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Erik Spoelstra gushes about Caleb Martin, sends message: ‘Make us have to play you.’

Spoelstra sends a message that others should follow.

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Miami Heat have lost seven of their last 10 games and are currently the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. After coming one shot away from an NBA Finals appearance, this season — mired by injuries, lackluster shooting and inconsistent play — has been rightfully seen as a disappointment to some.

There have been plenty of roles that have changed — a few being been Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and Kyle Lowry — but the player who perhaps undergone the most change has been Caleb Martin, who began the season as a starter after P.J. Tucker signed with the Philadelphia 76ers in the offseason.

Recently, since moving back to the bench, Martin’s thrived. And Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has gushed Martin’s role and willingness to move back to the bench, which occurred when Miami signed veteran forward Kevin Love.

“I tell our guys all the time, make us have to play you,” Spoelstra said, according to Ira Winderman of South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Impact the game so much where we can’t take you out of the game and he’s living and breathing that right now.”

Martin is averaging 10.2 points and 5.0 rebounds on 46.5 percent shooting, including 37.4 percent shooting from 3-point range and 78.9 percent from the free-throw line this season. As a reserve, he’s averaged 11.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists, but has upped his efficiency to 54.7 percent and 47.8 percent from 3-point range — equating to a true-shooting percentage of 70.5 percent.

Martin has still played the power forward position in smaller units of late, but the 27-year-old wing has continued to produce no matter his role, even in-light of getting moved back to the bench. In his two games against the Hawks on March 4 and 6, he tallied 15 and 21 points, respectively, combining to make 12 of his 19 attempts and five of his seven 3-point attempts.

The currently-constructed Heat, 2.5 games out of the sixth-and-final non-play-in spot in the East, have been working a nine-man rotation with a primary bench unit of Max Strus, Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and Caleb Martin, with Haywood Highsmith and Duncan Robinson on the outside-looking-in.

There’s discussion to be had whether or not Highsmith or Robinson should be completely out of the rotation because of what Highsmith can offer defensively and the gravity Robinson provides. Martin, to an extent, offers both defense and some semblence of 3-point shooting — and with how he’s provided a recent spark, his spot in the rotation should locked up, sealed and mailed to the nearest post office.