When it comes to the Miami Heat power rotation, it’s been a revolving door during the past three seasons, with Bam Adebayo a regular plus-one.
Previously it was Meyers Leonard and Adebayo. A successful pairing at the beginning of the revival of the franchise in 2019-20 from the depths of the lottery.
After that season’s trading deadline, it was Jay Crowder and Adebayo, a pairing that helped the Heat reach the 2020 NBA Finals.
It then turned in the surprisingly skilled pairing of Kelly Olinic and Adebayo in early 2020-21, after Crowder left for the Phoenix Suns in 2020 free agency and first-round pick Precious Achiuwa proved too raw.
Then it was Trevor Ariza and Adebayo, who raced through the 2021 playoffs and postseason after injury and an anti-Semitic slur ended Leonard’s heat run.
And this season, with Ariza unsuccessfully pursuing a ring with LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Heat settled into the comfort zone of PJ Tucker and Adabio, a season-long collaboration that ended in a game of the NBA Finals. Took the heat inside.
The question now is whether stability can eventually be maintained, with an Adebayo power-rotation partner being brought back for an encore.
Because if Tucker doesn’t opt for his $7.4 million player option for next season with the Heat, the 37-year-old power forward will move to free agency, just like Crowder and Ariza were before him.
“He was so important, across the board,” coach Eric Spoelstra said this week, as his players progressed into their off-season, “that competitive spirit, his competitive will, his consistent play, the toughness you count on every single day. And he has a way of communicating that and inspiring everyone in the locker room that’s so real.”
Even as he struggled with calf and knee injuries, Tucker said that after winning a championship last season with the Milwaukee Bucks and then going aside amid pay-cap concerns, he Felt rejuvenated this season.
But he felt underpaid considering the contribution.
So, once again, a potential conundrum in power for Pat Riley, Andy Ellisberg and the Heat front office.
Anyway, Tucker was well aware this season that he was playing for less than a mid-level exception.
as a starter.
On the roster participating in the Championship.
“It’s like, ‘Am I a middle-class guy?’ ‘ he told the Sun Sentinel in a tone that made it clear he believed he was not. “It’s a label that tells a guy what you think he’s worth.”
Based on the team’s season-ending comments, they value Tucker, appreciating that he can be closer to 37 on 32.
But this is also a team that has drawn the front line in power.
“For everyone in the locker room, it’s a really special, real feeling when you have someone who is committed to winning and helping other people,” Spoelsarta said. “He’s so selfless, you know, as a player, he’s always going to face the biggest challenges. Defensively, he’ll do all the little stuff, the dirty work, the hard work, and never complain about it.” He never complains or talks about his shots.
“He’s totally selfless, an absolute throwback player. That’s why he’s the darling of the staff and everyone in the locker room.”
Depending on where the Heat roster stands, the biggest minus is in power, where Tucker lacked a true backup this season.
Achiuwa, a first-rounder of the 2020 Heat, who emerged as a stretch-four for the Raptors this season, was dealt last summer in a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry.
KZ Okpala, who filled power early during the season, was summarily dismissed out of the league to the Oklahoma City Thunder by the February 10 NBA trade deadline.
And Caleb Martin, who stood as the de facto backup power forward when Tucker was sidelined this season, is much more than a wing, and now, an imminent free agent.
While Adebayo could potentially transfer power with Omar Yurtseven moving into the center, Adebayo has yet to play as a starter without power rotation as well as a 3-pointer shooter.
If player input, greater than the pay scale, can influence the decision, Tucker will return.
“I was struck by how tough and how consistent and how tough the PJs are,” Heat captain Udonis Haslem said this week. “I mean there are very few people I think come to the game every night the way I did. You know what I’m saying? And PJ just happened to be one of them. So I was thankful that our There is a player like PJ in the team.”
But now again there is uncertainty, as in each of the last three seasons, about whether the relationship in power will last.
“He fits us,” Spolestra said of Tucker. “We love what he does.”