The Heat have had their share of injuries this season, with guard Dion Waiters out for the year, center Hassan Whiteside missing a run of games at the start of the season and guard Rodney McGruder still a couple of weeks away from court time after suffering a stress fracture in left leg in preseason. Just to add to these woes, Tyler Johnson suffered a sprained ankle in Miami’s loss against the Chicago Bulls Monday afternoon, leaving the red-hot Heat diminished in backcourt for the next couple of weeks. What can coach Erik Spoelstra do to keep this thinning team afloat?
With Justise Winslow back in action, the first thought would be to move the unstoppable Josh Richardson to shooting guard and plug Winslow at the small forward position. This would give the Heat flexibility from the bench, allowing them to bring on James Johnson for more offense if Winslow isn’t scoring. Although Winslow isn’t a particularly good shooter, he can make powerful drives to the hoop, and with the focus for opposition now on Josh Richardson and Goran Dragic, this could free him up on the wing to make darting runs to the hoop.
Miami could also call upon newcomer Derrick Jones Jr. as a replacement, who has shown promising quality in recent weeks. It may be premature to say, but Jones Jr. does seem reminiscent of a young man out of Marquette who serviced the Heat for 13 seasons, becoming a Heat legend in the process. He is lighting quick on the floor, soaring high fearlessly to dunk in rebounded shots and zipping by defenders on fast breaks. His shooting isn’t half bad either, sinking the occasionally jumper when unmarked, whether it be from the baseline or behind the arc. Young Derrick Walton Jr. is also a prospect to fill the spot, but he will most likely just get increased time off the bench to cope with Tyler Johnson’s injury.
Hassan Whiteside told the Miami Herald “The backcourt is already thin enough… it’s a team full of big men” which is exactly why Pat Riley may look to sign a free agent a short-term contract. Miami applied for a $5.5 million disabled player exception, meaning, if granted the money by the NBA, they could pick up a decent free agent for under that price. The free agency is scarce right now though, with most of the free agents going to play overseas if they weren’t signed in the offseason. Norris Cole, who is currently playing in Israel, could be an option, having worked under Spoelstra before. But there is the possibility to shop for a trade as well, as long as the player acquired is below $5.5 million. Riley risking draft picks and possibly a big man for just a couple of weeks of injury woes does seem highly unlikely though.
With Rodney McGruder nearing a return and with options to move around players, the Miami Heat will most likely keep things as they are. Increased minutes to Justise Winslow and Derrick Jones Jr. are probable, but trading for anyone with McGruder’s return on the horizon seems a bit rash. After losing just two in their last 10 games, Heat fans will hope Tyler Johnson’s absence won’t kill the team’s momentum as the Heat are gunning to cement a playoff spot early this season.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Miami Heat article is published, fill out our email notification form.