The Miami Heat have been as good as any team in the NBA at plucking guys from the ether and developing them into quality pros. And Max Strus is a prime example of the transformation that can occur in the club’s system.
Since originally joining the South Beach crew as an Exhibit 10 signee in 2020, Strus has grown to the point that he’s now a double-digit scorer with floor-spacing ability. Along the way, he earned a two-way deal, which was followed in short order by a standard, two-year contract to remain with the Heat.
Alas, the latter pact is nearing its end; Strus will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Between him and other members of the club’s reserve core also facing uncertain futures, Heat architect Pat Riley will have his work cut out once the 2022-23 campaign ends.
In speaking with Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney, one Eastern Conference executive gave an opinion on how things might play out.
East Exec: Max Strus May Find Himself in a Position Where He Has to Leave the Heat
For a team with so much of its salary cap already spoken for with long-termers Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson, Riley has a lot of players to evaluate in assessing how to allocate what little remains.
“I think you could throw the entire back third of their roster into that mix [with Strus and big man Omer Yurtseven]. Gabe Vincent, [Haywood] Highsmith, even [Victor] Oladipo if he decides to opt out,” the GM said.
With so many mouths needing to be fed and his own stock having risen considerably over his Heat run — even as his three-point percentage has dipped to 33.8% this season — Strus’ best option may just be taking a payday somewhere else. At least, that’s where the exec sees things going.
“I think Strus is most likely gone because he will get a competitive offer, something around what Caleb Martin got (three years, $20 million),” the exec said. “I don’t know that they want to pay him that. He has not shot that well this year, but he is clearly a really good rotation player in the NBA.”
Strus is averaging 11.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists through 69 appearances for the Heat this season.
Omer Yurtseven & Luxury Tax Concerns
Yurtseven is the other big question mark. The Heat can make him a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer, but some guesswork may be involved in deciding his fate as a stress reaction in his ankle has cost him the lion’s share of 2022-23.
Said the exec: “Yurtseven is a tougher call because he basically had a good month, maybe two months, and that is all we have seen from him. Not much of a defensive center, but he can rebound and play with some intensity. But the injury this year killed him because he could not come back and show that he got better.”
In any case, it’s imperative that Riley not repeat past mistakes.
“He could be cheap enough that the Heat will just keep him around, give him another year with an option,” the exec said. “But the thing about the Heat is, they are great at developing these players from off the scrap heap and making them NBA guys, but they’re not always great at keeping them around and pushing them to that next level—Tyler Johnson or James Ennis, Kendrick Nunn, Derrick Jones Jr., guys like that.
“They have had some great stories there but there are a lot of guys who just kind of came and went… Sometimes you pay the wrong guy, like Hassan Whiteside or, now, Duncan Robinson.”
Ultimately, the Heat aren’t looking to break the bank for any of these guys, lest they continue to have little to no room for making more significant upgrades in the future.
“They’re not attached to Strus or Yurtseven. They’d be willing to part with either guy and they have a luxury-tax problem, so if the payout gets anything too far over the minimum, they will move on.”