Max Strus

Heat Notes: Butler, Martin, Strus, Herro, Lowry

There’s been plenty of speculation this offseason that with the current makeup of the Heat’s roster that Jimmy Butler will play a lot of minutes at power forward. That’s not a prospect he relishes, he indicated during the team’s media day on Monday (link via Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald).

“I could play the four, yes,” Butler said with a smile. “If they absolutely need me to play the four, I could, yes. If they absolutely wanted to have a conversation about me playing the four, I could, yes. But I’m not playing the four.”

Caleb Martin might be the early favorite to get the starting nod and he’d “love to start” at power forward, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. However, Martin is mainly concerned with being a part of the rotation.

“As long as I’m playing and can be productive, that’s fine,” Martin said, adding that he’s “flattered” that the team passed up on signing or trading for another power forward.

We have more on the Heat as they enter training camp:

  • At 6’5”, Max Strus wouldn’t seem like an option to start at the “four” spot. He’s open to do anything that would make him a part of the lineup, Jackson adds. “Obviously I want to be starting again,” he said. “That’s my goal.” In part due to injuries to team members, Strus started 16 regular season and all 18 postseason contests last season. “You don’t start in the Eastern Finals and be considered a bad basketball player,” he said.
  • Sixth Man of the Year award winner Tyler Herro expressed a desire after the playoffs to be a starter this season. Herro, a rookie scale extension candidate, has softened that stance, Chiang notes. “I’m a team player,” Herro, 22, said. “Whatever (coach Erik Spoelstra) and our organization wants me to do, I’m willing to do. Obviously, I have my own personal goals. But at the end of the day, the team is always over what I want to do as an individual player. So whatever they want me to do, whatever role they think fits me best, that’s what I’ll do.”
  • In June, team president Pat Riley said Kyle Lowry needed to improve his conditioning. Lowry took that criticism with a grain of salt, saying he didn’t do anything differently this offseason and said his conditioning is “not a problem,” Jackson relays in a separate story“Honestly, he has his opinion,” Lowry said. “Right? Everyone has their opinion and it doesn’t do anything for me. All I do is motivate myself, I always motivate myself.”

Southeast Notes: Strus, Adebayo, Bridges, Wizards

Heat swingman Max Strus said during a visit to a local youth camp on Tuesday that he’s “excited” about the club’s current roster, but acknowledged he has heard the rumors about the possibility of Miami acquiring a star player like Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

As Winderman notes, it’s possible that if the Heat were able to make a trade for a star, Strus would be included in the outgoing package. While Strus admitted that there’s some uncertainty about his future, he said he’s trying not to think about it until “something happens,” adding that he certainly understands why the team would be motivated to find a way to trade for a player like Durant.

“How can you not want a guy like Kevin Durant?” Strus said. “He’s a once-in-a-generation type player and great player in the game and one of the best of all time. I’m excited to see what happens and I hope the best for him and the best for our team. That’s all that really matters.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Because the Nets can’t acquire Bam Adebayo as long as Ben Simmons is on their roster due to the designated rookie rules, there hasn’t been much discussion about whether the Heat would even be willing to part with Adebayo in a hypothetical Durant deal. Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald explores that topic and speaks to a pair of scouts who both say they’d be comfortable parting with Adebayo to land Durant if the Simmons conflict wasn’t an issue.
  • After Miles Bridges was formally charged with felony domestic abuse in Los Angeles County on Tuesday, the Hornets issued a brief statement on the situation: “We are aware of the charges that were filed today against Miles Bridges. These are very serious charges that we will continue to monitor. As this is a legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time.” The Hornets still have a qualifying offer out to Bridges, but his restricted free agency is unlikely to be resolved before the two sides get a clearer sense of how his legal case may play out.
  • In his latest mailbag, Josh Robbins of The Athletic explores a handful of Wizards-related topics, including the trade value of the team’s young players and how willing the front office would be to trade another first-round pick. Robbins also says he could see Deni Avdija taking a significant step forward in 2022/23 and wonders if Washington will trim its standard roster to 14 players by opening night to maximize its flexibility (the team currently has 15 on guaranteed contracts).

