Coup's Notebook Vol. 20: The Optionality Of Markieff Morris, The Playoff Rotation, Max Strus Runs The Ray Allen Play And Tyler Herro Goes Off On The Right Wrong Foot

The Miami HEAT are 47-24, No. 1 in the Eastern Conference with a Net Rating of +4.8, No. 5 in the NBA. The just finished up the lightest week of the season, playing just two games in eight days, and have 11 games left to play. Here’s what we’ve been noting and noticing.


Hot on the heels of Victor Oladipo, Markieff Morris, having missed 58 games following his incident with Nikola Jokic, returned to action this week after being cleared by the NBA’s Fitness to Play Panel. He scored six points in 17 minutes against Minnesota and nine in 16 against Detroit, and as with Oladipo the numbers don’t particularly matter right now. It’s just good to see a player get the game back, with time to regain a little flow and rhythm before the postseason begins.

The playoffs are where Morris’ return figures to factor in the most. Miami has more than gotten by playing Caleb Martin – who was having one of the best seasons ever for a player on a two-way contract before Miami converted him to a regular deal – at the four when P.J. Tucker was on the bench. With Tucker on the floor, Miami has been +6.3 per 100 possessions this season. With Martin, they’ve been +5.9 per 100, with nearly identical Offensive and Defensive Rating splits. But the one thing Martin is not, at 6-foot-5, is particularly big. He can slide up to the four next to a Dewayne Dedmon or Omer Yurtseven, but it’s tougher to play him at the five spot given how undersized the HEAT can already be at some positions.

Morris, a 6-foot-9 floor spacer – capable of creating a mid-range look for himself, a talent that tends to scale for the postseason – who can hold up on a switch, can play either spot, the four next to a big or the five as the big. Even before Morris’ injury, Spoelstra had briefly experimented with playing him at center next to Tucker in small-ball lineups, with that pair sharing 15 minutes in four games. With Morris back, Spoelstra has wasted no time getting a look at that same pairing, using them for 24 minutes over three games. In total, Morris-Tucker minutes have an Offensive rating of 134.8 and Defensive Rating of 106.5 in 24 minutes. Small sample, but not too shabby.

“We played five years together in Phoenix, he was one of my best friends before I got here,” Morris said of Tucker. “We have a lot of stuff that we talk about. I know his game to a T. He knows my game to a T. We both do a great job of putting each other in the places that we need to be put so we can both succeed.”

Is Spoelstra always going to use that combination? Probably not, but that goes for just about any grouping that doesn’t involved the starters and Herro. Postseason rotations shrink, especially as teams go deeper into the postseason or a series, but they don’t shrink permanently. They evolve. How you’re playing at the end of the season doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the rotation, nor a spot outside of it. It’s all matchups. There might be matchups where Martin’s energy, athleticism and improved outside shooting fits the bill, there might be matchups where the HEAT want to run a full five-out, switch-everything bench lineup enabled by Morris, just as certain matchups may require the size and rim protection of Dedmon. Or any combination of those players can be on the court together, with the same going for Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Victor Oladipo.

If you can count on anything with Spoelstra, it’s that he’s going to use every tool at his disposal in search of a win. Morris’ return only gives him more options, options that can’t be used all at once but are always available.


Max Strus might be the greatest luxury in the NBA.

In league history, there have been 54 individual seasons where a player shots 40 percent or better from three on at least 6.5 three-point attempts. Forty two of those 54 have come in the past 10 years as three-point rates have skyrocketed, and four of them are happening right now, this season.

As of this weekend, Strus is one of those four of the 54. That’s probably not too surprising to anyone who has watched him this season, but Strus is also doing it in far fewer minutes than anyone on record – he’s the only player hitting those thresholds in fewer than 25 minutes per game. Strus is at 23.2 a night. Historically, if you can shoot this well, you play. Strus just happens to play on a team with a starter who himself has had two of those 40/6.5 seasons in Duncan Robinson, and a talented shooter in Tyler Herro who has been easily the best bench scorer in the league this season. The HEAT are the rare team that can afford a squeeze on elite shooting.

“Our coaches aren’t telling him, ‘No, don’t shoot the ball’ or ‘Pass it to so and so.’ He let’s us go out there and play,” Adebayo said. “He’s just a spark. The thing I love about Max he has that no-hold mentality. He doesn’t care if you’re in his face. If he sees the rim it’s going up and more than likely it’s going in.”

When Strus does play, he produces in a way that doesn’t require too much analysis in light of how much Robinson’s usage has been looked over with a fine-toothed comb over the past few years. Plenty of guys can get to 40 percent spotting up in the corners. You don’t approach upwards of seven three-point attempts a game without a shot that travels – either with off-the-ball mobility or on-ball skills. Like Robinson, Strus can fly around screens and handoffs and square up on the catch to create a good look where many players would be off-balance. Like Robinson, he can do it well behind the arc. And like Robinson, Spoelstra uses Strus in some of his old Ray Allen sets.

Watch these two possessions from Strus’ 13-point run against Detroit Tuesday night, the first getting Strus a lane to the rim and the second a good old fashioned three.

Tyler Herro Rookie Layups

And then watch this Ray Allen three from 2013.

