Miami Heat

Heat mailbag: Is rotation too crowded for improving Derrick Jones Jr.?

Erik Spoelstra following Heat’s preseason loss to Spurs

Erik Spoelstra speaks about what the Heat can take from its preseason loss to the Spurs on Sept. 30, 2018.
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Erik Spoelstra speaks about what the Heat can take from its preseason loss to the Spurs on Sept. 30, 2018.

Let me be the first to welcome you to the Miami Herald’s new Miami Heat mailbag.

This will be a weekly feature throughout the season and offseason. It’s here to answer your questions about the team, whatever those questions might be.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang). You can also email me at achiang@miamiherald.com

@DontStopBLevine: How excited should we be about Derrick Jones Jr. Seems like he’s killing it this offseason, but we’re kind of stacked at small forward. Does he get much playing time in the regular season?

Anthony Chiang: Yes, Derrick Jones Jr. did have an extremely productive offseason. From an encouraging display in the summer league to making the most of the Heat’s player development program by spending many hours and days at AmericanAirlines Arena, Jones earned the guaranteed contract he signed in July. But none of this means Jones, 21, will have a consistent spot in Erik Spoelstra’s rotation once the regular season begins. The roster is full of capable wing players. From Dwyane Wade to Justise Winslow to Josh Richardson to Wayne Ellington to Dion Waiters, the Heat’s roster is full of players expected to be ahead of Jones in the rotation.

That doesn’t mean Jones will spend the season on the bench, though. Spoelstra is going to get creative to get the most out of his roster, and that could mean playing Jones at other positions … like power forward. Jones already spent some time at power forward in Saturday’s scrimmage at FAU and in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Spurs. Jones guarded (much) bigger bodies against San Antonio such as Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, and he had trouble at times. But that’s expected, considering Jones stands at 6-7 and 200 pounds. But the Heat has been able to manage with smaller power forwards before like Luke Babbitt and Shane Battier. The difference there is that Babbitt and Battier are above average three-point shooters and helped space the floor against bigger and less mobile players. Jones’ outside shot is still a work in progress, as he’s just 6 of 29 (20.7 percent) on three-pointers during his first two NBA seasons. Athleticism, defense and playing above the rim are Jones’ current strengths, and those could be difficult to leverage against bigger players.

Jones has a chance to earn playing time because he’s versatile, athletic and evolving as a player — all qualities the Heat covets. But it might take injuries to create playing time for him right now. Or he might just make the coaches play him if he really did make a big jump this summer. We will see.

@takito136: Soo... that guy Jimmy Butler? Give me your final offer from a Heat perspective?

Chiang: Let me start by making clear that this is MY offer, not the Heat’s offer. We’re not quite sure what Miami’s final offer is at this point. But you have to imagine it includes at least one of the team’s top assets: Richardson, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk and Winslow. Trading one of those players along with a draft pick and another contract seems reasonable, considering the Timberwolves don’t have much negotiating leverage with Butler demanding to be sent elsewhere.

@HLinsight: Is Spo going to let Hassan Whiteside take threes in meaningful games?

Chiang: Not so sure about that. Although Hassan Whiteside has said that he has been allowed to practice corner threes this year, I’ll believe he’s actually going to use that shot when I see him do it consistently in the regular season. But it is worth noting that Whiteside did take and make a corner three in Sunday’s preseason opener.

“I practice it every day. Tyler [Johnson] just found me,” Whiteside said of the play. “When the four men is setting that screen, I want to kind of get out there at the three. I’m already out there at the two, so just getting out there and just taking that shot. My teammates can trust me with it and I’m going to take it.”

Whiteside is 2 for 2 on threes in the regular season over his career. Maybe it is time he takes a few more, but it can’t come at the expense of his paint opportunities.

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