So far this season Erik Spoelstra started only two players in all 16 of the Miami Heat games, mainly due to injuries. Second-round picks Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson have logged over 500 minutes of floor time, essentially carrying the team on their backs. While commendable, the Heat face Eastern Conference team with multiple top-ten picks, i.e. Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers.
In next two seasons, 2018-19 and 2019-20, the three mostly highly paid players on the Heat are 2 second-round picks and an undrafted one. NBA history has shown effort, culture, and grit bring teams only so far. Eventually talent wins out, especially in a game when a team has only 5 players on the floor, and 2 or 3 of them can win a game.
Teams have scouted and devised strategies to deal with Miami’s amazing 30-11 finish from last season. This season the Heat have been tantalizingly inconsistent. Sometimes playing great, other times looking like turd. Throwing players under the bus for lack of effort is the easy way out, but doesn’t permanently fix the issue of winning games.
One successful example was the second Wizard game where Markieff Morris got two easy baskets against Justise Winslow. Spo quickly put James Johnson in and the entire game changed in that first half. Waiting another 5 minutes could have meant the difference between a win and loss.
Another instance was the two games Jordan Mickey started and the Heat won, scoring over 100 points in each. He has never started a game since. Again in those games the other teams were caught off guard, and not prepared to handle unexpected match-up problems.
With a glaring talent discrepancy, Miami’s only choice is being proactive to disrupt the other team’s preparation and flow, i.e. out-coach them. The Heat have no other way when facing more-talented teams. Like the Winslow-Johnson swap, changes need to happen within minutes, before other teams can recover. It’s either the quick or the dead.