Nobody shot threes better than Heat’s Olynyk since All-Star break, but uncertainty awaits

Barry Jackson
Miami Herald

No NBA player shot three pointers at a higher percentage after the All-Star break than Kelly Olynyk.

The issue now is whether that will carry over to the NBA restart after a four-month layoff, and whether he will be given a meaningful rotation role with the return of former starting center Meyers Leonard from an ankle injury.

“I was starting to play well there when the shutdown happened; I was shooting the ball real well,” the Heat big man said during a Zoom session with reporters Friday. “You always want to stay in that groove and stay in that moment, but you can’t worry about that kind of thing.

“I was definitely banged up at the beginning of the season [from an August knee injury playing for team Canada]. My body wasn’t fully recovered. My body feels better than ever right now. I feel like it’s almost the beginning of the season. I’m in good shape.”

Olynyk, who shot 20 for 30 on three-pointers after the All-Star break, has been given no indication what his role will be when games resume. The Heat will travel to Orlando on Wednesday, begin training camp a few days later and open its seeding schedule Aug. 1 vs. Denver (1 p.m., ESPN and Fox Sports Sun).

“We have a really, really deep team,” he said. “It can be anybody in the rotation. You have no clue what it’s going to be. Now you’re going into a bubble and if someone gets injured or knocked out or has to quarantine, you need that depth. For us, it’s huge we have that depth, as long as we stay together. [Erik Spoelstra] will do an unbelievable job on that like he always does.”

Olynyk — who’s averaging 7.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and a career-low 18.5 minutes in 56 games and six starts — expects Spoelstra to further diversify the playbook.

“There’s a chance somebody forgot one of 50, 60 plays we have,” he said. “Maybe put in some new stuff. I’m sure this time off has given coaches a little time off to brainstorm, reflect, come up with new plans. I’m sure they will not come back with the same stuff we were doing four months ago. They are always looking to improve.”

Olynyk, 29, has a $12.2 million player option for next season, and it would be very surprising if he opts out because the salary cap likely will be less that originally projected, reducing cap space around the league.

He said Friday that he hasn’t “thought about that as yet,” with a decision required to be made by Oct. 17.

“We’ll see what happens in Orlando,” he said. “You still have that option. Options are always good.”

On the factors that will influence his opt-out decision, he said: “Money plays a role. Obviously opportunity plays a role and quality of life plays a huge role. Whether, where you are playing or who you are playing with or for or location, proximity. So many things that go into it.”

Olynyk, who already has earned a $400,000 bonus for the Heat clinching a playoff berth but won’t collect on a $1 million minutes bonus, addressed other issues:

He is excited about the restart, noting “we are missing what we’re passionate about in life. And that’s something that will be brought back to us.”

With his family back in Canada, “human interaction” with teammates “will also be an upside.”

With the 2020-21 NBA season likely beginning no earlier than December and the probability of entering free agency next summer, Olynyk isn’t sure if he will play for Team Canada in the 2021 Olympics, though the NBA hopes its season will be over by then.

“It might not even be December we start,” he said. “It might be even later.”

He said he began his popular Instagram cooking segments, Kellz’ Kitchen, during the NBA hiatus because “no one knew how long this [stoppage] was going to be. Hunkered down and started making stuff. [Friends said] ‘you’ve got to make this into a show.’ I had a ton of fun with it. I had great feedback off it. One of the things was showing people you can cook; you can keep it pretty simple with four or five ingredients and have great tasting food.”

DRAFT PLANS

With the NBA Draft scheduled for Oct. 16, Heat vice president/basketball operations Adam Simon and Heat scouts have been evaluating draft-eligible players on tape.

NBA teams don’t have the benefit of watching postseason play from this season, because the NCAA Tournament and most major conference tournaments were canceled because of COVID-19.

“It’s been going through each player and making sure we have as much intel as possible on each player,” Simon said in a phone conversation last month. “We’re going through and trying to start our tiers of where we think players are on our board. We like to watch full games, not just edits. I like to see how they’re reacting coming off the court.”

Simon said he has spent hours each day watching film and that he and his Heat colleagues are doing “all the different aspects of preparing, talking to college coaches and those familiar with those players.”

Heat coaches aren’t yet involved in the process. “The coaches are open to helping out — they’re preparing for the season,” he said.

Simon said the Heat initially held off on Zoom calls with prospects and hopes to have “potentially face-to-face” meetings “down the road.” But the Heat recently has started those Zoom sessions with draft prospects.

Miami would pick 23rd in the first round if the current standings hold through the seeding games in Orlando. But the Heat could still rise or drop a few spots in the first round. Miami doesn’t own a second-round pick.

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