It was a logical question, part of the always-entertaining mailbag of longtime Sun-Sentinel reporter Ira Winderman. The gist of the question was whether, when everyone in the Heat rotation is healthy, 35-year-old veteran Kevin Love will leapfrog second-year forward Nikola Jovic for minutes in the frontcourt. Logical, but it sorta misses the point on where the Heat are at this point—Kevin Love does not have a role for the Miami Heat, nor does Jovic.
“There is no Nikola Jovic role for Kevin Love to step into because there currently is no Nikola Jovic role,” Winderman wrote of the Miami Heat big guys this week. “The path to Kevin Love minutes, as long as Haywood Highsmith is starting, would be as backup center, and then would require playing him ahead of Thomas Bryant (which I still view as potentially possible).”
Well. That settles it. For now, at least. On the season, Kevin Love has played three games, all of which were starts. He averaged 8.3 points on 36.4% shooting, though he made 40.0% of his 3s. But once coach Erik Spoelstra pulled Love from the lineup, he pulled him from the rotation as a whole. Love has been a healthy scratch for three straight games.
Miami Heat Still Sorting Kevin Love, Big Men’s Roles
In what has become a typical early season process for Spoelstra and the Heat, the coach is in the process of mixing and matching his personnel, especially trying to find the right role players to put around stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
With the aged Love in the frontcourt, the Heat have size and perimeter shooting, but they lack defense, athleticism and grit. They get more of that from Highsmith, who is 6-foot-5 but capable of guarding multiple positions. Love can barely guard one.
The Heat could look to adjust lineups frequently throughout the early season while they find the right size/athleticism balance.
Love said as long as he is told what is going on by Spoelstra or the Heat, he will play whatever role is asked.
“I think the word is ‘fluid,’” Love said. “There’s going to be opportunity, places for me throughout the season where it makes sense, big. It’s just that so many teams are playing four-smalls-and-one-bigs, so I think you’re seeing that a lot.
“I think we were searching. Obviously 1-4 is never the way you want to start, but it’s on all of us to be pros, and our number’s called, be ready to go.”
No Role For Heat’s Nikola Jovic, Either?
It is disappointing that the Heat, who are not loaded with depth, are not giving an opportunity to Jovic, their 2022 first-round pick. He is dealing with the same problem that Kevin Love has for the Heat: They’re going small.
Jovic is dealing with a wrist injury, but has appeared in only two games this season, scoring 6.5 points in an average of 14.0 minutes per game. His comes after he was one of the stars of the summer, playing for Serbia at the FIBA World Cup in East Asia. He came into the season with high expectations.
Jovic played in 15 games as a rookie last season, and averaged 5.5 points and 2.1 rebounds. He made eight starts early in the year and was clearly overmatched, shooting just 39.3% from the field and 22.2% from the 3-point line in those games.
This year, he seemed to come back better physically and mentally. He was 6-foot-10 but was listed at just 209 pounds last season. He has grown to 6-foot-11 and was listed at 225 pounds in Summer League.
“You can see that my game has changed a lot in the summer,” Jovic said, per the Miami Herald. “I’ve added weight to my body, I’m trying to be as productive as I can. Maybe I don’t have that many shots in set play, but in transition I can do a lot to help the team in every situation. I want to do a good job.”
But, like fellow Heat big man Kevin Love, he will need minutes to do that.