Tag Archive for: Max Strus

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.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882

Breaking Down Heat’s Summer League Day 2

The Miami Heat played their second game of Summer League in Sacramento last night, and some lineups looked a little different. For one, recently signed Max Strus was the headliner for this one, while guys who shined on day 1, like Marcus Garrett, immediately jumped into the starting group.

Omer Yurtseven is another guy that turned heads once again, since it basically appeared he wasn’t on the same level with opposing bigs in this environment. Skill-set, size, and much more seemed to set him apart.

So, let’s jump immediately into the main storylines of this game for Miami, looking into the film of guys who are in reach of a two-way contract on the Heat’s roster…

Max Strus:

Catch and Shoot Dominance 

Although I’ll touch on the emerging parts of Strus’ game next, we must start with the attribute that basically got him on a Heat roster in the first place: the dude can really shoot the ball.

Looking at the offense Miami was running last night, it looked like they were putting him in a lot of positions that they do Duncan Robinson, and this is not to just compare the two shooters for Miami. They’re testing to see how he can run off pin-downs and screens, his mechanics off the hand-off, and his range beyond the arc.

All of that flourished in this game, and more importantly, he looked comfortable in every area. When looking at the clips above, you’ll notice something interesting about his three-point jumper: every shot looks the same. Good shooters have a way to keep the same form, lift, and follow through on every shot, and that has been the case with Strus since joining.

The Heat have shown a real liking to him, due to his overall skill-set and dedicated ways that he goes about his body of work, and it feels like that will grow even more. In the Heat’s current state, it isn’t crazy to say Strus could be on his way to getting some solid bench minutes this season, and it feels like Coach Spo and the team wouldn’t bat an eye at that notion.

On-Ball Reps

The other part of Strus’ game that we haven’t seen much of is his on-ball skills. In Miami last season, he was given a role to just come off of screens or shoot over the top of defenders off the catch, and he has said many times in the past he will do exactly what the team tells him to do.

Much like Miami did with Robinson in Summer League a few years ago, they’re letting Strus roam freely on offense with the ball in his hands, just doing a little bit of trial and error with his offensive attributes.

Last season, we saw moments where he would fly down the lane to go dunk on somebody, but I’ve been curious what he’d look like running half-court sets. And after seeing him run some PnR’s for the first time yesterday, I am pleasantly surprised.

He’s capable of making simple reads in those spots, he can flow downhill to take contact instead of avoid it, and being a deep-ball threat makes him much more effective on the attack in this space. Do I see him being on the ball in a Miami Heat role this upcoming season? Definitely not, but some versatility in his youthful game will be something to monitor.

Omer Yurtseven:

Post-Up Master

Omer Yurtseven had another strong offensive display on Wednesday night, and one part of his game has continued to look like a focal point. Of course he has added length on most of his match-ups, but he has a good eye for noticing the switches and taking advantage of them.

If a switch is forced, he immediately closes out the defender for the entry pass, and goes to work. Drop-steps for dunks, nice-looking post-hooks, or fadeaway jumpers. His bag has been endless so far down there, but mostly due to the fact that his soft touch allows him to be effective in many areas of his game.

To look into the specifics, he has a go-to move that basically gets him into a certain rhythm down there. He uses his initial shoulder bump to back his defender down, before shifting in the other direction for a floater type shot.

By the way, he’s not shifting in the other direction in a turnaround manner. He’s going through that motion on the face-up to really maximize space. There is some curiosity to his game if it will translate to guys his size down there, but the ability that I will dive into next makes me think it definitely will.

Pick and Pop or Pick and Roll?

Once Yurtseven really masters the art of screening, I believe his offensive utilization can go in so many different directions. In these games, he is such a threat when he is in the action, since his length and rolling gravity leads to a clear lob opportunity as seen in the clips above, while popping out to the three-point line is just second nature to him.

He continues to shoot the ball well from deep, which is good to see him comfortably shooting over the top of smaller guys even when a hand is in his face. His high release point means that it’s a very hard shot to alter, while a big man defending it leads to a clear run-way for him to try and go for the drive-by.

When people are thinking into the future with Yurtseven, there’s no doubt that he would be able to play next to Adebayo. He’s not the greatest defender, but his length means that he can accumulate blocks down low while Adebayo roams the perimeter.

The spacing clearly wouldn’t be a problem, and he doesn’t fill up the same spots as Adebayo offensively. There would be opportunities for plenty of 4-5 PnR’s, due to Adebayo’s effectiveness off the dribble and Yurtseven’s choice between popping or rolling, as stated previously.

There’s no doubt that he is a special talent, but eyes are now turning toward the Heat to make sure they lock him up so they can see where it goes from here.

Marcus Garrett:

Two-Way Play Flashes

The reason the title of the Marcus Garrett section is “two-way play,” is due to his high level defensive antics and current placing in line to receive a two-way contract with Miami.

While the Yurtseven situation is pretty much a given for a two-way, Garrett is the type of player they like to grab early and see where it can possibly go. But if I’m going to be honest, when comparing him to past products that were similar, I don’t think any of them were as sound defensively as Garrett.

