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…
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?
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?
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, 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.
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.
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 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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