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Summer League proving to be successful testing ground for Miami Heat

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The Summer League Laboratory is a referendum for the coaches rather than the players.

Surya Fernandez

Summer League players rarely stick in the NBA, but summer league is a great way to test new coaching ideas because the games pit players of similar talent level against each other.

The Orlando games lasted only 40 minutes, so the adjusted scores per 48 minutes were:


HEAT 92 71 78 87 91 84
OPP 76 70 73 85 68 74


HEAT 110 85 94 104 109 101
OPP 91 84 88 102 82 89

The Heat managed to increase their pace and scoring over last season, averaging 101 points per 48 minutes for the five games. During summer league, the coaching staff can evaluate and tweak ideas that would be too risky to try during the regular season.

The team played clutch ball in Orlando and developed a winning team mentality. Some players on other teams had gaudier statistics, but the Heat ended with a perfect 5-0 record. As an aside, the Golden State Warriors summer league team had a 16-game winning streak from 2010 to 2014. Winning does matter at any level.

The staff have a chance to see which players are Rembrandts, and which ones are house painters. The GMC commercial refers to elite major league pitchers as Rembrandts who are able to "paint the corners" of the strike zone. Hitters never get easy pitches to hit out of the park. A pitching prospect may throw the baseball at 98 mph or have a wicked curve ball, but if he cannot get it in the strike zone or serves the ball down the middle of the plate against major-league batters, he will find a permanent home in the minor leagues.

Basketball prospects who cannot control their talents by taking bad shots, getting into foul trouble, turning the ball over, losing their compose, don't last in the NBA. The Rembrandts, who "paint the corners" of the basketball court with pinpoint accuracy, are the ones who become all-time winners. The wannabes may wow the crowd with their highlights, but in the end precision and accuracy win trophies.

With another three months to practice 300 3-point shots per day, like Anthony Davis, the Heat will get their shooting stroke up to snuff by November. Meanwhile summer League has identified areas for the coaches to perfect parts of the game that need to be fixed before the real season starts.

A deep run into the playoffs involves over 90 games from November to June: a team with only a talented starting five will self-destruct just from the shear overload of work placed on their bodies. In the 2015 NBA Finals, a rested bench player, Andre Iguodala, won the MVP and the NBA Championship over the legendary LeBron James, who played on fumes.

The results of the summer league tournaments will have a bearing on which reserves the Heat will keep to rest their starting line-up during the season. With a maximum of 15 guys allowed on the team, painful decisions will have to be made on who to let go, because all the players on the team have given exceptional performances.