How Miami Heat’s unexpected bench play helps the team maintain their NBA contender status


Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat’s acquisition of Kyle Lowry saw them return to the NBA Finals, where they were in the 2019-20 season. That said, Miami’s off-season deals have crowded their payrolls, making depth an imminent problem.

Ironically, this team’s alleged weakness at the start of the season has been much better than expected. Plus, the Heat have a stable and productive second unit, and that completes a team that can win the Eastern Conference.

Here’s how the bench game complements head coach Erik Spoelstra’s squad.

Miami Heat gets unexpected bench production

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Miami’s second unit is led by Tyler Herro, who has taken another step towards stardom this season. At the same time, he is basically getting starting minutes and was getting as such in his first two NBA seasons. The difference was those who entered the ground after Herro.

Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin have been reliable and consistent forces. Strus was an effective source of attack, firing from the perimeter at a high level. Vincent has been a scrappy scorer who starts out occasionally and is a respectable shooter. Martin has impacted both ends of the floor and comes up with his fair share of buckets.

The aforementioned players are no more than 26 years old. During this time, they are accompanied by veterans with established skills. Markieff Morris is a physical two-way player who can perform mid-range jump shots. Dewayne Dedmon is a composed player in the two-sided painting.

  • Max Strus stats (2021-22): 11.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game shooting 46.2 / 40.4 / 75.8

With more minutes, maybe KZ Okpala, Omer Yurtseven and Marcus Garrett can make an impact? In addition, Victor Oladipo is still recovering from a knee injury. If and when Oladipo returns to the ground, the Heat have an exceptional bench with a multitude of plug-and-play skills.

Bench play isn’t something the Heat should lose sleep over.

Reliable second unit gives Miami Heat a well-balanced spin

Miami’s second unit does a plausible job of keeping the score close. That’s all this team needs because the starting five is an ever-improving force.

Jimmy Butler is a two-way star. When in good health, Bam Adebayo is one of the best big men in the NBA. Lowry was ineffective but forces the defenses to respect his ability to score on the dribble, distracting both Butler and Herro. Duncan Robinson is a sniper. PJ Tucker is a regular three-and-d player.

During that time, Herro has grown into an All-Star caliber goalscorer. This rotation has a bit of everything: scoring, shooting, defense, inside players and titular coaches. There are several five-man units that Spoelstra can ride with given the flexibility players like Butler and Adebayo offer in their all-round scoring.

  • Tyler Herro (2021-22) stats: 20.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game shooting 44.4 / 40.8 / 86.3

Every NBA competitor has their weakness. Usually it’s a matter of shooting, defense and depth. Difficult to find this gaping weakness in this Heat team even if Oladipo does not speak.

Miami can do it all, and they have a roster of players with different skills.

Related: Sportsnaut’s NBA Defensive Rankings

The Miami Heat are contenders for the NBA

Miami is off to a respectable start as they are 22-13 which is good for the fourth seed in the East. At the same time, they are capable of better performance, which has been somewhat affected by health and safety protocols and Adebayo’s thumb injury.

That being said, the Heat are in promising form. They have young athletes with good potential, a star player, a lot of shooting and a strong defensive team. All the while, this core is used to high-leverage playoff games, especially in their 2020 run to the NBA Finals. Last season, they were swept away by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. This season, the Heat are deeper and have improved versions of their local starters.

The NBA has been weird this season, to put it mildly. As for the East, there are few, if any, invincible teams in the conference at the moment. With young and inexperienced playoff teams like the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets all in the mix, it works in Miami’s favor. They are more battle-tested and in some cases deeper than these teams.

Developing talent makes or breaks NBA teams. Miami has developed Adebayo, Herro and Robinson, all of whom are stars of their team. Now they see individuals in their mid-twenties like Strus, Vincent and Martin contributing to the victories.

The Miami Heat are a contender for the NBA, and they have the potential to be even better than they are now. This potential does not exist without a second firing unit.

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