Heat Guarantee Salaries For Strus, Vincent, Yurtseven

As expected, the Heat let a June 29 salary guarantee deadline come and go for three players who had non-guaranteed minimum salaries for 2022/23.

According to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link), Max Strus ($1,815,677), Gabe Vincent ($1,815,677), and Omer Yurtseven ($1,752,638) now have guaranteed contracts for next season.

Strus, 26, emerged as a regular part of the Heat’s rotation this past season, averaging 10.6 PPG with a .410 3PT% in 68 regular season games (23.3 MPG). He entered the starting lineup down the stretch and for all 18 of Miami’s postseason contests, since he was more reliable defensively than fellow sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

Vincent, serving as the primary backup at the point for Kyle Lowry, averaged 8.7 PPG and 3.1 APG on .417/.368/.815 shooting in 68 regular season appearances (23.4 MPG).

Yurtseven didn’t have as significant a role as Strus or Vincent, but did get into the starting lineup for 12 of his 56 appearances, averaging a double-double (12.1 PPG, 12.7 RPG) in those 12 starts. He registered 5.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG in 12.6 minutes per contest for the season.

Strus and Vincent are now on track to reach unrestricted free agency in 2023, while Yurtseven will be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.

Heat Notes: Martin, Strus, Vincent, Q. Jackson

A free agent last offseason, Caleb Martin only had one offer on the table – a non-guaranteed Exhibit 10 contract from the Trail Blazers – before he earned a two-way deal with the Heat, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

After making the most of his opportunity in Miami, Martin figures to draw more interest when he returns to free agency this summer. As long as the Heat issue him a $2.1MM qualifying offer, Martin will be a restricted free agent, giving them the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet with another team.

However, as Chiang notes, the Heat’s resources to re-sign Martin will be limited. Miami only holds his Non-Bird rights, which gives the club the ability to offer 20% above the minimum. If rival suitors are willing to offer him more than that, the Heat would have to dip into their bi-annual exception ($4.05MM) or mid-level exception ($10.35MM) to make a competitive bid.

“Obviously, being open-minded during free agency. You have to be and it’s my first experience with that,” Martin said after Miami’s season ended. “But I want to be (with the Heat). I love being here. I want to be here, so that’s all I got on my mind right now until I see what happens or whatever type of experience I’m going to get in free agency.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Max Strus displaced Duncan Robinson in the Heat’s starting lineup in part because he has a more well-rounded game and offers more defensive versatility, but Strus believes he still has plenty to work on this offseason, Chiang writes for The Herald. “Just got to be more complete,” Strus said. “Obviously, teams are going to force me to make plays inside the arc. So I got to get better there.” As Chiang notes, the Heat are a lock to hang onto Strus through June 29, when his $1.8MM salary for 2022/23 will become guaranteed.
  • A year ago, Gabe Vincent spent the offseason representing Nigeria in the Olympics and then playing for the Heat’s Summer League team before attempting to make Miami’s regular season roster. With his roster spot all but assured for ’22/23, Vincent is looking forward to focusing on his own development this summer, with no outside obligations, says Chiang. “This might be a real offseason,” Vincent said, adding that he plans to study Chris Paul as he works on improving his mid-range game. “I haven’t really stopped playing basketball in 12 months.”
  • Texas A&M guard Quenton Jackson is among the prospects to work out for the Heat during the pre-draft process, according to Chiang. Jackson is the No. 86 prospect on ESPN’s big board.
  • The Heat’s scouting department is working hard preparing to select a player at No. 27 next Thursday, but recognizes that team president Pat Riley could ultimately decide to trade that pick, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We’re focusing on 27, but that also means we could possibly move up, keep the pick, move back. It gives us options,” VP of basketball operations Adam Simon said. “Last year, we didn’t have a pick. We had to prepare if we could get in, and we ended up focusing on guys that weren’t going to get drafted. We could do that again.”

