Kelly Olynyk smiled at the question.
Is it possible, Kelly, that you’re simply a better player the more minutes you get?
“I think that might be possible, yeah,” said Olynyk, who has thrived since being inserted into the starting lineup at power forward 13 games ago.
“The way I’ve played my whole life is I don’t force stuff or press the issue. I played more point guard [growing up], where you let the game come to you, make the right plays. The ball will find you. When you play less minutes, sometimes that doesn’t happen.”
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The numbers support the notion that more Olynyk often leads to a better Olynyk.
When Olynyk plays fewer than 10 minutes, he’s shooting 29 percent this season. When he plays between 10 and 19 minutes, he’s shooting 40 percent. But he’s shooting 50 percent when he plays between 20 and 29 and 49 percent between 30 and 39. And when he plays 40 minutes or more, as he did in Wednesday’s win in Charlotte, he’s shooting 61.3 percent.
Erik Spoelstra, naturally, will be more inclined to leave Olynyk in the game longer when he’s shooting well, so that’s definitely a factor in those aforementioned numbers. But this is also true: He’s shooting much better overall as a starter than as a reserve this season (52 to 46 percent) and on three-pointers, too (42 to 35 percent).
“If you have a big who can shoot, it makes it a lot easier,” Olynyk said on a night when Spoelstra played him 44 minutes because he was the quintessential Hornets zone buster, with five three-pointers in seven attempts on a 22-point night.
But here’s what’s even more significant:
The Heat simply plays better when Olynyk is on the floor. Last season, the Heat outscored teams by 231 points when Olynyk was on the court, by far the best on the team. (Wayne Ellington was second at plus-129).
This season, Miami has outscored teams by 70 points when Olynyk is on the court, second-best on the team behind Justise Winslow, who’s a plus-97.
To put all of this in perspective, consider this: Since Olynyk joined the Heat, Miami has outscored teams by 301 points when he’s in the game but has been outscored by 291 when he’s not on the court.
“We know how good he is,” Dwyane Wade said Wednesday night. “Obviously, the Miami Heat does. They went out and signed him. He’s a big part of what we want to do here. When he’s shooting the ball that way, [it’s big]. Defensively, he’s been doing a lot better with help defense. He’s definitely making that first unit move and go.”
Olynyk is averaging 20.5 points during his past six games and shooting an absurd 18 for 29 on three-pointers during that stretch.
Defensively overall this season, the player he’s guarding has shot 44.3 percent against Olynyk, compared with the 45.9 that player shoots against everybody. That 44.3 ranks in the top 10 among starting power forwards.
What’s more, Olynyk has drawn a team-high 10 charges, with Winslow next with four. Olynyk said he benefits from having shot-blockers Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo behind him because he can be more aggressive.
But his value goes beyond that.
“His basketball IQ is off the charts,” Udonis Haslem said. “He struggled defensively earlier in the season. That hurt him spending time on the floor. When he’s locked in defensively, it allows him to stay out of foul trouble, be on the floor longer, get in rhythm. He stretches the floor well, brings a lot of things.”
Olynyk — who’s due $13.1 million next season with a $13.6 million player option for 2020-21 — is now on pace to reach the 1,700-minute mark, which would mean a $1 million bonus.
If he hits a three-pointer on Friday against visiting Cleveland, it would set a personal record for most consecutive games (11) with at least one three.
“It’s about being in a rhythm and staying confident,” Olynyk said. “And for me, letting the game come to me.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Hassan Whiteside’s 18 points and 15 rebounds in fewer than 21 minutes against Charlotte on Wednesday marked the first time those thresholds were reached (in fewer than 21 minutes) in the NBA since 1983, and the second time since 1967, according to heat.com’s Couper Moorhead.
▪ Wade, who secured a big offensive rebound with the Heat up four and 29 seconds left in Charlotte, cracked: “I was about to retire if I didn’t do something.”
▪ Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten, the Heat’s two-way players, are both with the team, and though two-way contracts limit NBA service time to 45 days before the G League season ends, Maten has enough available days to spend the rest of the season with the Heat, and Robinson is only a couple days short of being able to do that.
▪ Spoelstra said the Heat always has been intrigued by veteran NBA point guard Jarrett Jack, who was added to Miami’s G League team in South Dakota, as a replacement for Briante Weber, who signed in Greece. But there are no plans to add Jack to the Heat.