Mateo’s Hoops Diary: Max and Gabe Deserve Their Flowers

Friday was graduation day for Max Strus and Gabe Vincent.  Both, in their time with the Miami Heat, turned from undesired prospects to must-have role players that helped the group make history.  With their services, the Heat reached its seventh NBA Finals, this time as the second eighth seed and the first Play-in group to do so.  


In the regular season, Strus was 11th all-time in team history in made 3-pointers (428) and fifth in the Playoffs (90).  Vincent finished 18th (288) and eighth (77) in the same category.  Without their artillery strikes, Miami’s famed shot at glory never occurs.


Strus suited up for the Heat 230 times in the regular season and Playoffs.  He’s a combustible weapon from deep who improved at dribbling on drives and cuts.  Through three rounds in the 2023 Playoffs, he converted 34.9%* of his attempted triples.  His finest moment in the Finals was Game 2, when he uncorked the Heat’s offense with 14 points in the first quarter.


Vincent contributed to 239 outings for the group. He was them since before the Orlando bubble, where he recorded 15 seconds total during the 2020 Postseason.  He eventually took Lowry’s job and finished his tenure with White Hot recording 12.7 points a night on 37.8% deep shooting in the 2023 Playoffs.


 In Game 2 of the Finals, he logged 23 points and gave Jamal Murray fits on switches to assist the Heat in its only win in the championship round.  


The club’s financial situation made it vulnerable to outsiders poaching the goods, and that’s what happened.  The Heat managed to at least exchange Strus in a sign-and-trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs, getting back a second-round pick and a $7.3 million trade exception. Yet, the consequences are dealing with him and the up-and-coming Cavaliers multiple times a year and potentially in the Playoffs. 


Nnamdi wanted to stay, reportedly, but the Los Angeles Lakers made him an offer he’d be silly to pass.  He’ll now be LeBron James’ bailout man like Mario Chalmers was ages ago.  


Friday wasn’t a total loss for the reigning East champs because it signed former Heater Josh Richardson for the low. He is only 29, and his career was budding with White Hot before getting dealt in the Jimmy Butler four-club swap in 2019.  Yet, since he left Miami, JRich has been passed around more than loose bills at a peep show.  


Richardson does some similar things as Strus and was well-liked in his four-year stint.  The production can be replicated, but he’s not as ignitable as Strus and likely won’t generate the same gravity behind the 3-point line.



In the worst-case scenario, the Heat can move Kyle Lowry back to lead, but there’s still a hole behind him or in the starting unit if his health doesn’t hold up.  On Draft night, Miami picked up five more undrafted prospects. Two are guards.


Developing undrafted diamonds is a skill the organization is recognized for league-wide.  But squeezing the juice out of these guys takes multiple seasons.  If Richardson is a dud and the new understudy, whoever he is, isn’t ready, Strus and Vincent’s departures will be a destructive blow to competing on Jimmy Butler’s timeline.


Unless the White Whale Damian Lillard, who asked for a trade Saturday, parachutes into Miami.  That is the great equalizer and shifts the Heat back to contention.  


According to The Athletic and TNT, the Nets and Heat are the leading suitors. Things move fast in the NBA, and a situation can change in a day if an opportunity isn’t seized.




Bam Adebayo and Butler aren’t turning into long-range sharpshooters, ever.  Tyler Herro enters next season as the most dependable outside threat, but he’s an off-guard.  The outfit needs a playmaker who keeps the ball swinging, buries catch-and-shoot triples and doesn’t turn the rock over.  Lillard can do all of that in his sleep with an arm tied behind his back, but in case he ends up elsewhere, that’s the floor the starting point guard has for next season.    


At exit interviews, Strus said it was special getting to the Eastern Conference Finals and the Finals as a starter.  “That doesn’t happen for a lot of people.  A lot of guys don’t even make the Playoffs in their career. I have a lot to be thankful for…”


He was honest, too, with his explanation that money would be a key factor in his decision.


Vincent said the group was what he was most proud of because of how it fought through adversity.  “I just wish we could have got it done for the rest of the guys.”


Strus and Vincent’s hard work carved them a permanent spot in Heat history.  At the end of their new deals, they’ll still have a long career expectancy in the NBA.  It may just be the end for now.  



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