Even though the Miami Heat won their exhibition opener Tuesday against the Charlotte Hornets with some positive aspects, one key concern about the team persists as preseason play continues.
The point guard position has been emphasized for some time now in regards to the Heat because of how the roster is constructed. Gabe Vincent was the starting point guard for Miami’s extraordinary playoff run last season, but left in free agency to the Los Angeles Lakers.
That leaves the Heat with 37-year-old former champion Kyle Lowry, Miami returnee Josh Richardson and two-way player Dru Smith as the only options to be their “true” point guard in 2023-24.
It’s easy to expect Lowry to start heading into the season, like he said himself during training camp, but it’s fair to say his level of play has regressed since joining Miami two years ago. He played 15 minutes in the first preseason game, finishing with just three points and a plus-minus of 15. Those aren’t great numbers for the veteran, but it’s important to note that preseason isn’t the be-all and end-all of analyzing any player.
Richardson reunites with the Heat this season after playing some point guard during his previous stint in South Beach. Erik Spoelstra and Richardson said to the media during training camp that the 30-year-old has been playing some point, even though he’s mostly played shooting guard in his career.
Heading into the regular season, it’ll be interesting to see how Miami uses Richardson. Assuming Lowry starts, Richardson could be the point guard that comes off the bench to spell him.
Smith is another option for the Heat, but it goes without saying that he won’t start while continuing to vie for a full-time roster spot. The former Missouri guard is one of the Heat’s three two-way players, poised to split time between Miami and the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
The 25-year-old struggled against the Hornets in the preseason opener, scoring two points as he failed to connect on any of his six field goal attempts. He ended with a -10 plus-minus, stealing the ball four times while also being whistled for five fouls.
One could make the argument the Heat don’t need a “true” point guard when the team has floor generals at other positions. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have played like de facto point guards for years, initiating offense while bringing the ball up the court, running pick-and-rolls and playing in dribble hand-offs.
If Lowry keeps regressing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami lean even more on Butler and Adebayo throughout the season. Also, Spoelstra has always been willing to experiment with different rotations and player combinations. The chance of Richardson flowing better at point guard is entirely possible, just like Gabe Vincent from last season.
But again, this team has proven to be successful without a designated point guard, especially when you look at the assist totals from last season. Butler led the team in assists with 5.3 per game and Lowry was second with 5.1. A name that isn’t being talked about because he’s known more as a scorer is Tyler Herro, who actually was third in assists per game with 4.2.
Whatever the case may be, the starting point guard in game one won’t be the same as game 82. It’s a fluid situation that will continue to develop for the Heat.