MIAMI – The Miami Heat are down to the 15-man roster limit.
The contract of guard Matt Williams Jr. was converted into a two-way deal Sunday, the final move in setting the roster. The Heat now are expected to go into Wednesday’s season opener at Orlando with 11 players from last season’s final roster plus four newcomers.
“We had a really productive training camp,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after Sunday’s practice. “I thought we covered some ground taking some steps forward. For the most part you could see the progress over the course of the preseason our team starting to get a little bit closer to our identity and playing better.
“So now it felt more like a regular season practice just gearing up for the opener.”
Spoelstra said he has not felt this kind of continuity since the final season of the Big Three era, which was 2013-14.
“It certainly feels a little bit more – I hate to use the word – comfortable, but guys at least understand in a preliminary way what’s their role and what to expect and what our expectations are,” Spoelstra said. “That helps.”
The deadline for reaching the 15-man roster limit is Monday.
The Heat roster will include returning players Goran Dragic, Wayne Ellington, Udonis Haslem, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, Okaro White, Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow. McGruder counts against the roster even though he will miss a significant amount of time with a stress fracture in his left leg.
Joining the Heat this season are Bam Adebayo, A.J. Hammons, Jordan Mickey and Kelly Olynyk.
The roster breakdown:
Point guards: Dragic.
Wings: Ellington, Tyler Johnson, McGruder, Richardson, Waiters, Winslow.
Power forwards/centers: Adebayo, Hammons, Haslem, James Johnson, Mickey, Olynyk, White, Whiteside.
Spoelstra was asked about his starting lineup. Three spots appear secured: Dragic at the point, Waiters at a wing and Whiteside at center.
“It’s not going to be anything dramatic,” he said. “The guys that are going to play are going to play one way or another. I’ll figure out who starts. But, I always kind of laugh at that. Everybody is always focusing on that. Then everybody focuses on who finishes the game. Well there’s a bunch of minutes in between. I’m going to have to figure that out as well.”
Williams joins point guard Derrick Walton Jr. as the two players with two-way contracts. They will spend most of the season with the Heat’s developmental (G League) team in Sioux Falls. Players under two-way contracts cannot spend more than 45 days of the season on an NBA roster with the rest of the time in the G League.
The two players are allowed to remain with the Heat until the start of Sioux Falls’ training camp, Oct. 23.
The Heat are intrigued with Williams 3-point shooting. Williams took 13 shots in six preseason games, all from 3-point range. He made four.
“We want to develop that,” Spoelstra said. “There’s such a premium on those type of wing skills in this league right now. He’s got deep range, NBA range. We want to spend more time developing that.”
The 6-foot-5 Williams went undrafted in June after a record breaking career at the University of Central Florida where he set the school and American Athletic Conference marks for 3-point field goals made (126) in a season and established the Knights’ single-game 3-point field goals made record (11).
“It feels good,” Williams said. “The hard work is starting to pay off. It just lets you know coach Spo and all the staff believe in my abilities.”
Williams was told he must improve his defense.
“That’s what I’m looking to work towards,” Williams said.
Miami cut its roster from 20 to 17 Saturday when it waived wing DeAndre Liggins and forwards Erik McCree and Tony Mitchell. Liggins, McCree and Mitchell all are expected to join Williams and Walton in Sioux Falls.