Five games into this season, the Miami Heat are still looking for their Jae Crowder replacement — the starting power forward. Moe Harkless got the starting nod for the Heat’s season opener, but he has scored a grand total of three points this entire season. He’s committed double that number of fouls.
Erik Spoelstra went back to starting Bam Adebayo at the four next to Meyers Leonard, but ditched that two minutes into the Milwaukee Bucks’ 47-point drubbing of Miami. In the Heat’s last two games, Spoelstra has given the nod to Andre Iguodala, who will turn 37 years old later this month.
This issue could be the Heat’s biggest one. Jimmy Butler had an abysmal game Friday against the Dallas Mavericks, but that should turn around once he’s healthy. Butler’s return to form should also help the Heat’s turnover woes, since the team is shoehorning a two-guard — Tyler Herro — into the starting point guard role.
Miami has also had the unfortunate luck of taking part in the Bucks’ record-setting 29 made 3-pointers and failing to make a 3-pointer of their own until the third quarter at the Mavericks. Wacky things happen over the course of a long season.
But Miami doesn’t have an answer at the four right now. Harkless has been so unproductive that it’s a wonder why KZ Okpala hasn’t leapfrogged him in the rotation. At this stage of his career, Iguodala should come off the bench so he can be fresh for the playoffs and make four 3-pointers in a closeout game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The answer, at least for now, should be starting Kelly Olynyk and Adebayo together. When one of them plays and the other sits, Miami has a negative net rating. But together, they have a positive net rating, including a 111.86 offensive rating. Olynyk’s 3-point shooting offers valuable spacing, and the Heat could simply put Adebayo on the better front-court player on defense.
Spoelstra may be reluctant to put Olynyk in the starting lineup, preferring to have his scoring punch off the bench. Olynyk’s ball-handling abilities also replicate some of what Adebayo does. But in Miami’s current predicament — with Harkless and Leonard unplayable, Okpala apparently not ready and Iguodala too old for the role — there is no other option. Until the Heat make a trade at the deadline, starting Olynyk is the best answer.