As the mood around the Miami Heat remains highly positive after seven straight victories, eyes are firmly focused on the success of this current iteration of the Heat roster. Yet, around the league, it would be difficult to disregard the state of affairs for players who once called South Beach their home, who have been spotlighted in the early weeks of the season for both good and bad.
As proven by the return of Josh Richardson at the end of June, the door is never fully closed for those who took to the court under Erik Spoelstra's mentorship and provided maximum effort.
Players have left the franchise in recent times with considerably more credit in the bank than others, perhaps none more so than last season's playoff heroes who became free agents in the postseason.
Granted, it can be somewhat difficult to assess the effectiveness of a player's tenure in just 10 or so games, but some former Heat favorites have already gathered strong admirers (and doubters) across their respective fanbases.
The meteoric rise of guard Max Strus from G-League regular to NBA Finals starter couldn't have been forecasted by many, but that is exactly what the undrafted youngster out of DePaul became.
Strus oversaw a continuous rise in his scoring, assisting and rebounding on a seasonal basis in his three years in Miami, eventually becoming a useful asset in the starting five averaging 12 points per game.
The 27-year-old received the first large payday of his career back in July when he finalized a $63 million, four-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers -- an offer which the Heat were justified to decide against matching given their ability to develop undrafted gems.
Strus has had an encouraging start as a Cavalier and has solidified a spot in the starting lineup. He's averaging just under 15 points per game and is on course for career-high marks in assists (3.4) and rebounds (6).
After a troubling pre-season where he shot under 25% from the field, he bounced back in style with a stellar shooting display in a 27-point performance on opening night in a victory at Brooklyn, going 7 for 13 behind the arc.
After showing flashes as a passer in the latter stages of his Heat tenure, Strus has continued to grow as a creator under Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff and plays a pivotal role in getting bigs Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to the basket. Monday's tournament defeat to Sacramento showcased this: boasting a nice give-and-go with Allen for an easy layup and picking out Mobley with a well-timed alley-oop.
"He came out and set a tone...his grit and toughness—that's leadership style and our guys will continue to follow." Bickerstaff said of Strus.
There is little evidence to suggest that the Heat have particularly missed Strus, but he has certainly added offensive dynamism to an Eastern Conference rival