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Breaking Down the Miami Heat’s Summer League Stand-Outs
Breaking Down the Miami Heat’s Summer League Stand-Outs
Jun 18, 2024 12:32 PM

The Miami Heat continue their undefeated Summer League quest after they took down the Memphis Grizzlies in double overtime, also known as sudden death.

I’ve done plenty of articles on the utilization of guys like Max Strus and Omer Yurtseven, while focusing on the main strengths of their game, but in this piece, I will look through a slightly different lens. Instead of going through the obvious skill-sets, I’d like to highlight what makes these guys so intriguing for the next level.

I have also talked about a bunch of the other guys on the Summer League roster, but only two of them will make it in this category at the moment. Marcus Garrett and DeJon Jerreau may share some qualities, but the biggest comparison of the two is that they’re both in a perfect spot for a two-way contract this upcoming season.

So let’s jump right into some of the sticking points of this game that pushed Miami to 4-0 in Summer League…..

Max Strus:

NBA Rotation Ready

Strus may have been the player of the day from a Heat sense, but he only needs one category and section to put a bow on his all-around play. Yes, pin-down excellence has been a staple and pick and roll reps have been important.

He even responded to my question about those reps with “It’s always great to have other things in your pocket when guys chase you off the line.” And that’s obviously right on the money.

But a key component to all of this is that he’s doing NBA level type things. An off-ball pin-down role may be what he is assigned, but the stuff shown above just isn’t teachable when reaching this point.

The first clip just displays his overall feel and control for the offense, as he initially awaits the screener to come up. After his hard drives in the past, he avoids the screen and acts as if he’s going to bull-doze his way to the rim once again. That part is important, since he isn’t preparing for a pull-up to give the defender any idea. He just reacts.

A quick stop, one dribble, and a bucket to top it all off after he fired away from deep. That stuff is big time. He isn’t just going through the motions, he’s letting everything come to him instinctively.

The second clip above is another play that shouldn’t be overlooked, mostly since that is just Strus. Taking contact as he’s roaming the perimeter with the ball in his hands, he takes a wide step-back to his left with plenty of separation, but he pauses.

He is aware that the defender will fly by him in fast motion, so he ball-fakes, slightly turns, then squares himself up with the basket once again for the triple. One thing this Summer League team is doing to Strus is letting him be Max Strus. The mentality is to just see what he can do in a free setting on the offensive end, and he’s showing much more than originally expected.

That point was shown in this previous game when the game-plan heading into sudden death was to give it to Strus to make a play, as Coach Malik Allen described it. In the third clip above, he notices his defender is slowly back-pedaling, almost daring the hot-hand to shoot a pull-up three.

Dribbles between his legs and pulls it immediately for the win. It’s not just about a 32 point performance that led Miami to a win. It’s the way he is doing it. With maturity, control, assertiveness, and leadership. That’s the way his fellow players and coaches have described it, and it seems to me that he will be a rotation player for Miami next season.

And with these tools, he has a chance to be a highly effective one at that.

Omer Yurtseven:

Winning Plays/Defensive Improvement

I have spent a lot of time dissecting the game of Omer Yurtseven since the beginning of Summer League. We know his strengths are stretching the floor a bit, using his soft touch in the post, and utilizing his length to his advantage.

But it’s time to look into his defense a bit deeper.

After watching him yet again against Memphis, the defensive stuff really stuck out. He’s not going to be very effective in space and there may be some rotational question marks, but there’s no doubt that he can protect the rim.

That is seen in the second clip above, where he doesn’t bite on fakes and just contains until he has to rise up with his long wingspan to swat it away. Those traits don’t always translate to pick and roll coverage, but they surprisingly have.

He played an outstanding game defending the PnR, mostly due to the lack of explosive guards, but it’s still something to keep track of. In the third clip above, he drops all the way down with the guard while the big stations himself at the top of the key, ending in a turnover with Yurtseven’s fingerprints all over the play.

All of these defensive sticking points stood out throughout the entire game, but the final possession of regulation just tied this whole point together: he has an ability to make winning plays.

After dropping down all game long against screens, Yurtseven reacted quickly and took a timely gamble down 2 with 1o seconds left. With the shot clock ticking down, Yurtseven decided to blitz the ball-handler instead of drop down, which led to major disruption and an eventual steal. The play ended in a perfect lob for Yurtseven to tie the game with 5 seconds left.

Now that stuff stands out to a Heat organization. Miami already has their versatile big who can guard the perimeter freely, so it’s nice to see a developmental project who fills the holes of a front-court pairing: floor spacer, rim protector, and tons of potential.

The Move

A lot of NBA players have “a move.” A go-to that they find themselves relying on in certain situations, ideally from the post. It’s the reason a post-up go-to is harped on for Bam Adebayo, since that can elevate the other parts of his game.

But not many players find that “go-to” this soon.

Yurtseven has just that even if he doesn’t realize it, and it highly benefits his biggest offensive strength. If you asked me what has been the most impressive part of his game so far, I would respond his touch on the interior. Floaters, post-hooks, push-shots. They’ve all been super efficient since Summer League started, which is where this move comes into play.

