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Key takeaways from Heat preseason opener against the Timberwolves

Adebayo, Herro impress in Miami’s loss at the FTX Arena to start the preseason.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

The Miami Heat opened their 2022-2023 chapter – the 35th season in franchise history – with a preseason defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In the long run the game doesn’t hold much bearing, given the absences on both sides: D’Angelo Russell, Karl Anthony-Towns, and major offseason acquisition Rudy Gobert didn’t see action for Minny, while Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent, and Victor Oladipo were absent for Miami. All aforementioned players, if healthy, are expected to play significant roles for their respective teams this season.

But there were a few takeaways from the Heat’s side worth mentioning and to observe moving forward as Miami finishes their tune-ups leading up to their regular season opener against the Chicago Bulls on October 19.

Up next on the plate are the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, which should provide some intrigue given Kevin Durant’s trade request this past summer.

Here are a few takeaways from the home game against the T-Wolves:

Unleash Bamonte

Offseason additions and departures notwithstanding, the biggest sign of how far Miami can go in their title hopes will be the improvement of Bam Adebayo’s offensive game.

Everyone who knows basketball is already aware of his contributions on the other end, where he’s a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. But if he can take his scoring up a level – beginning with volume in attempts – that could raise the ceiling for a team which came close to the NBA Finals last postseason.

In 25 minutes Adebayo attempted 17 shots – only one short of his target of 18 – and finished with 22 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. In a contest where Miami trailed for most of the way Bam was a +4. He shot over 50% (9 FGM), converted all 3 free throws, and made his lone 3-ball attempt of the evening.

It didn’t always look pretty but Adebayo looked solid when looking for his shot. The lack of hesitation when taking jumpers is an improvement from the player we saw last season who often did a double-take before determining to score the ball. This was most apparent when he showed no hesitation in attempting a 3-ball which was undoubtedly the highlight of the Miami fans’ night.

Watch these sequences:

The impact Bam provides is in succession. His mere presence can change the game’s flow at any point. Add legitimate scoring prowess to the mix and the “no ceiling” reputation will materialize onto on-court production.

Attack, Tyler

Fresh off a $130-million contract extension, Tyler Herro came out looking to score in aggressive fashion. What was interesting was how he started the contest showing off his improved penetration game, powered by an offseason where his strength was once again enhanced.

Once the Wolves respected his inner attacks, he mixed in some jump shots in the second half.

Herro, who was in the starting unit, finished with 22 points on an effective 7-of-14 shooting with a 2-of-5 display from deep and 6-of-6 showing from the foul stripe. Like Bam he was a +4 on the court. He pointed out getting to the foul line more as target during media day and his driving game will yield that desired result, assuming it continues.

As far as the other end: his on-ball defense isn’t perfect but not hopeless, while his help/off-ball defense looks better. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him rack up quite a few steals in some games this coming season, making him more of an appealing fantasy basketball target.

The Big Yurt… needs some work

One of the interesting moves head coach Erik Spoelstra made (by the way, how on earth is he 51-years-old when he doesn’t look a day above 35?) was starting Omer Yurtseven with Adebayo in the frontcourt. The Turkish delight finished with 11 points and nine boards in 27 minutes, but was a -19, shot only 5-of-12, and fouled out.

The Wolves, particularly top-tier scorer Anthony Edwards, targeted him multiple times in pick-and-rolls and dribble hand-offs, leading to the Heat’s early foul trouble which put them in a first half hole.

His slow laterals put Yurtseven on the side/hip of his defenders in succession, leading to pitfalls on the defensive end and easy buckets in the paint.

That could have been balanced had Omer shot better, but his touch near the rim remains a work in progress.

There’s time for Yurtseven to improve ahead of the opener, but if his defense doesn’t improve, the big starting unit will have some serious question marks against better teams in the league.

Caleb looks springy

Caleb Martin joined Adebayo and Herro as the only Heat starters as a plus on the court, with Miami outscoring Minnesota by 5 in his playing minutes.

Martin, who was re-signed this summer, won’t replace everything PJ Tucker produced as the hypothetical starting PF, but there are areas he might be even better at.

For starters, Martin has the ability to handle and shoot from more spots on the court compared to PJ, who was typically stationed in the corner. It helps that Caleb has a refined jumper and even showed some dribble pull-up tricks during the contest. Moreover, he provides athleticism on the break.

The Strus didn’t get loose, while Duncan shot blanks

Neither Max Strus nor Duncan Robinson had impressive shooting evenings. Overall Miami shot 10-of-35 from downtown but their slow start from long range in the first half helped dig the hole they found themselves in, particularly because of how it allowed a young, fast, and athletic squad like Minnesota to get out on the break.

On the plus side, Duncan showed willingness to attack close-outs with dribble penetration. That will allow plays to continue or lead to easy points if Robinson can develop a floater game. The desire to experiment that aspect alone will be better than last season’s display, when plays would halt because Duncan would have no answer once opponents took away the long-range option.

Strus will be fine, although the preseason could be a good time for him to experiment with some pick-and-roll play, which would diversify his game a ton.