The injury bug has hit the Miami Heat really hard to begin this season. There were games as of recently where Miami only had 7 players available to play. These injuries have opened up playing time for other guys, and the one that looks like he has benefited the most from that is 25 year old PF Haywood Highsmith. Highsmith is in his 3rd year in the NBA and was signed to a standard contract by the Heat last season.
Not only did Heat forward Haywood Highsmith tie his career high with 16 points Wednesday, but today another $300,000 on his contract became guaranteed (bringing it up to $700,000 in guaranteed salary). The full $1.8 million becomes guaranteed on Jan. 10.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) December 1, 2022
For all of last season and even a little this season, Heat fans weren’t sure why Pat Riley and co. handed Highsmith a contract over other young guys.
Well, now Heat Nation is starting to learn why. All it really took was for Highsmith to get an opportunity for consistent minutes. Amid all the nagging injuries that have plagued this team, Highsmith has gotten his chance. With a team that lost an important rotational piece in PJ Tucker as the starting PF, Highsmith showed confidence in an off season interview where he stated he has the ability to replicate what Tucker brought to the team:
When fans first heard that statement, everybody was skeptical. Nobody really saw enough of Highsmith to be able to confidently make that comparison to Tucker. However, as of the last couple weeks that statement doesn’t seem nearly as far off as originally thought.
It’s also important to know that Highsmith is a whole 12 years younger than Tucker. They play the same position and are similar in size and strength. They both are defensive guys who aren’t scared to play up on anybody in the league. In fact, the one on one defense from Highsmith has been pretty impressive.
Haywood Highsmith is holding opponents to 37.8% from the field this season pic.twitter.com/4Ho35OhbZc— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCom) November 30, 2022
Haywood Highsmith’s defense pic.twitter.com/JbzKzNZLxz— Football Town Resident (@ChefTrillie_) December 1, 2022
The stats show that Haywood Highsmith is a lock up defender. He’s quick and has great defensive instincts for a small ball 4. He’s very active in passing lanes and gets deflections, and his rotations on defense are great too. He is able to switch onto pretty much any position and hold his own. His best defensive game of the season came last week against the Washington Wizards, where he was putting the clamps on practically everybody he guarded.
The young man had yet another standout defensive effort last night against the Boston Celtics. It really seemed like the Boston players were getting anywhere they wanted offensively, except when being guarded by Highsmith.
The Celtics shot 3 of 12 when Haywood Highsmith was defending last night, while forcing 4 turnovers and adding 2 blocks— Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) December 1, 2022
Taking away those Highsmith possessions, the Celtics shot 61% from the field
He is also a good rebounder, whether that’s for defensive boards or offensive boards to earn the Heat another possession. His hustle is inspiring to watch, as there were many instances over the last few weeks where he battled to keep the ball alive for Miami. Highsmith does all the little things that impact winning at a high level, something that sounds pretty similar to what Tucker did for the team last season. Most importantly, now Highsmith’s offense is starting to come around too.
Haywood Highsmith vs. Boston Celtics (11/30/2022)— Anthony Aguirre (@nbadiscussi0n) December 1, 2022
16 PTS (6-9 FG) 67% (4-6 3PT) 67%
Despite the hard loss, Highsmith had a game and showed what he’s truly capable of. The Heat found another gem . #HIGHSZN pic.twitter.com/tXQagDHOJs
When that 3 ball is falling for him, he becomes so big for the Heat offense. Coach Erik Spoelstra knows he is putting in Highsmith for the defense, so for him to have the ability to stretch the floor makes Miami an even better team.
The Haywood Highsmith emergence has been real nice to watch. He is developing right in front of everyone’s eyes. As of now he is playing off the bench as the back up PF, but it’s intriguing to think of the possibility of him earning the starting PF spot over the course of the season. If he can impact the game like this consistently, a starting line up insertion is bound to happen at some point. There has been a glaring hole for that position ever since the news dropped that Tucker left. Coach Spoelstra tried Caleb Martin only to learn that Martin strives way more as a natural SF.
Now, Max Strus is getting reps at that starting position. It is going to be interesting to see if Martin will be put back into that role when Jimmy Butler returns soon or if Strus will man it down to allow Martin to excel as a SF off the bench. However, Highsmith could certainly earn his way into this line up and help solidify the bench with key players like Strus, Martin, Gabe Vincent, Dewayne Dedmon, and eventually Victor Oladipo all being available.
For the longest time Heat fans were begging for a move or signing to be made for a PF. Who would’ve known that all along the Heat staff was grooming Haywood Highsmith to potentially be that guy? Although a move could still possibly be an option, it’s nice to know that Highsmith has the ability to help this Miami team at his position.