Miami Heat’s Pre-season Takeaways: Haywood is the 4! Herro’s PnR Game, Bam’s Shot Diet
With the Miami Heat finishing their pre-season, it’s time to overreact, overexaggerate, and make firm declarations about each player going forward.
It’s tough to predict how much of what we see in the pre-season truly matters — at least to the established veterans. With everyone else, it’s looking out for subtle changes, different habits, trying new things, and seeing some development points.
But with that in mind, here are my takeaways from the Heat’s pre-season and some post-preason thoughts and questions that could be key going forward.
Haywood NEEDS to Start
If there’s a player that impressed me the most it’s Haywood Highsmith. He mentioned during camp that he wants to expand on his offensive game.
I don’t fully know how much that game is expanded but he has worked on one of his main weaknesses — his ability as a spacer. Last year, Highsmith shot 33.9% on 2 3s. Then in the playoffs went 8-for-16 in 161 minutes.
That can’t happen on this team or any team that lacks spacing because whenever the Heat run with Highsmith, the defense doesn’t have to respect him at all. There was no reason to guard him, especially when he was glued to the corner or around the baseline most of the time.
That was the same issue they had with PJ Tucker and that was with Tucker shooting so much better on more attempts.
And right away in the pre-season, Highsmith made sure to work on that. He finished shooting 9-for-15 in four games:
Everything about it is so much better. The shot looks better. He seems more confident in it. There’s no hesitation when taking those shots. He was letting it fly(and making them).
One huge difference is where and how he was getting those looks. They weren’t all on kickouts to the corner when the defense helped off. He was actively looking for that shot. He lifted around the arc. He got himself open by moving into space. He was placed one pass away on drives or when the ball was in the post.
He was being used in a number of different places as a shooter. That alone is more important than just being a spacer in the corner.
When talking about his expanded offensive game, there were some flashes. There was another faking a dribble-hand-off into a floater or beating the closeout. However, that’s something that has been in his game already. But maybe with being a more respectable shooter, that part of the game will open up more.
Outside of his offense, his defense was stellar as always and it’s that defense why he will continue to get minutes:
He played great defense guarding up in the post against Ben Simmons AND Victor Wembanyama. As always, he was helpful off the ball with his stunts, digs, and helping at the nail. And that’s the point with him, he brings versatility on that end too. Almost all of the clips is showing something different that he’s good at.
Cain Will Have a Role
Did you know Jamal Cain led the team in both rebounds and plus-minus?
That’s what Cain was doing. He carved himself a role. Nothing that may stand out or be the focal point of the game. But he does everything else.
His feel for offensive rebounds is something else. He almost averaged four ORBs!
He knows where to stay around the baseline to get those easy points or off-cuts. And also encouraging he went 8-for-12 from 3. As it was with Highsmith, his shot and confidence look so much better.
Then there’s this on defense:
Where do the Heat find guys that are so good at picking up guys full court and pressuring them well?
That second clip was an amazing defense from him. Pressured Simmons full court, Josh Richardson came to help, and then that recognition from Cain was A+. He played that pass as perfect as you can get. That’s the defensive instinct that is clear from Cain.
And it’s these little things — pressure, off-ball defense, good IQ and awareness, great cutting, good feel for boards, and better shooting — that will let him have a role on this team.
Duncan Constantly Adding Stuff
It was disappointing to see Duncan Robinson shoot 22% from 3. This probably doesn’t matter for the season, but it was just sad to see him struggle making shots again, instead of going into the season feeling good.
But what he did show is everything else and he should still be feeling good.
This is something that I continue to talk about each year in each pre-season. Robinson looks different and more complete each year. Each season, he’s looking less and less like a 3pt specialist with nothing else and more like a player that’s more well-rounded with not only counters but many go-to options in general.
I feel like that’s the difference.
Throughout this development, you can see that he wanted to try new things. It started off slow and it was build on gradually. But it all started with him looking for his shot(what he always wants) and then do something else.
Now, it looks like he’s not gunning for 3s but instead just plays freely and does what he needs to do.
A lot of these moves are immediate. He’s actively looking to curl and drive on the first instinct.
And as always, he showcased a lot of his great passing ability. His passing has been the most underrated part of his game and this will only get better if he continues to make more plays off the dribble. You can see when he’s curling into the paint, he can easily make a read to the cutter or make a skip pass to the corner.
This is a completely different Robinson that we got used to and hopefully, we’ll continue to see this with him in the rotation this year.
Bam’s Offensive Game
Bam Adebayo finished the pre-season scoring 16 points on 55% shooting and I still felt kind of disappointed. And a lot of it has to do with his shot chart:
This isn’t a good shot chart. And in the pre-season, I was hoping to see some different habits(even if it meant more turnovers or misses). But almost every shot felt exactly the same as he was taking last year and that’s an issue — looking at this shot chart, it’s actually worse.
