A Breakdown of Goran Dragic’s Offensive Impact

Goran Dragic’s second game back from his injury proved his overall importance for this Heat team. He shouldn’t be looked at as a 34 year old veteran, but instead the one piece that makes the entire offense flow.

So, here’s a look into what Dragic did well in their win over the Utah Jazz.

– Controlling the mid-range

Tyler Herro being out and Kendrick Nunn fading slowly away from his mid-range game means Dragic needed to find those spots more often. And that’s exactly what he did.

On this play, he ran the usual pick and roll with Bam Adebayo, while pulling up immediately against the favorable drop coverage. If Miami didn’t have Dragic to find these dead-spots throughout the game, they wouldn’t have sustained their lead, since Miami made it essential to get to the rim early in the game.

Once he began to set the tone on plays like this, easy opportunities from beyond the arc began to open up for the role players.

– Well, his legs are back.

When a veteran player returns from an injury, the jumper is usually a bit of a worry right away since it takes some time to get your legs back under you. But, it didn’t take Dragic much time to get back to normal.

These two plays in the second quarter prove that to be true, and it also shows the importance of his three point shot for a guy like Duncan Robinson. There haven’t been many consistent three point shooters lately, other than Kendrick Nunn, which is why both Dragic and Herro returning is so important for the overall success of Miami’s offense.

Dragic is a three level scorer, who can get to any of the three levels when he really wants to, which will be displayed next.

– Finding his spots on the court

As mentioned previously, being a three level scorer is one thing, but getting to any of the three levels consistently is when that label is truly important.

The way Dragic can control his defender on the drive is truly like no other. On the first play, he cuts off Donovan Mitchell when getting downhill, while Mitchell switches to the roller. Dragic noticing his only defender is Derrick Favors deep in the paint, he fades away for an easy bucket.

The second play is similar, except Dragic utilizes a snake dribble when Mitchell switches, and goes right into a floater over the top of Favors with zero hesitation. Once again, this type of offense is what Miami has been missing majorly.

– Setting up the offense

It’s never an easy offense to dissect when Rudy Gobert is the one you’re facing in the drop coverage, but Bam Adebayo found a way. He found the spots slightly away from the rim to force Gobert to edge away from the rim.

The reason Dragic is being highlighted here is due to the overall situation. Miami has missed a guy to set up offense while Butler is off the floor, and that’s exactly what he did. Nunn has improved majorly as a play-maker, but there’s still a difference between a good passer and setting up offense.

Dragic finding Adebayo and others in their spots during these minutes were essential for Miami sustaining a close score before Butler returned.

– The thing Miami has missed most

And finally, the third level of being a three level scorer. There’s a difference between a guy that can get to the rim and score, like Tyler Herro, and a guy who will take it right at your chest at the basket for an easy layup, like Goran Dragic.

As I’ve mentioned many times, the Heat have missed that on-ball guy who can explode to the basket and get downhill in situations that it’s truly necessary. And in the fourth quarter, it was truly necessary.

On the first play, he took it right up on the best rim protector in the NBA, leading to a not so easy bucket. A few minutes later, he explodes by Joe Ingles and takes it up on the rotating Gobert once again, except this one was a tad bit easier.

Once Miami has a fully healthy roster, the offensive spacing will look better and better, meaning Dragic can get to the rim more and more while Butler gets some rest on the sideline.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Jazz

The Miami Heat took down the best team in the NBA in a Friday night showdown with the Utah Jazz. An aggressive Bam Adebayo, a consistent Goran Dragic, and an absolutely outstanding all around Jimmy Butler headlined their best win of the season this far. So, take a look at five takeaways from this game…

#1: Miami’s dribble penetration changing the offense.

Goran Dragic being back in Miami’s rotation obviously changes dribble penetration immediately, but it wasn’t just when he was on the floor. They came out with a purpose to get inside the three point line against a jumbled up Jazz defense on the interior with Rudy Gobert, and it actually worked. Bam Adebayo’s one hand push shot inside the paint was dropping early, while back-cuts began to be sprinkled in. That element has changed quite a lot for Miami, since a guy like Duncan Robinson can cut with ease the way that he gets defended. Now, as Miami had their way with two point attempts early in the first quarter, that opened up three point shooting per usual. As the defense began to collapse more and more, drive and kicks became a huge factor for Miami’s altered offense. Once Tyler Herro returns as well, that dribble penetration will increase even more.

#2: Kendrick Nunn adding the patient element to his offensive abilities.

This shouldn’t be a surprise that Kendrick Nunn found himself on another one of these pieces, since the overall consistency in his offensive game has allowed zero shock for his strong performances. In this game, though, his overall offensive patience is what stood out the most from his game. He has made huge strides with his play-making abilities, but what has truly led to this? Well, playing time and confidence is the easy answer for any improvement in his game, but adding the patience element must be noted as well. Small things like running the baseline has shown positive flashes, since he keeps his dribble alive to await the cutter instead of getting stuck in the air. As he gets more and more comfortable running the different actions in Miami’s offense, while sustaining this impressive shooting and scoring ability, the next leap in his game will occur.

