami will have to leap over and monitor. The theme of their season.

#2: Three-point shooting comparison quite unbalanced. 

At the half, the Detroit Pistons were shooting 11 for 21 from beyond the arc, while Miami was 5 of 19. The interesting part about those numbers was Miami slightly padded theirs a bit to end the half, behind Tyler Herro and Max Strus explosions which I’ll get into next. The threes being generated on both sides were quite different as well. Detroit was just picking apart Miami’s zone and finding the open man, which was spread around equally as every Piston starter had at least 2 threes at the half as well. Miami, on the other hand, just couldn’t get them to drop within the offense, leaving them with 4 starters half-way through with no made three. When two teams are down so many guys like these two teams are, usually the team with the better outside shooting numbers has the lead. And well, when they’re that one-sided, you put yourself in a tough spot.

#3: The Tyler Herro-Max Strus show early.

Aside from all of the struggles I discussed in the last section, Max Strus kept them afloat early and Tyler Herro took the keys from there. 33 of 55 first half points from Miami were scored by Herro and Strus. The role of Strus early was intriguing, and it led to a 7-0 run from him. As he’s slotted into starting power forward, he began merging into that role a bit. Baseline roaming, dunker spot reps, which led to an easy dunk early in the first. Herro was just doing Herro-like things. Really carving things up inside the arc, leading to tough mid-range fades and nice lay-ins around the rim. But most of all, his control stood out. Running certain lineups that many of us thought we’d only see in Summer League, yet he’s still playing within the offense. And well, that’s an improved player.

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#4: Udonis Haslem, the spark.

With Dedmon going down early, Miami had to quickly transition into a strict, and small, 8 man rotation for a good portion of the game. Well, that was until Erik Spoelstra gave Udonis Haslem the look to enter the game late in the third. After some rough possessions to start, he quickly gave Miami some production, aside from the big time home crowd spark. One immediate and-1 after the whole team did some complaining on the other end, and a nice face-up jumper down on the box right after. Like I said, sometimes that stuff doesn’t even truly matter in games like this. Instead, it leaves many looking around for the ignitable piece to get a group going. And UD can do that rather quickly, as Miami finished the third quarter strong.

#5: Marcus Garrett giving Miami some underappreciated minutes.

Whenever Marcus Garrett has gotten some run over this recent stretch, his stat-line has never really popped at all in any category. Why is that? Well, he’s another one of those Heat guys that doesn’t get rated upon numbers on a piece of paper, especially considering the main part of his game is on the defensive end. And tonight was a game where he really showed out as a pure ball-hawk. Not only in a Gabe Vincent-like way from baseline to baseline, but by cutting off simple reads in pick and rolls at the top of the key possession after possession. Haslem may have been the spark to finish the third, but Garrett was the spark to kick off the fourth. One play where he forced Cory Joseph into a quick pass and Herro stole it and dunked it was the fire setter. Yet, shortly after, he found himself in perfect position for a much needed charge. That stuff speaks volume.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Magic

The Miami Heat take down a banged up Orlando Magic squad on Friday night, as guys like Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro add another recovery day to the catalog.

The two-ways of last season, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, come up big as Miami coasts to another much needed win.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Oh hey Max Strus.

A 20 point second quarter was just Max Strus’ way of making Erik Spoelstra’s life much harder from a long term sense. But in all seriousness, it is something to keep track of with Strus, Caleb Martin, and Gabe Vincent switching off big time nights. Whenever we talk about Strus getting hot, the funny thing is his film looks so similar side-by-side. Why is that? Well, his simple methods keep it looking so identical. He’s not navigating as many screens as Duncan Robinson, or feeling out screens on the ball like a Kyle Lowry or Tyler Herro. He’s just either pulling up with a defender right in his face, or he utilizes his slight pump-fake and pull-back to get just enough space to fire. Max Strus is a simple guy, who plays with a simple style. And looking at some of the guys on this roster, simple is great as a plug-in guy.

#2: My nightly takeaway without Bam Adebayo: Dewayne Dedmon’s high level production.

Even after writing a Dewayne Dedmon piece early in the day, it still isn’t enough praise for this solid spot starter. At halftime, he had 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting, just continuing to take whatever the defense was giving him. For example, above the break transition threes. To dive into his three-point shot profile a bit more, it’s pretty clear the corners should be avoided with him. His comfort looks right at home from the top of the key, or right/left wing, almost as the anti-PJ Tucker from beyond the arc. Being able to be relied on from night to night in this way, after only playing 16 regular season games the season prior, just isn’t a normal occurrence. Dedmon has headlined the drop coverage phenomenon over the month of December for Miami as well, almost providing an unlocked door to Adebayo’s defensive role upon returning.

#3: My microscopic takeaway: Heat are zone providers, but being tested as zone consumers.

In games where the opposing team’s entire bench just got signed to some 10 days from the Lakeland Magic squad, microscopic views are necessary. The one I picked up on tonight was the way Miami handled the zone when it was thrown at them, since before Spo called the timeout, it surprised them the same way they do to others. Much of the issue had to with personnel at the time. KZ Okpala was immediately used as the middle man on the insert pass, which led to a turnaround mid-range fade-away with nobody on him. And down so many guys, the name I brought up was Max Strus. That’s a guy you can trust to hit that elbow turnaround or make the easy kick-out read, but overall, Spo getting some of these ATO and set-up reps against it is important. The zone is rising rapidly across the league.

