A little more than 24 hours following Friday’s 6 p.m. start to free agency, we have a better idea of the Miami Heat’s roster. Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. have left, while Moe Harkless, Avery Bradley and 2020 first-round pick Precious Achiuwa have joined. Of the departures, Crowder’s stings the most.
From his first game with Miami — a road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers — Crowder showed himself to be an embodiment of Heat culture. And he immediately turned into a great 3-point shooter after putting on a Miami uniform. After shooting 29 percent on 5.9 3-point attempts with the Memphis Grizzlies prior to the trade, Crowder shot 44.5 percent on 6.4 attempts from deep with the Heat.
Gotta clean my television screen during halftime. Too much Heat Culture oozing from Jae Crowder!— Brendan Tobin (@Brendan_Tobin) February 10, 2020
Crowder was also integral to the Heat’s second-round upset over the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. He took on the primary defensive assignment against Giannis Antetokounmpo and frustrated him.
Defense wins games and @CJC9BOSS has been outstanding on that end of the floor. He was at it again last night in Game 2 pic.twitter.com/XHkXGNmKdh— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 3, 2020
But he also hit 43 percent of his 51 3-point attempts during the five-game series — an incredible percentage on high volume.
ICE COLD JA33333333.! pic.twitter.com/OwEbilfJke— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) September 5, 2020
And then, of course, Crowder’s 3-point shooting took a dip. He shot just 12-for-47 (25.5 percent) from 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. He was a little better in the Finals — 13-for-39, or 33 percent — but still well below his heights from the end of the regular season and in the second round.
Miami offered Crowder a two-year deal at a starting salary of $14 million with a team option for 2021-22, but Crowder took a longer deal at a lower salary with the Phoenix Suns. Understandably, he wanted security after helping Miami to their improbable Finals run.
Background on Crowder situation, per source: Heat offered two-year deal with $14 M this season & team option for 2021-22. He instead took 3 years, $30 M from Suns. Heat told him they would love to have him but have a master plan for 2021-22 and sticking to it.They wished him well— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) November 21, 2020
The question of whether the Heat will be better this season after Crowder’s loss depends on the production from Bradley and Harkless. In Bradley, Miami finally has someone to hound the opposing point guards who caused them so much trouble during the regular season. His two-way potential as a solid 3-point shooter could lead the Heat to play some small lineups — Bradley, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, for instance.
It looks like the Heat view Harkless as someone who can provide similar production as Crowder at a fraction of the cost. We also have KZ Okpala and Achiuwa as young options who may get playing time in case of injuries. And if you think Okpala or Achiuwa contributing this year is far-fetched, ask yourself if you thought Duncan Robinson would contribute coming into the 2019-20 season?