#3: Some unexpected changes in the rotation, involving the bench unit.

It was surprising that KZ Okpala had his name called before Precious Achiuwa tonight, but it was even more shocking that he basically took his minutes all together. Achiuwa usually enters for Adebayo, which means his playing time comes next to Kelly Olynyk. But tonight, Coach Spo seemed very comfortable playing Olynyk at the 5 with a smaller 4, which is something we haven’t seen much of. Usually in these stints, they went to a 2-3 zone with Gabe Vincent and Andre Iguodala up top wrecking havoc. I’m not sold that this will be decision moving forward for Coach Spo and company, since Achiuwa’s strong minutes on both ends this season has shown that he deserves the playing time he has thus far received. Achiuwa’s connection with Herro and Dragic has been clear, which is why a fully healthy Heat team should maximize his bench role.

#4: Jimmy Butler can score the basketball whenever he chooses in one specific way.

Jimmy Butler began to takeover scoring wise in the third quarter, which came in one way and one way only: Getting downhill and retreating to the free throw line. It’s almost impossible to cover a driving Butler at full speed, since if you don’t jump with him, it’s a layup. But if you do jump with him, he will jump right into you to get to the charity stripe. He played yet another all around offensive game, filling up the stat sheet in every possible way, but most things that were seen aren’t shown in a stat sheet. Open opportunities for guys like Kelly Olynyk due to a 2 man game possession between Butler and Adebayo occur frequently, and causes a solid defensive team to become out of sorts. As I’ve mentioned before, the phrase playing at their own speed is used freely, but as seen tonight, it fits Butler almost perfectly. His methodical abilities when getting downhill lead to his strengths becoming magnified, which is finding teammates for a pure offensive flow.

#5: Bam Adebayo’s offensive aggression makes an appearance once again.

There’s always one common denominator to Adebayo’s shots falling throughout the game on high attempts: Zero hesitation. Those one-hand push shots that he utilizes on an early bounce pass off the roll were dropping cleanly throughout the night, mostly since he didn’t use many unnecessary gather dribbles or pump-fakes. Adebayo obviously has an immense amount of talent in every part of his game, but it comes down to the moments in which he maximizes those scoring abilities. And tonight was one of those nights. He had as tough of a match-up that there is, in Rudy Gobert, which he went to the best possible spots to attack him. Not right at the rim for Gobert to alter or swat, but a few feet away from the rim to make him edge away from the rim. Whenever Adebayo has one of these nights, many point to him sustaining this overall aggression, which seems necessary but not definite.

A Breakdown of Jimmy Butler’s Scoring Down the Stretch Against Toronto

In the Miami Heat’s win over the Toronto Raptors, Jimmy Butler came up big late in the fourth quarter. This isn’t anything new for him, but it was interesting that he displayed his offensive abilities in every possible way in the last five minutes of the game.

So, here’s a look at the ways he closed this game out for Miami…

– The jumper looked smooth

Butler’s jumper has been an interesting topic for Miami, since it struggles in the regular season, but usually coming through when it truly matters, either the playoffs or late in games.

On this play, Miami had a few mismatches that they were looking to take advantage of. Kelly Olynyk had the smaller Kyle Lowry guarding him, so he faked a dribble hand-off to Duncan Robinson and attacked the basket. All four Toronto defenders collapsed, so Olynyk made the correct pass out to an open Butler for a triple.

Butler would usually pause, let the defender fly by, and put his head down to get to the basket, but it seemed like he was feeling the jumper. It’s never been an issue of form for his down shooting numbers, since free throw shooting always stay high, which always leads to the common denominator, his lift.

But well, the lift was there down the stretch.

– Controlling the break with his eyes

Playing the game to your own speed is a phrase that is used quite freely when discussing NBA players, but it describes Butler perfectly.

On this possession, he gets the steal on one end, leading to a clear fast-break on the other end. In no rush at all, he evaluates the floor, noticing he has a 3 on 1 opportunity with Andre Iguodala trailing. To maximize every option, he cuts immediately to the middle of the floor, which is when he utilizes his eyes to his advantage.

His unique passing abilities make the defense uncomfortable, which is why the slightest glance and body turn towards Robinson, eliminated Fred VanVleet from the attack. He then took it up with ease for a layup with zero contest, which tends to happen frequently when the physical Butler gets downhill.

– One more look at Butler’s lift

As I discussed Butler’s catch and shoot lift in the half-court, the mechanics of his jumper is what we were evaluating. But when pull-up triples are falling, this solidifies the original thought.

By that I mean, his lift being the overall theme of his shooting roller coaster is clearly true. I don’t remember the last time Butler utilized his legs to this extent on a three ball, leading to a high arcing ball going in the hoop. And by the way, high arcing three balls haven’t occurred a lot for Butler lately.

