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Could Kendrick Nunn Actually Benefit from a Victor Oladipo Return?

When Victor Oladipo rose up to the rim and came down grabbing that knee, there was only one guy who saw a glimmer of hope and opportunity. Kendrick Nunn.

When talking about a player that has gone through a tremendous amount of ups and downs, Nunn would have to be pretty high on that list. G-League player to immediate NBA starter. NBA starter to non-rotation player come playoff time. Out of the rotation to NBA starter again. Then starter to out of the rotation for yet another brief period, before returning to that starting point guard spot after the unfortunate Oladipo injury.

Oh, and this has all occurred in a matter of months.

Even when hearing the traditional and unoriginal quotes about his work behind the scenes and ability to stay ready, that is not an overstatement, since going through that type of roller coaster is not easy to continually come right back and produce. But he has, and it’s important to discuss what could be next for him barring a returning Oladipo.

Although there is still so much uncertainty around Oladipo’s injury status, let’s just take a brief moment to picture as if he will return at some point this season. Miami’s in a first round match-up as their returning two-way acquisition plugs back into the starting lineup. Where does Kendrick Nunn go?

Well, that answer is as clear as ever at the current stage. One of Miami’s issues lately has been bench production, since Goran Dragic has struggled, Tyler Herro hasn’t been the initiator many envisioned, and guys like Andre Iguodala and Precious Achiuwa are offensively limited. If anything has become blatantly obvious, it’s that Nunn could actually be the perfect piece in the area that Miami is lacking right now with that second unit.

Another element to this being possible is the fact that they’ve been willing to go to these 3 guard lineups night in and night out, some even including Nunn, Dragic, and Herro, which I’m not so sure is the right answer. The point is that they are capable of working them all in, especially since Nunn is probably their most consistent guard when referring to these three guys.

Obviously it’s hard to truly project on rotations and lineups when there is still so much unknown about the health of Oladipo. But if he somehow makes a return this season, the reason for Miami turning it around won’t be due to Oladipo’s two-way play. It’ll be the puzzle pieces falling perfectly into place, inserting guys into roles that’ll allow them to play to their ultimate strengths.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Memphis

The Miami Heat’s winning streak ended on Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. After some early open looks from beyond the arc for the Grizzlies, following that up with a third quarter Dillon Brooks explosion, led to Miami playing from behind throughout. So, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Bam Adebayo comes out with early offensive aggression.

Some may point to a certain ESPN ranking, which placed Bam Adebayo at 9 among the top player’s potential under the age of 25, for the reason of this early aggression. Others may just call it inevitable when he’s facing favorable match-ups in certain areas. Jonas Valanciunas was basically begging Adebayo to shoot a wide open mid-range jumper throughout, so he did just that. But he really looked to attack in spurts that many have been awaiting for quite some time. Forcing that defense to collapse benefits the shooters on the floor, which is why both Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro had some good looks early on. Coach Spoelstra always has that interesting offensive card in his back pocket to throw down in a playoff series, and that may just be unleashing Adebayo to play as free as can be.

#2: The one negative defensive aspect on display.

Defense has been quite the topic when discussing the Miami Heat as of late, but the negative side of things must be harped on. Adebayo switches in the pick and roll may have been cured a bit with the newest defensive acquisitions, but now it’s a new obstacle for him. As I asked him following the past game, it seems to be more about reading the defender in the PnR than it does the offensive player. Although he may be able to switch when the PnR includes Jimmy Butler, who is very capable of guarding a big, other guys on the roster aren’t as capable. As he responded to my question, there’s a heavy reliance on that backside rotation, which may not consist of the correct guys while Adebayo is eliminated from the play on the perimeter. That exact mindset led to 10 first half triples for the Grizzlies, while most of them being wide open due to that exact defensive takeaway.

#3: Tyler Herro finding an offensive rhythm.