Outstanding ball pressure, quick hands to rack up constant steals, fights over screens, and just can’t be beat off the bounce. That’s a guy the Heat would definitely like to move up a tier on the roster, but some questions have come up if he really is a “two-way” player.

What I mean by that is his offensive skill-set was worrisome coming in, but he has had more flashes than I originally expected. Aside from the constant fast-break points after he picks someone’s pocket, he’s a pretty consistent finisher in the half-court.

And as seen in the first clip above, as physical and gritty that he is defensively, he brings that same fire on offense. Charging toward the basket and embracing contact for hard finishes screams Miami Heat player, and it’s going to take some big time performances from other guys on this roster to beat out Garrett for that spot.

Tyson Carter:

Point Guard Duties

Lastly, I dove into all of the top Heat performances in Summer League in my last piece, but one guy I didn’t get to was Tyson Carter. The reason for that was he did not have a great first game with the team, and that got cleared up a bit after yesterday’s game.

After a very strong game from Carter against the Warriors, I asked summer league coach Malik Allen about his ability to run the offense so smoothly at this point. He responded with the things he liked from him in that game, adding in that he was one of the last guys added to the roster, and was basically thrown into the fire in the first game.

Well, he turned his stock around after his 11 point performance on 67% shooting, while dishing out 5 assists as well. Out of all the point guards on this team, Carter looked the most under control and trustworthy on the floor.

He’s a very special passer with great court vision in the half-court, can shoot the three at a decent clip, and got to the rim whenever he chose out of the pick and roll. I wouldn’t be shocked if they move Carter up to starting point guard next game now that he is caught up a bit, and I think it’s somebody we will need to keep track of.

I’d say Yurtseven and Garrett are the two front-runners for the two-way spots, while Carter and DJ Stewart are somewhere in the background, one push away from being in that category.

 

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The Season Evaluation of Miami’s Two-Way Guys

If there was ever a year to have a two-way contract in the NBA, the 2020-2021 season was the one. It was clearly unlike any other, meaning the unknown factor of Covid implications meant you didn’t know who you would have out there on any given night.

Due to that point, the league expanded rosters to allow two-way guys to be a part of the team for all 72 games and playoffs, which is quite the experience. Gabe Vincent and Max Strus took advantage of that opportunity, since Miami dealt with those implications all year.

Not only did that mean they got to see the floor a lot of the time, but even got some starting opportunities.

We had a good idea of who Vincent was as a player, which ended up being completely wrong, while there was not a true definition of who Strus was. But well, we got to see exactly what they were made of, so let’s dive right into their play this season.

Shooting:

Instead of highlighting strengths and weaknesses with these two guys, it feels necessary to group them together into the main categories, while shooting is the most interesting, in my opinion, for a couple reasons.

Before comparing them, the job that Strus did as a movement shooter was truly unexpected. Having to fill the shoes of one of the best movement shooters in the league, in Duncan Robinson, is quite the task, but he seemed to do so after a rough start.

To be honest, the shooting did not look like a strength in his first few games with the Heat. An 0 for 8 night from three against the Los Angeles Lakers is a main one that comes to mind, since they just were not dropping, but he refused to stop shooting. And that’s a tendency that Erik Spoelstra loves.

Taking a look at the clip above, he slips the screen and spots up at the wing, immediately pulling with zero hesitation. That was a sticking point with Sturs when looking back at his shooting, due to the fact that every shot looks the same, forgetting about the result.

If I was to point out a weakness in that area, it’s that there was limited side-steps, pump-fakes, and things like that, which meant he trusted his jumper so much no matter the contest he was getting. That’s a positive thing, but only to a certain extent.

Anyway, he played his role to perfection whenever he was thrown in off the bench ice cold. Anre Iguodala joked around earlier in the season that he’s never seen a player make his first shot every single night in any circumstance. The key with that statement is that he was always ready, and that’s something the Miami Heat look for.

To cut over to Gabe Vincent as a shooter, it’s been an interesting ride for him. Everybody remembers from the year prior that his biggest strength was shooting from the outside, with an inability to do anything other than spotting up. But well, the shooting consistency was clearly an issue this season, and there were reasons for it.

For one, he mentioned after the season when speaking with media that he changed his shot a bit mid-way through the season, which clearly takes some getting used to. The natural perception from people observing this Heat team is that Vincent shot the ball poorly this season, while Strus shot it well from deep, and that doesn’t really translate to the numbers.

Strus shot 50 of 148 from deep this season, while Vincent shot 46 of 149 from three. Yes, sometimes numbers can be misconstrued, such as some of Vincent’s coming late in games or Strus’ early struggles plummeted percentages, but either way, the way Vincent has been viewed just isn’t accurate.

He really struggled as a catch and shoot guy, shooting slightly under 30% as a spot-up guy. But lucky for him, he wasn’t in an off-ball role much this season, which I will discuss a little bit more down the line.