This shot also displays the confident factor that is instilled in any basketball player. The shot that I showed earlier is the reason for him taking this pull-up three, since if that one clanked off the back of the rim, he would have went right at the rim to draw a foul. This isn’t an element that will be relied on for long, but it must be something teammates instill in him, just as he does for others.

– The scoring leads to more foul line opportunities

After Butler’s scoring was rolling in this current stretch, there’s always a moment that he gets back to his strengths, which is drawing fouls.

There was confidence all night for Toronto when Lowry was guarding him in the pick and roll, since he would cut him off low, forcing him to take mid-range pull-ups. On this play, though, VanVleet was not allowing Butler to take him one-on-one, so he dropped down far off of Kendrick Nunn on the perimeter.

Butler noticing this, keeps the ball way up above his head, especially as he slices two much smaller defenders. This abrupt movement leads to the whistle being blown, getting him back to his favorite spot on the court: The charity stripe.

– Reading situations, capitalizing on current flow

Instead of draining the clock a bit with a 9 point lead late in the fourth, Butler was completely riding on his late-game momentum.

After the inbound, Bam Adebayo ran a side pick and roll with Butler, which Lowry switched this time. The one shot Toronto’s defense was allowing off of this set was a Butler mid-range pull-up, as mentioned earlier. And with zero hesitation, he rose over the top of OG Anunoby, hitting the shot to take an 11 point lead.

These late-game reads and moments seem to be rubbing off on his teammates, especially Adebayo. He knows that the ball must be in their hands down the stretch, which is why he took some good looks during this spurt as well. But, Butler’s hot hand led to him playing his usual impactful role, allowing Butler to get to those spots that I displayed.

This type of all-around play that is being seen from Butler should not be understated, since it’s truly impressive that he’s leading this team on a huge regular season turnaround.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Raptors

The Miami Heat beat the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night to expand their winning streak to 4 games. Jimmy Butler’s late game offensive showing kept Miami afloat down the stretch. Here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Goran Dragic returns, and hasn’t skipped a beat.

Goran Dragic surprisingly returned on Wednesday night from his injury, and looked as if he missed absolutely no time at all. Dragic’s impact is not through the amount of points that he scores, but actually the moments that he scores. He has always been able to read offensive situations to get into certain sets when most needed, which happened early on by attacking the basket. Miami has missed his dribble penetration lately, since they haven’t had many ball-handlers who can attack with Dragic and Tyler Herro out. The more Dragic got to the rim, the more opportunities opened up for shooters on the perimeter for wide open triples. The Heat have struggled finding any type of offensive rhythm, but the 34 year old veteran can fix that upon arrival.

#2: Miami’s offense and defense clicking on the same night.

Miami had some impressive offensive games early in the season, while showcasing a strong defensive presence lately. But there hasn’t been a night that both have been displayed. Well, until this game. This was going to be a defensive battle no matter what between these two teams, and Coach Erik Spoelstra sprinkled in some defensive things to really boost Miami. Trapping full-court, spurts of 2-3 zone, and more. But Miami’s offense showing an impressive flow throughout against this gritty Toronto team speaks volume. Duncan Robinson hitting some threes early on propelled that, while other role players stepped up in their respective areas. This was the first night the Miami Heat’s true selves were shown.

#3: Bam Adebayo battled on the boards early on, impacting the game in every area per usual.

Bam Adebayo is discussed on a nightly basis in these takeaway pieces, but he must be noted in a different light tonight. In a game that Toronto utilizes a bit of small ball to display all-around quickness, Adebayo had to be felt on the boards. In the first half alone, he grabbed 10 rebounds, while 5 of them being on the offensive end. Creating extra opportunities for others on tip outs and things of that nature truly add up for this team, since extra shot attempts do the job for a struggling offense. Aron Baynes taking a lesser role for the Raptors meant Adebayo had some unique match-ups with physical wings, like OG Anunoby, guarding him on the defensive end. While that could mean trouble at times when he tries to stretch the floor, he read the situation to make his presence felt in the paint.

#4: Andre Iguodala plays his peak offensive role.

Defensive trapping, grabbing rebounds, and facilitating the offense wasn’t enough for Andre Iguodala tonight, since he brought the one element of his game that has been a little iffy at times. The three point shot was falling tonight at a good rate, which is the part of his game that can maximize the overall efficiency of this Miami Heat team. Miami needs Iguodala out there on the floor in a lot of situations, but lineups he plays next to Adebayo and Butler limits offensive spacing. But if the corner triple can be relied on, it changes the entire formation of Miami’s rotation at the moment. A season high on triples for Iguodala may not confirm sustainability, but it is still a great sign that it is in there somewhere.

#5: Gabe Vincent gives a great overall performance, but Miami is one attacker off with bench unit.

