Should the Miami Heat’s Johnson duo come off the bench?

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 14: Tyler Johnson
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 14: Tyler Johnson /

Is it time for the Miami Heat to go back to former lineups?

During the Miami Heat’s 2017-18 campaign, Tyler Johnson and James Johnson (also known as The Brothers Johnson) picked up 39 and 41 starts respectively (with both also starting all five playoff games played against the Philadelphia 76ers).

However, some are questioning whether or not the duo should continue to be looked at as starting options or if they should be a fixed tandem off the bench.

First, let’s take a look at Tyler Johnson and what he brings to the table.

For starters, while he is a bit undersized at the shooting guard position, with his height and overall build indicating that he’s more of a point guard, his play style shows that he’s indeed best suited at the the two; even if he does leave a little to be desired on the measurables side of things.

Knowing that he would be best used as a two-guard and that he’s not exactly the most ideal starter, it makes sense for the Heat to bring him off the bench.

Though he has shown the ability to put together some solid performances in spot starts, I think he would be much more comfortable in a sixth man type role. He thrived in that same role in 2016-17, mostly playing against players closer to his skill level, so there’s no reason to think he can’t return to that level of play.

Plus, Dion Waiters returning from injury likely makes benching Tyler Johnson easier for the Heat.

Now as for James Johnson, it’s a bit more complicated.

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He’s proven that he’s the Heat’s best overall starting power forward currently. But just how locked into that role is he? Well, Miami’s other options are Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow.

Olynyk has shown ability to spread the floor with his 3-point shooting, but at 7-feet tall, he’s limited defensively when matching up against the small-ball 4’s of today’s NBA. So he’s really best used as a center.

But for 6-foot-10 Adebayo, power forward could make a little more sense; him being a talented defender who can hold his own against pretty much anybody in the league doesn’t hurt either. However, Adebayo must improve his face up game before he can play consistent minutes at the four. He needs to prove he can take and make open mid-range jumpers, attack the basket when he gets a favorable matchup, and just open up his offensive repertoire. He flashed these skills in the 2017 Summer League, and then some in the regular season too. It’s just a matter of him putting it all together and executing in game on a regular basis.

Finally, Winslow to me represents the best option other than James Johnson, partly because the two have several similarities in their games. They both can handle the ball up and down the court and set up teammates as point forwards. They’ve also shown a certain ability to defend and serve as Swiss Army knives for head coach Erik Spoelstra.

So does Winslow starting over James Johnson make sense? I think so. And here’s why.

James Johnson is 31, while Winslow is just 22 and already showing what he could do for the Heat. The time for the Heat to push Winslow’s development closer to the forefront has arrived. Sliding Winslow in as a starting power forward allows the Heat to speed up his development process and help him reach his ceiling faster.

It also allows a savvy veteran in James Johnson to go up against slightly lesser talent, coming off the bench.

As we’ve seen in the past, The Brothers Johnson coming off the bench together can be a nuisance for opposing defenses.

At this point in the Heat’s off-season, just weeks removed from a disappointing first-round playoff exit, all sorts of trade rumors are circulating. That being said we don’t really know for sure Tyler Johnson and/or Tyler Johnson will be back next season.

Next: Miami Heat: Three summer goals for the 2018-19 season

But assuming they both return, they should do so off the bench; not necessarily because they’re bad starters, but because they are at their best when used as reserves.