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#4: The Gabe Vincent game turns into the Gabe Vincent stretch.

This type of play from Gabe Vincent was definitely unexpected, but it was kind of inevitable. Shooters don’t just forget how to shoot. Slumps occur, tweaks are made, then in a matter of time, the shot returns. But the difference with Vincent is that he elevated every other part of his game throughout the struggles. He shifted his strengths in many ways, turning into a defensive first guard, with an ability to switch on and off the ball with ease. And like I said, now the three-point shot is here, and the confidence is the headliner. All that is needed for shooters like himself is a reference point, and that is what this week will be for Vincent as he moves forward. This isn’t a temporary thing. Of course he won’t always shoot the three-ball at this clip, but he’s officially found himself as a rotational NBA player.

#5: Heat rolling through the easy December stretch.

Yes it’s only 2 wins in a row for Miami, but this is just the beginning as an easy slate of games lie ahead: Detroit twice, Indiana, Orlando, Washington, San Antonio, and Houston. Jimmy Butler or not, that’s a lot of very winnable and favorable games for this Heat team as they enter the new year. Erik Spoelstra’s continued phrase throughout the season, “we have enough,” is in full effect at this time as well, since while many would question the Heat being “favored” in many of these games, it wasn’t expected that Vincent and Strus would go from two-ways to starter level products. After completing this next slate of games, they should be hovered right around that three seed, in a period that was supposed to be a state of survival.

 

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Max Strus: “People Kinda Know Who I Am Now”

Max Strus and Tyler Herro are going to be the two youthful pieces off the bench this season for Miami, but that isn’t the only comparison those two draw. Even without the experience compared to those around them, both of them ooze confidence in similar ways.

I talked to Max Strus for a bit after practice, where he discussed some things heading into the season opener this Thursday.

When I asked him about being that run igniter and offensive spark most nights for this team, he responded, “If I’m open, I’m gonna shoot every time. I have the confidence in myself, my teammates have the confidence to put me in those situations to shoot and score.”

“But I’m still trying to find my role with everything,” he continued. “And obviously the second unit is to get Tyler going and just for me to provide spacing for him. But any open shot I’m gonna take.”

Relating Strus’ situation to Duncan Robinson over and over can get a bit old, but the early stages definitely are similar. Robinson jumped into a starting lineup, while opposing defenses didn’t even know his name. Fast forward to today, it’s a completely different story.

When I asked Strus if he’s being defended any differently from his minutes last season to this preseason, he said, “People kind of know who I am now. You can tell when I’m running down the court other defenders are yelling ‘find Strus, find Strus.’ So yeah you can definitely tell that teams are starting to find out what I do and what I’m good at. So I’m definitely getting guarded a little bit differently, not as bad as Duncan yet, but we’ll see if it gets there.”

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One thing about this team is that it’s a very vocal group. They’re loud on the floor, they’re loud with each other, and that trait definitely fits the Miami Heat way.

I asked Strus if he notices these practices being louder than they were previously, and if he fits that mold of holding others accountable and being in each other’s ear constantly. He responded, “I want to win. We all want to win. So communication, putting each other in the best situation possible to be successful is what we all want to do. Having guys like that who are here to help, here to make you better is right where I want to be.”

Lastly, a lot of these guys have their circle of players in the league that they watch film on to try and learn from or pick-up specific skills. When I asked Strus who those guys are, he said, “I’ve watched a lot of Klay Thompson.”

He also mentioned Joe Harris is somebody he’s honed in on, saying “I’ve gotten Joe Harris a lot, and I’ve gotten to know him pretty well too.”

The interesting thing about Strus focusing on these guys is that it’s not all about shooting when evaluating them: “Defensively, like Klay Thompson was an elite defender, so trying to learn from him. Just where to be in the right spots, and Joe Harris is actually a pretty good defender too. So those guys are great all-around players, so I’m just trying go through them and watch and learn from them.”

Max Strus is going to be in a pretty favorable role this season. Weak-side offensive spotting, waiting for the multiple initiators on the floor to hit him in his spots, and ultimately being that spark that he knows he can be on this team.

“People kinda know who I am now.” Yes, they do. And that X on his back is only going to grow this season.

Yet, he’s somehow ready for whatever is thrown at him, since he “wants to win. We all want to win.”

 

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Breaking Down the Dynamic of the Heat’s New Bench Unit

There was a lot to takeaway from the first Heat preseason game in a positive manner, but it’s important to have a realistic approach to it as well. We may have seen the baseline to what the team could look like when they’re clicking, but it’ll take all of the preseason games to really give us the plot on this Heat roster.

I touched a lot on that starting lineup from Monday night, but the bench guys truly had their moments as well. And up to this point, that’s been the one part of the roster that many have been skeptical about.

So, let’s touch on some of those guys who will be seeing the floor quite frequently this season…

Gabe Vincent Balancing his Role On/Off the Ball

When I talked to Gabe Vincent earlier in the week, I asked him a lot about balancing that on/off ball role. The reason for that is he’s been primarily used off the ball in past situations, while Coach Spo has fully used him as a true point guard to now back-up Kyle Lowry.

But I also don’t believe it’ll be as much on-ball reps as originally expected.

