ASK IRA: Did NBA tournament provide Heat a lesson about height?

Q: Watching the Pacers be overwhelmed in the paint by the Lakers in the In Season Tournament’s championship game further illustrated to me the need for the Heat to add height and length to this roster. It seems like folly to keep running back an undersized roster just to be stopped by the size of the Lakers in 2020 and Nuggets in 2023, and of course injuries which could be related to being overmatched every night. – Ken.

A: But it’s also about finding the right height. And then that gets into the argument of playing talent vs. playing height. For example, the Heat had height in last year’s NBA Finals, but Cody Zeller wasn’t good enough height against Nikola Jokic (is anyone?). And in the 2020 NBA Finals, the Heat also had Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard in addition to Bam Adebayo (whose injury also was a factor in that loss to Anthony Davis and the Lakers). Even this season, the Heat added Thomas Bryant in a question for additional size, only to find Haywood Highsmith a better option in the power rotation. So do you force an opening lineup of Kevin Love and Bam Adebayo, which did not work at the start of this season? Or do you play your best players? With this roster, the best options at power forward likely are Highsmith or Caleb Martin. It’s not as if more minutes from Orlando Robinson would solve Nikola Jokic or Anthony Davis. And it simply does not seem that Nikola Jovic is an answer on the boards, at a still-developing 20, as a counter to opposing bulk. That’s not to say that your point isn’t valid. It is. But it’s also about finding the right fit. Arguably, alongside Adebayo, the closest fit might have been Olynyk.

Q: Kyle Lowry last season averaged 12.4 points in October, 15.6  in November and 11.9 in December, at 12 points in 33 minutes per game pre-All-Star break. Then he averaged 7.9 points and 23.1 minutes after the All-Star break. It is very clear that Kyle Lowry’s knees and body broke down the second half of the season. Similar to this season, he had to play a lot of minutes last year while Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro and others were out. Unless we are 100 percent trading him at the All-Star break, isn’t having Kyle Lowry rested for the playoffs the most important? It is clear he might only have one maybe two good months a season and we are wasting it in November and December. How much of a concern is this for us down the road? – Kris, Oceanside, Calif.

A: Well, one element to the Heat’s advantage is that this time Kyle Lowry is in a contract year, so there likely will be greater incentive to persevere. But the injuries also are a factor, and once Bam Adebayo, and especially Tyler Herro return, I think you will see the minutes go down. Another encouraging sign has been the play of Josh Richardson. The problem is the Heat also have needed Josh at shooting guard, which at times has him playing alongside, instead of in place of, Kyle. But, yes, at 37, the minutes do need to be monitored. Because at the moment, Kyle Lowry appears more valuable to the Heat as a contributor than trade asset. There simply is not much else there at point guard.

Q: I enjoy Heat basketball more when Jaime Jaquez Jr. brings the ball up the floor quickly, rather than when they revert to either Jimmy Butler or Kyle Lowry slow-walking it up in the fourth quarter. – Jon.

A: But there also is a time to dial back, particularly when playing with a lead. Part of the Heat’s problem in the fourth quarter has been playing out of control, which is where the pacing of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry comes into play. That said, Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s energy at other parts of the game does provide juice to an offense that can become moribund in the halfcourt.