‘I’m still chasing another championship,’ says Pat Riley
The Heat began the process of putting together a training camp roster on Thursday, inviting two players from its summer league team to camp --- South Carolina forward Chris Silva and Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin. That gives the Heat 16 players under contract - four below the maximum permitted for training camp.
But the Heat remains unsure which two players will receive coveted two-way contracts.
Last summer at this time, two Heat summer leaguers had made a strong case to warrant two-way contracts: Duncan Robinson (who received one five days before the Heat’s run in the Las Vegas summer league ended) and Yante Maten.
This year, while several of the Heat’s rookies have flashed potential, none has emerged as a no-brainer for a two-way deal.
And while it’s possible that one of the two players signed Thursday could end up having their contracts converted to a two-way deal, the Heat also is considering giving one of its two-way deals to a player from another team, as it did with Derrick Walton Jr. two years ago.
That none of the Heat’s undrafted rookies has emphatically staked a claim to a two-way is partly a byproduct of the fact that the Heat’s best players on its summer league team are its first-round draft pick (Tyler Herro) and three players already signed to standard contracts, albeit not fully guaranteed (Kendrick Nunn, Yante Maten and Duncan Robinson).
Players who sign two-way contracts will spend most of their season with the Heat’s G-League team in South Dakota but can also spend up to 45 days with the Heat and then join Miami for good after the G-League season ends. With the Heat hard-capped and likely to begin the season with 14 players instead of 15, the two-way players could end up spending significant time with Miami.
Sizing up Heat players trying to make a case for a two-way deal:
▪ Silva: The rugged 6-9 power forward, who was named the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, has been a starter in all six of his summer league appearances but left in the third quarter of Wednesday’s game with a sprained left knee and is unlikely to play in Miami’s next game, potentially more.
He’s averaging 7.0 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 56.5 percent from the field for Miami, with four blocked shots in six games. He made 28 of 59 three-pointers in his career at South Carolina but hasn’t attempted a three for Miami.
“He’s a competitor, gives us some physicality and toughness,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said. “A good shot changer, not always a shot blocker. He goes up there and makes it tougher [for opposing players] at the rim. He’s been effective at the rim offensively with his rolls because he’s got great speed.”
▪ Martin: The production this summer (5.0 points per game, 43 percent shooting, 0 for 6 on threes, 11 assists compared with 10 turnovers) has been modest for a player who averaged 19.7 at Memphis last season and scored 40 points or more in two February games. But the Heat wanted guard depth in camp and sees potential in a player who was an explosive scorer in college.
▪ Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander: The 6-11 former Tennessee starter has come on strong in the past week. He’s active defensively and his raw numbers don’t fully do him justice because he’s averaging just 14.4 minutes in seven summer league games. Those averages: 4.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He had nine boards in 15 minutes Tuesday.
“He’s providing us defensive presence,” Glass said. “He’s getting on the boards, screening and rolling to the basket. All the things we want him to do, he’s been doing a good job of.”
The Heat believes there’s upside if he works hard to develop his game, but Miami wants to see him finish summer league before deciding what — if anything — to do with him.
▪ Nick Mayo: The NCAA’s ninth-leading scorer last season (23.7 ppg for Eastern Kentucky) has displayed a three-point touch and good footwork.
“He’s a natural scorer, scored a lot of points in college,” Glass said. “His reliability on defense has been something impressive. He’s done a solid job there. I’ve been impressed.”
Mayo, a 6-9 forward, has made 19 of 35 shots from the field (54.3 percent) and 5 of 10 three-pointers (50 percent) and averaged 7.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in six games.
The Heat is intrigued by a fourth power rotation player — Ibrahima Faye, who played in Belgium last season. But he has logged just 46 minutes in summer league, with his five blocks worth noting. And Trey Mourning has had some good moments but would be unlikely for a two-way deal.
Guard Nick Weiler Babb likely hasn’t done enough to warrant a two-way deal. The Heat likes former G-League guard Charles Cooke, but he was sidelined briefly with a concussion and has played just two minutes in Las Vegas.
THIS AND THAT
The Heat was expected to learn on Thursday night whether it would qualify for the quarterfinals of the Las Vegas Tournament — considered likely — with tiebreakers coming into play after other games are played. If Miami makes the tournament, it would play Saturday at Thomas & Mack Center, with the winner advancing to the semifinals. If the Heat doesn’t make the tournament, it would play a consolation game in Las Vegas.
▪ The Heat’s young players are excited about working with Jimmy Butler.
Herro said he’s hoping that Butler “will take me under his wing” and said having him as a teammate as a rookie is “a blessing. Hoping I can learn a lot from him.”
Said Robinson: He’s a really talented player and really competes. I’m excited to learn from him as much as I possibly can because he’s competed at the highest of levels.”
Here’s my Thursday update with details on the Russell Westbrook trade negotiations.