Tyler Herro being out tonight once again is a product of less dribble penetration, even though it was majorly boosted with Dragic returning. There were many moments where Miami’s offense began to show flashes of the past, with a lot of ball movement for jumpers, instead of putting the ball on the floor and attacking. Gabe Vincent had a good night battling on the defensive end, as well as hitting those three pointers that he hasn’t lately. But he’s just not the attacker who can run pick and rolls to control the pacing with Dragic. Herro can definitely fix that, which makes Miami’s bench back-court so anticipated. When Adebayo, Butler, and company get to the rim efficiently, it leads to the natural flow of their offense many have been awaiting.

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo Not in All-Star Game, Forcing Best Case Scenario

Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo both attended the All-Star game last season as Adebayo made his first appearance, but this year is much different. Miami currently sits at the 10 seed in the Eastern Conference, which pretty much explains why they didn’t get an All-Star this season.

But Butler and Adebayo not making the All-Star team could be the best case scenario for this Heat team for an abundance of reasons.

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For starters, any rest this team can get after recent injuries, Covid tracing, and a short off-season, they must take it. It allows Goran Dragic to regroup over a short period, since he’s played minutes to begin the season that weren’t really expected coming in.

Butler has had to carry a load over the past few weeks, since the interchanging lineups haven’t allowed Miami to get in any type of flow.

But rest isn’t the main reason for this being a positive for the Heat. It’s actually about the chip that’s back on their shoulders.

Every player on the current roster has had a chip on their shoulder their entire life, since the Miami Heat embody players who battle adversity. But a spark has been needed as of late, even after the latest three game winning streak.

The only way a spark can really be generated is with an addition to the current roster, but well, that was until the All-Star reserves were released on Tuesday night.

This gives Miami’s two stars even more drive to take that next step, while everybody continues to count them out once again. But they’ve been counted out their entire lives.

Now, they can regroup back home in Miami, without taking a chance of being in a crowded environment on All-Star weekend.

No All-Stars, no problem. As Butler has always essentially said, it’s about winning over other accolades, and this snubbed accolade could actually be the biggest spark for their winning.

A Breakdown of Max Strus’ All Around Game

Miami lacked offensively sound bench players on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which meant Max Strus would have another opportunity to step in and be effective.

He scored 11 points with 3 triples, but that wasn’t even the most impressive part of his performance. Let’s take a dive into Max Strus’ all around game in last night’s win…

– Getting to his strengths

It’s obvious that the primary strength with Strus is his three point shooting, not only on wide open attempts, but finding space to get into his favorite spots.

On this play, Kelly Olynyk screens the defender to allow Strus to drop down to the corner. He slides down as Jimmy Butler attacks, leading to a triple in the corner for his first points of the game. Also, take a look at his high release point as the defender flies out on him. It’s a hard shot to block when he’s in rhythm.

He’s not on any radars at this point in his career, while Duncan Robinson doesn’t have the ability to get free on a simple off-ball screen. So for now, he must take advantage of this ability.

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– Reading situations, making the right read

As Gabe Vincent takes the baseline, he begins to find himself with no where to go. Strus realizes this, as his defender has his back to him, then immediately cuts toward the basket.

This forces a 2 on 1 opportunity at the rim with Bam Adebayo, which leads to an easy dump-off for a dunk.

Most shooters are known to move horizontally on the basketball court at all times, but Strus has been a guy that doesn’t rely on that the entire offensive possession. Miami has turned into a very good cutting team in general, but it also comes down to reading a situation as he did here.

– Showing flashes of play-making and penetration

This definitely isn’t something that many expected when they first saw Strus play, since he seems to be going through practice reps leading to this being showcased.

On this play, his shooting ability forced the defender to fly by him when he got the ball, so he immediately attacked the rim. This forced yet another 2 on 1 opportunity at the rim with Precious Achiuwa, except he displayed something a little differently this time.

He gave a great ball-fake to Achiuwa, which dropped Andre Iguodala’s man down a bit from the corner. He made the pass out to him and he knocked down the three, which is a sign of great growth since his first time getting minutes in this league.

– Defensive physicality

Miami lacks defensive abilities from their offensive players, but Strus continues to show great signs in that area due to his size and physicality.

There are a couple of things to dive into on this play. For one, when discussing Miami’s overall soft switching defense, take a look at what happens when Mike Muscala fakes the hand-off. Achiuwa looks to go for the switch for no apparent reason, but Strus fights through it to eliminate any type of mismatch.

He then immediately looks toward the ball, forcing him to slide down into position to take the charge. A defensive possession like this stands out more than any of his three triples in this game to the coaching staff.

– Constant shooting stance means fast release

One more thing must be noted about Strus’ shooting abilities, other than his high release point and deadly catch and shoot abilities: His constant shooting stance.

At times, players get lazy playing off the ball, which leads to guys not being ready for an immediate pull-up when the ball finds them. But well, that isn’t the case with Strus, since he is in his knee-bent, hands ready stance at every moment of the game.

Take a look at his body language on this play when he sees Achiuwa fighting for the offensive rebound. He was ready, fires it up leading to an And-1 three to spark Miami going into the fourth quarter.