The Ray Allen Play

A few tweaks here and there, but the idea is the same as Strus and Allen both come up from the strongside baseline to slip a flare screen with a mobile big waiting to pick off a trailing defender before setting a secondary screen on-ball if necessary. Back in 2013 the HEAT ran this play, which Spoelstra borrowed from Doc Rivers when Rivers was coaching Allen in Boston, seemingly every single game that they had possession in the final shot clock of the first half.


Layups are taught to kids the same way just about wherever you are. On the right side of the rim, you jump off your left foot and go up with your right hand. On the left side you jump off your right foot and lay it in with your left. Anyone who grew up watching Gary Payton might have different ideas, but generally coaches are going to stick with the fundamentals for anyone learning the game.

Those same fundamentals don’t work in the NBA. Defenders are too big, too long, too athletic and have such good timing around the rim that if you’re always going to for the same Hoosiers finish you’re going to watch the ball you just shot flying back over your head. Most players get to the league and struggle to finish in the paint in their first year as a result. Bam Adebayo had to learn not to just get to his launching pad and jump over everyone, and in the case of Tyler Herro he had to expand his repertoire to keep much bigger players off balance.

Here’s a couple of Herro’s forgettable finishes during his rookie season:

Tyler Herro Right Wrong Foot

And here’s Herro this week.

Max Strus Ray Allen Plays

Can you spot the difference? In the more recent clips, he finishes with neither the orthodox nor the Payton footwork. It’s left foot, left hand, as the layup becomes something of a quick scoop. Tough for any big to time. Herro started adding this, in an earnest and fully functional manner, to his game between the suspension of the 2019-20 season and the Orlando bubble. These days, it’s automatic. He’s still at a size disadvantage, but his finishing in the restricted area jumped to 70 percent last season after sitting at 55 percent his first year. For 2021-22 he’s at 60 percent, still solid for a guard and probably below where he was last season just due to the sheer volume of shots he’s called upon to create. His true talent level now probably rests somewhere between the past two seasons. Exactly where you would want him to be.

This is all part of the layup package that the HEAT teach. Herro learned it working with assistant coach Chris Quinn, and if you go back you can find examples of Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters all trying to add it to their games after spending time in Miami. Nothing particularly revolutionary, but once players start taking off on the wrong foot it’s a pretty good sign that the player development program is functioning as advertised.


-Over the past two seasons, Herro has been used as a pick-and-roll screener 208 times according to Second Spectrum’s player tracking data. When that actions leads directly to a shot, foul, turnover or pass leading to a shot, the HEAT are getting 1.23 points-per-screen out of those possessions – a gargantuan numbers that speak less to Herro’s screening prowess and more to the players sometimes defending him, who then get switched onto someone like Jimmy Butler, and how the mere threat of him popping into space for a three freaks defenses out. In fact, Miami is getting well over a point-per-possession when any of Herro, Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson or Max Strus sets a ball screen. Good shooters setting screens have a way of giving defenders a deer in the headlights look.

-According to DraftKings, Adebayo has pulled even with Rudy Gobert when it comes to odds for winning Defensive Player of the Year. That obviously only means so much when it comes to the actual voting pool, but it’s a pretty big clue that this could happen. And it should. More on this next week.

-Duncan Robinson made three threes in the four minutes against the Thunder on Friday night. That’s pretty usual. After the final make, which forced an Oklahoma City timeout, Robinson looked towards the Thunder bench and very clearly, and we’re paraphrasing here, told them they should think about getting out of drop coverage and stepping up on him in pick-and-roll and handoff coverage.

“Anytime you see the ball go in a couple times you start feeling a little rambunctious,” Robinson said with a laugh. “That’s the usual coverage that I see [stepping up to the arc], so I was a little surprised. It was a word of advice as well.”

-With Chris Bosh back in the arena as the HEAT honored his enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, he was asked whether his new status has changed anything in his interactions with fellow members of the NBA fraternity.

“Not really. In my mind, yeah,” he said. “For me it was more so about completion. I empathize with those who have given so much to the game and then they’re 50, 60, 70 years old still attempting to accomplish that. People give their lives for that. Just to be able to be able to call myself a Hall of Famer is surreal.

“It’s pretty much just like having the ol’ trusty thing on your hip. I haven’t had to shoot it yet. I haven’t had to mention it to anybody. But if I need to, I will. [laughs].”

-One more on Bosh, with this quote from Spoelstra about the pioneering power forward that became a floor-spacing center and his Hall of Fame status cementing a place in the history of the game that wasn’t always recognized at the time.

“He started the trend, and he and I joke about it, “Spoelstra said. “We were doing some things that were not necessarily conventional at that time. But you look at it now, we would have used him so much differently. It’s crazy how much different I would’ve used him. I just didn’t have the library and the creativity and the thought process at the time. It’s a shame. We really could have unlocked his skill level. He would be a perfect fit with this team. That would be with Bam. That would be incredible.

“In this kind of game now, if I had had the foresight at all to see this ahead of time, he would’ve been even better if there’s another level of Hall of Fame. I’ll take the hit on that one, but at least he’s got the H-O-F so there can’t be too many regrets.”