Barry Jackson

Heat newcomer expects Miami often to surround Whiteside with shooters

Miami Heat forward Luke Babbitt is among the three-point shooters available to coach Erik Spoelstra.
Miami Heat forward Luke Babbitt is among the three-point shooters available to coach Erik Spoelstra.

As Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday, no one player will replace Chris Bosh, and he will use a variety of lineups.

But the Heat also knows one of its best strategies is surrounding center Hassan Whiteside with shooters.

That means you likely can expect to see some lineups with Justise Winslow at power forward, Josh Richardson or Wayne Ellington at small forward and some combination of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson in the backcourt. Waiters is expected to start alongside Dragic.

The Heat also will give a long look to power forward Luke Babbitt, a career 40.3 percent three-shooter. Babbitt said this week that the coaching staff has spoken of using lineups that surround center Hassan Whiteside with shooters.

The Heat likes combo forward Derrick Williams’ overall game, but he’s a career 29.9 percent three-point shooter.

The smaller lineups will be easier to play when Richardson returns from a knee injury by early November. The Heat is comfortable playing Richardson, 6-6, or Ellington, 6-4, at small forward in smaller lineups.

Josh McRoberts, limited by a foot injury, also will be considered if he can regain the three-point touch he displayed in Charlotte, when his 105 threes in 2013-14 were sixth-most among power forwards. He hit 36.1 percent of his threes that season but only 20 of 68 threes (29.4 percent) with Miami.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says team can't live in the past and must create new path. Sept. 28, 2016.

Though Winslow shot only 27.6 percent on threes, the Heat believes his shooting will improve dramatically after working with shooting coach Rob Fodor and every other aspect of his game is valued by coaches.

Here’s the bottom line: The Heat wants shooting on the floor and has no hesitation to play undersized lineups, with Whiteside in the middle.

Two newcomers who haven’t been high-percentage shooters, Williams and James Johnson, say their shooting is improved after working with Fodor.

Among Heat players who made at least 40 three-pointers last season, Richardson was third at 46.1 percent, Babbitt 22nd at 40.4, Bosh 77th at 36.5, and Waiters and Ellington tied for 96th at 35.8. Bosh likely will not play for the Heat again, team president Pat Riley said.

“We are going to work the game we feel is best for this group to maximize” this team, Spoelstra said.

The search for shooters figures to extend into next summer.

If Bosh is cleared from Miami’s cap, which is now expected, the Heat will attempt to land a star from among Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin with its projected $42 million available.

But the next tier or two of free agents includes skilled shooters such as Utah’s Gordon Hayward (who will get a ton in this inflated market), Golden State’s Andre Iguodola, Denver’s Danilo Gallinari, the Clippers’ J.J. Redick, New Orleans’ Tyreke Evans, OKC’s Anthony Morrow and Sacramento’s Omri Casspi.

Also keep Rudy Gay’s name in mind. He informed the Kings that he likely will opt out of his contract next summer, and a close associate said the Heat appeals to him. Gay has averaged 18.4 points per game in his career, with 750 three-pointers on 34.4 percent shooting.

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