South Beach is eagerly anticipating the return of Miami Heat basketball following an off-season full of thought provoking roster moves. From acquiring Kyle Lowry to extending Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat are putting their chips firmly in the middle of the table.
It's at this juncture of the off-season that role players will be intent on displaying their developments as they bid to win a larger role within the rotation. For contending teams such as the Miami Heat, every minute counts, and every minuscule detail of a player's skillset is considered when formulating rotation schemes. Training camp is the easiest way to earn a bigger slice of the rotation pie, and everyone is famished.
Roster battles are rife throughout the NBA all season long, yet as teams reconviene following their summer break, these battles become amplified as basketball begins to ramp back up.
It could be two back-up guards fighting for prominence, or a young rookie looking to earn the respect of his peers. No matter where you look, someone is chasing what you have, and it's your job to hold it down for yourself.
When looking at the Miami Heat roster, you can envision some serious duels going down behind closed doors, especially amongst those hoping to nail down a bench role. As such, here are three roster battles to watch out for heading into training camp.
Miami Heat roster battles heading into training camp:
#1 Victor Oladipo vs. Max Strus
It's crazy to think that two years ago Victor Oladipo was seen as a rising star in the NBA, and now we're discussing a potential roster battle with a player who was on a two-way contract last season. You couldn't ask for a better example of how the NBA ebbs and flows, and with it careers rise and fall.
Let's be honest here, had Oladipo been healthy over the last few years, this battle wouldn't even exist. We all know who would be the first guard off the bench if Oladipo hadn't signed an enormous deal elsewhere. But injuries did happen, and Oladipo has failed to hit the heights of his most promising season with the Indiana Pacers.
Over the last three years, Oladipo has played a total of 85 games, and has shot just 33.1% from deep. The Miami Heat saw Oladipo for a total of four regular-season games last year, where he averaged just 12 points on 22.5% shooting from deep and 37.2% shooting from the field.
The Miami Heat need Oladipo firing on all cylinders, and he needs to rediscover his inner baller if he wishes to command a large scale contract next summer. Max Strus will have different ideas after navigating the NBA's two-way contract designation to earn himself a full roster spot for the 2021-22 NBA season. Strus is exactly what the Miami Heat would love their role players to be - a specialist scoring threat with size and length to be a problem on the defensive end.
Strus ranked in the 85th percentile for points-per-shot-attempt when on the court for the Miami Heat last season, as he displayed his scoring ability from beyond the arc. Sure, the Miami Heat will need more than his 33.8% this upcoming season, but with a defined role on offense and health on his side, Strus will be looking to cement his role in the Miami Heat's rotation.
Both players come into training camp with something to lose: Oladipo needs to win this battle and figure out how to impact winning again, as he bids to find a long-term home next summer. Strus, who is also on a one-year deal, will be playing for his NBA career as he doesn't carry the cache around the league that Oladipo does.
It's an unlikely battle with shades of Ant Man vs. Hulk, but this is where both players find themselves, and the Miami Heat will be salivating at the competition level between these two players.
Projected winner: Victor Oladipo.
#2 PJ Tucker vs. Markieff Morris
Two veterans, one potential starting spot. This is what training camp is all about. Neither Markieff Morris nor PJ Tucker set the pulse racing when showing up on a team sheet, but both do their jobs to a high level, and both can play inside and out.
Pat Riley's Miami Heat teams are like classic car restoration garages, where new life is breathed into classics, and in Tucker, the Miami Heat could have a potential Chevrolet Impala, coming off the back of an NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Tucker is very much a grit and hustle player who has solidified his role as the prototypical three-and-D wing in the NBA. No wonder contending NBA teams around the league continually look to bring Tucker into the fold - they know and respect what he brings to the table.
Markieff Morris fits in with their smash mouth, in-your-face brand of basketball and has less miles on the clock. Morris and the Miami Heat look to be a good fit for each other, and when factoring in his performances for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, it's easy to see why many believe he will lock down the starting role.
Neither player projects to be a locked-on starter, and it's entirely possible this battle is for superiority off the bench. Morris is a well-rounded option that can provide a punch on both ends of the floor, while Tucker is a pitbull you can unleash when you need a stop or some floor spacing from the corners.
Projected winner: Markieff Morris.
#3 Victor Oladipo vs. Tyler Herro
Let's say that Oladipo easily wins his training camp battle against Max Strus, which is the most likely scenario, and continues to impress during the training sessions. The ideation of a roster battle then pivots from Oladipo vs. Strus to Oladipo vs. Tyler Herro - and who gets a potential starting two-guard spot.
Again, if you had posed this question at the start of last season the answer would have been blatantly obvious, but after a down year for Herro, there's a chance that an incentivised Oladipo could smell blood in the water.
After all, it's not unheard of for a struggling player to start lighting it up in a contract year. Herro needs to show some serious signs of life after failing to build upon on an impressive showing during the NBA bubble. Despite the sophomore's numbers being up across the board, he struggled to grow into an increased role for the Miami Heat and oftentimes found himself overthinking his next moves.
Erik Spoelstra will be hoping that Herro's affection for the long mid-range game is waning - especially after the sophomore guard ranked in the 92nd percentile for long middies attempted but only the 60th percentile for converting those statistically despised shots.
Luckily for Herro, he has a defensive edge over Oladipo and can rest assured the Miami Heat will be encouraged by his rebounding ability and willingness to operate in a plethora of defensive schemes. After finishing last season in the 99th percentile among the guards for defensive rebounds, Herro's role within the rotation is all but cemented.
The bigger question is where Duncan Robinson will start - at two or three? The answer to that question will determine if Oladipo and Herro are fighting out for a role within the starting line-up or as a primary guard off the bench.
For Oladipo, the swing is important. He could go as far as earning a starting role, or fall as low as fourth in the two-guard rotation, while Herro is guaranteed to be in at least a similar role as the one he occupied last year,
Projected winner: Tyler Herro.
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