3 Observations from the Heat's Summer League win, including Kel'el Ware's eruption

2024 California Classic - Miami Heat v Golden State Warriors
2024 California Classic - Miami Heat v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Observations from the Miami Heat’s 102-86 win over the Sacramento Kings Summer League team from the California Classic in San Francisco…

1. Kel’el Ware rolling to the rim

Ware struggled to get much rim pressure in his first Summer League game on Saturday, settling for tough hooks, floaters and post-ups en route to 12 points on 5 of 12 shooting. 

Going into Sunday’s game, Heat coaches told him to be more aggressive. Set solid screens, dive to the basket, be available for lobs. That’s exactly what he did, erupting for 26 points on 12 for 21 shooting. Just look at the difference in his shot chart between both games:

When watching Ware’s college tape before the draft, one of the things that concerned me was his preference to mozy into post position early in the shot clock. For someone with his size and athleticism, he aborted too many opportunities to dive hard to the basket. His game looked too much like someone doing a bad LaMarcus Aldridge impression, where he should be playing more like Dereck Lively II. Getting Ware to turn his dials into being more of a North-South rim-roller was always going to be the task of the Heat’s coaching staff. That Ware responded after one game is really impressive.

"I wanted to get to the basket more and just be more of a target in my presence, be more in the paint today," Ware told reporters on a video call after the game.

It wasn’t just the scoring (although it was mostly the scoring), but Ware’s vertical spacing and screen-setting helped open up the offense for his teammates. He went from two screen assists on Saturday to seven on Sunday, according to the NBA’s tracking, and three passing assists after dishing out zero in his first game.

He won’t have such a featured role at the start of his NBA career, but the rim-rolling game is easily scalable up and down. This is who the Heat need him to be.

2. Cole Swider’s shooting

Swider went 9 for 16 from 3-point range over the weekend, including a 5 for 10 performance in Sunday’s win. He poured in 3s from all around the arc, including some contested ones in the corner.

But Swider is more than a standstill 3-point shooter. He has improved his shooting while on the move and incorporated a smoother one-dribble pull-up since making his Heat debut last summer.

Swider was the G League’s best 3-point shooter last season, shooting 50% on 9.4 attempts while playing for Sioux Falls as part of his two-way contract. 

The Heat signed Swider to a qualifying offer that makes him a restricted free agent but have yet to make a decision on whether he’ll return on a standard contract or a two-way (the Heat have their three two-way spots filled but can swap them out at any time without cap penalty). 

With 13 players under contract, the Heat will sign one more player before the start of the season. They could go with an outside veteran to add depth, but Swider is making an early case for consideration.

3. Pelle Larsson hustling

Larsson had five points, a steal and tried to draw a charge in the first 3:15 of Sunday’s game, establishing the tone after the Heat got blown out in their California Classic opener. He looked every bit of a seasoned Heat player.

He finished with nine points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals and tied for the team lead in defensive 3-point contests. He flew down the court in transition and was almost always in the right place. The Heat have to be happy with what they’ve seen from their second-round pick so far.