Make no mistake, the Miami Heat reserves haven’t been the primary topic of conversation so far this preseason — it’s been Kyle Lowry, and rightfully so. His point-of-attack defense, dynamic playmaking, supreme court vision and off-ball spacing, among other traits, have been transcendent in his three preseason games. Lowry’s accumulated 22 assists in 60 minutes and is making life easier for the rest of the Heat offense, which will translate into the regular season.
But outside of Miami’s presumed starting lineup — Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, PJ Tucker and Bam Adebayo — what else have we seen through its first four preseason contests?
Yes, it’s just preseason, but Heat guard and presumed sixth man Tyler Herro looks to have taken a leap after his first full offseason. He surpassed 24-plus points in each of Miami’s first three preseason contests and is averaging 20.8 points on 47.7/34.8/86.7 (58.0 TS%) shooting, adding 4.5 rebounds and three assists in 27.9 minutes.
With this exercise, we are going to set aside Miami’s top six players and focus on some of the other reserves that have made a big impact during their unbeaten preseason. Let’s dive into it!
Two-way potential for the two-way
Martin is Miami’s newest two-way gem — both contractually and literally. He’s played in two of the Heat’s four preseason games, being held out of the middle two because of a right ankle sprain. In 34 minutes, a very limited sample, Martin’s flashed shot-blocking, on-ball and off-ball energy and instincts defensively, good passing and capable finishing touch, among other qualities. He’s only shot 33.3 percent (15 attempts), including 1-of-5 from deep and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe — but he’s been better, at least offensively, than the aforementioned efficiency figures indicate.
He started in Monday’s game against Charlotte in place of Butler, though he didn’t get a lot of on-ball time with Miami’s starting group. He finished with three points on five attempts, in addition to his three rebounds, two assists with one block in 15 minutes.
Finding immediate two-way production from a two-way player could be vital for Miami’s depth. If any of Miami’s wings get hurt, Martin’s two-way capabilities lengthens the bench ten-fold. It’s easy to tell why the Heat’s brain trust went after the 26-year-old. If the Heat need any semblance of bench length, athleticism and energy, Martin’s their guy.
The third-year guard hoisted 79.1 percent of his shots from beyond the arc at a 33.8 percent clip last season. Through four preseason games, Strus, who’s third on the team in scoring (13.3 ppg), has taken 73.7 percent of his shots (28-of-38) from 3-point range at a 46.4 percent clip, albeit a very small sample.
The other 10 of his shot attempts have come inside the painted area, going 5-for-10. Strus’ array of shotmaking was nothing different than what we’ve seen in bigger samples. The 6-foot-5 guard is always looking to put the ball in the bucket, with the help of Heat assistant Chris Quinn, of course.
In the first clip, Strus receives the dribble hand-off from Micah Potter (see below). Strus recognizes that Spurs forward Thaddeus Young drifts towards Potter’s roll, creating the open lane for Strus to finish. Shown in the second clip, Strus isn’t afraid to create his own opportunity — though his step-back 3-point shot frequency will remain significantly low.
Those two clips, however, represent areas where he will take shots — aggressively. Due to his shotmaking and sneaky athleticism, barring any injury, it’s likely that Strus finds near-regular rotation minutes off the bench. His presumed increased efficiency from those highly-efficient shooting spots only helps his case.
Activity on the offensive glass
Potter’s most came in Friday’s preseason game against the Spurs, putting together a very encouraging outing. He tallied 13 points, 17 rebounds — the NBA’s single-game high rebounding total in the preseason this year — in 37 minutes.
The thing that stood out above all was Potter’s activity on the glass, especially offensively.
In just three preseason games, the former Wisconsin big man has recorded 18 rebounds — six offensive — both placing second to Yurtseven. Most of his offensive rebounds didn’t result in immediate putbacks, but the conceited effort on the glass was clearly there all night.
In his final two years at Wisconsin, the 6-foot-10 big man averaged a combined 6.1 rebounds in 20.3 minutes — equating to 10.7 rebounds per 36 minutes (or 11.9 per 40). Although it’s a longshot that Potter begins the season on the NBA roster, Miami’s Exhibit-10 big man will likely find a similar role with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Low post presence
Yurtseven’s unquestionably been the Heat’s most active player on the offensive glass and around the rim, but let’s focus on another area of success first: His low post scoring. Yurtseven’s two most frequent avenues of scoring were in the low post and beyond the arc from above-the-break.
Yurtseven’s offensive skillset is arguably closer to Dedmon than Adebayo, but it still compliments the rest of Miami’s frontcourt. Especially in mismatches, Yurtseven’s good at establishing the deep seal; but if he’s able to expand his low-post bag against better equipped centers, he’ll have a bright future in this league.
Establishing residency at rim
In addition to his low-post play, Yurtseven has lived around the rim. He’s by far been Miami’s top offensive rebounder this preseason — hauling down 17 in 59 minutes. That’s a preposterous 10.4 (!) offensive boards per 36 minutes (extrapolating small sample stats over 36 minutes....hah).
Yurtseven often lays low near the dunker spot to open up the paint for any ballhandlers, waiting until the perfect time to leap for tip-ins. He’s also rolled to the rim hard and finished with authority — especially in the second clip above. Because he has more gravitational pull than a gas giant, sharpshooter Duncan Robinson flying an off-ball screen draws multiple defenders. Spurs center Drew Eubanks barely elevates higher than the free-throw line to contest Robinson, but doesn’t possess the foot speed to recover for Yurtseven’s one-handed slam.
We saw bits and pieces of dominant play around the rim and off the glass during the Summer League, but it’s been otherworldly thus far this preseason — albeit against other team’s backups, most of the time.
If you need more evidence, look at this sequence below:
Smash the “It’s just preseason” button once again, but Morris, who’s hit 34.5 percent of his 3-pointers over the last three seasons, has struggled shooting the ball thus far.
On a more positive note, he’s featured good downhill playmaking from the short roll. Miami hasn’t involved him in many rolling actions, but he’s been effective when tasked with making instinctual playmaking decisions. Similarly to Adebayo during the Olympics, if he can continually generate easy opportunities in the short roll, it unearths multiple scoring avenues for himself and teammates: The kick out 3-pointer to shooters, a lob to the player located in the dunker spot or shooting the ball himself to keep the defense honest.
Morris could best utilize this skillset as a small-ball 5. With Adebayo and Dedmon holding down the center spot, I don’t expect those opportunities to open up; I’d expect Tucker, who’s had prolonged experience at center, to earn the tertiary center nod before Morris.
Even though it’s not the spot-up shooter role that we’re accustomed to seeing from Morris, getting him on the move can be effective for the Heat offense — as long as he has the requisite spacing to operate.