With the 2022-2023 Heat season now firmly in the rearview mirror and the sting of the NBA Finals loss dulled by the passage of time, I wanted to start putting together grades for every player who should have suited up for the Heat this past year. Given how different the regular season and postseason went for the team, each player will receive a regular season grade, a playoff grade, and a composite grade.
Let’s look at the centers first:
Regular season grade: A
Playoff grade: A-
Overall grade: A-
While the Heat’s 2022-2023 regular season was a slog more often than not, the team’s shining light was the ascendant Adebayo. Bam raised his scoring average for the 6th straight year (a career-best 20.4 PPG) and had a career-high 11 games of 30 points or better while continuing to act as a one-man wrecking crew on defense . He was named to his 2nd NBA All-Star Team and made the NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team for the 4th consecutive year. He was also routinely available within lineups that were otherwise in flux, playing and starting in 75 of 82 games. The only knock on Bam was a slight dip in production after the All-Star break (21.6 PPG 10.0 RPG pre; 17.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG post)
The story after the season is a bit murkier. I still give Bam an A-level grade due to some exceptionally great defense against some of the NBA’s toughest front lines, but there were real warts on offense for stretches against Milwaukee and Boston. His drop in FG% (54% regular season to 48% postseason) was noticeable at times, but Adebayo found countless ways to help the team even when his shots weren’t falling. And to his credit, unlike other postseasons, Bam consistently got up shot attempts (15.1 per game). The downside to this was that Adebayo didn’t make enough mistakes relative to his increased shot attempts, hence his average efficiency. It’s doubly a shame because he had an excellent year at the foul line (80.6 FT% in regular season, 82.1 FT% in postseason). Some of this might have been mitigated by better guard play. With Tyler Herro unavailable, Bam lost one of his best pick-and-roll partners.
In a Game 7 must-win against Boston (for which he was thoroughly criticized), Bam delivered a near-triple-double of 12 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists (along with completely obliterating Boston’s entire offense) and followed it up with a NBA Finals where he scored 20 points or more in every game while expertly guarding the best basketball player on planet earth and suffocating an otherwise fearsome Nuggets offense.
In short, Adebayo is improving every single year. I don’t expect that to change next season. In his four years as a full-time starter, Miami reached the conference finals or better in three of those four years. He is the centerpiece, no pun intended, of this team.
Regular season grade: B
Playoff grade: D-
Overall grade: D
Ahhh the Zeller minutes. Zeller, who was ruled out in late February, ended up playing in more playoff games (21) than regular season games (15). In the regular season, Zeller proved to be a very capable backup center, nimble on his feet, setting screens soundly and converting shots in the paint when he got the rock (62% from the field). There was nothing spectacular about his playing, but the sheer competence was most welcome.
Then we get to the postseason…
The only reason not to give Zeller a flat F grade was due to a handful of decent moments early on Milwaukee and New York. But within the bigger picture of the postseason, Adebayo sat any moment and Zeller walked into a disaster for the Heat. That he even played in the NBA Finals bordered on malpractice. Zeller routinely struggled to secure contested rebounds and was a primary target on the floor for opposing offenses. His “size” against Nikola Jokic served no purpose other than to provide free paint points.
As harsh as it all sounds, this character isn’t even an indictment of Zeller as much as it is just the idea of playing anyone backup center deep into a postseason. Many of the league’s top postseason teams adapted and played their power forwards at the backup 5 spot, and it’s a shame Miami was unable or unwilling to do the same. As it stands, Miami is unlikely to bring back the 30-year-old Zeller given the number of other project centers on the roster. Still, there is value in being an 82-game innings eater; the problem projects something further than that.
Regular season grade: F
Playoff grade: N/A
Overall grade: F
Everything negative expressed about Cody Zeller’s postseason run can apply to Dewayne Dedmon’s Heat season. At the very least, Zeller’s shortcomings were against top-level NBA competition. Every time Dedmon checked in for the Heat, you could almost count on a 12-2 run by the opposing team. Between launching reckless threes (29.7%) and failing the simplest defensive rotations, Dedmon got mollywhopped a massage tool and found himself traded and bought out not long after. Had he simply not played, had other players gotten his minutes from the start, there is a real chance that Miami could have picked up a few extra wins and avoided the play-in tournament altogether.
It’s a shame because Dedmon was a tremendous backup center two seasons prior when he was signed and was still largely decent in 2021-22. His decline in the game was abrupt and his exit ignominious.
Regular season grade: C
Playoff grade: N/A
Overall grade: C
One of Miami’s two-way signings, Robinson was soon called upon to play regular backup minutes amid injuries and Dewayne Dedmon’s general ineffectiveness and had some good moments, including a 15-point, 9-rebound game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in December. Robinson showed steady hands in the paint and a natural understanding of screen-and-roll angles. But as the season wore on, his defensive inexperience and lack of mobility and leaping ability became more apparent, leading Miami to add Kevin Love and Cody Zeller to bolster the power rotation. As a result, Robinson spent most of March and April with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
As a two-way player, Robinson was ineligible for the postseason. He could get another crack at Summer League in the coming weeks to show Miami he deserves another look next year.
Regular season grade: Inc
Playoff grade: N/A
Overall Grade: Inc
Yurtseven was expected to be the backup center to Bam Adebayo going into the season (and there was even talk of two big lineups with him, though I still doubt this is ever actually under consideration), but a mysterious ankle injury before the season turned to surgery it limited Yurtseven to only 9 games in the regular season. It’s hard to judge him on much of anything with such a small sample. As with last year, Yurtseven’s size and wingspan made him a capable rebounder and interior finisher, and he sank 3 of his 7 three-point attempts (1 of 11 last year), but defensive lapses and a penchant for excessive fouling stuck out badly each time Big Yurt played.
Yurtseven was a statistically productive player in 2021-2022 when asked to play regular minutes, but it’s hard to predict whether or not he’s still in Miami’s long-term development plans.
Regular season grade: A+
Endgame Grade: A+
Overall grade: A+
Enjoy your retirement, Captain.
- Published on 26/06/2023 at 14:53
- Last updated on 26/06/2023 at 14:53