– More defensive flashes

Other than describing Strus’ defensive abilities as physical every single time, his ability to cut off guys with the correct angle and move his feet rather quickly is an underrated part for him on that end of the floor.

On this possession, he slides down to cut off the dribble penetration, leading to his man catching the ball on the kick-out. He recovered quickly, and Lou Dort immediately took it toward the basket to get Strus off balanced. Except, he never was off balanced, and cut him off perfectly, while his great size forced Dort into an unorthodox shot that came flying off the rim for an easy rebound.

– The next step

Late in the game, it was just some extra time to get offensive reps in for a guy like Max Strus, and something stood out.

If Strus can consistently work a pick and roll as he did here, things change for his case to get regular playing time. He showed great patience as he began the PnR, while noticing it was drop coverage, he immediately pulled a three pointer. Although he missed, this shows a part of his game that hasn’t been explored, but very well can be in the near future.

Obviously those looks won’t be handed to him every night, but he can make defenses pay when running drop coverage, and utilize his passing abilities in certain spots, which I highlighted earlier.

Miami has something interesting with Strus, but the only question is where his rotation spot would be with a healthy Heat team.

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5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Thunder

The Miami Heat finished 4-3 on their West Coast road trip after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in an ugly offensive performance. Issues were clear for three and a half quarters, but Miami got hot when it mattered late in the fourth. Here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Miami’s offense continues to appear problematic.

After discussing the offensive issues of the Miami Heat for quite some time, they come out with that type of performance against Oklahoma City. The reason Miami assisted on 13 of their 14 shot makes in the first half, is due to the lack of on-ball players in this game. Obviously Jimmy Butler falls under that category at times, but his unselfishness tonight proved why he needs somebody around him to do that. Kendrick Nunn is the closest thing to that, but there’s only so much he can do to keep the offense afloat. As much as we can discuss tonight’s offensive showing as a product of missing Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro, this is a recurring issue. It’s not just health, it’s not systematic, it’s not about one individual player. It’s just that Miami may be one on-ball player short with the current roster.

#2: Kendrick Nunn keeps Miami going on a night that was tough to do.

Kendrick Nunn was the guy for a good portion of the season that Miami awaited to be a spark. And tonight, he was the consistent player trying to spark others around him. He came out with the same scoring abilities that have been seen lately, but it’s much harder for him to be effective when there’s limited spacing with a stagnant offense. He then began to make an impact in other areas, most importantly as a ball-handler to set others up. The lob to Bam Adebayo late in the second quarter comes to mind, since that was essentially the only moment Heat players could score at the rim early on. He also competed defensively much more, since it seems he can be an impactful defender in spots when he wants to be. Nunn has been the real bright spot throughout some of Miami’s struggles, which has a lot to do with the overall trust to insert him in the starting lineup, while he continues to thrive in his minutes with Butler.

#3: Precious Achiuwa’s impact relies on the team’s health.

Precious Achiuwa’s overall role lately has been a tough code to crack, but it finally seems clear. It just plainly comes down to the overall health of this team for an abundance of reasons. For one, there’s a lack of offensive firepower off the bench with Dragic and Herro out, and those two guys are the ones Achiuwa benefits from most. Also, there’s a necessity to stagger Butler and Adebayo’s minutes with Dragic out, which means Achiuwa has a much different role than he did early in the season. Once Miami has a full roster, he will thrive once again in his minutes with both offensively savvy guards who work him into the offense. But for right now, his offensive role is unclear, which means his playing time comes in short spurts with the inability to get into a rhythm.

#4: Bam Adebayo has yet another efficient night throughout, but tonight was more about attempts.

The Bam Adebayo shot attempt discussion has been fluid for quite some time, since certain night’s efficiency is not the needed offensive ability. And as mentioned earlier, Miami’s offense had struggled throughout the entire night, by missing shots, not flowing into sets, and settling for jumpers instead of getting to the basket. But well, that’s where Adebayo comes into play. Most of his shots came at the rim on dunks, either from a lob pass or offensive rebound, but that just doesn’t seem to be enough on nights like this. Obviously he put up an impressive stat-line, but sometimes it’s much more than that. Even if he puts up some shots and they don’t go in, you live with the result, but relying on other guys that are much less qualified doesn’t always seem like the best route. It’s still something that many are awaiting Adebayo to fully realize, since he just needs to allow his talent to takeover at times.

#5: A Max Strus sighting, a Max Strus display.

After a tough shooting night against the Lakers on Saturday night, Max Strus had yet another opportunity with Tyler Herro out. He was basically thrown into the fire late in the past game, which didn’t allow him to get into a natural flow. Tonight, though, he had an obvious offensive flow, shooting the ball the way he usually does, but that’s not what stood out in his game. It was more importantly the other parts of the game that Miami lacked. He began to showcase a play-making ability when he was chased off the three point line, leading to kick-outs for open triples. The defense must be highlighted as well, since his physical presence allows him to guard bigger guys in the post, and stand strong against penetrating ball-handlers. Taking charges, grabbing rebounds, and-1 triples. Strus did it all on a night it was most needed, which shows they have another rotation guy awaiting his chance as the season progresses.

