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Should James Johnson or Kelly Olynyk start for the Heat?

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Both players received big contracts this off-season, but who will be the starter?

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat signed both James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk to 4-year contracts this off-season. Both of them can play the power forward position, and it seems there isn’t a ton of clarity about who will begin the season in the starting lineup.

Here’s what we do know: Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters will start in the back court and Hassan Whiteside will be the starting center. It seems likely that Justise Winslow will be the starting small forward, but you never know — that could change as well.

But what about power forward? Who should be beginning the games there? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of both James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk starting for the Miami Heat.

Why to start Kelly Olynyk...

1 :: Olynyk doesn’t need/want the ball in his hands

In a starting lineup that has Dragic and Waiters, both players who enjoy having the ball in their hands and also Whiteside — who became somewhat of a black hole when he got the ball in the post, it will be important to have players who don’t demand the ball. That’s why Luke Babbitt started so many games for the Heat, he didn’t need the ball, he just spaced the floor.

The key for Olynyk is that he doesn’t need the ball, he will stretch the floor, set great screens and rebound the ball well. In the starting lineup, that’s going to be really important, and that’s one reason why Olynyk should be the starter — because James Johnson is a player that likes the ball in hands. He can create and that’s valuable for the Heat with Waiters or Dragic are on the bench.

2 :: James Johnson was extremely effective off the bench

James Johnson played 27 mpg last season and he only started 5 games. He is used to being off the bench for the Heat, and posted a career high 12.8 PPG for Miami last year. He went crucial to the second unit playing well because he can score on his own and create for others.

When you don’t have a true back-up point guard, having a point forward James Johnson off the bench is very beneficial. So one reason Olynyk should start is because the bench really does need James to lead them.

3 :: A trio of defenders sit in the front court

Two seven-foot players with Whiteside and Olynyk followed by Winslow creates a defensive monster type juggernaut that Spoelstra would have fun with, I believe. Olynyk isn’t some shut down defender, but he’s a good protector, rebounder, and let’s be honest...he’s not afraid to get in scuffles to mix it up a bit.

That defensive front court could be something special for the Heat and allow them to get off to good starts in games.

Why to start James Johnson...

1 :: Follow the money

Hey man, here’s the deal: sometimes it’s as easy as who gets paid more. Johnson is making $3 million more than Olynyk this season and that’s important to recognize. James is also 30 years old while Kelly is 26. So Johnson has the experience and he is in the top of his career right now.

You have to follow the money and allow the guy you are paying the most to be the start and make a difference.

2 :: He’s a better basketball player

I suppose you could argue with me on this, but the eye-ball test tells me that James Johnson is better at basketball than Kelly Olynyk. Johnson has a much, much better handle on the ball, can score efficiently on his own, create for others and be a threat from the outside.

Olynyk isn’t all of those things. So, one would think that your starters should be your best players, and that James would get the nod to be a part of the first unit.

3 :: Because Olynyk is more of a center than power forward

I guess we have glossed over this a bit, but it could be true. I mean, maybe the Heat’s plan is to have Olynyk play behind Whiteside and allow Bam Adebayo to play back-up power forward, or even Okaro White. AJ Hammons doesn’t seem to be in the mix and Haslem will be seldom used again.

Olynyk may be better served as a back-up center than he is a power forward.


In just my opinion, I think the Heat should start Kelly Olynyk over James Johnson. In one hand, I like the idea of Olynyk coming in for Whiteside, but on the other, I think Johnson is so valuable to the second unit that it would be hard to move him.

I mean the Heat finished the season 30-11 with James Johnson as a reserve. Take that roster, and change out Olynyk for Babbitt and Adebayo for Willie Reed. What kind of noise will they make?

I think Olynyk can play the 4, especially in the East and Miami will be better off with Johnson’s energy off the bench alongside Tyler Johnson.

What do you think?


Who should start at PF for the Heat?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    James Johnson
    (430 votes)
  • 70%
    Kelly Olynyk
    (1115 votes)
  • 2%
    (45 votes)
1590 votes total Vote Now