For thoughts on the ongoing Heat-76ers series, we solicited input from a veteran NBA scout who has been evaluating the series for his team:
▪ On Hassan Whiteside, there was disappointment conveyed: “He can be effective, but you don’t know what you’re going to get on a given night. You would think he would have an advantage without [Joel] Embiid, but that hasn’t been exploited.”
Part of the reason for that, the scout said, is Whiteside’s “offensive game is limited. He doesn’t have a jump shot. He doesn’t have a true post game. I don’t see any growth offensively. Guys do improve their jump shot, like [Boston’s] Al Horford has, but you don’t see substantial improvement with Whiteside offensively. But it’s a catch 22. They don’t pass him the ball, so he probably thinks, ‘What the hell?’
“When Embiid plays, he will be engaged because he doesn’t want to get his [butt] kicked. He needs to bring energy and he doesn’t bring it on a regular basis. Embiid brings that out of him.”
▪ Even though Justise Winslow defended Ben Simmons well, the scout said James Johnson is clearly the Heat’s best defensive matchup on Simmons. Johnson defended him the most in game 2 (45 possessions).
“I like James Johnson on Simmons because he’s physical with him,” the scout said. “Simmons can overpower players with his speed and size. He has some nastiness to him. Johnson’s nastiness is a good match, and his length helps. It’s a better matchup physically and emotionally for Miami. Simmons doesn’t want to shoot and he’s going to get exposed [sometimes] by that kind of coach and that type of defender.”
▪ On Dwyane Wade: “I said before the series, he can win a playoff game for you. Can he win a playoff series [at 36], I don’t know about that. I mean, 9 for 10, come one. I don’t know if could sustain that. I could see him going 1 for 9 in a game.”
▪ The scout commended Winslow for his improvement but cautioned against expecting another big leap next season.
“He played some good defense [in Game 2]. He can handle, he’s a glue guy. He shot 38 from three this season, which is above average, but nobody thinks he’s going to hit them. He gets more open shots than anybody in the league. I know Erik [Spoelstra] likes him, but he’s expendable to me. I don’t see much more growth there. He just can’t score consistently. Rotation player on a decent team but he’s not an NBA starter.”
▪ On Josh Richardson: “His versatility is a big deal, as a one, two or three. He’s had a nice year, gotten better. Have we seen the ceiling? He’s probably close to it. He’s a good shooter, not a great shooter. On a contender, is he your third best player? No. Is he your fourth or fifth best player? Probably.”
▪ On Wayne Ellington: “I could see him getting the midlevel [exception starting at $8.8 million this summer]. Can shoot, quality guy, has gotten better.”
▪ Biggest key for Miami in this series? “[Goran] Dragic has to play well. They don’t have enough offensively without Dragic to win three more games. Their offense is not their strong suit and he’s their key guy. He’s essential because their margin for error is slim.”
▪ Biggest key for Philadelphia? “When you get into close games, Embiid is the closer, but Simmons and Embiid are very turnover prone. That’s an issue. And you need either [J.J.] Redick or [Marco] Belinelli to play well, at least one of them. Belinelli has been terrific but takes some bad shots. He’s off balance a lot.”
▪ With Wade coming off a 28-point game, this is encouraging: Following his five previous 20-point games this season, Wade has shot well (at least 50 percent from the field) in four of the games that followed. The last time he scored big against the Sixers (27 points this season), he followed that with 25 against the Lakers. So perhaps he can sustain this.
▪ Not only were Wade’s 28 points the most ever by a Heat reserve in a postseason game, but Wade became the second-oldest reserve with at least 25 points and five rebounds in a playoff game since these stats were first tracked in 1970-71, per ESPN. Only Magic Johnson in 1996 did so at an older age – 168 days older in that game than Wade is now.
▪ TNT assigned Milwaukee Brewers TV voice and Turner MLB and basketball announcer Brian Anderson and former Celtics star and ex-Minnesota coach Kevin McHale to Games 3 and 4 of the Heat-76ers series. Fox Sports Sun can carry games through the first round, with Eric Reid and Tony Fiorentino on the call.