Vincent really showed most of his shooting flashes off the dribble, as seen in this clip. He pulls up off the high pick and roll and knocks it down, mostly since momentum pushing him forward leads to a certain rhythm that he’s comfortable with. Spot-up shots play much more into the mental game, and it’s a main reason he adjusted his shot to expand range and make it a bit quicker.

He is very aware that the consistency must get a lot better if he wants a role in this league, and the best thing for it is what he will get this off-season: playing time. With both the Olympics and Summer League approaching, he will get plenty of floor time.

Defense:

There hasn’t been much discussion about the defensive attributes of Strus, but it feels like it must be touched on before diving into the scrappy Vincent.

Strus has the ability to play physical on that end of the floor due to his stocky build, but post defense wasn’t his only area of strength. He surprisingly had some good defensive possessions in the pick and roll, fitting the switching scheme perfectly whenever he was inserted.

Young guys, as well as two-way guys, are always energetic when entering the game on the defensive end, especially on a Heat team that takes pride in it. I remember the first thing that stuck out about Strus when he played early on was his eagerness to eliminate soft switching, which was an issue at the time.

When he knew that he could make it over the screen, he’d fight through so Bam Adebayo didn’t just pick him up effortlessly. As times expanded, there was a realization that it wasn’t the worst thing in the world for him to switch onto the big and bang around in the paint.

Take a look at the clip above as an example, since he stays complacent to eliminate the lob, leading to a missed layup and perfect box-out for a rebound over Jarrett Allen. The shooting is obviously his strength, but the ability to fight on the defensive end kept him on the floor in many of these games.

As I mentioned earlier, we all believed shooting was the primary aspect of Vincent’s game, but it ended up being on the exact opposite end of the floor. Taking charges, hitting passing lanes, and well, finding a scheme that fit him perfectly.

There was a point early in the season where the 2-2-1 press could’ve been called the “Vincent and Iguodala chamber.” They basically waited for those two guys to check in before throwing it at opposing teams, and it worked perfectly.

As seen on this play, they thrived whenever a team didn’t have a true ball-handler in the game. They knew when to contain, then pounce on a certain guy for a double, leading into transition offense. The interesting thing about that statement is that we’re bundling up a guy who got a Finals MVP for basically handling LeBron James, and a two-way player with zero experience. That’s a pretty big compliment.

The reason I think the next step in his offensive game is so important is due to their being so much potential as a defender. Toning down some of the fouls and unnecessary reaches must come next, but once again, that comes with experience at this level.

Attacking:

If you asked me the one thing that surprised me most about Strus this season, my answer would be that he’s sneaky athletic. That didn’t seem to be listed on the player profile before the season, but his Heat teammates learned quickly whenever he got on the floor: he wasn’t afraid to go up and try to dunk on somebody.

When I mentioned previously that side-steps and pump-fakes weren’t included in his offensive package, catch-and-gos definitely were, which is important when a shooter gets going as he did in Houston during this game.

It’s not just about the highlight throw downs, since he’s actually proved to be decently methodical when flowing into a pick and roll to get to the rim. The ball handling factor isn’t his best attribute, but he definitely knows what to do once he gets to the rim.

To be completely honest, picking out clear weaknesses from his game this season would not be easy to do. He did just what he was asked to do, and much more. When discussing his future with the team, it’s pretty clear that he will be back next season, especially with the Duncan Robinson situation.

That doesn’t mean he can replace what he does or that Robinson is gone, but in Miami’s win now shoes, you never know if a trigger could be pulled on a deal, leading to that next man up mentality for Strus. When he was asked about his potential after the season, he responded, “Just look at Duncan. I feel I can be like him.”

That’s far from an easy task, but he’s shown some clear signs that Robinson didn’t even show in his first year.

Whenever Strus entered the game this season, his role was clear: DHO’s, catch and shoot, etc. But Vincent, on the other hand, had a much more complex role that he had to adjust to.

He has played most of his life as an off-ball guy, but was basically handed the keys to the offense when he was inserted. Not only when coming in off the bench, but even starting seven games this season to run their offensive sets with the starters.

Once again, that’s not his comfort area, but he had to adjust quickly after given the opportunity. It’s another reason I believe that he struggled at times from deep. Most young guys, or two-way players, have a specific job and role to fill, while Vincent’s job was to basically make sure everybody else was in their spots, while also checking on his own offensive play-style.

The attacking jumped off the screen in those minutes, as seen above. He’s running double drag with a scoring mindset from the beginning of the play, sprinting right at Joel Embiid for a score at the basket. That wasn’t ever Vincent’s game, but it became his game.

I asked Vincent about having to work on his on-ball attributes this Summer after being put into that spot this season, which he responded, “That part of my game will definitely need to grow, and it will grow. It’ll be very important, most of my career I’ve been off the ball, and now I’ve gone higher and higher throughout basketball, and the more on the ball I am.”

That will be the focus this off-season, since even though many may believe another two-way guy could step in, they trust Vincent’s play and that development will force the Heat to have no other choice but to give him another shot.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882

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.