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A Breakdown of Bam Adebayo’s Outstanding Defense on LeBron James

On a night that LeBron James was held to 19 points without Anthony Davis, it seems necessary to dive right into the defensive source, Bam Adebayo.

Now, Andre Iguodala had that match-up for a good portion of the game, and did a tremendous job out on the perimeter, which should not be overlooked. But when a team’s big man is guarding one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball for a bunch of stretches, it must be noted.

So, here’s a look into Adebayo’s defensive performance against an old friend of the Miami Heat.

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– Fronting James early

Before we look into this match-up a little bit deeper, let’s start with the first possession, which was a sign that this was going to be a battle all night.

Adebayo showed that he wasn’t afraid to play a little physical out on the perimeter with LeBron, fronting him in the post, denying the entry pass. This led to a chucked up three point attempt from Kyle Kuzma, missing badly and getting Miami right into their offense.

These are the type of plays that aren’t shown in a stat sheet. Plays that force others to make a mistake, or force others to become uncomfortable. And well, that’s the Adebayo effect. No matter the defensive personnel around him, he’s going to bother a team with his physical abilities, his quickness and length, as well as his intense motor.

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– Mind games

LeBron is one of the most gifted players when manipulating a defense with his mind, due to his many unique abilities in his arsenal.

On this possession, LeBron gets Adebayo on an absolute island. Wide open baseline, wide open wing. Usually when LeBron is given that much space, he takes it at the chest of his defender due to his physical dominance. But that changed when he realized he had a very different player lined up across from him.

He scanned Adebayo, figuring out his next move, took one dribble and passed it out to the perimeter as the ball rolled down the court out of bounds. LeBron is the king of mind games, but a player with as much activity as Adebayo brings on that end of the floor, he ended up on the other side of things for a change.

– Forcing more uncomfort late in possessions 

It’s not an easy task to guard the best player in the NBA individually, but it’s even tougher when you must worry about the backside the entire game being the defensive staple that he is for Miami.

This is another example of LeBron passing up shots that he would usually take. As Adebayo tries to avoid putting his back to all of the action, he tries to slide over as much as possible with the dribble penetration. The ball ends up swinging back around to LeBron with the shot-clock ticking down, he passes out to Montrezl Harrell for a corner three with 2 seconds left on the shot clock.

Adebayo clearly knew the clock situation as well, since he allowed his hands to be much more active than his feet, leading to another impressive stop.

– Avoiding soft switches

Soft switches has been Miami’s downfall on the defensive end this season, since although Adebayo can handle a guard on the perimeter, the guard who just switched can’t handle the rolling big man. It’s been a cycle, but Miami showed that they can end it when most needed.

There were moments where they would willingly switch, mostly when it involved Butler, Adebayo, or Iguodala. As seen here though, Adebayo stayed steady on his match-up with LeBron, forcing Max Strus to rotate down. This led to a turnover for the Lakers, instead of LeBron taking advantage of a one-on-one situation with Strus.

Adebayo making these decisions also has a lot to do with the personnel on the floor at the moment. He trusts Iguodala on the backside to step up, which was exactly what happened on this possession.

– The Block

For a player that is not known for his rim protection, every one of Adebayo’s most incredible plays involve a swat around the rim.

As the Lakers got into their transition offense, the ball found LeBron in stride. Adebayo noticed him moving downhill with Iguodala on his heels, which is why he exploded towards the action. He then timed it perfectly to block it off the backboard, creating a huge spark for Miami in the fourth quarter.

Also, length and quickness shouldn’t always be the headliner for these moments, since as I just mentioned, timing plays a big part in not only his blocking abilities, but just about everything, which I will explain next.

– Timing plays, reading the pace

As I just began to get into, timing plays a big part in a lot of Adebayo’s defensive success. He knows when to be in certain spots on the floor, when to jump in the air for a contest, and more.

But as seen on this play, that timing also can lead to reading the game at a deeper level. On the last block, he immediately exploded when seeing that one player was handling LeBron on the move. On this possession, he doesn’t explode toward the rim since three defenders are waiting for LeBron’s next move.

He was then in perfect position to deflect the pass, and cause another Laker turnover. As mentioned previously, it just isn’t about his athletic abilities all the time, since his basketball feel is just off the charts.

– Defending every option

Although this wasn’t smothering defense from Adebayo, and a shot LeBron usually knocks down, it’s necessary to evaluate his defensive positioning.

Guarding LeBron is non-comparable to any other match-up, since he can drive it into your chest, pull-up from three, or throw a no-look dime backdoor as soon as you fall asleep. And at that point in the game, forcing him into a three pointer was the best option.

