Miami Heat: Small ball second unit could be dangerous

The Miami Heat open the 2017-18 season on October 18th on the road against the Orlando Magic. Miami took a big hit when potential starting small forward Rodney McGruder suffered a stress fracture in his left leg. No timetable has been set for his return, McGruder underwent surgery on the leg Oct. 17th and is expected to recover fully.

With the injury to McGruder, Coach Erik Spoelstra has some decisions to make at the forward positions and on the wings in general. This could be the opportunity for Justise Winslow to take the starting small forward spot and keep it on a permanent basis.

A potential starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, and Hassan Whiteside presents an intriguing option. There would still be plenty of outside shooting with Dragic, Waiters, and Olynyk. This lineup could also open up the low post for Whiteside as Olynyk has the ability to shoot from long range and is especially effective hitting the corner three.

The second unit in this scenario could be Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, and Bam Adebayo. This unit possesses three excellent outside shooters which would give the Heat incredible spacing. Richardson is an above average rebounder for his size, and James Johnson is a great ball-handler to take some of the pressure off of Tyler Johnson to set up the offense. JJ could act as a point-forward while TJ could play off the ball where he can utilize his quickness on cuts and handoffs.

It could be a lethal pace-and-space type offense for sustained minutes. A glaring weakness would be rebounding and rim protection but those issues come with almost any small ball lineup. Spoelstra could also switch Okaro White for Ellington to give the Heat a little more size without sacrificing too much spacing, although he does not nearly possess the outside shot like “The Man with the Golden Arm”.

Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA and will definitely tinker with different lineup combinations in the absence of McGruder. It will be interesting to see if Winslow and Richardson can take the next step, if they can Miami will have plenty of ways to put an effective unit on the floor no matter the opposition.

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