HomeSportsHow the Heat's starting line-up has played out since Caleb Martin moved...

How the Heat’s starting line-up has played out since Caleb Martin moved to the bench and what has changed

The Miami Heat’s season has been filled with up-and-down play that kept it hovering around .500 for most of the schedule. But one has been consistently positive throughout.

The Heat has been able to generate positive minutes with Caleb Martin in the starting line-up.

Whether Gabe Vincent or Kyle Lowry has been the point guard, the Heat’s starting lineup with Martin playing as the small-ball power forward was one of the few consistent bright spots during an otherwise frustrating season.

The starting lineup of Vincent, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Martin and Bam Adebayo entered on Friday, beating teams by 18.6 points per 100 possessions in 105 minutes combined this season.

The starting lineup of Lowry, Herro, Butler, Martin and Adebayo has outscored teams this season by 2.7 points per 100 possessions in 293 minutes.

But since Heat coach Erik Spoelstra traded Martin for recently acquired forward Kevin Love coming off the All-Star break last week, the Heat’s starting lineup of Vincent, Herro, Butler, Love and Adebayo failed to pull off a positive plus/minus in one of the group’s first four games together, albeit a small sample. This unit was outperformed at 14.9 points per 100 possessions in 59 minutes combined during that period.

“It’s a little different, man,” Martin said ahead of Friday night’s home game against the New York Knicks of his move to the bench. “By the time I’m in it now, it’s more that you have to adapt to the game. By the time I get in now, it could be a super defensive oriented moment. Other times you come in, depending on how the first unit handles the start of the game, it can be an offensive moment.

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“It’s just adapting to what’s going on. It’s also more of a role to gas yourself out, to be that spark that comes off the couch, rather than to maintain.

Moving Martin (6-5, 205 pounds) to the bench after starting his first 49 appearances of the season allows him to return to his more natural role as an athletic two-way winger rather than playing as an underpowered power forward at the beginning. queue up. He excelled in that reserve role last season for Miami en route to a three-year, $20.4 million contract from the Heat this past offseason.

“It’s important because he plays in both formations and it’s not easy being a starter all the time,” said Spoelstra when asked about the value of Martin’s versatility off the bench. “And then we wanted to change things and he can do that seamlessly. That’s a talent. Somehow, whatever line-up he plays in, his versatility is essential for our team. We certainly feed off his energy defensively. He inspires guys. But offensively he knows how to pass with his cutting and three-point range on the first unit or sometimes run a little more and attack with that second unit.

But Martin is clearly still adjusting to his new bench role after spending the first four months of the season learning how to play as a starter. He averaged 8.8 points, three rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 5 of 13 (38.5 percent) on threes in his first four games as a reserve this season, but the Heat was outscored by 23.3 points per game. 100 possessions in Martin’s minutes during that stretch.

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“I think on some games it’s going to click much faster than others and on some games it’s going to take a bit of time,” Martin said of playing from the bench. “But overall I think I’m doing a pretty good job adapting to what’s going on and what we need. There’s not really room to get used to it, you have to figure out what you need and do it right away.

A big part of the Heat starting unit’s success this season with Martin in the lineup has been its ability to force elite-level turnovers due to that group’s speed and ability to be disruptive. The Lowry-Herro-Butler-Martin-Adebayo lineup forced opponents to 17.9 turnovers per 100 possessions and the Vincent-Herro-Butler-Martin-Adebayo lineup forced opponents to 16.9 turnovers per 100 possessions – both numbers would rank first in the NBA among the teams’ overall revenue percentage for the season.

Vincent-Herro-Butler-Love-Adebayo’s new starting line-up has forced opponents to just 11 turnovers per 100 possessions in the first four games combined, which would rank last in the league among teams’ overall opponent turnover rate for the season.

Bringing Martin back into the starting lineup won’t solve all of the Heat’s problems, and perhaps the new starting group will discover its formula for producing positive results as they gain experience. After all, Miami was still an inconsistent team even as Martin opened games.

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But the fact is, the Heat’s starting lineup has produced positive results for most of the season. That hasn’t been the case since Martin was on the bench.


Butler is listed as questionable for Friday’s game against the Knicks due to right knee pain.

This comes after Butler left the Heat’s bench with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s blow loss to the Philadelphia 76ers to receive treatment for right knee pain. Spoelstra didn’t seem overly concerned about Butler’s health after that game and there remains optimism that Butler will be able to play on Friday.

“Just a little pain in the knee,” said Spoelstra when asked if Butler had left the bench before Wednesday’s game was over. “We were 25 behind then. He would just try to loosen it up, get a little treatment. If we had come under 10, he would definitely have been back.”

Also on the Heat’s injury report for Friday’s game against the Knicks: Jamal Cain (G League, two-way contract), Nikola Jovic (lower back stress reaction), Kyle Lowry (left knee pain), and Omer Yurtseven (G League, assignment) remain out .

Lowry will miss his eleventh game in a row due to pain in his left knee. He was upgraded to iffy for Monday’s game against the 76ers, but the team and Lowry decided he wasn’t quite ready to play and there is currently no definite timetable for his return.

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