As I already touched on Adebayo’s early offensive explosion, Tyler Herro followed that right up with a very efficient start of his own. The two of them combined for 21 first quarter points on 82% shooting, which is very impressive. Herro was doing it in many different ways, including some catch and shoot threes, as well as mid-range floaters out of a pick and roll. Although he showcased this all for many stretches, it’s apparent that he fades away in the offense during other spurts. When other creators, like Victor Oladipo, are on the floor with him, it’s alright to allow them to run some things while he plays off the ball, but when he’s rolling like he did tonight, that decision is questionable. As I’ve mentioned since Miami picked up Oladipo, the most intriguing aspect will be the fit next to Herro. Oladipo has been super unselfish since joining the team, but Herro has to be able to control the offense and read a situation when he truly has it going.

#4: The Jimmy Butler third quarter comeback becoming a common theme.

Jimmy Butler third quarters have become a common theme recently, and I’m not so sure it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s a positive element when discussing his ability to flip a switch to attack the basket and score with ease whenever he wants, while the negative aspect is letting two quarters pass by may lead to it being too late. Victor Oladipo will become a crucial part of Butler’s effectiveness for one reason: lineups. Butler and Adebayo continually have their minutes staggered, as they’re asked to lead their respective lineups. But once Oladipo can create consistent offense and score the ball, Adebayo and Butler may be able to play together for longer stretches, without allowing the lead to expand and continue to play from behind.

#5: A quick Victor Oladipo observation following first full practice.

This was going to be an interesting game for Victor Oladipo, since he was able to practice for the first time on Monday afternoon. Now, that may not mean he’s able to immediately fit into the offensive scheme since it still takes time, but it definitely gives an added feel for the scheme. Although he had his moments throughout the night, the one thing that seems to be holding him back has nothing to do with scheme. It’s actually his personal play style at the moment, which is a bit tense a lot of the time due to his unselfish play. Much like I’ve discussed with Butler and Adebayo, selfishness is needed in many spots of the game, and Oladipo has shown to be that type of player over his career. Once he gets fully acclimated with the offense that may come, but it’s important to monitor since they need him playing freely offensively for him to be at his best.

5 Takeaways from Miami’s Win Over Golden State

The Miami Heat extend their winning streak to 3 games on Thursday night against the Warriors. Victor Oladipo’s debut may not scream from the stat sheet, but this is the exact debut that the Miami Heat organization loves. Just lots of defensive impact, and resulting in a win. So, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: The initial Victor Oladipo observation.

Victor Oladipo made his debut tonight, and it’s clear that offense won’t be the initial takeaway. Pat Riley’s first conversation with him was about “defense, defense, and defense,” and there’s a reason for that. He wrecked havoc on the perimeter early on, mostly since he is capable of locking on an opponent without relying on a switch. This works both ways for Bam Adebayo as well, since he doesn’t feel that he must switch every screen. The offensive side of the ball for Oladipo was a bit passive early on, which is not surprising, since he’s trying to find his fit into this unique motion offense. Once he becomes comfortable after a few games, the offense will look a lot smoother with him as the ball-handler, while the defense can be plugged in at any time.

#2: Miami’s identity is clearly defense, but it might be scheme more than personnel. 

To further the discussion about defense, it’s not all about the addition of Oladipo. And honestly, it’s not all about the versatile personnel pieces including Butler, Adebayo, Ariza, and Iguodala. It’s mostly about the differing schemes, which becomes even more deadly when you are even average in individual man to man sets with Oladipo at the point of attack. The reason that scheme stuck out tonight was many plays where guys like Robinson and Herro would trap together on the baseline, forcing turnovers or transition offense. And although it’s very true that they’re improving from a team defense stance, the main element is that the Heat’s coaching staff is placing them in areas that they know they will thrive, or at least not get picked on. This team has a chance to be really special with the amount of weapons to swarm the perimeter, and that begins with the team’s young and versatile centerpiece, Bam Adebayo.

