Miami Heat

Heat mailbag: Have the big-big lineups been effective to start the season?

Whiteside: “I really wanted to get faster”

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside talks about his new working out routine on the beach after practice on the third day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season at FAU Arena on Thursday, September 27, 2018.
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Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside talks about his new working out routine on the beach after practice on the third day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season at FAU Arena on Thursday, September 27, 2018.

The Miami Herald’s Heat mailbag will be a weekly feature throughout the season and offseason. It’s here to answer your questions about the team.

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.

@anilsbtb: How well is the Hassan-Bam lineup working?

Anthony Chiang: It’s working better than the Hassan Whiteside-Kelly Olynyk lineup. The Heat is outscoring opponents by one point in the nine minutes Whiteside and Bam Adebayo have been on the court together this season. By comparison, Miami is being outscored by seven points in the five minutes it has used the frontcourt duo of Whiteside and Olynyk.

We’re only three games in, so let’s wait a few weeks before we make a final judgment on any lineup. The more interesting takeaway from these numbers has to do with the lack of minutes each group is being used. Coach Erik Spoelstra hasn’t turned to the Whiteside-and-another-big look much through the first three games. And with James Johnson — who is expected to start at power forward — unavailable because of injury, one would think there would be more minutes for the Whiteside-Adebayo and Whiteside-Olynyk lineup since a key frontcourt player is out.

Instead, the big-big lineup that has been given more playing time features a frontcourt of Adebayo and Olynyk. But the results haven’t been great, with opponents outscoring the Heat by 15 points in the 30 minutes Adebayo and Olynyk have played together this season.

But I get it. The Adebayo and Olynyk tandem seems like the sweet spot when it comes to the Heat’s big lineups. The Whiteside-Olynyk pairing could be considered a liability on the defensive end because athletic power forwards can take advantage of Olynyk and the Whiteside-Adebayo frontcourt doesn’t provide the best spacing with two players who score almost all of their points near the basket. But the Adebayo-Olynyk look features a paint player in Adebayo and a big man in Olynyk who spaces the floor with his ability to make threes, plus Olynyk is not forced to defend power forwards because Adebayo is athletic enough to consistently take on that assignment.

We’ll see how many minutes these big-big looks get moving forward. But in order to fit Adebayo, Olynyk and Whiteside all into the rotation, two of the three will probably have to play together during certain stretches of games.

@TheHungryCondor: Why is the defense so bad right now?

Anthony: The Heat’s defense hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t been bad either. Entering Tuesday, Miami ranked 10th in the league with a defensive rating of 106.5. That’s still in the top half of the NBA. Yes, the Heat is allowing 109.7 points per game, but points and pace are up across the league. The more important number to look at is defensive rating, which is the amount of points a team allows per 100 possessions and helps to eliminate the pace factor. While there’s plenty of room for improvement, the Heat has posted the 10th best defensive rating. That’s a solid start.

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