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5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Minnesota

Well, the Miami Heat get handed an unexpected loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who currently hold the worst record in the league. All of the issues that are continually mentioned can be thrown around again, but after a loss like this, it’s truly tough to pinpoint the small stuff. Anyway, let’s take a look at five takeaways from this game specifically…

#1: An inconsistent first half strikes again.

There’s been a common theme for the Miami Heat over this past stretch, which is a super explosive first quarter, followed by a tough start to the second quarter. Now, they did turn it around to finish the second quarter, but the defense just never seems to turn it on at that point. A big reason for that is the personnel being so one sided in the rotation, due to the bench having some defensive liabilities, which is noticed even more with Andre Iguodala out. But they also need offensive consistency, which falls on the back-up back-court with Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro. One seems to be getting held back due to lack of burst, while the other is just holding himself back. When they aren’t being selfish with the ball in their hands, no offense is generated, while the starters get into their offense much quicker.

#2: The evolving offensive fit of Trevor Ariza.

Trevor Ariza has been one of the five takeaways over the past three games, and everyone of these quick evaluations are getting better and better. The first time just talked about his continued defensive fit, since he was effective on that end immediately with instinctive doubles and ability to hit passing lanes at an elite level. He led the way for Miami at the half with 16 points, showcasing that 3 and D label in an advanced way. Although we’ve basically expected that shot to fall eventually, the part that must be harped on is his growing fit in the scheme. That was headlined tonight by the off-ball cutting throughout, leading to easy layups or open kick-outs. They’ve missed that ability at the four spot for some time, but now they have somebody who can give them just about everything.

#3: Max Strus in, Max Strus producing.

Well, Max Strus got some run tonight, which may have had something to do with Iguodala being out, or possibly to spark the offense. And that’s the part that I’ve been harping on for some time, since if nobody can spark offense, why not throw in that type of shooting who produces every time he gets an opportunity? When I say immediately produce, I mean just that, since he knocked down a corner three in a matter of seconds of being checked in. They’re getting to a point where he must be utilized more, and possibly in a variety of ways. When having a shooter like Duncan Robinson on the roster, it’s not just about interchanging the two, but more importantly using them together to possibly generate more looks for Robinson, or get even more looks for Strus due to the amount of attention Robinson gets.

#4: Stating the obvious: Jimmy Butler the continued engine.

Not mentioning Jimmy Butler following this game would be offensive to post-game analysis. He is the engine of this team on both ends of the floor, which is an obvious statement, but the fact that he is the sole reason they stayed in a game against the worst team in the league is an interesting statement. For starters, the continued discussion with this team is that he is their only downhill threat, but he’s a pretty good one to have. He can collapse the entire defense by just one slight decline in his shoulder, which is quite the ability to have. He also becomes the forever moving defender when Adebayo is on the sideline, as he doubles, picks up bigs in the post, and wrecks havoc on the perimeter to clog passing lanes and create transition offense. And when discussing transition offense, Butler is the only guy who can consistently take it up strong on the fast-break.

#5: Another rough night for Tyler Herro, so what is next?

Tyler Herro struggled once again tonight, with a low point performance, but more importantly a low efficiency night. As I’ve discussed many times, this team can’t afford this type of production from Herro, since the bench drop-off has shown to be quite the issue up until this point. This refers back to guys like Max Strus and Gabe Vincent being inserted, due to the continued search for any type of spark. But what is next for Herro? Well, a Miami Heat coach/player answer will be that it will fall into place eventually, just like the Duncan Robinson slump, but I’m not so sure it’s that simple. They moved him to the bench so he can thrive in a comfortable role, but the issue is that he hasn’t looked comfortable at all lately. It doesn’t mean his role in the rotation should change, but I do believe there can be certain places to insert him in the offense to push him back in the right direction.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to the Grizzlies

The Miami Heat fell short to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, after a Ja Morant layup to take the lead with 1 second left on the clock. Miami’s offensive issues throughout were clear, which was why it was odd that they even found themselves in this game late. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Max Strus gives Miami a first half push.

Well, I didn’t really expect Max Strus to be the first takeaway on this article tonight but here we are. One thing that must be noted is the level of difficulty to be unexpectedly thrown into the fire time and time again, and producing immediately. This has a lot to do with the team harping on guys always staying ready, since you never know when your name will be called. Although his first three-point shot of the night dropped, it was actually the off-ball cutting that was a main source of offense. Obviously that’s just a part of Miami’s offensive scheme, which occurs even more once the defense respected that first three-point make, but it’s still impressive to see him reading a defense with his limited minutes at the NBA level.

