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Miami Heat’s Young Core vs. the NBA

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

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

Well, the Miami Heat have both.

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

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

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

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

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

5. Minnesota Timberwolves 

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

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

4. Boston Celtics

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

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

3. Miami Heat

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

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

 

2. Memphis Grizzlies

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

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

 

1. New Orleans Pelicans 

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

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

 

5 Reasons the Heat were Successful this Season

In a recurring Five Reasons series, here’s a quick look at why the Miami Heat went 41-24 before the NBA eason was suspended…

1. Jimmy Butler has done exactly what Pat Riley brought him here to do.

Jimmy Butler came into this season with the Heat with a lot of doubt. Many said he came to Miami to retire. Well that discussion ended quickly when the Heat started the season with an 11-3 record. It was clear right away that Jimmy made everyone better on the court, due to his unselfishness and hunger to win.

2. Bam Adebayo stepped up as “The Guy.”

Bam Adebayo did not have much hype around his name at the start of the season, but once he got the role that he’s wanted since he’s been drafted, he flourished. He’s almost doubled his points per game from last year, while averaging three more assists and three more rebounds than he did last year. Stats don’t show what Bam has done for this Heat team though. He’s a young star that is prospering right in front of our eyes.

3. The young guys grew up quick.

After the Heat drafted Tyler Herro, there was some uncertainty if he was the right pick for this team. Well, he was. He proved in Summer League and pre-season that he had the ability to help this team win. Duncan Robinson also was a guy no one thought would be in the rotation, let alone start. He has been one of the key players for this team and has broken many Miami Heat three point records along the way. Kendrick Nunn is another guy that flourished in the Summer League, but who would’ve thought he would’ve been the starting point guard to begin the season. Well, he did and has been in the discussion of Rookie of the Year.

4. The role players had no problem accepting their roles.

As sometimes these guys don’t get as much credit, they deserve it. Goran Dragic could’ve caused problems by saying he wants to have a bigger role as he’s not getting any younger. Meyers Leonard could’ve said that he wants more of a scoring role instead of just being a spacer, spot up shooter, and floor general. But they didn’t. They want to help this team win as much as possible which is why they’re here. Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala got brought in at the deadline to have experience going into the playoffs, and they both know their roles as well. These guys are major contributors to their success.

5. Chemistry actually matters.

When you walk into the Miami Heat locker room, you can feel the connection. These guys enjoy playing and being around each other, which is actually not common. This is the reason the Heat moved on from certain players that seemed to be a cancer in the locker room. Every player on this team now has the same mentality which is that they will do anything they can to win. You can see this chemistry on the court and hold each other to a high standard, which is exactly what Pat Riley loves to see in his players.

5 Possible Miami Heat Picks Late In First Round

Looking at five players the Miami Heat could draft, if they keep their draft pick, and if the draft actually happens.

 

1. Theo Maledon

(PG, ASVEL)

Theo Maledon is a superior talent who plays overseas for ASVEL. He is a great passing point guard who thrives in transition. He is a decent shooter and has a great frame for a point guard. Even though the Heat already have a young PG in Nunn, Dragic is getting older and only has a couple more productive years in him. Theo is only 18 years old, which would be perfect to put him in the G-League for a year to develop him, then he can be effective the following year just as Duncan did.

2. Jaden McDaniels

(SF, Washington)

Jaden McDaniels is a freaky athlete who can score the ball anywhere on the court. His ability to shoot the ball over anybody at 6’9 is Keven Durant esque. He has great handles for his size and uses moves that translate to the NBA well. He would be a great scoring spark to come off the bench for a guy like Jimmy.

3. Tre Jones

(PG, Duke)

Tre Jones has the most Miami Heat tendencies out of anybody in this draft. He is the best defensive point guard in this draft class and brings his scrappiness every game. He is a floor general who is a great passer and a decent shooter, but his leadership is second to none. One of the Heat’s weaknesses is their ability to defend the perimeter since their guards aren’t great defenders. Adding a guy like Tre could change that landscape.

4. Vernon Carey Jr

(C, Duke)

Vernon Carey Jr brings a powerful paint presence on the offensive side of the ball. He is an unstoppable force when he gets the ball in the post under the rim due to his size and quick feet. This type of game would complement Bam since Bam is more of a point guard in a centers body and not an enforcer down low. His ability to grab rebounds on both sides of the ball makes him a very smart pick for the Heat.

5. Jalen Smith

(PF/C, Maryland)

Jalen Smith is an athletic big who can run the floor, block shots, and shoot the three. He is a great offensive rebounder and has great speed with and without the ball. His only problem is his small frame at only 215 pounds, but this usually isn’t a problem once players get into the Miami Heat training. He plays a lot like Whiteside with his ability to block shots, but has the energy of Bam, which is what Hassan lacked. He would be a good fit to come off the bench for Bam.

