Q: With Luke Babbitt gone, what do you think of this starting lineup: Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk? Wayne Ellington could take over Babbitt’s 3-point threat, opening up the paint for Whiteside, Dragic and Waiters. And for the second team, how about: James Johnson (point forward), Tyler Johnson, Bam Adebayo, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow? If Josh gets his 3-point groove back, James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo would have spacing to do their thing. — Rusela, Quezon City, Philippines.
A: First, the lesson we have learned during the Erik Spoelstra era is that lineups have been fluid, particularly at the start of seasons. And I’m not sure that we haven’t gone too far down the road with James Johnson to view him as anything but a starter, considering the contract. But your question intrigued me because of the Wayne Ellington element. The Heat certainly jumped through hoops to make sure they could retain Wayne, and Pat Riley has been effusive about Wayne only now coming into his own as an NBA player. I’m just not sure that you can go into a game with Olynyk and Ellington as your primary defenders at the forward spots. But if you were to put James Johnson in your opening group, then it could be an intriguing mix with Wayne. To me, when considering the rotation possibilities, I believe it will come down to playing time for Rodney McGruder or Wayne Ellington, but not necessarily both.
Q: Who would you rather have as a player on your team at reserve power forward: Luke Babbitt or Udonis Haslem? At their current playing and payment levels, it seems the Heat made a bad choice. — Javier, Doral.
A: Or a choice they believed necessary in order to grow a youthful core in the locker room. Even last week, the photo of Haslem in the Heat weight room alongside Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo spoke volumes. I have no issue with the role of a 15th man being somewhat ceremonial, now that you also can have a pair of developmental prospects on two-way contracts. Because if you have to rely on your 15th man, then your concerns likely transcend the roster.
Q: You don’t expect A.J. Hammons to play in the G-League? I’d be shocked if he didn’t start the year there. — Kevin.
A: To be honest, when it came to sifting through the Heat’s final 15-player roster, I can’t say that A.J. Hammons is a player that came to mind. To me, at least for now, he was the cost of doing business in order to free Josh McRoberts’ cap space. Considering where the Heat stand against the cap and tax, it’s not as if waiving Hammons for a more favorable prospect would be a surprise or particularly painful. Yes, his is a salary that could be utilized in an eventual trade, but I don’t get the sense that the Heat are wed to A.J.’s future. And I’m not sure that his time with the team at the Las Vegas summer league necessarily changed that thinking.
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