The weekly Miami Herald Heat mailbag is here to answer your questions.
@Phinattic: Should Hassan Whiteside play off the bench?
Anthony Chiang: I’m going to assume you’re referencing the past two games, when Bam Adebayo replaced the injured Hassan Whiteside in the Heat’s starting lineup. Adebayo, 21, has averaged an impressive stat line of 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and two blocks in 30.5 minutes during this short stretch as a starter. In eight starts this season, Adebayo is averaging 13.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes.
Those are solid numbers, and there’s an argument to be made that featuring Adebayo in a bigger role will only help his growth moving forward. But let’s not forget the impact Whiteside makes when he’s engaged, as he’s averaging 18.3 points, 17.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per 36 minutes this season.
Anyway, starting is overrated. What’s more important is who finishes the game, and Adebayo has played more fourth-quarter minutes than Whiteside this season. Adebayo has played in 60 of the 61 fourth quarters he has been available for, compared to Whiteside getting in just 27 of the 53 fourth quarters he has been available for.
Whiteside will likely get his starting job back once he returns from a strained hip, but Adebayo will also probably continue to finish most games.
@TheHungryCondor: What’s your estimated win cap for the rest of the season? I want to know the chances of entering the lottery.
Anthony: The computer models don’t give the Heat much of a chance at making the playoffs. Entering Friday, the Heat had just a 20 percent chance of making the playoffs and was projected to finish with a 36-46 record, according to FiveThirtyEight.com’s playoff predictions. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index has the Heat with a 26.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, while finishing with a 36-46 record.
As for my opinion, it’s going to be tough for the Heat to make the playoffs. It’s obviously still very possible, with Miami entering Friday just one game behind the eighth and final playoff spot occupied by the Magic. But the Heat has to take advantage of the next eight games, which includes seven at home. Why? Because after this upcoming eight-game stretch, Miami closes with nine of its final 13 regular-season games on the road. If the Heat can’t start stringing together wins at home over the next two weeks, any hope of making the playoffs will disappear.