Despite missing their top players for a significant number of weeks this season, the Miami Heat currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 37-20 record.
The trio of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry have missed a combined 56 games to this point, while other key rotation pieces such as Tyler Herro and PJ Tucker have also been sidelined for several games due to varying ailments.
Ironically, the presumed weakness of this team entering the season has been much better than anticipated. The Heat have a stable and productive second unit, and it is rounding out a team that can clinch the Eastern Conference title. THE SUPPORT-CAST RISES TO THE OCCASION If there was ever an example to point to in order to illustrate the unwavering success of the Heat to date, it’s in their latest win on the road against the Washington Wizards. Despite having close to their full lineup available to hit the floor, it was the second unit that stole the show as the Heat cruised to a dominant 121-100 win. The quartet of Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Dewayne Dedmon combined to shoot 11-of-20 from three-point range, as the bench combined for 56 points, thus ensuring no starter played more than 30 minutes for the night. Despite the absence of Sixth Man of the Year favorite in Herro for the contest, Miami’s unheralded group continued to defy expectations. To say that this group of determined players each brings an edge and nastiness every time they step on the floor would be an extreme understatement.
Nnamdi gave us exactly what we needed tonight 🔥 pic.twitter.com/O1LCe9BrWb — Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) February 8, 2022
HOW SO HEAT’S DEPTH GO WITHOUT NOTICE? One standout reason for the underestimation of the Heat’s level of depth comes in their status entering the league. The aforementioned quartet were all undrafted coming out of college, with Martin commencing this season on a two-way deal, with Vincent and Strus having done the same prior to this season. And this is all without mentioning rookie center Omer Yurtseven, yet another undrafted success story to emerge with the franchise. Earlier this season, Yurtseven set a franchise record with 14 consecutive games of recording at least 10 rebounds, averaging 11.6 points and 13.4 rebounds during that span. With the return of Adebayo, Yurtseven has now returned to his original role as the third center on the team, but with the knowledge that he’s more than comfortable at competing at the level required.
Omer Yurtseven has recorded 15+ rebounds in four consecutive games. The last rookie to have such a streak? Shaquille O’Neal in 1993.@MiamiHEAT pic.twitter.com/Ig6ARvykh3 — The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 9, 2022
JIMMY BUTLER COMMENDS SECOND UNIT Following the team’s victory over the Nets, recently named 6-time All-Star Jimmy Butler waxed lyrical per the continued production of the second unit: “They stick to their strengths, try to stay away from their weaknesses, like everybody on our roster. But they’re just confident. They know that they belong in this league. And more than anything, they belong on this team.”
Furthermore, one should look at the Heat’s record when some of the members of this group make a significant impact:
Heat 8-1 when Vincent scores at least 15 points
Heat 12-3 when Martin records at least five rebounds
Heat 6-0 when Dedmon scores at least 12 points
Heat 10-4 when Yurtseven records at least 10 rebounds.
Looking ahead, the Heat have three games in the coming days prior to a much-needed break due to NBA All-Star weekend. And with a slew of home games to look forward to as they enter the final stretch of the season, the Miami Heat should be content and confident in the continued work of their no longer under-the-radar bench unit.