When I left the Miami Heat’s scrimmage last Friday, there was one takeaway that stood out from the others: Tyler Herro will have the ball in his hands a lot. And with Vincent and Herro currently consisting of that back-up back-court, it’ll make for an interesting dynamic.

As seen in the first clip above, it was good to see Vincent shooting the ball from deep at a good rate off the dribble, especially since that was a major off-season focus. And in many ways, that three-ball could ultimately determine his minute distribution.

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Bam Adebayo-Duncan Robinson DHOs are not going to be spammed as frequently this year, but as seen in that first game, it’s going to be a role player staple. In that second clip, Vincent flows right into the hand-off with Herro on the right wing, leading to an immediate fire.

Oh, and by the way, that ball spinning off the fingertips with 19 seconds left on the shot clock is something new.

Some were a bit worried about shot-creation off the bench, but if Herro plays like that while Vincent’s jumper is revived, there’s nothing to be skeptical about as they await the return of Victor Oladipo consequently.

Max Strus….Still Getting Loose?

When bringing up scrimmage takeaways, Max Strus was one of them in a totally different manner. He didn’t totally pop out with extreme play, but his all-around consistency spoke major volume.

We know the efficiency will be there from beyond the arc to a certain degree, and you don’t usually have that immediate trust in a guy that literally just received his first official contract following the two-way deal.

Strus did his thing in that first preseason game, while they utilized him in different ways throughout to generate good looks. They ran plenty of staggers for him to fly off pin-downs to fire immediately, but a specific usage stood out more than the others.

Just take a look at the first clip. A simple slip screen is all it takes. With the court spread out with two guys in the corners and a big on the block, the top of the perimeter is clear. The options are to hit Strus on the relocation so he can shoot without a double team in sight, or Vincent can drive hard to the right to force a defensive collapse.

Cam Reddish hesitated quickly and it signaled to Vincent and Strus that the ball must hit him on that left wing, which he buried it. Miami’s going to use Strus in a bunch of ways, but it seems like the simple stuff fits him better than anything.

Caleb Martin: A Two-Way Gem…Literally

When the Heat acquired Caleb Martin on the two-way deal, it instantly made a ton of sense. A guy with experience to potentially use when needed, a plug and play ability, and essentially, an offensive talent that many at the bottom of the roster don’t have: pure shot-creation.

While I’ve focused on that one skill, Martin has shown in training camp and the first game that he’s more than that. He may have the two-way label in terms of contract, but he’s also a literal two-way player.

He doesn’t take possessions off on that end. Hounding his match-up off the ball, playing the passing lanes, and even soaring up to the rim for a couple surprising blocks. Not only is he athletic on the offensive end, but the defensive athleticism has been a surprise.

Looking at the first clip above, that is Caleb Martin. Getting a steal on one end and finishing wildly on the other. Do you know what that play screams? A player that is a spark.

Coach Spo loves guys at the end of the roster that can be a spark when things breakdown. If Herro isn’t generating looks on the ball or shots aren’t falling for Vincent on a certain night, Martin’s name could be called quickly.

This team doesn’t use two-way slots as a developmental holding place. It’s for production when needed.

Bench Unit Offense: Force Mismatches

Although shots were falling for that second unit on Monday night, that won’t always be the case. Most of the time, one of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, or Kyle Lowry will be on the floor, but how can they potentially maximize that other short period of time?

Well, one way to do it is by forcing mismatches. In the clip above, it obviously helps when the on-ball defender is playing that high up, but double drag seemed to be the answer.

When Robinson is in the action, many times it just looks like a wide PnR. The reason is that Robinson’s defender won’t even think about doing a little “show and go,” since that pop-out three is the focus.

That means Vincent will get the big in space as Dewayne Dedmon can post-up the guard on the block. This possession specifically didn’t end up going anywhere, but you can see what can be generated from moving defensive assignments around.

We will see a ton of that stuff from Butler and Lowry, but if this grouping can do that as well, it won’t be as much of a substitutional scramble to get some starters back in.

All Eyes on the Inbounder

This may not seem like it holds high importance right now, but it was an interesting pattern when watching some of the reserves.

When that ball went out of bounds for Miami to throw it in, the defense always seemed to forget about the most dangerous player on the floor: the inbounder. Vincent and Strus taking turns to either sprint off some staggers or flow into a DHO for a good look from three, which actually worked flawlessly in this game.

Both instances above consisted of a short clock or a ticking shot-clock, but the point still stands. When watching this team in these situations, be prepared for a good look from three to come out of it. And more importantly, watch how the first or second best shooter on the floor is the inbounder.

A Markieff Morris Wrinkle

When Markieff Morris joined the team, we knew what the stat-lines and production levels would look like. He’s not the most efficient player, which means the shooting numbers from the outside won’t always look pretty.

We got a taste of that on Monday, but I feel there’s something deeper to take out of this. Even before this game, I’ve been saying there are certain spots on the floor that fit him better than being a “floor spacer” on the outside, and the clip above is an example.

Things work better for Morris when he gets to the middle of the floor on the move. The quick hand-off and slip is one way to go about it, and allow him to navigate from there. It allows him to make simple decisions: a mid-range jumper or corner kick-out.

The reason this is so important is they must keep the offense moving in these lineups. When Lowry isn’t on the floor, there can’t be immediate stagnant offense with limited movement. And Morris becoming a straight spot-up threat is a product of that.