But notice how many steps Adebayo takes inside the arc when defending him. It’s enough to recover from a blow by, while close enough to contest a jump-shot good enough as seen here.

He truly has the whole package on the defensive end, and it stands out even more when facing a player of LeBron’s caliber.

A Breakdown of Kendrick Nunn Against the Lakers

In an NBA Finals rematch on ABC Saturday night, the story lines were fluid. LeBron James vs his old team, the Miami Heat. LeBron James vs Jimmy Butler in yet another duel. But well, none of that compared to the explosion of Kendrick Nunn occurring right in front of our eyes once again.

So, let’s take a dive into the success of Kendrick Nunn as of late, and what has led to this resurgence.

– Taking defenders off the dribble

Nunn has had an ability to take players off the dribble for quite some time now, but it finally appears to be more than going through the motions. By that I mean he’s not just utilizing pump-fakes as an add-on, since he’s beginning to use it to his advantage, which means he’s playing the game at his own speed as he continues to grow.

He’s currently shooting 64% from the field less than 10 feet from the basket, which is up from last season’s 55%. The attempts are pretty identically, which means he’s just increasing the comfort level in that area.

On this possession, he sells the pump-fake due to his improved shooting, as he dashes by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He has a very quick first step when putting the ball on the deck, which allows him to get to the rim with a 2 on 1 opportunity. Marc Gasol didn’t step up, which took the lob pass out of the equation, leading to an easy finger roll at the rim.

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– Floaters from just about anywhere

Nunn’s floater has been utilized this season much more than his rookie year, and it’s been working quite well for him. It’s not just about the floater itself, but the spots on the floor in which he’s shooting them, which is just about anywhere in the half-court.

He’s very comfortable with push-shots, which he attempts here at the free throw line over Gasol. This shot leads to many things in Nunn’s game being added, such as a hesitation dribble. This will slowly become a shot defenses will look for out of a pick and roll, leading to lob passes and slight hesitations to get to the basket when a big steps out.

– An improved three point shot on the move

Nunn has become a much better spot-up shooter from deep as of late, shooting 39% on catch and shoot triples compared to last season’s 35% shooting, but there’s a certain element to his shooting from deep that must be discussed. It’s not just about shooting on the move, but the direction in which he’s shooting on the move.

When he goes left off of screens, it usually ends with good things. It’s a bit odd for a lefty shooter, since it’s usually the exact opposite direction that they tend to thrive.

On this play, Nunn dribbles left off of a double screen, as Montrezl Harrell begins to drop. He immediately pulls-up at the top of the key, with his jumper looking as fluid as ever.

Now, here’s an example of Nunn leaning left on three point shots and looking as comfortable as he does with spot-up opportunities. This unorthodox ability leads to other things as well, such as a quicker getaway to put the ball on the deck and drive baseline.

Nunn is a pretty unique scorer, and the reason for that is because he has unique abilities to be effective, and it just comes down to consistency which has occurred lately.

– Creativity in the pick and roll

As I pointed out in Tyler Herro’s game the other day, creativeness out of the pick and roll is beginning to progress for Miami’s second year players. Most young players become more and more effective out of simple offensive sets of with the more playing time that they get, which is what we’re seeing right now.

On this play, Nunn realizes a bit of indecisive play from both defenders, which leads to him utilizing a snake dribble to find a dead-spot. Precious Achiuwa being the screener adds to this as well, since he always seems to be running at full speed on the roll, making a defense uncomfortable as a lob threat.

– Offense to defense

If there’s anything that I’ve noticed from Kendrick Nunn’s game over time, it’s that his defense elevates when his offense is effective. And after his jumper continued to fall throughout last night’s game, he showcased his defensive will in spots that were necessary.

He had to deal with a tough match-up all night, against a much lengthier Kyle Kuzma, but gave Miami a huge spark on this play. When the Lakers could’ve cut the lead to 2, Nunn rose up and blocked his shot from behind, after Kuzma caught him off-guard with a slip screen. Even if Nunn struggles defensively when on an island, he is trusted to make defensive plays, such as hitting passing lanes to get into transition or make an unexpected block to get the team going.

– Taking advantage of Adebayo’s gravity

After Bam Adebayo’s early aggression, taking advantage of the Lakers lack of interior defense, it led to many other things for Miami. Halfway through the third quarter when the Lakers made their big run, they tried to eliminate Adebayo’s offensive presence as much as possible, which led to him adapting.

He has been needed to put his back to the basket and take advantage of smaller match-ups, which is what he began to do. But as Alex Caruso came for the double team, Adebayo made the right read, passing out to Nunn for a triple.

Although this has more to do with Adebayo, Nunn reading the situation as well must be noted. He was putting that shot up no matter who ran out on him, as they tried to recover on their rotation, which are the small areas Nunn has showed a ton of growth with.