#3: Rotations become interesting, including Kendrick Nunn role and substitution timing.

It seems necessary to discuss the Heat’s rotation after tonight, since there were quite a few things that stuck out about it. For one, Goran Dragic being out meant the Kendrick Nunn situation wouldn’t be addressed at the moment, but I guess it was. Gabe Vincent got his name called before him even though he was cleared, but maybe he just didn’t feel 100% once the game started. The second part of this is Nemanja Bjelica getting the backup big minutes instead of Precious Achiuwa, which worked out pretty well due to Belly finding himself in the offense pretty quickly, while also spacing the floor. The last part of this includes the main guys, since Adebayo and Butler’s minutes have continually been staggered since it’s hard to survive stretches with both of them on the sideline. Although they’re capable of going to it more with Oladipo, it’s just never ideal since Adebayo’s game is not easily replicated, not only on this team, but in the entire league.

#4: It’s not about Duncan Robinson’s three point makes, but actually what comes next.

The recent talk involving Duncan Robinson has been strictly the shots he’s making, as well as the areas of growth that he is showcasing. That includes defensive instincts, a willingness to put the ball on the floor and attack, among other things. But when evaluating his jump-shot, it’s not so much about the three-point makes, as it is what comes next. One play in the first half stands out, when a possession following him making a three, led to two defenders flying high on him at the perimeter, as the ball found an open cutting Butler, which ended in an open Herro three. Those are the plays that are generated when his shots are dropping, and can ultimately impact Miami’s newest acquisition very heavily. I’ve discussed that gravity opening up the floor for an attacking Butler, since well, that was their only attacker. But surrounding Robinson with players who can penetrate may be the fix to the offensive roller coaster.

#5: Bam Adebayo continues to have flashes, especially late in games.

Enough defense has been discussed in this piece, which leads with Adebayo most of the time, but now it’s time to talk offense. Oladipo and Butler didn’t even have to be on the floor for a good amount of the fourth, since they trusted Adebayo to keep them afloat. Not only did he do that, but he gave them a major boost, sparking a run through his ball-handling abilities and active defensive hands to gain extra opportunities. This also refers back to the discussion about spreading the minutes between the three, since trusting Adebayo to lead lineups, and ultimately be aggressive when most needed in the fourth, changes a lot of things for this team in the big picture.

How Does Victor Oladipo Elevate the Miami Heat?

Victor Oladipo and the Miami Heat. It just rolls off the tongue since it’s the team that has been placed next to his name more than the four other franchises he’s actually played basketball for.

And as we get closer and closer to the trade deadline, it’s a name that will continue to be linked to Miami, as they’re searching for a shot-creating boost at guard, while Oladipo’s current team just went on a 20 game losing streak, before being snapped when he wasn’t even playing.

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Now, while the Kyle Lowry situation continues to be the headline, as I highlighted his fit with Miami previously, Oladipo fills some of those same holes as well.

Instead of diving into the many angles of a possible trade, since it can change by the minute leading up to Thursday, the actual areas of elevation seems to be the part to dive into.

The first part is the addition of that point of attack defender that gets harped on time and time again. Miami’s interchanging defensive scheme may have placed them at the top of the defensive rating statistic since Jimmy Butler returned, but there are still clear breakdowns that occur with the Heat’s defensive guards.

Miami’s 2-3 zone may be looked at as a natural change for the Heat’s approach, but a major reason for that has been to hide some of Miami’s poor defenders and allow them to thrive on that end. It’s the same situation as a Lowry insertion, since it automatically flips the identity of this team.

The offensive side of the ball has been a major issue for Miami, and you may think bringing in a 32% three-point shooter since joining Houston may not be the right call. But it’s not just about the shooting.

It’s pretty clear that even if Miami loses some shooting on the current roster, they can play the buy-out market, which will continue to heat up more and more with shooters. To that point, the actual need is a guy who can score the ball on his own. And by that I mean without the reliance of his counter parts.

