Welcome back Heat fans! Vaughan and I, Jorge, are very excited for this week’s edition of the Miami Sports Wave’s Heat mailbag. We got tons of questions from finding a fixed rotation to Derrick Jones Jr. to a what-if Chris Bosh was still playing. Feel free to send more of your questions our way via Twitter @vaughanjasu and @CantuNBA. We will answer them all in next week’s edition!
What are the strongest rotations that Spo can draw up that can get us into the postseason and on? We need consistency in the W column!
Vaughan: I think Thursday’s game at Dallas showed that Goran Dragic in the starting lineup is the best possible idea for a point guard. Justise Winslow absolutely deserves to start as well, but I’d rather see Dragic handle the ball 75% of the time and have Justise do it the other 25%. Dragic-Richardson-Winslow-Olynyk-Adebayo is an interesting and odd mix. The 7-11 backcourt worked well against Dallas, but I need a few more games to see how well Dragic and Waiters mesh post-injury. Plus, Richardson deserves the start, despite the fact that he’s been cold recently. Winslow, Olynyk, and Adebayo are the clear best players at their position in Miami. I don’t think there’s a ton of debate.
Having Waiters off the bench is a solid secret weapon for Miami. If he and D-Wade get hot, the two could combine for 40 points off the bench, not to mention Hassan Whiteside cleaning up the boards. It will be interesting to see the Heat bench be just as good as the Heat starters. To sum up, that’s Dragic-Richardson-Winslow-Olynyk-Adebayo to start, and McGruder-Wade-Waiters-Johnson-Whiteside off the bench. Solid.
Jorge: Believe it or not, our ideal rotation was thriving just a couple of games ago. The starting five of Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynyk, and Bam Adebayo was straight up dominant. This also allowed us to bring Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Jones Jr., James Johnson, and Hassan Whiteside off the bench. That’s a starting unit full of playmakers and scorers, with our truly dangerous guys playing quality backup minutes.
The main issue with running this rotation consistently has been injuries. For only one game this season has the Heat had a fully healthy roster, which has made consistency impossible to build upon. We’re currently giving both Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow enough time to recover before the Playoffs. Both units should be able to get some last reps together before the postseason once everyone is healthy.
Spoelstra has found some success with 9-man rotations. Whether that was by design or by accident, I’m glad it has worked. Unfortunately, that leaves an odd man or two out. Shall Spo run 10 guys, Derrick Jones Jr. brings more to the table than Rodney McGruder (albeit his omission in my above rotation suggestion). But if Coach decides to cut it to nine, there’s a tough decision to be made between DJJ and James Johnson. I give Johnson the slight edge in the postseason because of his experience. With this said, I feel confident about any of these rotations pushing any East team to their limits in late April.
Has Derrick Jones Jr. proved to be an important part of the Heat’s future? Where do you see his potential at?
Vaughan: As someone who’s watched a lot of Suns and a lot of Heat basketball, I’ve watched Jones grow from an athlete to an athlete with defensive prowess, to an athlete with defensive prowess and a little bit of a jump shot. Will he ever be a starter? No. I think he’ll be a consistent bench guy whenever everyone is healthy. Can he be a solid rotation player? Absolutely.
The time he puts in to improve his game has shown that he deserves time as a bench player. The energy he brings on both ends is great, his hustle is unmatched, and nobody else can dunk like that. Nobody else. That’s irreplaceable. I say, keep him.
Jorge: I love DJJ, no homo. His impact on the floor is immediately noticeable on both ends. He plays his butt off on defense and is getting smarter on making the right decisions there; he’s a fully loaded highlight reel in fastbreaks; he’s quietly shooting 35% from three, including 39% from corners per Cleaning the Glass. To put it simply, he is a beast and he just turned 22. Of course, you can notice he is still prone to some “rookie” mistakes. But watching his immense growth in such a short period of time yields optimism as it relates to his future.
He has the physical frame to defend at least four positions, and watch out if he grows an extra inch and spends some time at the gym this summer. His athleticism is just insane. I personally consider him a core young guy alongside J-Rich, Justise, and Bam. I understand why someone wouldn’t, but I believe Miami should keep him around at all costs.
What position would be the best fit for Chris Bosh if he were to work for the Heat?
Vaughan: Bosh is a smart guy. He’s charismatic and beloved by all. There’s plenty of former players finding their way into front office roles, including players like Elton Brand and Sean Marks finding success in the GM position. I’d love to see him in a coaching position, though. An assistant coach, a player development guy that works with two-way players, anything where he can impart some wisdom on young players. I think he’s got a lot to offer, and anybody in the NBA could stand to take his advice.
Jorge: An assistant coaching role with the Heat would be ideal, in my opinion. As a superbly talented player who played all of first, second, and third option on his teams, there is a lot you can learn from him. Having him work with Bam on expanding his range could do wonders; Bosh could also teach fellow lefty Derrick Jones Jr. a thing or two. Overall, having a Heat legend around can help all of the young guys feel more connected to the team.
