Lowry, Butler, Highsmith and Bam
As was already pointed out, the Heat don’t have one of those dominant starting lineups that have helped teams like the Celtics and Nuggets soar up the standings but, by season’s end, they might.
In 116 minutes, the four-man lineup of Lowry, Butler, Highsmith and Bam is out-scoring opponents by 18.2 points every 100 possessions. They are nearly as effective with Herro (plus-13.4) as Robinson (plus-19.7) as the fifth starter.
That’s right there with the best starting fives in the league.
Highsmith is the skeleton key. The Heat are 8-1 since Highsmith entered the starting lineup. Herro started three of those games and Robinson the other six. Both are the weak links in the defense – soft spots that opposing predators will poke at. Combine them with Lowry, a smart but undersized defender, and Love, who can be taken advantage of when guarding in space, and the Heat had been starting three minus defenders. That’s untenable in today’s NBA.
Swap Highsmith in for Love and everything becomes easier. Lowry is smart enough to keep himself out of tough matchups and Herro and Robinson have improved from bad to average (or a hair below). According to Cleaning the Glass, lineups with Lowry, Robinson and Highsmith are posting a defensive rating of 105.4, which would rank first in the NBA.
With Highsmith in the starting group, the rest of Miami’s rotation has fallen into place. It will be interesting to track the Heat’s starting five against the best in the league as the team gets healthy and the sample gets larger.