He finished with:
- 12-for-15 at the rim
- 5-for-17 in the paint
- 9-for-14 in the mid-range
He can’t have that kind of shot profile. You can’t take more shots in the paint than the rim. You certainly can’t take an almost identical amount in the mid-range. This also is worse considering most of the 15 shots at the rim wasn’t created by him.
These are the exact shots that I had issues with last year. Too many times fading away and settling for shots in defenders’ face.
These AREN’T the shots that a lot of people think he needs to take. He had those great shots against Jaren Jackson Jr where he was giving him the space. Those were the right shots. These aren’t — especially at this volume.
Now, this was pre-season, so it may not matter but I just wish we saw some sign of positive stuff too.
Outside of the shot diet, there was one particular tidbit that stood out:
There was a strong emphasis on him bringing up the ball. Whenever it was to push in transition, getting the rebound and running, or even allowing him to handle the ball of a make, the point was to have “point” Adebayo.
Herro’s PnR & 2 Different Styles
In their first game, the plan was simple on offense — run A LOT of PnRs with Tyler Herro. The entire game was mostly him being on the ball trying to create for himself and for others.
I wasn’t impressed with those PnRs and definitely didn’t get the hype around that or as a sign that he will have a monster year because of it. He may have looked marginally better but the overall game was still the same.
I didn’t like the process on a lot of those reads. Sometimes the read felt predetermined, settling for poor shots, not keeping the dribble alive, stopping on the drive, or not creating any space. There wasn’t anything that showed flashes of improvement.
And if you want to see a breakdown of those individual plays, check them out here:
🧵Charlotte Hornets vs Miami Heat Pre-season Game Thread🧵
1st pre-season only means 1 thing. A lot of overreaction & strong declarations
Wasn’t that impressed with what I saw on offense from most guys
But the defense was there. Think that was the thing that stood out
— John Jablonka (@JohnJablonka_) October 11, 2023
But then compare those PnRs to these ones:
After that game, he showed a lot more in the PnR. He was able to get to the rim better, primarily using that retreat dribble and a hesitation move to throw off defenders to get by.
And it’s that second clip that was the most impressive. Comes off the PnR, snakes it, and attacks Jackson Jr quickly. But he doesn’t kill the dribble or go for a shot. He keeps it, forces a switch and also drags Jackson completely out of the paint. Now, he can make a pass to Adebayo against a mismatch. Everything about this was on point.
Those were the key improvements and something that shows good signs going forward as a passer off a PnR. He may not be elite as a scorer inside the arc out of it, but if he can improve on the decision-making and knowing how to toy with the defenders with finesse, then that makes him more dangerous.
But this is still all Herro on the ball. When he had his high-scoring game, that was a completely different style for him. He was used primarily off the ball.
It’s this back-cut, beating defenders off a catch, beating closeouts, or stepping into a three. That’s where he’s the most effective and it’s no surprise that’s when he had his best scoring game.
The Heat Found Another One
I don’t know how the Heat are doing this anymore. They seem to find anyone on their potential 2-way contracts.
RJ Hampton balled out yesterday and it’s a real shame that he was hurt and that he didn’t get more reps to showcase his game.
That’s another big guard who has shown that he can pick up guys full-court, stay in front of them, get over screens well, and have a good burst to the rim.
He’s definitely my pick for the 2-way deal and hopefully see a potential role throughout the season, especially when guys miss time.
Thoughts & Questions Going Forward
Of course, it’s hard to take stuff out of this. Jimmy Butler didn’t play at all. A lot of the starters played just one half. Guys missed games. It was more about the young guys. So on and so on.
But I still think it raised a couple of questions and thoughts.
- Who’s the starting four?
- Will we see Robinson more in the rotation?
- How will Erik Spoelstra balance on-ball & off-ball Herro?
- Can we afford to start both Kevin Love and Kyle Lowry
- This team has a GLARING hole at the point guard
- Do they have enough shooting?
I think the pre-season did a good job answering the first two questions.
WE NEED HAYWOOD HIGHSMITH STARTING & DUNCAN ROBINSON PLAY MORE WITH BAM!
He’s shown more than enough that he deserves a chance with his improved shooting and spacing. Plus that’s not considering that Love just isn’t a good option now.
With an improved, more well-rounded Robinson and the fact that he’s the only legit high-volume off-ball shooter, they need him playing again. That’s linked to the last question because I do think that’s going to be an issue this year again.
The biggest concern that was shown in the pre-season is their point guard issue. That is an issue. It’s not overblown. It’s not something that can be fixed by the committee. It’s not getting fixed with Adebayo bringing the ball or by Herro having more ball-handling duties. That’s a real problem that I don’t know what they could do right now.
And that’s linked to the Herro question. Because I don’t think Lowry is good enough to start or be an effective enough point guard to change anything for this team, Herro needs to be the ball handler by necessity.
But what this pre-season has shown(and by his comments during camp), that’s not going to be a good option. It will be better than anything else by default but not something that will translate to what the Heat needs.
Overall, this was a fun pre-season seeing many of the young players trying to improve enough to get themselves a contract or establish a role on this team. Onto the real thing now.