The Morning After: Hmmmm-Squad Certified

Insight3 years ago6 min readNekias Duncan

Wednesday night’s preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans was the most preseason game you could ever imagine.

The Pelicans were without their two best players; the Heat were down 17 players (okay, it was like eight, but still). So of course, this B-Team scrimmage turned into a dern track meet. The Heat hung up a franchise-record 140 points in a win, and that felt conservative.

Just by the sheer number of rotation pieces missing on both sides, it’s hard to draw too much from this game. It was a frenetic mess after all. If there was anything that stood out from Miami’s end, it was the contributions from two-thirds of the Hmmmm Squad: Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo.

Hmmmm-Rich set the tone early, scoring 16 of his 25 points in the first quarter. The encouraging thing? He did it from all three areas, in a myriad of ways.

He had the pull-up jumper going. His first bucket was an off-the-bounce triple, a shot he only made five times all of last season:

He later gave us a dose of the pull-up middy out of pick-and-roll. This was a shot he was able to hit with some consistency for the first time last season:

Richardson also showcased the ability to drain threes off of movement rather than a standstill spot-up attempt. The Pelicans did a poor job of tracking him, especially in transition, but this is something to keep an eye on:

His most impressive possession, however, came midway through the 3rd quarter. Just look at the creation here:

Richardson displays great patience after the initial pick-and-roll doesn’t gain traction. He gets his defender leaning with a hesi’ before going tight around the Adebayo screen. Richardson’s defender (Elfrid Payton) doesn’t track Richardson particularly well, forcing Nikola Mirotic to step up to contain the drive. The second Mirotic steps up, Richardson floats a lob to Adebayo for the easy finish.

Do things play out differently if Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis are defending that pick-and-roll? Maybe. I’d wager probably to be honest. But again, it’s about the process. You can see Richardson purposefully setting up his defender on that second pick-and-roll. You can see him reading the big defender, the timing of the pass, and the touch of the pass. That’s all tangible improvement that should translate when the real games start.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about Hmmm-Bam.

Because wow. 

He finished with a game-high 26 points (15 in the third quarter), along with 12 rebounds (five offensive boards), five steals, three assists, and three blocks. Beyond the stat-line, the man just … popped. He was setting hard screens, flying around the court defensively, pushing the ball after rebounds, and dunking on people. He showed off the full repertoire, hopefully proving he’s at least worthy of name recognition to Colin Cowherd.

We know what Adebayo can do defensively. He combines great length and athleticism with timing and a discipline beyond his years. Peep this block against Julius Randle, one of the most physical players in the league:

Adebayo absorbs multiple blows as Randle bulldozes his way to the basket, but he remains in position to contest the shot. The block is impressive enough, but pay attention to how early Adebayo raises his arm in preparation for the shot. He doesn’t try to swipe down at the ball like your typical eager beaver. He waits out the move, then makes sure to stay grounded until after Randle hoists up the shot.

Roughly five minutes later, Adebayo shows his ability to switch out onto to guards, victimizing Ian Clark:

Adebayo shades Clark to his right, towards the baseline. That’s subtle-but-smart on its own. As he practically pins Clark underneath the hoop, again, he keeps his hands high in preparation for the shot instead of reaching. Once Clark commits to the shot, then Adebayo makes a play on the ball.

What makes Adebayo special is his ability to turn defense into offense … all by himself. This is absurd:

In 13 seconds, Bam:

• Picks off a pass
• Goes coast-to-coast while bullying poor Payton for a bucket
• Throws off Solomon Hill’s rhythm after he receives the inbounds pass
• Turns on the burners and pins Hill’s shot against the glass

How many big men in the league could complete that sequence and make it look that easy? Two? Three?

It’s not hard to see why Miami is so excited about his potential. Once he comes more assertive offensively, like he showcases during this Kelly Olynyk impression, the league might be in trouble:

Preseason Notes

• Tyler Johnson did stuff! He finished with 12 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Sure, he did not face great competition (nobody really did), but it was refreshing to actually see the ball go in the hoop at an efficient clip. I still contest that Johnson hasn’t played poorly this preseason, he’s shot poorly. He’s made nice passes, competed defensively, grabbed contested boards, and fought for loose balls like he normally does. It would be nice to see him dunk instead of flubbing layups, but maybe that’s the next step.

• Derrick Jones, Jr. is an incredible leaper. I mean, good lord:

• DeAndre Liggins played well (10 points in 16 minutes, plus-7) and flashed some ball skills we’ve rarely seen from him up to this point in his career.

• Briante Weber took 11 shots last night! It did not go particularly well – he made four of them – but at least he tried? Can we give him that?