Miami Heat Summer League team shows a lot of intrigue in Las Vegas

The Miami Heat opened their Las Vegas campaign of the NBA Summer League with an impressive 88-78 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, this win did not constitute as series-tying, so there will be no Game 9 to determine who makes the NBA Finals.

Nevertheless, a victory is a victory, and Miami had promising summer kids who left a taste of developing intrigue on the tongues of Heat hopefuls as festivities tip-off in Nevada.

Ironically, that list, at least right now, does not include Nikola Jovic – their 27th overall pick in the draft, who’s been inconsistent dating back to Miami’s California tour of the annual summer tournament. We still don’t quite know what he has to offer.

For a full recap of the Heat’s win over the Celtics, here are the numbers and key takeaways.

Marcus Garrett was outstanding, displaying hard-nosed defense while playing in-control on the other end of the floor. The former was never in question as it’s been his calling card since last Summer League, but the latter has often been a weak point.

Now seemingly recovered from wrist surgery, Garrett shot 5-of-6 from the field. He took his time with the ball, got to the paint, and delivered noteworthy dimes to teammates whenever there was an opening. Orlando Robinson, their newly signed undrafted big man, received a couple of them on basic pick-and-roll.

Garrett was using his size against smaller guards to his advantage, forcing them to play at his speed – a good trait for a point guard.

Tangible improvement on that side will give Garrett a better shot to ultimately make the Heat’s end of the bench rotation, at least compared to last season. He essentially has one foot in the door already because Miami values ​​his skill on defense, which is elite for this level of competition.

This is a plot to follow.

Jamaree Bouyea provided a lot of what Garrett did when backing him up. He sieved the opposition on defense, using quick hands to poke the ball free or disrupt passing lanes. And that was when he wasn’t hounding Boston’s handlers.

His own handles looked smooth which allowed him to maneuver and score in the paint despite a size disadvantage.

Robinson likewise scored around the rim and displayed a nice touch with a baseline jumper early in the third quarter.

He can occasionally have issues recovering between ball-handler and roll man when defending PNR, but he’s athletic, has size, and uses will. He’s already decent when protecting the rim – especially against guards – and is opportunistic on the offensive glass.

From all the Summer League Heatles, Haywood Highsmith played the most meaningful NBA minutes during Miami’s 1-seed campaign in ’21 -22. Plenty of Heat fans see Highsmith as last year’s Max Strus – the interesting end-of-the-bench shooter who hustles on defense and can offer more on the other end if his game is unlocked.

Summer League last year catapulted Strus to the role he’d eventually earn: a starter. Highsmith should use this summer to aim for the same. He’s living up to the task: he can shoot, he can drive, he defends his ass off, he fights for rebounds, and he’s unselfish.

He’s not dominating quite like Strus or even Omer Yurtseven (still hasn’t played this Summer League) did, but he’s standing out from the rest which bodes well for his possible future with this conference contender.

Mychal Mulder, another player with NBA experience, finally found his jumpshot in Las Vegas by hitting 5 three-balls. The Heat as a team knocked in 44.6%.

If they shot remotely close to that in the final games of the Eastern Conference Finals, they would have faced Golden State.

Nikola Jovic seemed to figure out the Summer League game with an impressive finale in California, but the beginning of his stint in Las Vegas left much to be desired as he went scoreless on one shot attempt.

Some context is important here. First, Jovic only played 14 minutes. That could be either due to Heat coach Malik Allen’s rotation or maybe even because the Serbian wasn’t 100%, as he looked hurt for a moment in the first half (he did play to start the third period).

It’s also fair to say that Jovic would have had some opportunities to display his skill but didn’t receive the ball much. Some of that is on his teammates to do a better job to put him in position to succeed, some of it is on Allen to diagram plays for him, but he also needs to make more of an effort to get his usage.

Jovic has been off the ball often in Summer League, which is surprising given his international skills in pick-and-roll. There’s been some success with him as a floor spreader and as a pop man, but overall, the theoretical potential still seems more appealing than the actual play.

He can still get lost while navigating screens, could do a better job rebounding, and needs to read what’s happening on the court quicker.

The good news is there’s a ton of time for the 19-year-old to develop. He could knock in 30 points in Miami’s next game and it wouldn’t be surprising.

“We’ll find him and we’ll find different ways to get him involved. It’s just adjusting to the sort of speed and physicality of the game. But he’ll get there. He’ll get there. This is going to be a process with him. It’s not going to come right away. He has to be steady, ”Allen said post game.

Jovic did show a glimpse of his exciting prowess in transition.

It feels like there’s more to come from this Summer League Heat squad. If the early returns are any indication, the next week should be tons of fun.

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