Heat’s first starting five has a surprise in it

Heat’s first starting five has a surprise in it

WASHINGTON — When the Heat decided to match the Brooklyn Nets’ four-year, $50 million offer sheet to Tyler Johnson it raised a few eyebrows with the fan base.

A few more eyebrows were raised Tuesday night when we learned about 45 minutes before the Heat’s preseason opener against the Wizards that Johnson — and not Dion Waiters — would be starting in the back court alongside point guard Goran Dragic.

The Heat’s first starting five this preseason: Dragic, Johnson, Justise Winslow, Luke Babbitt and Hassan Whiteside

Babbitt starting is no surprise considering how much coach Erik Spoelstra has talked him up during camp, saying he wants the career 40.3 percent three-point shooter to feel like he always has the green light.

But Johnson is a little surprising. He is a career 37.8 percent three-point shooter — so maybe that’s Spoelstra’s angle with this, get a pair of his best three-point shooters on the floor together.

Still, as much as the Heat refer to Johnson as a combo guard, the franchise has also been emphasizing to him how much they need him to develop his point guard skills. But one preseason game in at least, he’ll be sharing the starting backcourt duties with Dragic. 

“I think it’s big especially for this team,” Johnson said pregame Tuesday of his need to develop his point guard skills. “That role’s so wide open right now I know that it’s something I’ve got to improve on. But I want to do it. It’s just another challenge for me in my career.”

Asked specifically pregame what his preferred approach would be to the backup point guard position — whether it would be playing natural point guards Briante Weber or Beno Udrih — or going with one of his combo guards, Spoelstra said: “Well, we do like the versatility of our group.

“Guys can play multiple positions,” Spoelstra said. “Now those lines are becoming more gray every year. And with this lineup and this team that rings true as well. If you ask the guys, different guys are bringing it up. Different guys are getting us into offense. Different guys are playing on the wing or under the basket. So, it changes. All those guys will be available. I’ll probably work Tyler some minutes there. But, Dion has been handling the ball quite a bit as well. That’s what I mean, those lines are gray. Obviously for more traditional point guard play, that will come from Beno and Briante.”

We’ll be watching closely to see how this first preseason game plays out.

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Published at Tue, 04 Oct 2016 22:46:18 +0000