There have been some question marks next to how he would look as an interior force against bigger guys at the next level, so the Xavier Tillman match-up was something to watch. He made him a little uncomfortable early on, but that faded by the second half, after Strus told Yurtseven at halftime: “I need more out of you.”

He got right back down to the box, going into his usual bag of tricks. Usually the post-up flow is to spin off the back-side to maximize spacing and release the shot without it getting blocked. Yurtseven does the opposite.

Looking at the clip above, it almost looks unorthodox the way he turns into his shooting motion, but Yurtseven is right at home. He turns into a face up ball swing to use his right shoulder for an extra bump before getting into his regular looking jumper.

Part of that move is due to a lack of a true left hand to turn into a floater or hook shot, but even if that’s the case, his way of going about it works at this moment. We’ve seen that face-up bump time and time again, and I believe we see it at the next level as well no matter the match-up. If he just constantly plays his offensive game without being rattled, he will be a hard player to stop.

Marcus Garrett:

Interior Grittiness

We all know how great of a defender Marcus Garrett is. Record setting steals to start a game as seen in the last match to outstanding ways of fighting over screens to just all-around ball hounding. But I’m seeing a trend with his way to generate offense.

A lot of guys with that defensive play-style aren’t the most fluid offensive players. He’s a capable passer who can knock down the open triple as he did in this game, but that just won’t ever be his main priority. The thing that will be used primarily is interior grittiness.

Crashing the offensive boards for put-backs, weak-side baseline roaming, wing slashing, and straight up hard drives. As seen in the clips above, using a plethora of pump-fakes or set-up dribbles allows him to cover a lot of ground whenever he seems “stuck” under the rim.

Is that type of offense sustainable at the NBA level? Maybe not, but I have no doubt that Garrett would work in other stuff once given a role. In a 4 game sample size, I have already seen some flashes from the perimeter, so he will definitely be able to figure that stuff out.

But outlining minor strengths on your weaker side of the ball is always crucial in this time period. He probably can’t evolve with an interior put-back play-style only, but that being the headliner can definitely be a good balance act for some of Miami’s shooters moving forward.

We aren’t just talking about a good defender that can be plugged in somewhere. He has a chance to be great on the defensive end with what we’ve seen so far. As I’ve pointed out in the past, he doesn’t have a defensive weakness which isn’t usually seen this soon.

DeJon Jerreau

Functioning Facilitating

A Marcus Garrett-DeJon Jerreau starting back-court was intriguing for many heading into this game with the amount of ball pressure and defense between the two, but that’s not what stood out from this tandem.

They weren’t really clicking early on offensively, since neither of them are particularly great off-ball players, but once the roles were fully understood, it came together.

The main reason it didn’t take long to figure out is due to Jerreau’s natural ability to take control of an offense as a passer with his pacing, skill-set, and all-around confidence. Everybody on the floor was aware that he was going to lead the offense as the point guard.

There’s a reason 3 out of the 4 clips above included Yurtseven getting the bucket following the dish. For one, a 1-5 PnR is the base offense for this unit when they’re on the floor, due to Strus’ off-ball spacing, Garrett’s slashing, and Okpala’s role playing mentality with screening and movement.

The other reason is that combo allows both to use each of their strengths in the same action. Yurtseven can either pop out or roll to the basket per usual, but when Jerreau is the handler, the outcome should always be to roll.

He’s going to pick apart the defensive coverage and feed the ball to Yurtseven somehow, which leads to my favorite part of his game, as pointed out before: interior touch.

Going through some of the plays above, he is never in a rush as a passer, while guys like Garrett usually aren’t really reacting as much as Jerreau does. He’s an outstanding perimeter defender, but there’s no doubt in my mind that facilitating is his best ability by far, following a night with 10 assists.

Finishing Flashiness

This Summer League team has straight defenders. They have straight play-makers. They have straight scorers. But when looking for a player to give that second two-way contract, why shouldn’t it be a guy that can do all three?

I haven’t talked much about his scoring abilities, but there is a ton of upside in that department. He looks comfortable in isolation with the ball on a string, his lean-back jumper will definitely translate well, but most importantly, his finishing has always been incredible.

The second clip above pretty much sums that all up. Some nice cross-overs, leading to the blow-by, before getting up at the height of the rim for the finger roll. As I’ve described in the past, he’s just a very smooth offensive player and there’s still a bunch of growth to be made.

Jerreau has forced some heads to turn in the past two games, and I firmly believe he will be as much of a two-way lock as Garrett if he plays an extended period of time to finish out these games. He may not be as solid in one area as a Garrett type, but he’s just good in multiple parts of the game that make him hard to pass up on.

There’s one thing all four of these guys have in common: I can find a scenario for all of them where they’re getting some minutes at some point next season for the Heat. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is another story, but just that it’s a possibility, not only says a ton about these young players, but also the Heat’s scouting department who continue to find these hidden gems.

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