#2: The offensive need for an off the dribble scorer with bench unit.

When Max Strus is the highlight of the bench unit early, it’s clear Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic aren’t capitalizing on their scoring role. Forget their usual pick and roll mid-ranges or catch and shoot threes, they were just clearly missing a scoring guard to get a bucket off the dribble, especially during those non-Butler stretches. Neither of them are incredible attacking threats, since they usually control with their jumper early, but that was a main reason offensive issues were fluid throughout. While Dragic may look a step too slow at times as a primary scoring option, the eyes immediately turn toward Herro, who majorly needs to take that initiative during those moments, which also comes down to reading the situation.

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#3: A noticed change in Duncan Robinson’s usual offensive abilities.

Duncan Robinson got hot early in the first quarter, then cooled off a bit the remainder of the half. But instead of evaluating makes and misses, the part before the actual jumper is more important for Robinson than anything. He’s used to immediately firing when coming off a DHO or drive and kick, but they’ve had to go away from that a bit more due to the way defenses have been guarding him. This leads us to the noticed change, which is a sense of patience when receiving the ball. The scouting report on Robinson never really includes that slight hesitance before the jumper, which can pause the defender as he gets into his shooting motion. Another aspect is the pick and roll sets he has been forced to utilize a bit more, since it’s an action he can find shots that appear to be open a bit more often. Once some additions are made to his offensive game, then shots actually dropping won’t ever be the part being observed.

#4: A rough third quarter with Jimmy Butler out there alone.

More offensive issues occurred in the third quarter for Miami, which looked even worse than earlier. Miami scored 16 points in the quarter, while Jimmy Butler scored 10 of them. He brought the needed intensity through the game, yelling after every single bucket or foul that he got. The jumper looked good for Butler throughout, which led to him getting to the mid-range in the third. And as I mentioned his supporting cast not able to get into a flow, he went away from drive and kicks, and just utilized drives. And well, most of those end up in a layup or two free throws due to his aggression and strength. This once again circles back to that need for an on-ball offensive threat, which although the newest member of the Heat won’t be able to alter completely, there are some things he can possibly touch up which I’ll discuss next.

#5: The area Trevor Ariza could possibly fix for Miami.

To reiterate the lack of penetration when Butler isn’t on the floor, there’s a chance Trevor Ariza could fix that a bit. Although he’s mostly known as a 3 and D guy, he can bring the element of attack if he’s fully healthy. Obviously we can’t truly evaluate him until he actually plays some games with this team after missing a year, but that ability is the one thing that Andre Iguodala doesn’t currently have. Iguodala usually finds himself in the corner, leading into off-ball screens which is highly effective, but when he’s sharing the floor with Dragic, Herro, and Robinson, they need that guy who can drive to the basket consistently. Once again, there’s a very good possibility Ariza won’t be able to do that consistently, but the level of athleticism that is remembered can be utilized.

A Breakdown of Max Strus’ All Around Game

Miami lacked offensively sound bench players on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which meant Max Strus would have another opportunity to step in and be effective.

He scored 11 points with 3 triples, but that wasn’t even the most impressive part of his performance. Let’s take a dive into Max Strus’ all around game in last night’s win…

– Getting to his strengths

It’s obvious that the primary strength with Strus is his three point shooting, not only on wide open attempts, but finding space to get into his favorite spots.

On this play, Kelly Olynyk screens the defender to allow Strus to drop down to the corner. He slides down as Jimmy Butler attacks, leading to a triple in the corner for his first points of the game. Also, take a look at his high release point as the defender flies out on him. It’s a hard shot to block when he’s in rhythm.

He’s not on any radars at this point in his career, while Duncan Robinson doesn’t have the ability to get free on a simple off-ball screen. So for now, he must take advantage of this ability.

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– Reading situations, making the right read

As Gabe Vincent takes the baseline, he begins to find himself with no where to go. Strus realizes this, as his defender has his back to him, then immediately cuts toward the basket.

This forces a 2 on 1 opportunity at the rim with Bam Adebayo, which leads to an easy dump-off for a dunk.

Most shooters are known to move horizontally on the basketball court at all times, but Strus has been a guy that doesn’t rely on that the entire offensive possession. Miami has turned into a very good cutting team in general, but it also comes down to reading a situation as he did here.