Shots will eventually fall from the outside for him here and there, but harping on it too much may become problematic. The utilization as a roller, though, could be a completely different story.

 

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How Will Max Strus Be Used for Miami Next Season?

Over his time in Summer League, Max Strus has been putting on quite a show for the Miami Heat. Knock-down shooting, cold-blooded game winners in sudden death, and respectable leadership.

The best players in this environment can be picked out pretty quickly due to their being a major gap between themselves and the next guy. Surprisingly, Strus has been one of them.

And the more that we are seeing this offensive expansion, the more it shows that Strus can very well have a regular spot in the rotation next year for Miami. With a bench unit consisting of Tyler Herro, Markieff Morris, and Dewayne Dedmon, that ninth man has been quite the topic over the past few weeks, but he may be right in front of their eyes.

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So, instead of continually talking about his overall skill-set, let’s take a dive into the ways he can be utilized on the actual roster next season…

Screen Usage

This is not going to be a Max Strus-Duncan Robinson comparison piece, since frankly that comparison is extremely lazy, but it’s important to bring up in terms of his role. Yes, they can both shoot the ball from beyond the arc, but there aren’t many other parallels about their games.

Robinson being more of a lengthy and skinnier build, while Strus is more of a bigger and stockier build is a perfect starting point. Strus will be a perfect offensive tool for Erik Spoelstra in terms of screening, especially considering his overall physicality on both ends.

Looking at the play above, it’s something we see a lot with Robinson, but that won’t come with such ease for others. Robinson slipping a screen does wonders due to its’ pull on a defense when he sprints to the wing, but Strus will be used in a much different manner.

Early on, defenses weren’t even remotely worried about him popping out as seen in the clip. It allowed him to get into a rhythm of just catching and firing. Will he get that shooting label next to his name pretty quickly? Most definitely, and that is when the true difference can be made about his effectiveness.

Angling screens downhill for Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry on the ball will be home-base. Of course he will be in a Robinson-lite role by coming off screens, but it feels like Strus will be in the actions more than he is out of it. Once he gets extended run out there, the plans will change, but it seems like that will be the starting point of using his greatest skill to the offense’s advantage.

Robinson-Strus Trials

Strus entering the game for Robinson next season could be extremely beneficial for the offense, but how could things look with them both on the floor? The small sample size last season says it can look really good.

The reason for that is they can transfer Strus into Robinson’s off-ball navigation role, and totally maximize spacing with Robinson as a screener.

Looking at the clip above, this is the perfect starting point: Strus coming off a double off-ball screen with Robinson setting the initial pick. It loops into a Bam Adebayo dribble hand-off, which ended in Strus knocking down a good look from three. But that’s not even the most important part of the play.

The essential element is when Strus receives the hand-off. The closest defender to the goal is currently at the free throw line, with nobody in sight below the rim. That is what is meant by “maximizing spacing.” It’s why these minutes are so likely, due to Spoelstra’s willingness to become very creative with the combination of weapons and space.

Strus obviously won’t have a major role in the rotation next season, since they will simplify it down on offense as a spot-up shooter to start, but limitations won’t be placed on him. Some minor leaps from Robinson are expected, but Strus may be the key to unlock some of those things.

Many are aware these two can mesh on the offensive end, but the question becomes the defensive stuff that was harped on all of last season. But that should no longer be a worry…

Defensive Survival

For one, this isn’t the same Heat team as last year. They have added two strong wing defenders who can guard multiple positions, a veteran point of attack defender who will plug so many of Miami’s holes, and lost two guards who were known as poor defenders.

Worrying about certain lineups defensively won’t be as common, and it definitely shouldn’t be when discussing Max Strus. He’s definitely not a high level defender, but he’s clearly not a bad one. Even when being thrown into the fire last season, he found a way to survive on that end of the floor.

Strus knows how to use his bulky frame to defend bigger wings in the post, and has a great feel for dropping down off the perimeter for cut-offs in the paint or at the nail. That off-ball defensive role will be his usual placing anyway, when being surrounded by guys like Butler, Adebayo, Lowry, Tucker, and more.

Robinson made some minor improvements on that end last season, and there’s no doubt in my mind there are more to come. Non-defensive lineups won’t be common next season due to the current roster construction, and I’m not even sure I would bat an eye at Robinson-Strus minutes on that end. Around those other guys, there shouldn’t be many issues to make the coaching staff think twice.

Summer League Attacking isn’t Temporary

One of the first surprises from Strus last season with Miami was his ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim in a strong fashion. He had a few highlight reel moments, catching a body or two, and we’ve seen even more flashes of that in the Summer League.

But don’t let recency bias distract you from the fact it isn’t just the competition, it’s just the skill-set of Strus.

As I mentioned earlier, spot-up play will be where he finds himself often in the offense, but he’s going to catch people off-guard by using his body to float downhill and get to the rim with ease. He isn’t a flashy or smooth attacker, he’s just a solid attacker. And that is exactly what the Heat will need from him.

Looking at the roster, it seems like Lowry and Butler will have to carry a lot of the load as downhill threats. There are a bunch of different skill-sets on the team, but some guys like Tyler Herro or Strus will need to sprinkle in some effective drives to bend the defense slightly.

Robinson’s next step will most likely be the mid-range, and even though he’s been super efficient around the rim so far, it doesn’t seem like he will be getting down there much. If Strus can just barely improve his handle to be able to work stuff in the interior, it’ll make a lot of this stuff much more flexible.