– Back door cuts becoming a staple

Backdoor cuts have been Miami’s thing for the last couple of weeks, mostly since defenses are overplaying the three point line on shooters time and time again. But this has nothing to do with overplaying defensively, since the Jimmy Butler effect came into play.

As he attacked the basket on this play, the Lakers defense looked pretty lost with their defensive communication. Butler unfortunately picked up his dribble, looking toward the corner at Nunn, giving him the signal to cut to the basket. He hits him in stride for an easy bucket, which shows the level of chemistry Nunn is reforming with the new starting lineup.

– The play-making leap incoming

Nunn has made huge strides as of late as a play-maker, mostly in games like last night, where defenses are focused on his scoring.

On this play, he tries to blow by a good defender, in Alex Caruso, while Harrell cuts him off to eliminate that baseline floater that has been working all night. Once Harrell gets caught in the air, he dumps it off to Adebayo at the rim.

Although he missed, Nunn continues to battle down low, going back up with a reverse layup on a key possession for Miami’s offensive rhythm. While he continues to become a lethal offensive weapon, the play-making abilities become more and more essential, which will lead to a major increase in assist numbers.

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5 Takeaways from Heat’s Victory Over Lakers

The Miami Heat faced the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA Finals rematch, which Miami got the best of them this time around. It went down to the wire, which Jimmy Butler got to the line when they needed it most, while the Heat played great defense down the stretch to get the win. Here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Kendrick Nunn was cooking early on.

In a game televised by ABC on Saturday night, headlined by LeBron James and Jimmy Butler, not many expected Kendrick Nunn to be the biggest story of the first quarter. Nunn scored 15 points in the first on 6 for 7 shooting, looking as comfortable as ever with the ball in his hands. He was 3 for 3 from beyond the arc as well, shooting on the move on many of those looks, which seems to be when he’s most effective. The floater is also becoming a staple of his offensive game, since he rises up with one-hand push shots from just about anywhere on the floor. After the first quarter scoring display, he didn’t attempt one shot in the second quarter. And while that may appear to be a negative element of the game, it speaks to the growth of Nunn being aware of the pacing of the game, allowing the game to come to him.

#2: Bam Adebayo comes out with a necessary aggressive mindset.

On a night where the Lakers were without their best rim protector, Anthony Davis, it was clear there were winnable match-ups for Bam Adebayo to seize. And well, he did just that early on, playing above the rim on many possessions, which seemed to be a game-plan by Erik Spoelstra. He scored 14 points in the first half on 7 for 9 shooting, and there were still times that he could’ve been a bit more selfish scoring wise. But selfish and Adebayo don’t really mix, which is why he altered between aggression and play-maker throughout, controlling the game in the non-Butler minutes. Those minutes are more important than ever at the moment, since Goran Dragic being out forced Coach Spo to go this route, relying on Adebayo’s presence without Butler.

#3: The Goran Dragic absence is noticed in spurts.

When discussing pure takeaways from this game from my perspective, the Goran Dragic absence was probably one of the biggest. Dragic has always been the guy for Miami to save them in tough spots, who can generate offense when everybody else cools off a bit. And well, Miami went through that stretch in the second quarter, but the only issue was that Coach Spo couldn’t turn to his bench to tell Dragic to try and get them out of this hole. As much as people can discuss certain losses lately not correlating with Dragic missing time, since a 34 year old shouldn’t be relied on this heavily anyway, that’s just plainly incorrect. It’s not that he needs to be the leading scorer as he did in the bubble last season, but he just needs to share the floor with others to force Miami back into their natural offensive flow.

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#4: Jimmy Butler controls the third quarter.

While the Los Angeles Lakers immediately crawled back into the game to begin the second half, it looked like Miami’s high level play in this game finally came to an end. But well, that was until Jimmy Butler decided to step up. As Tyler Herro was listed questionable to return at halftime with a hip contusion, Miami’s offensive options became limited, which meant Butler needed to do Butler-like things. And that category included getting to the basket, which leads to getting to the free throw line. Butler had 0 free throw attempts in the first half, which is a rare sight for him. He began to increase that a bit more in the third, showcasing his will to be aggressive during a stretch that it was absolutely necessary. And that was the only thing that kept Miami afloat in a time of need.

#5: The Gabe Vincent-Max Strus playing time decisions became crucial.

Who would’ve thought the minutes between both two-way players would be crucial against the reigning NBA champions? But here we are. The reasoning for Gabe Vincent getting the nod over Max Strus lately had to do with adding an extra ball-handler on the floor. And that’s exactly what Coach Spo went with again tonight, except Tyler Herro exiting the game led to another rotation adjustment. Strus got thrown into the fire in the third quarter without getting into any type of flow, leading to a terrible shooting stretch from beyond the arc, going 0 for 8 from three. As much as people can criticize Erik Spoelstra’s decisions between the two-way guys, there must be a realistic approach that we’re discussing two-way guys. There is limited production that will occur from those type of guys, especially when facing a team like the Lakers, and a player like LeBron who can attack weaknesses pretty quickly.