The construction of this team is to place Butler and Bam Adebayo in spots for them to get to their peak level. And I honestly believe a shot-creator is the one piece that forces another Adebayo leap, and gives Butler the needed help to lift some of the weight off of his shoulders.

It seems like the Oladipo ordeal will be a situational thing for Miami once again, as they await some pieces to fall in place. But if there’s any general question marks next to the actual fit, other than the long-term uncertainties by waiting until free agency, there shouldn’t be.

It must be simplized to a player’s want to play for a certain team and the team’s need for an elevation in certain parts of the game. So the answer is yes, Oladipo does elevate this team at the current moment.

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The Defense Manual: Miami Heat Edition

After the Miami Heat expanded their winning streak to 3 games on Thursday night against the Warriors, on the same night Victor Oladipo made his Heat debut, the defense is what truly stood out. Miami has the option to run lineups with 4, or even 5, of the most versatile defenders in this league, which was absolutely extraordinary to watch last night.

So, let’s take a look at every positive takeaway from the defensive end in that game, including player spotlights, team defense, and more…

– Victor Oladipo:

It would be offensive not to start this piece with Victor Oladipo, especially since he had so many great defensive flashes.

He eliminates any possible pass to the cutter as the play begins, then immediately switches onto Andrew Wiggins on the screen. He angles him to the baseline, knowing that he had Bam Adebayo for the cut-off on the backside. It leads to a turnover and Miami possession.

But that wasn’t the only thing that stood out on this play. They aren’t even one minute into the game, and Steph Curry is seeing his third different one-on-one match-up. Yes, third. From Trevor Ariza out the gate to Victor Oladipo the following possession to Jimmy Butler on this play. This told us the identity of this team right away, that they have defensive options now.

One thing that stood out about Oladipo in this game was that he is not easily beat when he’s on his heels, which is a terrific attribute. While it seems as if the ball-handler may be able to find an opening baseline on this possession, Oladipo stops him in his tracks. He then forces him to lose the ball, which could’ve led to transition offense.

And although I’ll dive into Duncan Robinson a bit more later, just take a look at this contest on Curry, forcing a miss to cap off a great defensive possession.

The part to watch on this play is the amount of switching Oladipo does in a matter of seconds, guarding three players in less than a 10 second span. The reason the switching is less problematic now is due to it being a revolving door of good perimeter defenders. If Oladipo noticed a weaker defender in that spot, he would probably fight over the screen.

Although the main part of this possession for him is the final contest, it’s about him being able to predict the offensive player. He notices Kevon Looney unwilling to utilize his size on him, which leads to him awaiting the jump-shot on the DHO. These are the attributes that make up a good defender.

Now, this was one of the plays that stuck out to most people when watching Oladipo’s debut. This team has gradually increased in the team defense category, but they’ve missed this one-on-one point of attack defender.

It’s far from an easy task to guard the greatest shooter to ever play this game, but he did it rather effortlessly. Aside from looking at Oladipo on this play, take a look at Adebayo, since that’ll tell you the level of defense Oladipo is bringing. If that was Kendrick Nunn or Goran Dragic on Curry here, Adebayo would not be standing on that side of the paint, since he would force the extra pass and rely on backside rotations.

And well, that right there is why Oladipo elevates this team on that end of the floor.

Here’s yet another example of predicting the offensive player, since it’s usually a good choice to take the charge when a big is running the floor, due to the lack of body control. Well, unless your name is Bam Adebayo.

He takes the hit at a crucial point in the third quarter, which seems to be a recurring theme lately, where the third quarter defense sparks offensive runs. And there’s nothing like drawing a charge to give the offense a bit of a boost, since gaining possessions is one of those things players always discuss as sparks.

 

Let’s take one last look at Oladipo’s defense in this game, and it’s pretty intriguing to acknowledge the difference in movement when a guy is taking you off the dribble, compared to other Heat guards. Possessions like this always end in a reach in foul, since foot speed is always an issue when they get you on your heels.

