Jimmy Butler praises Gabe Vincent, offers approval of him playing alongside Kyle Lowry in crunch time

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Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent played a major role for the team in the 2021-22 season, and it appears that role may be expanding this season.

Vincent is getting 22.5 minutes per game for Miami this season and second on the team with 10.0 fourth quarter minutes per game.

Last season, the 26-year-old got 23.4 minutes of action per contest, with 8.0 of them coming in the fourth quarter. While he is seeing less minutes per game so far this season, it’s important to note that Vincent started 27 games last season and hasn’t started any so far this season.

Even though guard Tyler Herro is now in the starting lineup, he’s playing just 6.9 minutes per game in the fourth quarter this season, as head head coach Erik Spoelstra has opted to use lineups with both Vincent and veteran guard Kyle Lowry late in games.

Vincent’s impressive play this season has garnered praise from both Lowry and Heat star Jimmy Butler.

“He had a lot of time on the floor last year with me being hurt,” Lowry said. “I think the experience has kind of built his confidence even more.

“I think he’s just finding his way to be himself and be involved and understanding like who he’s going to be, how good he can be, how talented he can be. He asks a lot of questions, but he’s also very smart. He’s a hybrid guy who is a scorer, but he can do both with leadership, get everyone involved and still get his. He’s just continuing to find himself.”

This season, Vincent is averaging 7.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He’s also shooting a career-high 44.4 percent from the field, an area where he could continue to improve.

Vincent’s best asset may be his tenacious defense. He’s always ready to guard anyone on the court and even came up with a huge play against the Boston Celtics in a game earlier this season, forcing All-Star forward Jayson Tatum into a traveling violation.

Butler explained why he likes Vincent and Lowry playing together at the same time for Miami.

“Gabe is good,” Butler said. “He can shoot the ball. He can finish well around the rim. He plays with a lot of energy. He knows damn near every play from every position. I like him and Kyle and him playing together. It gives Kyle the opportunity to play off the ball, come off pindowns. Gabe is so unselfish he’s trying to give him the ball and get everyone involved.

“That dude’s been working for however long now to prove that he belongs to play in this league, which he does. And I think going to any other team, he could be a starter. But I’m glad he is with my team.”

Having another point guard on the floor allows Lowry to look for his offense a little more for Miami, and it also gives the Heat more flexibility in running their offense, especially in crunch time with Vincent’s fourth quarter minutes going up.

After going undrafted, Vincent has worked his way into Miami’s rotation over the past four seasons. He’s become a reliable lead guard with his assists per game increasing in each of his four NBA seasons.

The more Vincent continues to learn from Lowry, the better the Heat are going to be. With Victor Oladipo yet to make his season debut for the Heat, Vincent is proving that he can step up to fill the void in the backcourt.

The Heat have options with their guard rotation down the stretch of games. Vincent will likely be called upon for defensive purposes while Herro will surely play when the team needs a scoring punch.

“I mean whatever Coach needs, whatever Coach asks of me, and whatever I can do to help this team win, I want to be a part of that,” Vincent said. “Obviously I love to be on the court. So if I can be on the court impacting winning, I will. And if it’s a Tyler sub, there’s no doubt about his scoring abilities. I have no questions about that, by any means.”

It’s important that the team has depth in the backcourt, especially if it wants to make a run to the NBA Finals in the 2022-23 season. Miami nearly made the Finals last season, but it was knocked out by Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals in Game 7.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.