Miami Heat

Mailbag: Have NBA playoffs given the Heat hope it’s on right path?

Spoelstra: “This season without question would be the growth of our young players”

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media during the season-ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday April 12, 2019 in Miami.
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media during the season-ending press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday April 12, 2019 in Miami.

The Miami Herald Heat mailbag is here to answer your questions.

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

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@unkstreetz: With Justise Winslow’s point about Heat players having to get better, is supporting evidence to that statement shown in the playoffs by Kawhi, Giannis, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, etc.? Guys who improved after a few years in the league.

Anthony Chiang: Sure, those are examples of players who improved from their first few seasons in the NBA and turned into stars. Kawhi Leonard averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and two assists in his third NBA season. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in his second NBA season. Damian Lillard averaged 20.7 points on 42.4 percent shooting in his second NBA season. And CJ McCollum averaged 6.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and one assist in his second NBA season.

But it’s important to point out these are also outliers. The players mentioned on this list are probably now among the top 30 in the entire NBA. Would the Heat like Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and/or whomever it drafts in the first round of this year’s draft to eventually develop into a player who’s considered a star to build around? Obviously, the answer is yes. But the Kawhi and Giannis jumps don’t happen very often .... or really ever.

For now, it’s just important the Heat’s young players continue to improve from season to season. Whether that means turning into McCollum or a just a quality role player/starter, improvement is needed from Miami’s young core. It’s that young nucleus that could help draw an established star to the Heat down the road.

Another observation that could be made from the remaining four teams in the playoffs — Golden State, Milwaukee, Portland and Toronto — is the draft helped each one build the core of its roster. That’s the approach the Heat is currently taking.

Danny: What should the Heat focus on in the draft?

Anthony: Getting the best player available. Who knows what this Heat team will look like in two years, when most of this current roster could be off the books. Richardson and Winslow are the only two Heat players currently under contract for the 2021-22 season. The Heat can make the other member of its young core, Adebayo, a restricted free agent for 2021-22 with a qualifying offer. Because of that uncertainty surrounding Miami’s roster, a “best-player-available” approach seems like the most logical one. Whether it’s a point guard, wing player or even a power forward, simply the best player on the Heat’s board.

The one position I would be surprised to see the Heat draft this year is center, just because of the logjam already existing at the position with Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk and Adebayo vying for minutes at the spot.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.

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