Southeast Notes: Beal, Hawks, Strus, Atkinson

Wizards star shooting guard Bradley Beal recently sat down with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (video link; hat tip to ClutchPoints) to discuss his impending free agency. Beal has a $36.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season.

“I know what my decision will be based off of, and that’s gonna be where I feel like I can win. That’s going to be my decision,” Beal said. “If I feel like I can win in D.C., that’s what I’m gonna do, and I want people to respect that. You may or you may not, but I’m gonna work my ass off and I’m gonna compete and I wanna make this team better. If it’s elsewhere, it’s going to be the exact same commitment.”

Should he opt out, Beal would be eligible for a projected five-year, $247MM maximum contract from the Wizards this summer. The most a rival team could offer him in free agency would be a four-year, $183.6MM deal. Washington drafted Beal out of Florida with the third pick in the 2012 draft. He has never played beyond the Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Wizards.

A left wrist tear restricted Beal’s availability for much of the 2021/22 NBA season. The three-time All-Star remained relatively productive when he was available, though his shooting numbers dipped in his age-28 season. Beal averaged 23.2 PPG, 6.6 APG, and 4.7 RPG across 40 contests, on .451/.300/.833 shooting. The Wizards finished with a 35-47 record this season.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • After the Hawks made an exciting run to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, they expected more of the same success the following season. Instead, the team finished with a disappointing 43-39 record and was eventually defeated 4-1 in the first round by the Heat. Atlanta seems primed to make changes in the 2022 offseason, prompting Chris Kirschner of The Athletic to list some of his favorite trade targets for Atlanta, including Suns center Deandre Ayton, Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, and Pistons forward Jerami Grant.
  • Following a breakout season with the Heat, 26-year-old wing Max Strus is aware that the team will have heightened expectations heading into the 2022/23 NBA season, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I’ve just got to be more complete,” Strus said of developing his play. “There’s definitely areas for improvement. And that’s exciting about this game, that’s what wants you to keep flourishing, is the challenges that come with it.” In his second season with the Heat, the 6’5″ guard out of DePaul averaged 10.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 1.4 APG, with shooting splits of .441/.410/.792. During an extended playoff run, Strus supplanted Duncan Robinson as the club’s starting shooting guard thanks to his superior defense. The top-seeded team in the East, the Heat went on an extended playoff run before eventually falling 4-3 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Reaction around the hiring of new Hornets head coach Kenny Atkinson has been resoundingly positive, per Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer. Boone explores the expectations surrounding Atkinson and his ability to help Charlotte, led by All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball, move beyond the play-in tournament. Last season under the tutelage of head coach James Borrego, the Hornets finished with a 43-39 record and the No. 10 seed in the East. Atkinson is currently on Steve Kerr‘s bench with the Warriors, in a 2-2 Finals series against the Celtics.

Heat Notes: Lowry, Butler, Tucker, Strus

Kyle Lowry looks at the Heat’s loss in the conference finals as a “waste” of a season, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Lowry missed eight postseason games due to a hamstring injury and struggled to regain the form that made him so effective in Toronto.

“I wish I would have been able to play a little bit better, at a higher level, but I didn’t,” Lowry said. “It just adds fuel. You don’t know how many more opportunities you will have to get back to this, so for me, honestly it was a waste of a year. “I only play to win championships. It was fun, and I appreciate my teammates, and I appreciate the opportunity. But for me, it’s a waste of a year. You’re… not winning a championship, it’s a wasted year.”

Lowry has two years left on his three-year, $85MM contract.

We have more on the Heat:

  • Jimmy Butler scored a combined 82 points in Games 6 and 7 but the Heat still came up short. He vows that Miami will be back in the Eastern Conference Finals again next season, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “We had enough (pieces),” Butler said. “Next year, we will have enough and we’re going to be right back in the same situation, and we’re going to get it done.”
  • P.J. Tucker only played 17 minutes in Game 7 and coach Erik Spoelstra hinted it was injury-related, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Tucker had been listed on the injury report with left knee irritation but it’s unclear if that was the issue. Tucker can opt out of his $7.35MM contract for next season and become a free agent this summer.
  • Max Strus had a 3-pointer overturned after several minutes of game action during the third quarter of Game 7. The NBA replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey deemed that Strus was out of bounds. Spoelsta was frustrated about the length of time between the shot and the overturn decision, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. “I’m sure they will look at that, and we’ll probably be the case study for it,” Spoelstra said. “I’m OK if it happens the way it used to. They would look at it at the next foul or break and look at it and notice it, but it was probably 10 minutes of real time — somebody check on that.”