And knowing Strus’ background of doing whatever the coaching staff tells him, it’s very possible we see that pretty quickly.

Wild Card

And finally, Strus’ wild-card ability. This entire piece has been about where he plugs into the offense next season in certain lineups, but this one attribute shifts the entire conversation completely.

Coming into Summer League, it was obvious he would be getting plenty of on-ball reps, forcing him to shoot off the dribble, create a bit, and facilitate in that leadership role. And he’s done all of that and more.

Not only is he running unexpected pick and rolls, but he’s throwing defenders all over the place to fire away from deep.

Looking at the clips above, this stuff should not be skipped over. The first play is not bad defense whatsoever. He covers him tightly as he mixes in some between the leg dribbles, before leaning right and firing over the top of his contest. Bucket.

Why do I feel like this stuff is sustainable? Well, the thing about this ability is it comes down to the player’s response to certain contests. And if there’s one thing I know about Max Strus after watching him in Summer League, it’s that he isn’t fazed by any shot contest when he’s behind the three-point line.

If this on-ball expansion is made, it makes a bunch of people’s jobs much easier. I wouldn’t expect to see it much, but that being in his bag somewhere can make the difference.

Miami now has the defensive group they always seem to like, but bucket getters are now a necessity. And well, Strus has proved to be quite the bucket getter over his time in Las Vegas.

 

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Breaking Down the Miami Heat’s Summer League Stand-Outs

The Miami Heat continue their undefeated Summer League quest after they took down the Memphis Grizzlies in double overtime, also known as sudden death.

I’ve done plenty of articles on the utilization of guys like Max Strus and Omer Yurtseven, while focusing on the main strengths of their game, but in this piece, I will look through a slightly different lens. Instead of going through the obvious skill-sets, I’d like to highlight what makes these guys so intriguing for the next level.

I have also talked about a bunch of the other guys on the Summer League roster, but only two of them will make it in this category at the moment. Marcus Garrett and DeJon Jerreau may share some qualities, but the biggest comparison of the two is that they’re both in a perfect spot for a two-way contract this upcoming season.

So let’s jump right into some of the sticking points of this game that pushed Miami to 4-0 in Summer League…..

Max Strus:

NBA Rotation Ready

Strus may have been the player of the day from a Heat sense, but he only needs one category and section to put a bow on his all-around play. Yes, pin-down excellence has been a staple and pick and roll reps have been important.

He even responded to my question about those reps with “It’s always great to have other things in your pocket when guys chase you off the line.” And that’s obviously right on the money.

But a key component to all of this is that he’s doing NBA level type things. An off-ball pin-down role may be what he is assigned, but the stuff shown above just isn’t teachable when reaching this point.

The first clip just displays his overall feel and control for the offense, as he initially awaits the screener to come up. After his hard drives in the past, he avoids the screen and acts as if he’s going to bull-doze his way to the rim once again. That part is important, since he isn’t preparing for a pull-up to give the defender any idea. He just reacts.

A quick stop, one dribble, and a bucket to top it all off after he fired away from deep. That stuff is big time. He isn’t just going through the motions, he’s letting everything come to him instinctively.

The second clip above is another play that shouldn’t be overlooked, mostly since that is just Strus. Taking contact as he’s roaming the perimeter with the ball in his hands, he takes a wide step-back to his left with plenty of separation, but he pauses.

He is aware that the defender will fly by him in fast motion, so he ball-fakes, slightly turns, then squares himself up with the basket once again for the triple. One thing this Summer League team is doing to Strus is letting him be Max Strus. The mentality is to just see what he can do in a free setting on the offensive end, and he’s showing much more than originally expected.

That point was shown in this previous game when the game-plan heading into sudden death was to give it to Strus to make a play, as Coach Malik Allen described it. In the third clip above, he notices his defender is slowly back-pedaling, almost daring the hot-hand to shoot a pull-up three.

Dribbles between his legs and pulls it immediately for the win. It’s not just about a 32 point performance that led Miami to a win. It’s the way he is doing it. With maturity, control, assertiveness, and leadership. That’s the way his fellow players and coaches have described it, and it seems to me that he will be a rotation player for Miami next season.

And with these tools, he has a chance to be a highly effective one at that.

Omer Yurtseven:

Winning Plays/Defensive Improvement

I have spent a lot of time dissecting the game of Omer Yurtseven since the beginning of Summer League. We know his strengths are stretching the floor a bit, using his soft touch in the post, and utilizing his length to his advantage.

But it’s time to look into his defense a bit deeper.

After watching him yet again against Memphis, the defensive stuff really stuck out. He’s not going to be very effective in space and there may be some rotational question marks, but there’s no doubt that he can protect the rim.

That is seen in the second clip above, where he doesn’t bite on fakes and just contains until he has to rise up with his long wingspan to swat it away. Those traits don’t always translate to pick and roll coverage, but they surprisingly have.

He played an outstanding game defending the PnR, mostly due to the lack of explosive guards, but it’s still something to keep track of. In the third clip above, he drops all the way down with the guard while the big stations himself at the top of the key, ending in a turnover with Yurtseven’s fingerprints all over the play.

All of these defensive sticking points stood out throughout the entire game, but the final possession of regulation just tied this whole point together: he has an ability to make winning plays.