I don’t think having him in the front office would be too smart of a decision at the moment. We’ve seen some all-time great players turned into executives wreck havoc on teams (*cough* Magic Johnson *cough*), while others like Jerry West have been huge additions to their organizations. I’d leave those big-time decisions to Pat Riley and our amazing front office for now. A young Bosh can continue to learn the game beyond the court as he passes down some knowledge in an Assistant Coach position.
What is Bam’s maximum ceiling?
Vaughan: Serge Ibaka. I’ve put a lot of thought into this. It’s Serge Ibaka. That’s not a bad thing, as Serge has put together a solid career as a starter on playoff teams. He’s been a solid athlete for all nine years of his career, and he’s a feared defensive force with an outside shot and some post moves. That’s gonna be Bam in about three years. I have zero complaints with that, and I think a smaller, more athletic center fits in with the modern NBA mold better than a tall, back-to-the-basket guy. It took Ibaka about three years to start scoring in double digits and really putting the league on notice, so give Bam until the end of his rookie contract to really start wowing. If he gets to stay in the starting lineup next season, expect great, Ibaka-esque things from Bam.
Jorge: I see some Al Horford in him. A super versatile defender that can switch across five positions and anchor the team’s defense. He has the physical tools to get there and the potential to play as smart as big Al does. As for offense, Bam will be a little more explosive than Al. He already is. The one thing he needs to work on is his shot.
28% of Horford’s shots have come from deep this season and only 30% of them have been at the rim. We would like Bam to be a little more paint oriented but still be able to screen and pop for open threes. Horford is a mid-range lover too, and he hits those consistently. If Bam can become a defensive monster like Al and expand his range to at least the mid-range area consistently, that’ll be some really good value for the 14th pick in the 2017 Draft.
Your predictions for the Draft, offseason & era after D-Wade?
Vaughan: Miami takes a point guard in the draft. Dragic has one year left in Miami (IF he takes his player option) and is exiting his prime. His game is mostly based off of athleticism and speed, and the gradual decline in those areas will start to be obviously apparent very soon. Miami needs to look at Coby White from UNC and (yes, I’m biased) Luguentz Dort from ASU. Both of those guys are slashing guards with a little bit of an outside shot, like Dragic, and he could really teach them a lot in just a year ahead of them. If he doesn’t take the player option, then Miami’s got a problem.
Miami is a solid free agent destination. Based on geography alone, who wouldn’t want to live in Miami? Plus, they’ve got a well-run franchise, some talent, and great coaching. But, they have no money. Look under the radar. Here are my favorite under the radar free agents that address some of Miami’s needs: wing shooters Iman Shumpert and Kent Bazemore could be good bang-for-your-buck guys. Thaddeus Young is a solid power forward that probably won’t break the bank. Patrick Beverly is a great passing point guard that brings instant defensive intensity. Those guys may value themselves highly, but if Miami can successfully lowball them, that might be a key to success going forward.
I’m gonna limit the scope of the “post-Wade era” to the next five years. These next five years could either see Miami at the bottom of the East, or still in the middle. I don’t see any timeline where the Heat rocks the free agency boat and improves enough to win the East, especially with all the money they’ve got tied up in players they’re overpaying. If they let those players walk, and try to replace them via Draft and unsuccessful free agency pitches, the tank could be on quicker than Heat fans expect. My hopes are low for the next five years.
Jorge: I expect Miami to target one of those modern-day wings this upcoming June. Dion Waiters is not an NBA small forward, but he’s forced to play that role due to lack of options. The Heat should target a combo forward that is long and can hit some three balls. If we can find a prospect with those characteristics, we should draft him and let our amazing coaching staff do the rest.
As for free agency, it will all depend on whether Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic pick up their player options. They most probably will, leaving the Heat with little financial flexibility to operate. If that’s the case, we should focus on getting a cheap veteran guy or two; players that are hard workers, pride themselves on playing good defense, and love to hustle it out. A veteran isn’t necessarily a washed up 40-year old guy that can’t play anymore. With Wade and Udonis Haslem gone by next year, we will desperately need some help in the veteran department.
Finally, I have high expectations for the post-Wade era. We’re set to have really good cap space by the summer of 2020. Justise and J-Rich are locked in with cheap deals for some more time. We need to bring back Bam and DJJ with team-friendly rookie level extensions. Guys like Kelly Olynyk and Goran Dragic should be easy to bring back too with the right offers. The key is bringing back most of our core and culture players while we wait for the big fish to bite.
Miami will potentially have as many as two max slots in 2020, depending on how everything else works out. Why wouldn’t two established stars want to team up in Miami? We have a nice young core of guys, a great front office, one of the best coaches in the league, and a really good life in South Beach. I might be crazy for expecting such a drastic turnaround this quick, but a Heat team with financial flexibility is as dangerous as any other big market in the NBA.