Heat Notes: Herro, Strus, Butler, Tucker

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t ready to announce a decision on Tyler Herro‘s availability for tonight’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

Herro is suffering from a left groin strain that has forced him to miss the last three games. He underwent a morning workout today to test his condition, and Spoelstra said afterward that he remains questionable to play tonight. A final decision will be made closer to tipoff, which is set for 8:45 pm Eastern Time.

“It’s a sensitive injury,” teammate Bam Adebayo said (Twitter link from Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. “He has to take his time.”

Herro suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of Game 3, leaving the Heat without an important component of their offense. The 2021/22 Sixth Man of the Year is averaging 13.5 PPG in 14 playoff games, but his three-point shot has been off as he’s connecting at just 23.2% from long distance.

There’s more from Miami:

  • If Herro isn’t available, the Heat will need another strong game from Max Strus, who has delivered them frequently throughout the playoffs, notes Nick Friedell of ESPN. After missing all of his shots in Games 4 and 5, Strus bounced back in Game 6, delivering 13 points and three three-pointers. Getting significant playoff minutes for the first time in his career, Strus has started all 17 games for Miami and is averaging 11.1 points per night.
  • Jimmy Butler‘s aggressiveness in attacking the basket made the difference for Miami Friday night, ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry observes in the same piece. Butler drove into the lane 23 times in Game 6, compared to 10 times in Game 4 and nine times in Game 5. He scored 20 of his 47 points in the paint and had 11 more at the free throw line.
  • P.J. Tucker said he expected Spoelstra to be “a dictator” and was pleasantly surprised to find that the coach is different behind the scenes, per Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Tucker, who signed with Miami after winning a title in Milwaukee last season, said Spoelstra can be forgiving of minor infractions such as being a few minutes late to practice and he accepts input from players. “I think he knows how hard I work,” Tucker said. “I think it makes it a little easier when you know a guy’s out there and is going to give the coverage that he chooses 110 percent and work through it and through the progressions, if it works or doesn’t work.”

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Heat, Hornets, Magic

After several years of mixed results when picking late in the lottery and in the middle of the first round, the Wizards should aggressively try to move up from No. 10 in this year’s draft, David Aldridge of The Athletic argues.

Aldridge suggests specifically targeting the No. 3 pick and making any assets besides Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis available, including a future first-round pick and some combination of recent first-rounders Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, and Corey Kispert. If the Rockets’ asking price is too steep, the Wizards should shift their focus to the No. 4 pick, says Aldridge.

I’m skeptical that the Wizards will be able to pry No. 3 away from Houston, given the relative consensus on the top three prospects in this year’s draft, and I’m not sure how eager they should be to give up any future first-round picks, given their current roster situation. But Aldridge believes it would be worth it to roll the dice to land a player like Paolo Banchero or Keegan Murray.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The Heat won’t make any changes to their starting lineup for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference, head coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters today (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel). That means Kyle Lowry and Max Strus will continue to start, despite calls to bench them.
  • In a mailbag for The Charlotte Observer, Roderick Boone considers whether Deandre Ayton is a realistic free agent target for the Hornets, looks at where their head coaching search stands, and discusses what to expect from 2021 first-rounder Kai Jones going forward.
  • Kai Sotto, a draft-eligible center from the Philippines, had a workout with the Magic on Thursday, tweets Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Sotto played in Australia’s NBL last season after initially committing to the G League Ignite in 2020. He didn’t end up playing for the Ignite due to travel and COVID-19 complications.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Lowry, Strus, Wizards, Magic

By earning a spot on the All-NBA Third Team this week, Hawks guard Trae Young ensured that his five-year, maximum-salary rookie scale extension will start at 30% of the 2022/23 cap rather than 25%, as we outlined on Tuesday. Based on the current maximum-salary projections, that means Atlanta’s projected team salary for next season will increase by $6.1MM.

As Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes, Young’s salary bump means Atlanta is more likely to be over the luxury-tax line in 2022/23 and perhaps less likely to bring back Danilo Gallinari, whose $21.45MM salary is only partially guaranteed for $5MM. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), the Hawks currently project to be about $7.8MM over the tax line, so they could, at least temporarily, get out of tax territory by waiving Gallinari and saving that $16MM+.

Young’s more lucrative contract may place a few more constraints on the Hawks over the next five years as they attempt to build a championship-caliber roster around him. However, as Kirschner observes, the team will at least no longer have to worry about Young being disgruntled as a result of missing out on an All-NBA spot and an extra $35MM.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • With Kyle Lowry still clearly being affected by the left hamstring injury that has forced him to miss eight playoff games, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel and Joe Vardon of The Athletic believe the Heat have to seriously consider whether or not Lowry should start – or even play – in a do-or-die Game 6. Vardon says the team should probably bench both Lowry and Max Strus, who are a combined 1-of-28 from the floor in the last two games.
  • Josh Robbins and John Hollinger of The Athletic take a look at the Wizards‘ future, discussing whether a full-fledged rebuild or building around Bradley Beal would be a better course of action for the franchise. Hollinger wonders if the team missed an opportunity to get a Jrue Holiday-esque haul (or better) for Beal by not moving him a year or two ago, but believes that the best course of action at this point would be to re-sign the All-Star guard, since he could always be traded later.
  • Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel explores what the Magic‘s starting five may look like next season, depending on whether the team drafts Jabari Smith or Chet Holmgren. In Price’s view, floor-spacing issues mean that Cole Anthony may be a better fit alongside Holmgren, while Jalen Suggs could make more sense alongside Smith.

Celtics/Heat Injury Updates: Smart, Williams, Herro, Lowry

Celtics starting point guard Marcus Smart and starting center Robert Williams have both been listed as questionable for a critical Game 5 tomorrow in their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Heat, Boston announced (Twitter link).

Smart has a right ankle sprain. Williams missed Game 3 with a sore knee, but proved to be a key defensive contributor in Boston’s 102-82 blowout Game 4 victory over Miami.

The Heat, meanwhile, have listed a whopping five role players as questionable ahead of Wednesday’s home contest. Miami has announced (via Twitter) that starting point guard Kyle Lowry, starting shooting guard Max Strus, starting power forward P.J. Tucker, and crucial reserves Gabe Vincent and Tyler Herro all have murky availability for the next game in the 2-2 series.

Lowry, Strus and Vincent are all grappling with hamstring injuries, while Tucker is dealing with left knee irritation. Lowry missed the first two games of the series with his left hamstring strain, and returned in a productive Game 3. In that game, Lowry chipped in 11 points, six assists and four steals. Vincent started in Lowry’s stead for the first two contests. Smart and Herro both sat for Game 4.

Herro was sidelined for Game 4 with a groin injury he suffered during Game 3, a 109-103 Heat victory. The injury could be a lingering problem.

“From what I’m told, this is an injury, this groin injury he has, that would normally keep him out two-to-four weeks if this was the regular season, but he is pushing really hard to play, either in the next game or the game after that,” Ramona Shelburne said today during an ESPN appearance (Twitter video link).

In addition to Game 4, Smart – the newly-minted Defensive Player of the Year – also missed Game 1 of the series due to a right mid-foot sprain. He has been incredibly productive when available during the series, averaging 20.0 PPG, 9.5 APG, and 6.5 RPG in the second and third contests of these Eastern Conference Finals.

All-Star Miami swingman Jimmy Butler, who missed the second half of a Game 3 Heat win with right knee inflammation and struggled offensively in Game 4, has not been listed on Miami’s injury report.