With the Heat’s two max players (Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo) and multiple other key veterans out because of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, the Heat entered Tuesday’s game at Philadelphia potentially in line to see Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson challenge personal records for shots and other statistical marks, and rookie Precious Achiuwa poised to achieve several rookie-season highs.
Those three players – plus Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, Chris Silva, Andre Iguodala, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus – were the only players with the team in Philadelphia on Tuesday, with the remainder sent back to South Florida.
Among those interested to see Herro, Robinson and Achiuwa: Former NBA coach and ESPN analyst P.J. Carlesimo, who watched the Heat closely from inside the Orlando bubble and calls Tuesday’s Heat-76ers game nationally on ESPN Radio.
Carlesimo, who just received a new contract with ESPN Radio, assessed the Heat’s young core in a phone conversation from his home in Seattle:
▪ Herro: “He completely fooled me. I told Spo [Erik Spoelstra] and said it to Tyler’s family in the bubble; we were at the same hotel in Orlando. I had seen Tyler in the NCAA Tournament, doing games for Westwood One, and my reaction when he was coming out was, ‘Why is he coming out?’ I really liked him, but I thinking this is another guy who’s making a mistake who’s not ready to come out.
“Fast forward and I’m seeing him in the bubble, and my God, was I wrong on this guy. Spo has been great for him, like Pop [Greg Popovich] was for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Tyler is so lucky he plays for Erik. I would have been bad for him. I would have been screaming at his shot selection. The rope they give him is really beneficial. He’s so confident it’s ridiculous for a
young guy. That’s why he’s going to be so good.
“The efficiency is going to be a question for a while until he learns what’s a good shot and
what’s not. He’s completely fearless, which is a great thing. It’s a question of listening to Spo and the staff and [understanding] what can I do and when I can do it?”
Carlesimo sees Herro longterm as a “starter, a really productive starter. Defense is more of a stepping stone to the next level than shot selection. He clearly has to defend better. He’s going
to be guarding All NBA players, all stars night in and night out. I will be surprised if his field goal percentage on threes doesn’t come up from the start of the season.”
Herro entered Tuesday averaging 15.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 47.5 percent and 28.6 percent on threes.
▪ Robinson: “I was astounded at the numbers he put up, over the course of last season. I wouldn’t question anything about Duncan, but the question is you play those two young guys together [Robinson and Herro], people are going to go after them defensively. They went at them last year and they’ll go after them now.”
Carlesimo said he would put Robinson with Steph Curry and former NBA standouts Del Curry and Dale Ellis as the best he has seen in terms of quickness of release.
“They could shoot in traffic and you couldn’t get to them,” Carlesimo said. “The ball is hardly in their hands before they release it. As quickly as he releases it, I don’t see that shot ever going anywhere [as far as not being a high-level skill]. He just has to get better at the other things.”
▪ Achiuwa: “I saw him play early last year in a Memphis-Oregon game and Precious caught your eye and the more you watched him during the course of the year. I thought it was a really good pick. He’s very much a Heat player; he’s blue collar, so solid, does so many things well. He can switch and guard people. He’s ready to play.
“It’s way too early to tell, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s a starter eventually, especially with the offense they have in the backcourt. He’s going to be very good long-term. He has shown [he’s ready] even more quickly than you could hope for.”
▪ Adebayo: He’s out for Tuesday’s game because of contact tracing, but Carlesimo believes he will continue to be in the discussion for one of the three All-NBA teams for years to come.
“Bam will continue to produce even more; there’s no ceiling, no limit to how good he can be,” Carlesimo said. “He’s one of the best defenders in the league and it’s to the point now where he’s so much a pivotal part of their offense, especially when he’s on the elbow and his passing is so good. When big guys play him, he puts it on the floor, goes right by and dunks it.”
And now that he’s hitting his mid-range jumper consistently, opponents will “have to play him even tighter because of his passing and ability to put the ball on the floor. I’m sure people would play him soft before. Now he starts making jump shots and they play him tighter and keeping him from putting it on the floor becomes even harder. You really have a problem on your hands.”
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