With the 2017 NBA Summer League Tournament coming to a close, it’s about time we took an in-depth look at the future – Miami Heat style.
Flying under the radar, undoubtedly due to their 0-5 start, Miami finished the short season with a 4-2 run in Las Vegas before falling Saturday night to the Memphis Grizzlies, marking an early exit in the quarterfinals.
So yes, the hype for youngsters like Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz and Jayson Tatum has been immeasurable, but what about Okaro White, Matt Williams and Bam Adebayo? Well, I can tell you one thing’s for sure – you’re going to be hearing those names a whole lot at the NBA level, and very soon…
Before talking about Okaro White’s Summer League performance, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to set the scene. This past season, on January 17th, White was called up to the Heat’s NBA roster for the first time. Miami went on to win at home against Houston that Tuesday evening, and although White didn’t see any minutes, it was clear that White’s presence was a sign of things to come, a good luck charm of sorts.
Of course, the most devoted Heat fans remember that the win against Houston marked the first of a string of 13 in a row, as Miami officially began to turn their season around. White would finish the season in a deep bench role, seeing more than 20 minutes in just eight of his 35 appearances while averaging just under three points per contest. Now I know those numbers aren’t nearly impressive, but take a look at these Summer League stats:
The second year forward from Florida State led the team with an average of 19 points in Orlando and an average of 18 per contest in Las Vegas. White notched just about eight rebounds per game in both locations.
— NBA (@NBA) July 14, 2017
What I really like about his game is his versatility. From the highlights, you’ll find White flying down the lane for chase down blocks, knocking down contested jumpers, playing in the post and snagging rebounds in traffic. In other words, he’s doing it all, and for a team that has been missing production from the three and four spots in the lineup, I love White coming off the bench and providing quality minutes.
Barring injuries, odds are he doesn’t start at all in the 2017-18 campaign, and let’s hope not considering the deal Pat Riley just gave Kelly Olynyk, but judging by White’s play the past few weeks, I can see coach Eric Spoelstra utilizing White off the bench regularly and the production will come. He’s got the potential, he’s got the grit, and he’s gotten a taste of the major leagues, so I’m confident when his number is called, he’ll be at his best.
Mike Miller. Ray Allen. Over the years, the Miami Heat have been blessed with some of the best shooting strokes in NBA history. Relax, relax, I’m not necessarily insinuating that Matt Williams, some undrafted spot up shooter from Central Florida is a future first ballot hall of famer. All I am saying is that he has the chance to have a similar effect while on the floor.
Williams didn’t exactly stuff the stat sheets the past few weeks in the Summer League. He dropped only 8.5 points per game in Orlando and then 10.3 in Vegas, with honestly no other notable statistics. But his impact is beyond the numbers.
By having a Matt Williams on the floor on offense, you’re getting pretty close to a guaranteed bucket from beyond the arc if he’s open. More importantly, while five defenders need to worry about switching and closing out, Williams is camped comfortably in the back of their minds, looming in the corner and providing the spacing any team needs to be more efficient with the basketball.
Still a rookie, I think it might take Williams a little while to get comfortable and to find his stroke at this level, as we saw with the small sample size at the Summer League. But let’s be honest, he really has nothing to prove in terms of his jumper. Williams finished his career at UCF as the program’s leader in all time three pointers made (274), in three pointers made in a season (126) and triples in a single game (11).
Bottom line: the kid can shoot. His range is bonkers and that’s something you want on your team nowadays.
There was some immediate scrutiny from Heatnation following the selection of Bam Adebayo 14th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and I was a part of it. Why pick another bigman when the Heat already have Hassan Whiteside, one of the best in the game? But after watching Bam in the Summer League, I couldn’t be happier with Pat Riley choice.
Adebayo roared out of the gates, averaging 17.5 points and 8 boards in Orlando, with a not too shabby 2.3 blocks per game. Although Bam would go on to drop only 15.7 points a game in Las Vegas he continued to lead the team in rebounds, this time with an average of 8.7.
The points and the rebounds were expected, and if his college tapes are any indication, this is just the beginning statistically. But what impressed me the most was his quickness and ability to score off the dribble.
— NBA (@NBA) July 9, 2017
It’s not every day you come across a center that can back you down and cash in an easy two with a hook, dunk and finish everything around the bucket no matter how contested and still be able to take it coast to coast, zooming past defenders that are half his size (see the final highlight below).
Once the season begins, Adebayo will have an opportunity like no other: to work one on one and learn from Hassan Whiteside. Give it a few weeks, a few months, let the two of them see game time together and watch as magic happens.
I believe that we may be looking at one of the best front courts in the NBA a few years down the road. Think of it this way: if the two can learn to coexist and share space down low, what better way to complement Whiteside’s strength and shot blocking abilities with another behemoth, quicker and niftier with the ball in his hands. Sounds like a winning formula to me.
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