Miami Heat still toying with lineups, using preseason as testing grounds

ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 7: James Johnson
ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 7: James Johnson /

The Miami Heat are still toying with their 2017-18 lineups, as head coach Erik Spoelstra is using preseason as testing grounds for different rotations.

On Saturday evening, the Miami Heat’s starting five looked a little different, as two 7-footers stood center court.

Yes, both newcomer Kelly Olynyk and headlining act Hassan Whiteside tipped things off against the Orlando Magic, a result of head coach Erik Spoelstra still toying with his 2017-18 lineups. After all, what’s preseason if not testing grounds for various rotations?

"“I liked it,” Spoelstra spoke of the two big men playing alongside one another. “We looked more like a Miami Heat basketball team. I was comfortable with that out there. Everything right now, I’ll take a look and we’ll evaluate and I’ll make the decision whenever I make the decision. It might not be in concrete, but I like the way the grouped worked together.”"

It certainly seemed to work for Whiteside, who finished the game with 17 points and 15 rebounds in just 19 minutes.

But one change that so far hasn’t produced great results, is separating James Johnson and Tyler Johnson.

While the guard has flourished continuing to come off the bench, the forward has struggled in a starting role alongside Dion Waiters. He finished the Heat’s first preseason matchup against the Atlanta Hawks with just 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 block, in 16 minutes of play. And totaled just 2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal in 23 minutes, versus the Brooklyn Nets.

But the 30-year-old isn’t discouraged.

"“Rotations are going to see what’s working and what’s not working,” Johnson said. “That’s what the preseason is for. We’re still learning each other with the second unit, the first unit and different rotations.”"

And, in the brief moments The Brothers Johnson were reunited, they immediately connected for a basket. Proving that should Spoelstra keep them both coming off the bench, the magic will pick up right where it left off.

"“Obviously, Coach knows that we have a connection and that that’s not something that we’ve really got to work on,” said Tyler Johnson. “It’s something that was there, and we didn’t really need to work on it last year. It just kind of comes naturally. We can play off of each other really well.”"

As for the third rotation that saw a good chunk of time on Saturday in Orlando? Clearly, a work in progress. But that’s to be expected from guys like Bam Adebayo, Erik McCree, Derrick Walton and Matt Williams, who are just getting their feet wet. It’s also highly unlikely that these guys would ever all be on the floor together, Spoelstra clearly just trying to get a feel for their style of play.

And Adebayo actually managed to score 7 points in 7 minutes, going 5-of-6 from the line. While also grabbing two rebounds and one steal.

Some may be disappointed that Miami is currently 1-3 , but when it comes to preseason, it’s more important to get lineups and rotations down than it is to earn victories.

Next: This is the Josh Richardson the Miami Heat were waiting for

The Miami Heat take on the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night, at 7:30 PM ET.