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MIAMI — No, Pat Riley likely never sat down with Andy Elisburg, Adam Simon and the Heat’s personnel wing during free agency and demanded they deliver the best possible screeners.
For all the advantages setting a solid pick can produce in the NBA, it tends to be marginalized when culling a roster.
And yet with Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker, the Heat have made an upgrade in picks and have rolled.
Although they do it in their own ways, Tucker with pulverizing picks, Lowry with subtle screens, the impact on freeing Heat scorers has been profound with the roster remix.
“I think P.J.’s one of the best screeners in this modern-day era,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, with his team taking on the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night at FTX Arena, at the start of a two-game homestand. “In terms of his nuance with it, IQ, timing, deception, feel and his variety of different ways to get guys open, it really is remarkable.
“He can do it in pick-and-rolls, off-ball, in hammer screens, a lot of things that you can’t really teach. You have to have such a superior level of mind and IQ for the timing of those kind of screens. It’s been really fun to see that part of his genius off the ball. He’s as good as anyone I’ve seen.”
Then there is 6-foot Lowry, who is following in a lineage of little guys who have a knack of essentially getting in the way.
“It’s the subtle nuances of deception, bursting to screens, creating some separation and the unpredictability of his angles that makes him a creative screener,” Spoelstra said. “He’s always been a guy that gets people open. In that regard he reminds me, in a different way because the game is different, of John Stockton.
“John Stockton used to be a brilliant screener to get guys open. Kyle’s been that kind of screener over the course of his career.”
Lowry said he appreciates the comparison, but said it is matter of trying to assist in an additional way.
“To be compared to a guy like Stockton is just incredible,” he said. “He’s one of the best point guards. I just want to give my guys easy looks.”
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The move toward toughness actually began months before free agency, when the Heat added the 6-foot-11, 250-pound muscle of Dewayne Dedmon.
Dedmon has gone on to create a unique and productive pick-and-roll chemistry with Jimmy Butler.
“Jimmy can make it work with anybody, but Dewayne is a really big target on his pick-and-rolls to the rim,” Spoelstra said. “And he’s got really good hands. He has good spatial awareness. When he catches it in practice, he’s able to find the rim.
“They’ve just found a good connection. I think, in general, Dewayne has really given us really productive minutes in those short bursts off the bench at that position. He’s a big big for us, which is what we need.”
While 245-pound Tucker and 195-pound Lowry roll with the starters, Dedmon enters as a burst of body blocking.
“Dewayne just does what he’s supposed to do, does whatever he’s asked,” reserve forward Max Strus said. “He doesn’t expect the ball. He doesn’t care about soring or anything like that. He’s just going to do what the team needs to do. So you got to love to have a guy like that on your team.”