– Showing flashes of play-making and penetration

This definitely isn’t something that many expected when they first saw Strus play, since he seems to be going through practice reps leading to this being showcased.

On this play, his shooting ability forced the defender to fly by him when he got the ball, so he immediately attacked the rim. This forced yet another 2 on 1 opportunity at the rim with Precious Achiuwa, except he displayed something a little differently this time.

He gave a great ball-fake to Achiuwa, which dropped Andre Iguodala’s man down a bit from the corner. He made the pass out to him and he knocked down the three, which is a sign of great growth since his first time getting minutes in this league.

– Defensive physicality

Miami lacks defensive abilities from their offensive players, but Strus continues to show great signs in that area due to his size and physicality.

There are a couple of things to dive into on this play. For one, when discussing Miami’s overall soft switching defense, take a look at what happens when Mike Muscala fakes the hand-off. Achiuwa looks to go for the switch for no apparent reason, but Strus fights through it to eliminate any type of mismatch.

He then immediately looks toward the ball, forcing him to slide down into position to take the charge. A defensive possession like this stands out more than any of his three triples in this game to the coaching staff.

– Constant shooting stance means fast release

One more thing must be noted about Strus’ shooting abilities, other than his high release point and deadly catch and shoot abilities: His constant shooting stance.

At times, players get lazy playing off the ball, which leads to guys not being ready for an immediate pull-up when the ball finds them. But well, that isn’t the case with Strus, since he is in his knee-bent, hands ready stance at every moment of the game.

Take a look at his body language on this play when he sees Achiuwa fighting for the offensive rebound. He was ready, fires it up leading to an And-1 three to spark Miami going into the fourth quarter.

– More defensive flashes

Other than describing Strus’ defensive abilities as physical every single time, his ability to cut off guys with the correct angle and move his feet rather quickly is an underrated part for him on that end of the floor.

On this possession, he slides down to cut off the dribble penetration, leading to his man catching the ball on the kick-out. He recovered quickly, and Lou Dort immediately took it toward the basket to get Strus off balanced. Except, he never was off balanced, and cut him off perfectly, while his great size forced Dort into an unorthodox shot that came flying off the rim for an easy rebound.

– The next step

Late in the game, it was just some extra time to get offensive reps in for a guy like Max Strus, and something stood out.

If Strus can consistently work a pick and roll as he did here, things change for his case to get regular playing time. He showed great patience as he began the PnR, while noticing it was drop coverage, he immediately pulled a three pointer. Although he missed, this shows a part of his game that hasn’t been explored, but very well can be in the near future.

Obviously those looks won’t be handed to him every night, but he can make defenses pay when running drop coverage, and utilize his passing abilities in certain spots, which I highlighted earlier.

Miami has something interesting with Strus, but the only question is where his rotation spot would be with a healthy Heat team.

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A Breakdown of Max Strus Against Houston

Well, the Miami Heat beat the Houston Rockets to begin their West Coast road trip, and somehow Jimmy Butler putting up a stat-line of 27, 10, and 10 wasn’t the biggest story of the night. The actual story of the night was Max Strus getting some unexpected playing time, and absolutely shining. He scored 21 points off the bench, while knocking down 6 triples.

So, let’s take a bit of a dive into Strus’ performance last night…

– Oh, so this guy can shoot.

In the first half, Houston didn’t seem very afraid of the two-way guy who hasn’t seen much playing time in the NBA, but that changed quickly. Jimmy Butler was getting a lot of attention at this point in the game, for obvious reasons, which allowed others to get going.

Strus runs a slip screen for Butler at the top of the key, which catches Victor Oladipo staying put instead of switching. He knocks down his first triple of the night on a pretty wide open look from Butler, which isn’t surprising since Strus mentioned Butler constantly telling him to shoot the ball when he gets it.

– Physicality over everything

If there’s one part of Strus’ game that is like no other, it’s the level of unexpected physicality he brings on both ends of the floor.

As seen here, Strus gets the ball in transition and doesn’t hesitate to rise up on Oladipo to draw the foul. He’s had limited playing time this season, but probably has hit the floor like this more than anybody on the team.

Sometimes players that are trying to prove themselves need a bit of an X-factor. And that X-factor being grit and physicality on a Miami Heat team is the perfect fit.

– Speaking of X-factors

This part of Strus’ game has been on display in his limited minutes as well, which is something not many could’ve expected.

