Haywood Highsmith hasn’t been in the Miami Heat starting lineup for very long, but the 26-year-old is already setting his sights on making an NBA All-Defensive team this season.
“Being myself, being the defender I know I can be,” Highsmith said. “I told people before that I have aspirations of being All-Defensive team. … So just doing what I said I was going to do.
“I could see me getting on an All-Defensive team because I feel like I can guard a lot of different positions, I’m active and have long arms, quick, strong. So making an All-Defensive team is definitely a goal for me this season. It’s a realistic goal, for sure.”
Since entering the Miami starting lineup on Nov. 3 for a game against the Washington Wizards, Highsmith has totaled nine steals and seven blocked shots across seven games. More importantly, the Heat have not lost with him as a starter this season, reeling off a seven-game winning streak that was extended by a 122-115 victory against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.
Miami will try for eight in a row on Saturday night at the Chicago Bulls.
While facing the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday as part of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament, Highsmith had five steals and two blocked shots in a 111-105 victory. Point differential could come into play as an important tiebreaker as part of the format for the in-season competition, so any defensive contributions could be magnified in helping to hold down an opponent’s score.
The emergence of Highsmith as a key player has partly coincided with the absence of teammate Tyler Herro due to injury. The 23-year-old has not played since injuring his ankle on Nov. 8 against the Memphis Grizzlies, the third game of the Heat’s current winning streak.
Herro is better known for his offensive abilities — he is averaging 22.9 points per game this season – than his defensive acumen. Having Highsmith in the lineup and playing significant minutes changes the style of play and responsibilities for the Heat somewhat.
Franchise player Jimmy Butler is picking up the scoring slack in Herro’s absence, with 32 points and 36 points, respectively, on Tuesday and Thursday. He recently said his goal is to shoot 50 percent from 3-point range this season.
Bam Adebayo also is off to an outstanding start, averaging 22.7 points per game, which, if maintained, would become the best mark of his NBA career so far.
Having Highsmith able to contribute on the defensive end is certainly working out for the Heat so far. If he can keep it up — and Herro can return to boost the offense — Miami is likely to remain among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference and a potential contender for the NBA title.