Miami Heat: Tyler Herro expected to miss additional time

It appears that Miami Heat rookie sensation Tyler Herro may be out for quite some time. According to multiple sources, it is expected that Herro will be out multiple more weeks.

This is an unfortunate development for a Miami Heat team that can desperately use his scoring right now. Even as a rookie, there is no denying the impact he has made. He is averaging 13.1 points per contest, and has recorded a 41.4 field goal percentage.

The last game he played in was on February 3 against Philadelphia. In that game, he went down with his injury. He has not seen the court since.

An unfortunate blow to Miami Heat

This is a difficult loss for Miami Heat team that is struggling at the moment. Even though he is a rookie, he undoubtedly brings an energy to the team. There is a certain swagger that he plays with that energizes the entire team when he is on the floor. Hopefully, he will be able to heal up soon. He should undoubtedly be a crucial part of a Miami Heat playoff run.

At the time of this writing, the Miami Heat were engaged in a contest with the Dallas Mavericks. They have struggled a bit lately losing four out of their last five games. A win against a Talented Mavericks team could definitely provide the organization with some momentum.

Losing Herro for extended time will undoubtedly be a big blow to this organization. There is no doubt that players are going to have to step up. As an organization, the Heat will have to have a “next man up” type of mentality.

In particular,  I would look for the likes of Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler to continue stepping up. They have helped the Heat succeed this season. It sounds as if they are going to be needed now more than ever.

Miami Heat: Tyler Herro, after scare, expects to return soon

The Miami  Heat rookie could be on his way back relatively soon.

As All-Star Weekend is set to begin, we are finally getting an update on the injury status of Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro. The rookie will have his boot coming off his leg on Wednesday. He was initially told that he could be out until the playoffs. The injury in question is an ankle injury, not a foot injury.

The Kentucky product is having a great season. He is averaging 13.1 points per contest in just over 27 minutes of play. He is also proving to be a marksman from the field, shooting 41.4%.  He has not seen action since February 3 against the Philadelphia 76ers. In that contest, he scored two points in 10 minutes on the floor.

He gave more of an update on his injury when he spoke to the media Friday.

Miami Heat: Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn selected for Rising Stars Game

Two more members of the Miami Heat are set to take part in All-Star weekend. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn will be participating in the NBA Rising Stars Game.

Both Herro and Nunn will be on the USA team. Herro is averaging 13.1 points per game to go along with two assists and 4.2 rebounds. Nunn has recorded 16.2 points per game, 3.5 assists, and 2.8 rebounds.

Both players have been a huge part of the young foundation the Miami Heat are trying to build. Together they have shown promise as the season has progressed, and it will be imperative that they build off their progress in the second half.

For the Miami Heat, this will be a star-studded affair. The addition of Herro and Nunn now makes it four representatives for the Miami Heat in Chicago. This will give people a chance to see exactly what has made the Miami Heat so effective during the first half of the season.

Nunn was extremely excited about being selected to the game, posting his feelings on Instagram.

Miami Heat have been here before.

This is the first time a Heat player has been selected to this game since Norris Cole in 2012. Cole recorded 18 points on seven-of-15 shooting in the event and 4-11 from beyond the arc. He also made plays for others, recording six assists and four steals.

Both Nunn and Herro will be heavily relied upon in the second half of the season as the Heat look to make a playoff run. Given the track record of most first-year players, it will be interesting to see if they hit the “rookie wall.” Alternatively, both are talented enough for sustained production the rest of the way. The Heat are going to need them to continue to play at a high level.

Miami Heat: Tyler Herro wins duel with Bradley Beal in Heat victory

Wednesday night was a battle between the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards. The Miami Heat and Washington Wizards took the game to overtime where the Heat won 134-129.

Perhaps the biggest subplot in this game was the battle between Bradley Beal and Tyler Herro. It was perhaps one of the best back-and-forth battles of the season. Both players went toe-to-toe, and it made for some great basketball.

Beal played in 38 minutes, going 16-of-24 from the field. He didn’t perform well shooting from beyond the arc, going two-of-eight. However, he made all four of his to free throws and also contributed nine rebounds. In total, he scored 38 points.

Herro puts on a show for Miami Heat

Herro was extremely successful from beyond the arc. In 33 minutes of play, he went seven-of-nine from three-point range. He also shot two free throws and contributed three rebounds. Herro was a +11 when he was on the floor. He certainly provided a spark coming off the bench. In total, he scored 25 points. He looked comfortable, and he was a major part of the offense.

It was a great night for Herro who has seen his minutes increase steadily. After playing in 17 minutes on Monday against Sacramento, he played in 33 minutes Wednesday night. He had been battling knee issues last week, but those appear to be much better. This  was the Tyler Herro that we have seen throughout the course of the season.

The rookie and the veteran put on a show, and it was a contrast between the present and the future.