Instead of analyzing this very impressive and unexpected throw-down from Strus in itself, let’s look at the importance of it for his overall game.

He doesn’t have the tightest handle, which is normal for a catch and shoot guy, but being able to get downhill at this rate elevates that weakness. As mentioned earlier, he’s a physical player who will put his shoulder in your chest when attacking the rim. So, putting even the slightest second thoughts into a defender when having the shooting ability that he does, leads to a very intriguing attribute in his game.

– The Duncan Robinson effect

Now, there’s a couple things to discuss in this play regarding Duncan Robinson. For one, Strus showing the ability to run the usual Robinson sets through dribble hand-offs with Bam Adebayo was great to see. As the defender went under the screen, it gave him just enough room to get into his normal shooting motion for a three.

But also take a look at what Robinson did on this play. They ran a set where Robinson screens off the ball to get Strus running around the perimeter, while the defender can’t leave Robinson’s hip even across the court.

That’s the part about Robinson and Strus that can’t be compared. This notion that Strus can replace Robinson in his role is just false at this stage. Although he can replicate three point makes, the things Robinson does off the ball every single night cannot be easily replicated.

– The Strus-Robinson lineups look good

To take a break from people discussing Strus and Robinson from a comparison perspective, let’s take a look at them together.

This was the most intriguing part about yesterday’s game, since the lineups with Strus and Robinson were very effective offensively. As seen here, there’s not a moment on this play that Robinson isn’t covered by two defenders. After trying two consecutive times to find open space for a three, he passes it inside to Adebayo, who can make the decision on the weak side to pass to the open man.

Andre Iguodala was the one who got covered on the box, which led to yet another Strus triple. These are the reasons these lineups work so well, since Robinson’s gravity allows more opportunities for Strus. And before long, teams won’t be able to just focus on Robinson in these lineups.

– Perfect shooting balance

The first thing to look at when evaluating a catch and shoot guy is the consistent balance that they shoot with. And well, it’s been clear since Strus first stepped on the floor early in the season that he’s polished in that department.

As seen here, it’s yet another dribble hand-off from Butler. If it was Robinson in this situation, he would allow his body to carry him into his shooting motion on the move before releasing. Strus, though, doesn’t lean or continue momentum when running a DHO, since he grabbed the ball and already had his lower body set to release it.

Obviously both ways of doing it are difficult to do and effective to use, but it’s just interesting to look at certain ways guys are comfortable.

Once again, Strus gets the ball running up the floor, and is already in his stance before releasing. Did you notice anything between these past two plays?

Well, it’s that no matter if it’s a pull-up catch and shoot opportunity, a dribble hand-off, or something else, he shoots the exact way every single time, which just showcases the well known thing that he’s just a natural three point shooter who doesn’t get rattled easily.

Max Strus: “Not Just a Shooter”

After the shooting display that Max Strus put on for everybody last night in Miami’s win over the Raptors, it’s hard to look past that.

He scored 22 points in 22 minutes, while going 6-8 from beyond the arc. There’s no doubt about it that the guy can shoot the basketball, and thrives mostly in the catch and shoot areas, much like teammate Duncan Robinson.

When Miami brought him on a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned he would be utilized in a similar way after evaluating his past. He works very well when moving off of screens like Duncan does, which made this pick-up very interesting.

Erik Spoelstra talked about his performance after the game, mentioning that he’s had like three days of training camp where he just didn’t miss.

One thing that should always be noted is that Coach Spo and this organization don’t publicly rave about specific players unless they truly believe in them. And well, it’s clear that they believe in Max Strus.

There’s obviously room to dive into his shooting throughout this game, but ultimately every three point make included the same two things.

A quick release and all net.

To that point, it’s clear that the guy can straight up shoot it, but what else is there?

Well, as Erik Spoelstra said following last night’s win, “He’s not just a shooter.”

Although we didn’t get to see a lot other than his shooting, his size is something that he truly uses to his advanatge. He has good size for his position, which is why he finds himself able to back down smaller defenders at times.

And if it ends up sending him to the charity stripe, he’ll most likely knock them down, after shooting 96% from the free throw line in the G-League.

It feels as if these hidden gems just never stop appearing in Miami, and as I’ve mentioned many times, reflects on the Miami Heat’s scouting department. One thing I know about their way of scouting is that they don’t fly at players that are one-dimensional, they fly at players who are unique.

So even if you look at Max Strus as the typical shooter, be prepared to be proven wrong.