Miami Heat’s Summer League is telling of the team’s direction

Kenyan Gabriel #32 and De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings speak with Derrick Jones Jr #5, Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kenyan Gabriel #32 and De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings speak with Derrick Jones Jr #5, Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat start off rocky in the Las Vegas Summer League.

The Miami Heat appeared completely lost in their 2018 Las Vegas NBA Summer League debut.

After notching a 2-1 record in Sacramento’s California Classic, Miami’s game was rife with bad tendencies and poor play in their fourth outing together.

Summer League is very much a place for trial and error.

Miami, without a selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, fielded a team largely comprised of undrafted talent, two-way players and rookie standout Bam Adebayo. Where other teams have a de facto leader – Philadelphia’s Furkan Korkmaz, Phoenix’s DeAndre Ayton – Miami is a work in progress, hunting for diamonds in the rough.

Until Saturday night, Miami found faith in its roster.

Adebayo manhandled his way to leading the Sacramento Summer League in rebounds, while Daryl Macon and Derrick Jones Jr. where among the top creators of assists and points respectively.

But all else failed Saturday night when the Pelicans rolled past the Heat with a combination of responsible shooting and ball movement. New Orleans’ recipe for victory was bookmarked by a 50 percent night from 3 and out-assisting Miami 24-15.

Heat Summer League coach Eric Glass was distraught after the routing, putting much of the blame on himself.

"“Nobody stood out to me tonight,” Glass told the Miami Herald. “That was an embarrassing performance and it started with the head coach. “Lack of energy, lack of effort, lack of intensity, connection on the court. It was an embarrassing game. Those kids are trying hard, everyone’s competing out there. That’s on me as a head coach.”"

Irrespective of the final score, the Heat’s Summer League has proven fruitful in at least two ways.

Duncan Robinson, a University of Michigan alum, shone the brightest among Miami’s undrafted crop.

He flaunts a silky shooting stroke to compliment his 6-foot-8 frame. Willing to launch the 3, his ability to pull up off the dribble, mirrors that of current Heat forward Kelly Olynyk, whose sharpshooting proved useful when Miami ran into one of their scoring droughts.

Robinson’s standout ability however illuminates Miami’s other major observation from Summer League: this team is streaky.

Among other narratives this regular season, the Miami Heat adopted the motto “live by the 3, die by the 3”. Though Miami was ninth in attempts per game, they landed in sixteenth in percentage leaguewide.

Some of the Heat’s most vicious losses came on the backs of abysmal nights from deep. On January 31, a 2-point, last minute defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers could have been wholly avoided had Miami’s triples fallen.

That night, the Heat earned points on just three of their 28 attempts.

That same problem filters down to Summer League, where Miami runs with a group of 3-point heaving hopefuls.

Only eight of Miami’s 31 attempts found their rightful home. The empty possessions, when coupled with Miami’s 15 turnovers left plenty to be desired.

Additionally, Miami has managed just one game shooting above 35 percent from 3, which came in the 15-point win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

But as is the case with Summer League, especially for a team as financially strapped as Miami, the showcase stands more as a chance to fill their coffers with reserve and G-League players, than any instant contributors.

Where Udonis Haslem represents the dream for undrafted Heat talent, from rookie to champion in three years flat, the Sioux Falls Skyforce represents the reality.

Many of Miami’s rank-and-file members paved their way through the G-League, none wealthier than Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside.

Next: Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is enjoying Summer League.

The Heat have the chance to redeem their Summer League record tonight, against the Charlotte Hornets. More important than padding stats or finding a rhythm from 3 is proving Miami’s work ethic and tenacity will carry the team further than a chance at the Las Vegas championship.