After dropping down all game long against screens, Yurtseven reacted quickly and took a timely gamble down 2 with 1o seconds left. With the shot clock ticking down, Yurtseven decided to blitz the ball-handler instead of drop down, which led to major disruption and an eventual steal. The play ended in a perfect lob for Yurtseven to tie the game with 5 seconds left.

Now that stuff stands out to a Heat organization. Miami already has their versatile big who can guard the perimeter freely, so it’s nice to see a developmental project who fills the holes of a front-court pairing: floor spacer, rim protector, and tons of potential.

The Move

A lot of NBA players have “a move.” A go-to that they find themselves relying on in certain situations, ideally from the post. It’s the reason a post-up go-to is harped on for Bam Adebayo, since that can elevate the other parts of his game.

But not many players find that “go-to” this soon.

Yurtseven has just that even if he doesn’t realize it, and it highly benefits his biggest offensive strength. If you asked me what has been the most impressive part of his game so far, I would respond his touch on the interior. Floaters, post-hooks, push-shots. They’ve all been super efficient since Summer League started, which is where this move comes into play.

There have been some question marks next to how he would look as an interior force against bigger guys at the next level, so the Xavier Tillman match-up was something to watch. He made him a little uncomfortable early on, but that faded by the second half, after Strus told Yurtseven at halftime: “I need more out of you.”

He got right back down to the box, going into his usual bag of tricks. Usually the post-up flow is to spin off the back-side to maximize spacing and release the shot without it getting blocked. Yurtseven does the opposite.

Looking at the clip above, it almost looks unorthodox the way he turns into his shooting motion, but Yurtseven is right at home. He turns into a face up ball swing to use his right shoulder for an extra bump before getting into his regular looking jumper.

Part of that move is due to a lack of a true left hand to turn into a floater or hook shot, but even if that’s the case, his way of going about it works at this moment. We’ve seen that face-up bump time and time again, and I believe we see it at the next level as well no matter the match-up. If he just constantly plays his offensive game without being rattled, he will be a hard player to stop.

Marcus Garrett:

Interior Grittiness

We all know how great of a defender Marcus Garrett is. Record setting steals to start a game as seen in the last match to outstanding ways of fighting over screens to just all-around ball hounding. But I’m seeing a trend with his way to generate offense.

A lot of guys with that defensive play-style aren’t the most fluid offensive players. He’s a capable passer who can knock down the open triple as he did in this game, but that just won’t ever be his main priority. The thing that will be used primarily is interior grittiness.

Crashing the offensive boards for put-backs, weak-side baseline roaming, wing slashing, and straight up hard drives. As seen in the clips above, using a plethora of pump-fakes or set-up dribbles allows him to cover a lot of ground whenever he seems “stuck” under the rim.

Is that type of offense sustainable at the NBA level? Maybe not, but I have no doubt that Garrett would work in other stuff once given a role. In a 4 game sample size, I have already seen some flashes from the perimeter, so he will definitely be able to figure that stuff out.

But outlining minor strengths on your weaker side of the ball is always crucial in this time period. He probably can’t evolve with an interior put-back play-style only, but that being the headliner can definitely be a good balance act for some of Miami’s shooters moving forward.

We aren’t just talking about a good defender that can be plugged in somewhere. He has a chance to be great on the defensive end with what we’ve seen so far. As I’ve pointed out in the past, he doesn’t have a defensive weakness which isn’t usually seen this soon.

DeJon Jerreau

Functioning Facilitating

A Marcus Garrett-DeJon Jerreau starting back-court was intriguing for many heading into this game with the amount of ball pressure and defense between the two, but that’s not what stood out from this tandem.

They weren’t really clicking early on offensively, since neither of them are particularly great off-ball players, but once the roles were fully understood, it came together.

The main reason it didn’t take long to figure out is due to Jerreau’s natural ability to take control of an offense as a passer with his pacing, skill-set, and all-around confidence. Everybody on the floor was aware that he was going to lead the offense as the point guard.

There’s a reason 3 out of the 4 clips above included Yurtseven getting the bucket following the dish. For one, a 1-5 PnR is the base offense for this unit when they’re on the floor, due to Strus’ off-ball spacing, Garrett’s slashing, and Okpala’s role playing mentality with screening and movement.

The other reason is that combo allows both to use each of their strengths in the same action. Yurtseven can either pop out or roll to the basket per usual, but when Jerreau is the handler, the outcome should always be to roll.

He’s going to pick apart the defensive coverage and feed the ball to Yurtseven somehow, which leads to my favorite part of his game, as pointed out before: interior touch.

Going through some of the plays above, he is never in a rush as a passer, while guys like Garrett usually aren’t really reacting as much as Jerreau does. He’s an outstanding perimeter defender, but there’s no doubt in my mind that facilitating is his best ability by far, following a night with 10 assists.

Finishing Flashiness

This Summer League team has straight defenders. They have straight play-makers. They have straight scorers. But when looking for a player to give that second two-way contract, why shouldn’t it be a guy that can do all three?

I haven’t talked much about his scoring abilities, but there is a ton of upside in that department. He looks comfortable in isolation with the ball on a string, his lean-back jumper will definitely translate well, but most importantly, his finishing has always been incredible.