For Beal, it was the type of game one would expect from him. He has been on a hot streak as of late, and that continued. Washington is resilient and relentless in their efforts to try and score. That showed on Wednesday night. Beal has been a leader for the Wizards in the scoring department this season, and he certainly assumed that role for Washington on Wednesday.

With Miami moving to 8-0 on the season in overtime games, Tyler Herro won this battle. Seeing him perform this well is just a reaffirmation that the youth movement has a ton of potential for the team moving forward. This team will be a lot of fun to watch come playoff time.

Miami Heat: Bench struggles contribute to loss against Spurs

Sunday, while many were watching the AFC Championship game, Miami Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs by a 107-102 margin. Although it was a close game throughout, a strong second quarter propelled San Antonio to victory. Outscoring the Heat by a 32-23 margin in the second frame, the bench was a huge reason why San Antonio was able to come away with the victory.

Derrick White had 11 points on five-of-11 shooting. Patrick Mills had 18 points on four-of-10 shooting. He was perfect from the free-throw line, making all four of his shots. Marco Belinelli also got into the action. He scored 12 points on two-of-six shooting. He made all six free throws he attempted.

San Antonio’s plus-minus numbers were impressive. White was a +21 while Mills was a +17. Belinelli and Jakob Poetl were  +11 and  while Lonnie Walker IV was a +10. Each of the players on the San Antonio bench were assets while they were on the floor.

Miami Heat bench struggles in loss

Miami’s bench had a tougher time getting things going. All five players recorded a minus rating while they were on the floor. Goran Dragic was the big bench scorer for Miami with 19 points in 24 minutes of play. Dragic was a -13 on the floor in this game. Derrick Jones Junior was a -21 in this contest. He finished with six points on the evening.

Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Herro each had zero points in this game. Olynyk played seven minutes while Herro played nine. Both players missed the two shots they attempted. Olynuk and Herro were both -13 respectively. This was Herro’s first game back from injury. He missed the past two contests with a knee bruise. And he appeared rusty.

Miami is going to have to have a better contributions from their bench, particularly as fatigue starts to set in during the remainder of the season. This was a rough night for the bench all-around. Up next, Miami plays host to the Sacramento Kings Monday evening. Tipoff is at 5:00 PM.

Attrition may Have Uncovered Potent Lineup for Heat

A potent lineup for the Heat may have revealed itself.

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

 

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

Jimmy Butler needs a break.

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

Switching to Airplane Mode

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami Heat Defeat Wizards Behind Butler Triple Double

The Miami HEAT came into Friday night’s matchup with the Washington Wizards off of a 2-1 road trip highlighted by an OT win against the Toronto Raptors.  After another road back to back loss against one of the league’s top teams, a home tilt against the sub .500 Wizards felt like a welcome respite.

Before the game Wizards coach Scott Brooks had high praise for Bam Adebayo and the Heat coaching staff saying, “(Bam) is a bonafide star big in this league.” As a thank you for the kind words, Adebayo scored a quick 10 pts in the first quarter, including a couple of butter smooth jumpers that other teams have been daring him to take.

Adebayo got some help in the 2nd quarter as Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro came to life. Despite their efforts, the Heat trailed going into the half for only the second time this season due to an uncharacteristically poor defensive effort.  The Heat struggled to contain Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans in particular, with Bertans going 4 for 7 from beyond the arc in the 2nd quarter. Kendrick Nunn continued his recent struggles with only 3 points in the first half and a couple of sloppy sequences.

The 2nd half defense was far better than the first as the Wizards – one of the most potent offenses in the league – only managed to score 38 points.  Offensively, the trio of Butler, Adebayo and Herro continued their scoring barrage but the Heat struggled to increase or even maintain a lead going into the 4th.

So with a tight game and the clock winding down, the Heat turned to their closer.  Butler was brought to Miami for a myriad of reasons, but foremost amongst them was to give Coach Erik Spoelstra the kind of closer the team hasn’t seen since Dwyane Wade left for the Chicago Bulls.

With just over a minute left and the Heat leading 108-103, Butler had seen enough. He calmly stepped into a 25 ft 3 point shot that iced the game and gave the Heat a win. In typical Butler fashion, he stomped his way to the Heat bench after the Wizards called timeout and shared some “colorful” words with his teammates.  The kind of aggressive action that may have rubbed some of his past franchises the wrong way, is embraced in Miami, if not encouraged.

Miami went on to win by a score of 112-103 as Butler finished with a triple double (28-11-11) to remain undefeated at home. Adebayo chipped in a double double (24 pts and 14 rebs), while Herro added 22 pts of his own.

But the night belonged to Butler who shared some words with this former coach Tom Thibodeau on his way off the floor.  Thibs was all smiles as he watched his former superstar close out an opponent in familiar fashion. Seemingly happy for Jimmy, as he has finally found an NBA home.