When it comes to the Miami Heat power rotation, it has been a revolving door through the last three seasons, with Bam Adebayo routinely with a different plus-one.
First it was Meyers Leonard and Adebayo. A successful pairing at the start of the franchise’s resurrection in 2019-20 from lottery depths.
After that season’s trading deadline, it was Jae Crowder and Adebayo, a pairing that helped lift the Heat to the 2020 NBA Finals.
It then turned into the surprisingly efficient pairing of Kelly Olynyk and Adebayo early during 2020-21, after Crowder left for the Phoenix Suns in 2020 free agency and first-round pick Precious Achiuwa proved too raw.
Then it was Trevor Ariza and Adebayo through the 2021 playoff race and postseason, after injury and an anti-Semitic slur ended Leonard’s Heat run.
And this season, with Ariza off unsuccessfully chasing a ring with LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Heat settled into the comfort zone of P.J. Tucker and Adebayo, a season-long collaboration that took the Heat within one game of the NBA Finals.
Now the question is whether stability can finally be maintained, bringing back an Adebayo power-rotation partner for an encore.
Because if Tucker does not opt into his $7.4 million player option for next season with the Heat, then the 37-year-old power forward will head into free agency, just as Crowder and Ariza preceded him.
“He was so important, all across the board,” coach Erik Spoelstra said this week, as his players headed into their offseasons, “that competitive spirit, his competitive will, his consistent play, toughness that you could just count on every single day. And he has a way of communicating that and inspiring everybody in the locker room that is so genuine.”
Even as he battled calf and knee injuries to the finish, Tucker said he felt rejuvenated this season, after winning a championship last season with the Milwaukee Bucks and then being cast aside amid salary-cap concerns.
But he also felt underpaid considering the contribution.
So, once again, a potential conundrum for Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg and the Heat front office at power forward.
As it was, Tucker was well aware this season that he was playing for less than the mid-level exception.
As a starter.
On a championship-contending roster.
“It’s like, ‘Am I a mid-level guy?’ ” he said to the Sun Sentinel in a tone that made it clear he believed he was not. “It’s a label that tells …read more
Source:: The Mercury News