Since being reintegrated into the core rotation of the Miami Heat, Kelly Olynyk has again demonstrated his immense value to the team.
Despite the underwhelming performance of the team, it seemed there was no room for the unique package of skills that Olynyk brings to the table. Over the first 20 games of the season, he averaged 8.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in just 17.8 minutes per game, including receiving the dreaded Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision.
This was a far cry from the final 20 games of Olynyk’s first season with the Heat, where the Canadian native averaged 13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 23.9 minutes per game.
However, with the Heat struggling mightily with a 7-13 record, and with a number of key players sidelined for multiple games, Olynyk again became part of head coach Erik Spoelstra’s plans. Thus far, the results speak for themselves. Over the last nine games, the Have posted a 6-3 record, which featured winning four out of six games during a challenging West Coast road trip.
Instrumental in this resurgence has been Olynyk, who averaged 13.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 27.1 minutes per game. Notably, Olynyk posted a +8.6 net rating during this span, the best return on the Heat roster among those who played in each of the past nine games.
Olynyk’s presence coming off the bench was an integral reason why the Heat’s second unit ranked first in scoring during this stretch. In particular, it’s the influence he’s had on his fellow bench unit members that’s made his contributions even more profound. To illustrate this, here’s how some particular rotation players have fared over the past nine games with Olynyk on or off the court:
- Olynyk on court: +15.3 net rating
- Olynyk off court: -0.5 net rating
- Olynyk on court: +10.3 net rating
- Olynyk off court: -3.2 net rating
- Olynyk on court: +18.0 net rating
- Olynyk off court: -31.0 net rating
In particular, it’s been Olynyk’s partnership with Adebayo that has been most impressive. With starting center Hassan Whiteside sidelined for four games due to the birth of his first child, this presented further opportunity for this duo to cement their partnership.
Over the course of the season, the Olynyk-Adebayo combination has been the best-performing 2-man lineup among all those that have played at least 250 minutes this season. This continued during their recent surge, with their +15.3 net rating again exemplary.
Following a recent road win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Olynyk explained his reasons for the success of the Heat’s second unit:
“The second unit’s been playing well together. We’re just trying to bring the best out of each other, complement each other in whatever way you can, offensively or defensively….Once the tip goes up, there’s five starters, and after that it’s just one unit, guys are rotating in back and forth.”
As a versatile seven-footer, Olynyk’s ability to stretch the floor and open things up for his teammates has been invaluable. However, it’s been his returns on the defensive end that have been just as impressive. Despite not being overly athletic, the 27-year-old Olynyk has returned a terrific 102.1 defensive rating, while leading the team overall with a +4.3 net rating.
Given the success of the team coinciding with Olynyk’s recent increase in playing time, and the fact they are 5-0 this season when he plays at least 29 minutes, the Heat would be derelict in their duties to not continue featuring Olynyk in a featured role moving forward.