But as mentioned earlier, his recovery speed when back-pedaling is fantastic, and he doesn’t even need to use the slightest advantage with his hands, since he relies so heavily on his movement. He cuts him off, jumps in the air, and forces a risky kick-out which led to a Butler deflection.

– Bam Adebayo:

Other than this Adebayo block passing Udonis Haslem on the franchise blocks list, this play showcases something unique with Adebayo. Most shot blockers are guys who camp out on the bottom box, then rise up for easy swats when players attack. The difference with Adebayo is that most of his blocks in his career begin with him defending on the perimeter, and there’s a reason for that.

Even though every player is aware of Adebayo’s freakishly unique defensive skill-set for his size, it never seems to click until a few possessions like this. Guys see a big switched onto them and immediately think to themselves that they can beat this guy off the dribble. Well, until this happens.

It’s the Adebayo effect, and it leads to indecisive movement from guys when he switches onto them more and more.

Other than the result of this play being a Draymond Green score, it’s just yet another moment that defines Adebayo. Take a look at him blanketing Curry off the ball on this possession, starting way above the top of the key, following him to the corner, and flowing right over two off-ball screens. It’s just not a normal thing for a big man.

It also seems like Tyler Herro has been taking some Andre Iguodala defensive lessons, since he’s utilized that swipe down more and more. The only difference is that he may not get officiated on those plays the same way a veteran Iguodala does, but it’s pretty promising to see Herro finding ways to improve on that end.

And now, the play of the game, which ended up being the ultimate closing possession for Miami. Adebayo switches onto Curry without hesitation, while knowing his only option is a three-point attempt.

He has great body control on the final behind the back cross-over to continue into a strong contest, and leads to a Curry air ball. Once again, these just aren’t normal occurrences for big men to defend guards to close out games, but Adebayo is just that guy.

– Trevor Ariza:

Although the key point of attack defender for Miami has become Oladipo, Trevor Ariza has done as great of a job as anybody on smaller guys since joining the Heat. He tips the Curry pass 10 seconds into this game, while Bally Sports still hasn’t even placed the scoreboard on the screen.

He stays right with Curry on the second switch, and his lengthy wingspan allows him to get a nice block on his mid-range jumper, kicking off the Oladipo defensive era with quite the bang. And honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if Coach Spo has Ariza begin on talented point guards instead of Oladipo, especially if Oladipo gets into a real rhythm offensively, which could lead to taking some pressure off of him.

Guards aren’t the only position he can cover, since he did a pretty great job on guys like Draymond Green as well. He awaits the Curry drive so he can cut it off, which would pretty much put him out of the position for a Green drive after receiving the ball.

Except he somehow turns and recovers, while angling himself toward the basket for quite the contest on a Green runner. When Ariza begins to truly find himself in the offensive scheme, which he began to do slowly in the first half of this game, it’ll be an interesting choice for Coach Spo when deciding between him and Iguodala in certain situations.

– Jimmy Butler:

I figured we should limit Jimmy Butler defensive talk to one clip, since it’s something I dive into almost every single game. The one thing that I wanted to point out here is Butler’s ability to guard bigger guys, especially in the post.

Obviously his savviness allows him to poke the ball free like he did here, or pull the chair when they try to overpower him, but his overall strength is really impressive. He has continually been able to handle post players, especially since Adebayo never feels the urge to help when he’s in that position. And it’s the one thing that basically covers up some of Adebayo’s soft switching on the perimeter, since Butler is capable of handling it on the backside.

– Tyler Herro/Duncan Robinson:

You may be wondering how Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro found themselves on a defensive piece, but it’s extremely important to track their development, especially on a night where both of them had plenty of good flashes.

