NBA coaches utilize the preseason not so much to win, but to try out different lineups in game scenarios that don’t have the weight of a March regular season game with playoff implications.
Saturday against the Orlando Magic, Erik Spoelstra tried out something my colleague Matt Pineda predicted he would: start Kelly Olynyk with Hassan Whiteside.
Miami’s starting lineup for the first two preseason games — Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, James Johnson and Whiteside — was nothing special thus far. For what it’s worth, this lineup out-scored teams by 29 points last season in 54 minutes.
Starting Olynyk would accomplish what Spoelstra did last season with Luke Babbitt as a starter — have a stretch 4 to give Whiteside space and employ Johnson as a point-forward off the bench when Dragic goes to the bench.
Last night, Whiteside finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds while Olynyk shot just 1-for-7. Even though Spoelstra said he was “comfortable” starting Olynyk with Whiteside, he will continue to monitor which lineups work best. And of course, a potential downfall to starting Olynyk instead of a versatile defender like Johnson is giving away points at the start of the game if the opposing team exploits that match-up.
Will the Heat start two 7-footers this year? Time will tell.