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Adebayo, Olynyk emerge as effective front-court pair

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The two are a plus-57 on the court together this season.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In the second quarter of the Miami Heat’s 29-point win over the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night — Miami’s biggest win of the season, and a much-needed victory for a team a game out of the eighth playoff spot — Kelly Olynyk got the ball at the top of the key with the shot clock running down. Olynyk drove to the basket, faked a pass to Bam Adebayo and made an and-one.

That was one play in a 48-minute game. But it exemplified something that has become clear over the last three games, when Adebayo has started in place of the injured Hassan Whiteside. Adebayo and Olynyk make a great frontcourt pair.

The two are a plus-57 in 643 minutes together this season, and were a plus-96 together last year. Against a Nets team that used a 2-3 zone defense for much of last night’s game, the two’s strengths as good-passing big men came in handy. Passing is one area in which Adebayo remains leaps and bounds ahead of Whiteside.

The two of them found the seams in Brooklyn’s defense to come up with numerous lay-ins near the basket. And for Olynyk, he also knocked down three 3-pointers on the night, one in which he finished with 25 points. It was also nice to see Adebayo make a pull-up jumper in the opening minutes of the game, demonstrating his work to expand his repertoire.

The Heat may have their future front-court rotation in Adebayo, Olynyk and Derrick Jones Jr., who put in another solid performance with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field last night. Of course, Jones has the athleticism to have thunderous dunks and electrifying blocks.

But a key component of Jones’ game is his 3-point shooting, and he made two 3s last night. Like Adbayo and Olynyk, Jones also found the seams in the Nets zone defense for scores around the basket. Look at this play from the third-quarter for a Jones and-one opportunity. And it comes off a nice pass from Adebayo.

Adebayo has made the Heat’s bloated contract for Whiteside look like even more of a mistake. And for Olynyk and Jones, the two of them have made James Johnson’s contract seem misguided. Johnson’s performance has cratered since his breakthrough season in the 2016-17 year with the Heat. Erik Spoelstra even went to the 38-year-old Udonis Haslem over Johnson for playing time last night. It seems weird to say that Jones, a player who was on a two-way contract with Miami last year, has supplanted the veteran Johnson as Miami’s power forward. But it’s true.

Unfortunately for the Heat, it will be tough to trade Whiteside or Johnson, who remain under contract for the next two years. But in Adebayo and Olynyk, the Heat have found their starting center and power forward of the future. And Jones offers the athleticism and 3-point shooting for versatile defense, second-chance opportunities and highlight-worthy dunks.