The Cleveland Cavaliers made a big swing this summer, creatively manufacturing a sign-and-trade for Miami Heat shooter Max Strus. They knew that their offense needed more spacing to work properly, and Strus was the best shooter on the market who offered some modicum of defense.
The deal made perfect sense on the surface, as Strus is a true movement shooter who will add another layer to the Cavs’ offense and open up space for players like Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell to knife into the paint, or Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to score inside.
In evaluating the decision to bring Strus aboard, however, one potential issue looms large. During the last half-decade or more of Miami Heat basketball, the franchise has shown an amazing ability to develop players who come into the league without much of a pedigree.
Strus fits that description, as he went undrafted in 2019 and joined the Heat via an Exhibit 10 contract after failed tryouts with the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls. He then built himself into a player who started on an NBA Finals team and earned a lucrative contract in free agency.
Copy and paste the story of Strus onto any of a dozen other players, from Gabe Vincent and Kendrick Nunn to Duncan Robinson and Hassan Whiteside. The Heat are among the best in the league at identifying and developing talent, allowing them to replace players when they leave in free agency.
So what’s the problem? Well, when perimeter players developed by the Miami Heat leave South Beach…they lose their powers. That’s not to say they completely lose their basketball ability, Mon-Stars style, but rather that they are much worse outside of the Heat ecosystem.
Let’s look at the history of Heat departures and see if we can trace that pattern through to the present.