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Miami Heat Summer League: Takeaways from the California Classic

Who gained the most from Summer League?

NBA: California Classic-Miami Heat at Sacramento Kings Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat wrapped up the 2022 California Classic portion of Summer League on Tuesday, July 5. With the team heading to Las Vegas for the second and final Summer League tournament starting today July 7, let’s take a look at some takeaways from the first three games of summer play.

Tough competition for training camp

While it wasn’t always pretty, the Heat got several strong individual performances from players across the California Classic, making it difficult to determine which players will end up coming to training camp with the team. As it stands now, Miami has 12 players under standard contracts, two under two-way deals, guards Mychal Mulder and Javonte Smart, and one, center Orlando Robinson, signed to an Exhibit-10 deal that was officially announced today.

In the offseason, teams are permitted to carry up to 20 players. Assuming Miami fills out its 15-man roster using the mid-level exception or via a blockbuster trade, that leaves a limited amount of training camp spots to use. With Robinson reportedly already under contract, that leaves room for only two or three Summer League players to join the team for training camp, if Mulder and Smart are retained. The Heat have several solid options.

Guard Kyle Allman Jr. joined the starting lineup for two of three of Miami’s outings and averaged nine points, six assists and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting just under 36% from downtown in three games with the Heat. Allman showcased an ability to get hot from deep and had a knack for hitting floaters.

Jamaree Bouyea from San Francisco is another guard option to keep an eye on. While he didn’t put up eye-popping stats in the first two games, he handled the ball well and made the extra pass quite often. That culminated in an impressive 13-point game from Bouyea in the third game of the California Classic to go along with six assists. Bouyea could be in line to be a third point guard option behind Kyle Lowry and Gabe Vincent on the roster.

Jamal Cain from Oakland, Bryce Hamilton from UNLV and Jalen Adaway from St. Bonaventure are some of the others who had standout performances at the California Classic. Cain showed a knack for making hustle plays and invading passing lanes, putting up eight points, five offensive boards, three assists, three steals and a block against the Los Angeles Lakers before entering the health and safety protocols for the last two games. Hamilton put up nine points and seven rebounds in the win over the Golden State Warriors and Adaway showed off solid defense and rebounding skills in limited action.

The race for training camp spots will be an interesting one, made further interesting by the fact that Miami’s two-way contract spots could also be up for grabs.

Trouble in two-way town?

As mentioned, Mychal Mulder and Javonte Smart hold Miami’s two-way spots. Smart was signed to a two-year two-way deal last season when forward Caleb Martin was promoted from a two-way to a standard deal. Mulder also signed a two-year, two-way deal toward the end of the regular season, taking over for Kyle Guy. Smart, 23, spent last year’s training camp with the Heat before being waived, playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce and then landing with the Milwaukee Bucks on a two-way before getting cut.

Mulder, 28, holds three seasons of NBA experience, playing for Miami, Golden State and the Orlando Magic. Mulder played in 60 games with the Warriors in the 2020-21 season, averaging 5.6 points per game and shooting just under 40% from downtown.

Despite their hefty NBA experience, neither Smart nor Mulder has shot well in Summer League thus far. Smart averaged 12.5 points, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game in two games in the California Classic but shot a miserable 9 for 33 (27.3%) from the field and 3 of 14 (21.4%) from downtown. Mulder, meanwhile, shot 28.6% from the field in three games and 21.7% from beyond the arc.

For two guys whose swing skills in the NBA rely on being consistent from deep, the types of shots both players are taking have been lackluster at best. Despite Miami winning by 24 points against the Warriors, Mulder was a minus-four. It was also hard not to notice how much better the offense looked in that game while Smart was inactive.

Both players have done a ton to show they are capable of playing well at the NBA level, but if these performances bleed over into Las Vegas, their two-way spots might not be as secure as previously thought. Both players can be waived without a cap hit to the team.

Nikola Jović looking more comfortable

The Heat selected Serbian forward Nikola Jović with the No. 27 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, one of the only overseas prospects Miami has ever worked with. Jović is an extreme project, having guard skills in a newly developed 6-foot-10 frame. In the first two games of the California Classic, that much was apparent. The Serbian product left several jump shots short, didn’t get his feet under him and had a few airballs. In those games, Jović had just nine points and seven rebounds combined.

However, in the third game, Jović went off for 25 points and nine rebounds, hitting 5 of 7 deep-ball attempts. Jović looked far more comfortable in the win over the Warriors, playing to his strengths and getting more on-ball opportunities.

He may not play much in his first season in Miami, but Jović is a prospect that’s worth getting excited for. Rarely do the Heat get players with such a sheer amount of untapped potential, making Jović an offensive unicorn to keep an eye on.

Haywood Highsmith primed for rotation minutes

While forward Haywood Highsmith didn’t blow anyone out of the water with his performance in the California Classic, he made all the right plays Miami would like to see from him. With a P.J. Tucker role in mind for the young forward, Highsmith averaged 10.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, two assists and 1.7 steals per game in three games for Miami, shooting 48.2% from the field and 41.7% from deep.

While Highsmith likely won’t be starting at the four next season, his hustle and energy popped off the page in Miami’s California Classic games. With Omer Yurtseven and Marcus Garrett set to join the Las Vegas rotation, Highsmith will get more of an opportunity to make his winning plays more evident.

Considering the fact that the Heat hasn’t made any additions since free agency opened, it could be indicative that the team has faith in Highsmith’s ability to join the rotation, much like Vincent and Max Strus did in the 2021-22 season.