The second clip above pretty much sums that all up. Some nice cross-overs, leading to the blow-by, before getting up at the height of the rim for the finger roll. As I’ve described in the past, he’s just a very smooth offensive player and there’s still a bunch of growth to be made.

Jerreau has forced some heads to turn in the past two games, and I firmly believe he will be as much of a two-way lock as Garrett if he plays an extended period of time to finish out these games. He may not be as solid in one area as a Garrett type, but he’s just good in multiple parts of the game that make him hard to pass up on.

There’s one thing all four of these guys have in common: I can find a scenario for all of them where they’re getting some minutes at some point next season for the Heat. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is another story, but just that it’s a possibility, not only says a ton about these young players, but also the Heat’s scouting department who continue to find these hidden gems.

 

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Breaking Down Heat’s Max Strus, Marcus Garrett, and More

The Miami Heat are now 3-0 to kick off Summer League, and it’s not just a reflection of one single player, but instead the scouting department to continue the theme of “Miami Heat guys.” There’s a specific type that they like, so they went out there and built a team of a bunch of gritty and physical athletes who want a chance at this league.

After Omer Yurtseven and Gabe Vincent didn’t play on Sunday night against the Denver Nuggets, others stepped up and shined. One guy that I’m not going to dive into in this piece but must be touched on now is KZ Okpala, after he got some run for the first time last night.

After watching him play last season and start for Nigeria in the Olympics, there was always one takeaway when I walked away from those games: it’s not offensive struggles, it’s offensive incapability.

We all know he’s a very talented defender, but it has been clear that he just can’t survive on the offensive end without any type of strength or fitting role on that side of the floor. When guys are going into their third year and playing in Summer League, that’s the time to really grow and get comfortable with your skill-set.

Playing against a bunch of undrafted guys who are trying to make it, there should be a gap. But up until this point, there’s been no padding between him and the next guy. The only slimmer of offensive hope has been in the open court at times where he strived in college, but half-court sets have absolutely zero flow.

We will see what happens in these future games, as we evaluate the possible offensive development, but in this piece, we’re going to highlight the young guys that have continued to show bright spots on both sides of the floor. So let’s start it off with the guy that is basically a two-way lock in my opinion…

Marcus Garrett

Defensive Pressure and Wingspan Usage 

When many have been searching for that Heat comparison when discussing Marcus Garrett, I really don’t have one. Plenty of past Summer League projects have been strong defensively, but none have been this absolutely sound this soon. He just doesn’t have a weakness on that end.

How many players have gotten a pick-six less than 10 seconds into a game? I’m honestly not sure of that number, but I do know Garrett is one of them.

Quick swipe with his right before sprinting left to secure the steal and get out in transition. He showcases a good looking euro step as well to finish the possession and converts the layup 11 seconds into the game. Yeah, that is special.

Not only does he have the “anticipation” on that end as Summer League coach Malik Allen describes it, but he has the measurements to go along with it. He’s a 6 foot 5 point guard with a 6 foot 10 wingspan, which makes those on-ball swipes so effective.

Another area that translates to on defense is close-outs, which Garrett has been quite good at in the first three games. Looking at the second clip above, he dips down to cut-off the attacker as it is kicked out to his guy in the corner. The correct read is made and an open triple should be the outcome, right?

Wrong.

Garrett takes a long leap on the close-out and somehow gets the block on the shot attempt. He has the instincts. He has the on-ball speed. He has the length to muck things up on that end. But obviously there is a question mark about his game if he went undrafted, so how has he been on the offensive end?

Perimeter Flashes

Let me start by saying this about Garrett on offense: he doesn’t have to be a great scorer to be a role player in the future, he just has to survive on that end.

That has been the issue over the years with outstanding defenders who struggle offensively, since it feels like they’re being pushed too hard to become that highly valuable 3 and D type player. Of course that is always ideal, but Garrett just has to be a capable offensive player to receive extended minutes.

Yesterday’s game was definitely his best game as a perimeter scorer, going 4 for 6 from the field and 2 for 3 from deep. The first clip above may not seem like a big deal, but it absolutely is. Although it’s just an open corner three with nobody in sight, that shot could make or break his effectiveness in the NBA.

He also had moments that were a bit surprising where he was creating for himself off the dribble and shooting with confidence. In the second clip, he appears that he’s going to drive left hard to the basket, but gives a slight push-off to flow into a step-back mid-range jumper and buries it.

That stuff isn’t just surviving, that is thriving. If some of this offensive stuff continues, we might be looking at something bigger than a two-way contract, but for now, he’s essentially a lock for that spot with the defensive dominance alone.

DeJon Jerreau

Pick Pocketer

DeJon Jerreau, also known as Deeky, got some run for the first time last night after being the Heat’s first undrafted player picked up following the draft. He’s another one of those point guards that carries that defensive minded mentality, but he has a much deeper offensive bag in my opinion.

To start off with the defense, he’s a high level on-ball defender who can effortlessly hit passing lanes and succeed. He’s also very talented at picking his man’s pocket on the perimeter, which led to two fast-break buckets last night when he was on the floor.

In the first clip, the ball-handler pauses in the PnR as if he’s going to control the 2 on 1 without anybody recovering. But if you’ve looked into Deeky’s game on that end, he always recovers. He poked the ball free from behind as they flowed into the open court for an easy dunk.

