With the Miami Heat starting training camp Tuesday, we are ramping up our coverage with our position-by-position breakdowns. Today we bring you power forwards. We will wrap up our previews Friday with centers.
James Johnson, 6-8, 250.
Kelly Olynyk, 7-0, 245; Bam Adebayo, 6-10, 255; Okaro White, 6-8, 215; Udonis Haslem, 6-8, 235; Jordan Mickey, 6-8, 235
The Heat targeted Kelly Olynyk as soon as they learned Gordon Hayward was signing with Boston and landed the former Celtics big man with a four-year, $50-million deal. Olynyk will be a big boost to the bench with James Johnson expected to move into the starting lineup and will be as valuable as a backup center as he will be at power forward. Both president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra praised Olynyk this summer for his versatility and athletic ability with Riley even calling him an excellent defender. Olynyk is a 36.8 percent 3-point shooter in his career and shot better than 40 percent on threes two years ago. That range could make him a good fit to play alongside center Hassan Whiteside. But when he is needed at center the Heat still have plenty of options behind Johnson. Rookie Bam Adebayo likely will be brought along slowly. Miami tested his versatility and ability to run the floor during summer league with the expectation that he, too, will be asked to do more than just plant himself in the post.
What to watch for
Johnson had his breakout season last year, averaging career-highs in points (12.8), rebounds (4.9) and assists (3.6) while playing an important role off Miami’s bench. In post-season award voting, Johnson was fifth for Sixth Man of The Year and sixth for Most Improved Player. All that added up to a four-year, $60 million contract at the age of 30. Quite a haul considering his total earnings in his first seven seasons in the league were $17 million. But Johnson came off the bench for all but five of the 76 games in which he appeared and thrived teaming with good friend Tyler Johnson as the Heat’s top reserves. Now he’ll be asked to do more but if the final five games of the season were of any indication, he should make the transition seamlessly. In his five games as a starter, Johnson averaged 18.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He was Spoelstra’s go-to player down the stretch in many games and had a huge game-winning basket during a late-season game at Washington. In the end, he proved to be Miami’s most versatile player with an ability to play and guard all five positions.
We could say Johnson because he will be a full-time starter for the first time in his career but his breakout season was last year. Let’s go with the player who parlayed two 10-day contracts into a bigger deal and a permanent spot on the team – Okaro White. White’s callup from Sioux Falls coincided with Miami’s turnaround and the start of a 13-game winning streak. He was in and out of the lineup but saw a lot of time late in close games, his most memorable being in Brooklyn where he nailed a huge 3-pointer in the final seconds during a big come-from-behind victory. Okaro can run the floor and said during the summer he wants to expand his game to make it more like James Johnson’s.
We can’t preview the power forwards without talking about The Captain, Mr. Miami, Mr. 305 – Udonis Haslem. So, after signing another one-year deal and returning for his 15th season with the Heat, will this be Haslem’s last season? Haslem turned 37 this summer but if it is up to him he will play as long as the Heat will have him. His role is obvious having played just 130 minutes in 16 games last year. He may or may not see more action this year but either way he will continue to be a mentor and as close to a player coach as there is in the league.