Cup of Joe Presented by Café Bustelo: Player Development Never Stops

Cup of Joe, Café Bustelo, Miami HEAT
by Joe Beguiristain

One of the core tenets of HEAT Culture is player development.

From young up-and-comers to established vets, Miami has helped countless guys take their game to another level.

As for who’s next in that long line of success stories, look no further than Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.

Since the HEAT returned to the hardwood for scrimmages in late July, both Herro and Robinson have displayed more diversified games. And particularly over the past week or so, they’ve really turned some heads.

Let’s start off with “Boy Wonder” before getting into “D-Bo” a little later.

Point Herro

So…Herro isn’t just a bucket anymore.

Sure, he’s still a scorer in every sense of the word, but he’s also shown the ability to read defenses and set up his teammates.

All of that came together on Saturday against the Suns, as he recorded his first double-double thanks to a career-high 10 assists. And while that feat was quite impressive in and of itself, the variety of passes he dished out was even more encouraging.

In the clip below, you have a nice read and kick out to Jae Crowder (who just keeps on making threes), a pinpoint bounce pass to Bam Adebayo on the break, a wraparound pass to Adebayo and finally, a skip pass to Andre Iguodala for three.

“I felt comfortable,” Herro said after the game. “I’ve been working with the ball in my hands, really since we took the break…coach has been helping me a lot [and] my teammates are starting to trust me more. I’m still young, and I’m learning a lot. I have a lot of good vets that help me and teach me and walk me through things during games and often after games, so I’m just continuing to learn and get better.”

Now, the rookie didn’t handle the ball as much on Monday with Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragić back in the fray (more on that blowout victory in just a second), but his playmaking skillset will be important moving forward.

A Potential Playoff Preview

Umm…the Butler vs T.J. Warren battle turned out to be…well, a blowout.

Thanks to seven double-figure scorers and stout defensive throughout, Miami took control in the third quarter, outscored Indy by 22 points in the second half and cruised to a 114-92 victory.

In terms of the individual matchup between Butler and Warren, the HEAT forward put the clamps on the former NC State standout and held him to just two points in the 4:31 when matched up against him.

But again, it was an all-around team effort.

Dragić, who got his second start of the season, knew that was needed.

“We came out, from the first minute, we knew that this was going to be a really important game for us,” the Slovenian said. “And you can see, Jimmy was locked in, everybody basically. And it was a hell of a team win.”

With the win, the HEAT are now a full game ahead of the Pacers for the fourth seed at 44-27. And although Miami’s playoff opponent could still be Boston, Indiana or Philadelphia, the Pacers are the team’s most likely foe.

Let’s get it.

Bam Vital on Both Ends

Make no mistake about it, Adebayo’s impact on the defensive end cannot be overstated. The way he can switch and hang with perimeter players or trap guys if necessary is such a major part of the HEAT's success.

I mean, just look at how he blew up so many of Indiana’s possessions on Monday.

That said, Adebayo unlocks so much for Miami's offense as well.

Thanks to his screening, dribble handoffs, court vision and dives to the rim, the former Kentucky Wildcat sets everything in motion.

In fact, only Nikola Jokić has run more handoffs than Adebayo this season, yet the HEAT’s big fella leads the league with 1.069 points per handoff (minimum of 400 actions, stats per Second Spectrum).

Now you can see why he was named a finalist for Most Improved Player, right?

I’m sure Crowder can.

“With him being a threat at the rim and him playmaking in the pocket and playmaking once in the paint with the ball, it’s a huge part of our offense,” Crowder said. “It’s like the machine doesn’t go as smooth without him doing what he does, so I think with him getting touches and him collapsing the defense and us playing off of that, it’s a big part of what we try to preach on that end of the court. And it’s just up to us to try to find the spots to get him to be that trigger…to facilitate the offense and try to get us going.”

Odds & Ends:

-One guy that Adebayo almost always gets going is Robinson.

With opponents running Robinson off the three-point line and guarding him with smaller players, he’s had to learn to adapt.

And even though we’ve talked about his ability to facilitate a bit more, we haven’t really shed much light on his finishing around the basket, both off backdoor cuts and off dribble drives.

When you add that to his improved defense and continued stroke from outside, you have yourself one dangerous player.

-Robinson’s backcourt running mate, Kendrick Nunn, was named a finalist for Rookie of the Year on Saturday.

Earlier this season, Nunn won the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month Award three times (second-most in HEAT history and most ever by an undrafted player) and set multiple milestones (most points by an undrafted player through their first five games in NBA history, most threes in a season by a HEAT rookie, fastest HEAT rookie to score 500 career points and first undrafted rookie to score 1000 points in a season since 1966).


Erik Spoelstra touched on how surprising Nunn’s season has been.

“I think if you would have [told] anybody last year at this time that Kendrick Nunn would have had the season that he’s had so far, I don’t think anybody would have believed you,” Spoelstra said. “He was playing in the G-League, and we were fans of him, but we wanted to get him in our program and develop him. And like we do with all of our young guys, be open to their progress and not put a lid on them.”

Remember, it’s all about player development.

Until next time.


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