The second clip is another example of that high level recovery speed, after he was screened hard and basically taken out of the play. He gets into the middle of the floor, forces a turnover, picks it up, and throws it down the floor for an easy score.

The game is too simple for Deeky in this environment. Although I’m going to touch on it next, the one thing that stood out from him is how comfortable he played in his first game in this space.

Play-Making Comfort

Many of the things I talked about in an article about Deeky when he was scooped up was on display yesterday. On a team with a bunch of point guards, I didn’t expect him to take total control of the point guard duties like he did, but he absolutely shined doing it.

There are guys like Dru Smith who play at a good speed on this team. There are also guys like Javonte Smart who are really skilled passers in the half-court. But Deeky is basically a combination of the two as a facilitator.

He has a very advanced way of reading the floor in Miami’s base sets, leading to plays like the one above where the defense is awaiting the over-head pass to the roller, but instead he kicks it out to KZ Okpala to jump the defensive rotation.

Deeky also got to run some pick and pops with Max Strus which led to very good offense, but as seen in the second clip, he twisted his ankle after this solid pass which left him out for the rest of the game. I would like to see more of him in this type of role since it looked so smooth for their offense, and I bet we will as we move forward.

But speaking of his smooth offensive play……..

Smooth Creation and Unique Pull-Ups

The final thing that must be brought up about his offensive game is that there is a certain swagger and smoothness to the way he goes about things on the floor. Nothing ever looks forced, he just gets to his spots and reacts to what is given to him each possession.

Looking at the clip above, this kind of puts it all in perspective. He is very fundamentally sound as a passer and defender, but he’s super loose as a scorer which makes him very interesting.

A very tight handle in isolation leads him right into his pull-up jumper, which essentially can’t be blocked with the way he fades away on those type of shots, even when being defended by 7 foot 2 Bol Bol.

The Heat have something in Deeky, and I can guarantee if he actually plays for an extended period over the next few games, he will be right in the discussion of Marcus Garrett in terms of defensive abilities and two-way contracts.

Max Strus

Mixing it up from Deep

Let’s take a second to look into a guy that is already locked up on the Heat’s roster, and continues to show reasons why he could be a viable option in their rotation next season if no other veterans are added.

The Max Strus comparisons to Duncan Robinson are becoming a bit overstated in my opinion up to this point. Other than coming off of some screens with Miami last season in a similar fashion, they’re honestly not that alike.

For one, Robinson has more of a lengthy and skinny build while Strus is much more stocky. Secondly, they really don’t play the same offensively if they weren’t being given the same game-plan heading into games.

They’ve been allowing Strus to play freely over the last two games, and I believe it could really benefit his game in the long-term. Looking at the first clip above, he’s still getting plenty of looks in a catch and shoot setting, which by the way, it should be mentioned that he is not one bit thrown off by any type of contest.

He isn’t afraid to fire away over the close-out, and that’s a great attribute to have this early. If we’re going to bring up Robinson, that is something that really propelled his shooting in his second year.

But the second clip above is the one that will have the Heat taking an even closer look than they already are. Bringing the ball down the floor, turns left before spinning back right to lose his defender, side-steps on the wing to eliminate a block on the recovery, and knocks it down.

That is a veteran move.

When looking for that guy on the current roster to finish off the nine man rotation next season, there’s no doubt in my mind that will be Strus. He isn’t fazed by pressure, he’s physical enough to survive on both ends, and he is trusted more than any other player on the roster toward the bottom of the depth chart.

PnR Reps and On-Ball Up-Side

What is it that can take Strus to that next offensive level? This stuff shown above.

As I said before, he’s been given the keys to the offense to be the ball-handler in pick and rolls, forcing him to create on the ball and make instinctive reads on the move, which is so great to have him doing.

When I asked Max Strus after yesterday’s game about the importance of these reps, he replied, “It’s always great to have other things in your pocket when guys chase you off the line.” And well, he has shown that he has plenty of things in his pocket.

The second clip above is something that I had no idea that he had in his pocket. Attacking hard right before side-stepping in the mid-range with a hand in his face and knocks it down. That stuff just isn’t normal for a “spot-up guy.” The reason for that is I don’t think that will be his role for long.

And if some expansion in his game is made over the next few months, there will be another discussion to be had about Strus.

RJ Nembhard 

Bucket Getting

RJ Nembhard is a guy that I talked about when the Heat picked him up, but haven’t dove into since the games started after not showing much to begin Summer League. But that changed to kick-off the games in Las Vegas.

One of the reasons that I’ve said DJ Stewart has a major chance to be in contention for a two-way contract is due to his strengths being different from the rest. But he now has some competition on his hands.

Not only can Nembhard absolutely get buckets from all three levels, but he is a solid defender to cap it all off. Looking at his highlights above, he can honestly score from anywhere on the floor, either on the ball pulling up or spotting up off the ball.

When I asked Malik Allen about his opinion on him so far following the game last night, he said, “Since the first day, he’s just been one of those guys, natural leadership and natural voice…It was just the old school…come in and play with a chip on his shoulder.”

After he didn’t play in the previous game, Allen believed that he had something to prove, and he showed that he should be getting talked about more than he already is. Will Miami go with similar players for those two-way contracts in Jerreau and Garret, or could they mix it up with a defensive dog and a skilled scorer?

The latter is definitely a possibility, and it’s time to really keep an eye on the consistency of Nembhard’s game moving forward in Summer League.

 

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