Ever since Bam Adebayo took over as the Heat’s full-time starting center in 2019-20, the Heat have had issues filling the backup big spot.
Adebayo played alongside Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard that season en route to their infamous NBA Finals run in the bubble. Days after drafting Precious Achiuwa–who was thought to be the long-term answer behind Adebayo–Leonard signed a two-year, $19.6 million deal in the 2020 offseason.
That did not work. Leonard got traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder and subsequently waived in March of 2021 following antisemitic remarks. Olynyk was flipped a week later in a three-player trade for Victor Oladipo.
Miami eventually signed Dewayne Dedmon, who ended up being one of their best players in the playoffs in 2020-21, and Omer Yurtseven on the final day of the 2020-21 regular season.
The pair would be primary backup bigs behind Adebayo but did not carry much impact in 2021-22 and 2022-23, where Dedmon completely cratered while Yurtseven dealt with a season-long back injury that hindered his availability. Dedmon was traded to the Spurs ahead of last trade deadline while Yurtseven walked.
Though in between those lines is Orlando Robinson, who went undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft and spent the last two summers in the Heat’s Summer League program. He eventually earned a two-way deal in December of 2022 and eventually parlayed that into a standard contract in July.
Robinson’s contract was laced with different guarantees, however; the 23-year-old’s $1.8 million salary won’t become fully guaranteed for the remainder of the season if he’s on the team past Jan. 10, the last day that all NBA contracts become fully guaranteed; only $850K of his salary is guaranteed at the time of this publishing.
While he may not be the preferred long-term solution behind Adebayo, the Heat should fully guarantee his salary. Let me explain.
Standing at 7-foot, Robinson’s averaging 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in 14.3 minutes per game, shooting 52.5 percent from the floor and had canned seven of his 12 triples.
While Adebayo dealt with a hip strain that allowed him to miss multiple weeks, Robinson was the Heat’s most impactful big outside of Kevin Love, who’s having a resurgent 16th season in his first full one with the Heat. In seven starts, Robinson tallied 7.4 points and 5.6 boards on 51.3/50.0/70.0 shooting splits.
His impact began to wear off in those final three games, but the same problem that’s been apparent throughout Adebayo’s tenure sparked up again: It lacks frontcourt depth, and Orlando Robinson is arguably the Heat’s best option if you don’t want to burn out 35-year-old Kevin Love. He showed growth as a rebounder and his touch from two different levels, despite not possessing great vertical athleticism.
Robinson’s $1.8 million salary puts the Heat approximately ~$2.52 million behind the second apron–Tyler Herro’s $2.5 million of possible unlikely incentives (which you have to create room for) will not factor in this season because he missed over 17 games due to a Grade 2 sprained ankle suffered in early November.
Unless it signs a free agent, converts one of Jamal Cain, RJ Hampton or Cole Swider to a standard contract or acquires more players than it sends out in a trade, Miami declining Robinson’s contract leaves it with 13 players on the roster, one below the NBA’s 14-player minimum requirement; by rule, the organization could bypass that requirement for two weeks if it chose to. It would also be left ~$1.0MM more room, which serves little-to-no difference unless a backup plan’s already identified.
The Heat would still have enough room to stay below the second apron by converting one of their other two-way players to a standard deal; Hampton would fill arguably a bigger position of need at guard, while Cain adds to an already-logjammed wing room as a defensive/rebounding spark.
Miami doesn’t currently have a solidified answer to back up Adebayo. Consolidating assets for a backup big (which should be cheap) is already important–that grows without Robinson, who’s done quite literally the organization’s asked from him and more.
“He makes you absolutely respect his fortitude and his grit,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the Miami Herald about Robinson last month. “He is relentless with his work, with his approach, with his commitment to earn trust from everybody and he does it with a competitive spirit. He gets better each month.
“He goes to school on everything. If he makes a mistake in any kind of game, he gets to work with the film, with [Heat assistant coach] Malik [Allen] and then he wants to drill it 10,000 times, which is what we love.”
Should the Heat guarantee Orlando Robinson’s contract? Let us know in the comments!
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