Heat Check

Heat rookie’s days with team grow short. Does he stay or go?

The Brooklyn Nets’ Caris LeVert (22) drives to the basket as the Miami Heat’s Derrick Walton Jr. (14) defends during a game on Dec. 29, 2017, in Miami. Walton Jr.’s time with the Heat may come to an end soon under his current contract.
The Brooklyn Nets’ Caris LeVert (22) drives to the basket as the Miami Heat’s Derrick Walton Jr. (14) defends during a game on Dec. 29, 2017, in Miami. Walton Jr.’s time with the Heat may come to an end soon under his current contract. AP

After signing former Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. and waiving Matt Williams Jr. on Sunday, the Heat will eventually have to decide whether to hang on to guard Derrick Walton Jr. — the team’s other two-way contract player.

Walton, who spent most of the 2017 portion of the season bouncing from Sioux Falls (the Heat’s G League affiliate) to Miami, has only 15 days left this season that he can spend with the Heat (as of Monday) out of the 45 allowed per NBA rules regarding two-way contracts.

The Heat could choose to replace him with another two-way player as it did with Williams or create a roster spot for him by signing him to a standard contract that would require releasing another player.

Walton, a rookie out of the University of Michigan, has played, albeit sparingly, in the Heat’s past seven games, averaging 2.7 points and 1.9 assists in 12.6 minutes. At Sioux Falls, Walton has averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 assists for the Skyforce.

Walton has gone from Sioux Falls to Miami six times this season, a couple of times joining the Skyforce if it was playing at road sites that happened to be near road sites where the Heat was playing around the same time.

Erik Spoelstra talked about what keyed the Miami Heat’s 117-111 comeback win over the Orlando Magic on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017

Walton — who said that as a Michigan native, bouncing between the temperature extremes of South Dakota and Miami hasn’t been as much of a challenge as it often is for other players — has been trying to make the most of his opportunities.

“Experience is the best teacher so I’ve just been learning as I go and building good habits,” Walton said before the Heat’s game in Orlando. “The cold doesn’t bother me, but subtle differences you just learn to adjust and focus on what’s important.”

Walton said the message has been the same from coaches in Miami as it has been in Sioux Falls. Walton has emphasized improving his defensive skill set during his time in the G League.

“Being a good defender is the message and being a leader,” Walton said. “Offensively I’m gifted enough to play at this level. But it’s about being a complete player at this level and at the point guard it’s one of the toughest. I’m learning every aspect of the game when I’m down here and taking advantage of every opportunity and learning to do those things that don’t show up in the box score.”

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