It’s necessary to begin with this impressive Robinson block, not only because it’s a highlight play for him, but also why it occurred. When I discussed his development on this side of the ball recently, I mentioned the need to utilize his length to his advantage. And he did just that here, since even though it looked as if Kelly Oubre had a step on Robinson, his reach allowed him to recover and send it back.

These are the plays that weren’t happening a few months ago with Robinson on the defensive end. He gets put on an island at the top of the key, covering Andrew Wiggins, and not only does he not get beat, but he forces a kick-out to Green.

When he’s capable of making defensive plays like this consistently, it makes this team’s defense even more elite when he’s surrounded by four above average defenders. This play also refers back to the Ariza discussion, since he stays on Curry even while Green sets the immediate screen, and somehow keeps a hand in his face forcing the miss.

This possession is another moment that solidified a point I mentioned in my past piece. Defense elevates when shots are dropping, and it can make below average defenders at least average. After a Robinson three, he eliminates the rolling Looney as Bjelica lags behind, then flies back out to the wing at Kent Bazemore.

He swipes down and forces a jump-ball, mostly due to that made shot on the other end. As much as the phrase is defense to offense, this team seems to feed off offense to defense much more.

To further that earlier point about Robinson defending on an island out on the perimeter, here it is again, and here is Robinson stepping up in that area. He drops down on Green to await the rotation from Herro, then pops back out to Wiggins.

Once again, a few months ago, Wiggins would probably get a pretty good look on this possession, but Robinson seems to know exactly where he is going, and contests the shot to perfection. And another recurring theme: using his length to his advantage.

Teams are still finding ways to pick on Herro as much as possible on the defensive end, but it always seems to end late in the fourth. When things begin to clamp down at this point of the game, he always seems to make some of his best defensive plays, which may be a bit of awaiting the pass to the guy he is guarding since that’s usually the plan.

Even without a lengthy wingspan, he keeps his arms up to try and eliminate the pass to the cutter, but Green passes it anyway. He deflects the pass right into Butler’s hands, which was a big moment when Miami felt they pretty much had this game in their favor.

– Team Defense

Now that we addressed many of the individual plays that Heat players made, let’s finish this off with some of the team defense that is constantly harped on.

As Green fakes the DHO and dives to the rim, he gets stuck since Looney isn’t running in his direction. He still is forced to make that pass, and Herro, Butler, and Ariza collapse at that middle point to force a turnover. Also, these moments of slight overplaying just shows the level of confidence that they have in their rotations, which is a major element.

If you want a look into what Miami’s perimeter switching looks like when they have multiple versatile defenders on the floor, here you go. Adebayo crashes onto Poole to extract any possible dribble penetration, while Oladipo switches comfortably on Looney.

Oubre tries to take Iguodala off the dribble but is unsuccessful, so he kicks back out to Poole with Adebayo still blanketing. They roughly flow into a DHO as Adebayo pops out on Oubre, forcing a miss, and creating quite the glimpse of how good this Heat defense can be.

On this play, Adebayo reads the offense to slide over and cut off any possible lay-up for Wiggins. He uncomfortably kicks it out to a swarming corner with Butler and Ariza, which Butler saves it into him leading to a foul call.

Now, although Adebayo made this play, go back and watch it again, while focusing on both Butler and Ariza. They both knew where that ball was going next, which just shows the IQ of this Heat defense at this stage. When rotations are as crisp as this, it won’t even matter what personnel is on the floor, due to the scheme carrying the way.

One of the ways Miami handled Curry in the first match-up with him was by blitzing him on every screen, basically forcing every other player to beat them. And although they relied on individual defenders much more this time around, they sprinkled it in once in a while.

That occurred on this possession, as Bjelica flashed high and deflected the pass. While Bjelica reverting back may have seemed like a breakdown was coming, they recovered rather quickly, forcing the Warriors to reset. Curry receives the hand-off, which is something Iguodala has seen way too many times before, and blocks the shot. Although this play ended in a foul call, which was a bit interesting after the replay, it just shows the different things this team is capable of on that end of the floor.