Q: Ira, assuming Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry come back for Game 1 of the second round, and with the emergence of Victor Oladipo, has Duncan Robinson played himself out of the rotation? — Joel, Fort Lauderdale.
A: This is where it gets interesting. So often we hear the Heat described as a meritocracy. We also often hear Erik Spoelstra say how it is not about the final column in the box score, where point totals are listed. But after Duncan Robinson’s second scoreless game of the Hawks series on Tuesday night (with another game when he had just three points), I’m not sure there are many other facets of his game you can point to as compensating. Yes, Duncan spaces the floor. But it has to be about more than one thing. And if it only is about one thing and the shots consistently aren’t falling, you may have to move on. So, in a meritocracy, it would appear that not only would Victor Oladipo merit a rotation spot, but also Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent, as well. That said, I’m not sure having Victor on the court with Jimmy Butler is optimal because of the similarity of their games. But the minutes when Jimmy is off well could make sense. It certainly will be interesting to see what comes next.
Q: Can you really bury Victor Oladipo back on the bench after what we’ve seen? Not only is he an asset in the playoffs, but getting a handle on where he fits this team going forward is very important. Thoughts? — Bob, Davie.
A: First, you are not starting Victor Oladipo over Jimmy Butler or Kyle Lowry. And you simply have to have spacing in the first five, which Max Strus offers. So it becomes a matter of making it work for Victor Oladipo alongside Tyler Herro off the bench. But as far as getting a handle on where Victor fits going forward, that’s a concern for another day. The playoffs are no time to plan for the future, just as they aren’t a time to try to prove that Duncan Robinson is worth his contract. This is all about living in the moment, securing the remaining 12 victories needed for a title.
Q: Erik Spoelstra deserves a ton of respect for the coaching job he has done this year. Getting everyone on the Heat to buy into a “next man up” philosophy and not make excuses, while continuing to win big games, only proves what a great coach Spoelstra has become. — Greg, Jacksonville.
A: Agreed. And it is another reason why I’d prefer to see the NBA’s annual awards be voted upon after the postseason, after the most meaningful games, Coaching is about far more than the first 82. And it is in the playoffs when true coaching brilliance shines, which we have seen in several cases during the first round, with Erik Spoelstra and Ime Udoka at the top of that list.