Sunday, September 25, 2022

ASK IRA: Does Heat depth need to give way to concentrate excellence?

Q: Boston is peaking. If New York stops the vaccination mandates (well, they have for fans, just not for Kyrie Irving) then the Nets seem to be up there, too. Miami is deep, just don’t think they can compete with shrunken rosters to Boston and Brooklyn. — Martin.

A: And that is an element that many are overlooking. While the Heat might be deeper than most of the contenders in the Eastern Conference, much of that depth gets mitigated without back-to-back sets in the playoffs. You play your best players longer in the playoffs (it is a time when the face of exhaustion is a good thing, as witnessed by Jimmy Butler in 2020). For much of the season, the Heat’s best players have been good but not great. Brooklyn has two players capable of being great on a nightly basis. Boston again appears to have such a duo, as well. We still don’t know about Philadelphia, but you can’t sleep on Joel Embiid and James Harden. And Milwaukee again is maximizing its elite talent. The bottom line is the Heat need Butler, Kyle Lowry and Bam Adebayo (perhaps even Tyler Herro) at higher levels. Because when it comes to the playoffs, the supporting cast needs to support greatness. A true contender has concentrated talent. The Heat have not shown that as much lately.

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Q: With team depth a strength this year, especially on the defensive side, wouldn’t it make sense to play more pressure defense to wear down the opposing team and use our depth to our advantage? — Thomas, Pembroke Pines.

A: Except that’s not how it works. The goal is not to utilize your entire roster, players of varying degrees of ability. The goal is to maximize your elite players. And having them working the full 94 feet defensively and then subbing out when exhausted takes your best players off the floor. That’s not to say that defense shouldn’t be prioritized, but rather that it has to be weighed against having your best at their best in the moments that matters most. So, yes, you could have the likes of Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin pressing 94 feet, but would you want that to be happening if it meant Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler were on the bench?

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Q: Is Victor Oladipo the ultimate tease? — Seth.

A: Perhaps, but certainly not by choice. You don’t work for 10 months to return from quadriceps surgery unless you are committed to regain what previously was yours. Erik Spoelstra indicated that Victor Oladipo will be back Wednesday night against the Warriors. What the Heat need the balance of the regular season is for Victor to stay back.

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Nation World News Desk
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