Film Breakdown on Game Two of Heat-Olympic Performances

After a headliner game one from Gabe Vincent against the USA on Saturday night, another unexpected Heat player broke-out on Monday evening for Nigeria. Precious Achiuwa has looked more and more comfortable as the minutes increase through this Olympic journey.

And this is just the beginning of this long off-season.

Vincent and KZ Okpala also had their moments, while Bam Adebayo and Team USA fell short yet again against Team Australia. So, even though we’re going to dive into a lot of Achiuwa’s offensive performance, let’s hop into the things that stood out from all four guys in Monday night’s matches…

Precious Achiuwa

Transition Body Control

One of Precious Achiuwa’s biggest issues in his rookie season was all about control. Both body control and ball control never seemed to be his strength, as transition offense usually resulted in an offensive foul, while passes in tight spaces always fell through his hands for a turnover.

But in the first two exhibition games, he’s controlling himself in every facet of the game at a high level. Looking at the first clip above, body control is definitely the most important, since his pacing being knocked down a few notches changes his offensive flow.

He grabs the rebound at the baseline, and the play doesn’t end until he touches the opposite baseline. I’ll touch on “point Precious” a little more down the line, but that’s not something to just skip over.

The best part about him beating all of the other defenders down the floor with some hesitation dribbles and long strides, is that he did it all with his off-hand. I didn’t think we would see that this soon with his strong hand, but that’s just the beauty of playing time for a young guy who hasn’t had an NBA off-season yet.

In the second clip above, another weakness of his game shows to be clearing up. Once again, he runs the floor with his off-hand, but his eyes are the part to watch. He’s no longer looking at the ball when running the floor, since instead his head is up, reading the defense and watching his teammates spacing.

As soon as the guy guarding Okpala in the dunker spot steps up, he throws him a perfect bounce pass for a nice up and under for a bucket. That is growth. Ball handling, body control, reading defenses. Those were all real issues with his game a few months ago, and it’s already showcasing major improvement.

Slower Screening, Quicker Rolling

I touched on Achiuwa’s screening briefly in my last piece, but getting a longer look at him shows this was no fluke. He set plenty of screens in Miami’s offense last season, but they didn’t always look great. For one, the timing and speed of the pick never looked to be in sync, since everything looked rushed offensively.

In the clip above, you can tell he’s much more focused on giving the ball-handler the correct angle instead of just going through the motions.

The second part of this is what occurs after the screen. It was clear that he was slipping way too many picks last season, mostly due to the fact that his skill-set lines up with rolling much more. He’s a pure athlete, and the gravity of a lob pass can bend a defense like no other.

In the first two games with Nigeria, I have not seen much of him slipping screens, and I think that’s more of a self realization than an offensive game-plan. Above, it’s not that they broke-down the defense into a perfectly executed 2 on 1. Instead, Achiuwa gets moving downhill at full speed, which allows the ball-handler to just throw it up somewhere around the rim.

It wasn’t the greatest pass, but vertical threats, as Coach Mike Brown called him after the game, can makes plays like this one when they’re playing a specific, and fitting, role.

More Shooting Flashes

Speaking of things Coach Mike Brown said about Achiuwa after the game, he mentioned that they encourage him to take that three-ball when his feet are set and he has enough space.

He’s done that confidently so far, knocking down yet another three against Argentina. When evaluating his full shooting skill-set, a lot of things just aren’t aligned. His free throw shooting has continued to be an absolute issue, while the three-ball looks as fluid as ever.

The reasoning for that is much more mental than it is physical. Physically, he has a very pure shooting motion with perfect form, good lower body positioning, and an outstanding flick of the wrist. Along with that, he’s also not thinking about his shot on those possessions, since he’s just letting it fly.

Free throws just aren’t as smooth looking. He’s not able to get the same type of lift, the form doesn’t always look the same, and well, the mental side just takes over. Time will only tell if that can be tweaked, but for now, the focus is on his outside shooting which looks like a brief preview to an even bigger expansion.

Point Precious? Off-Hand into On-Hand?

I showcased “Point Precious” earlier with the fast-break passing, but the part that’s even more intriguing is the amount of times that he’s the guy bringing the ball down. Receiving the inbound, crossing half-court with an immediate DHO, and much more.

On this possession, it’s a mix of that point guard trust, and just allowing his talent to takeover on the attack. Do you notice anything similar from earlier clips?

Well, I do.

That left hand seems to be the hand he’s most comfortable with. It’s not just fast-break lead dribbles, since he’s even driving with a purpose in the half-court utilizing his off-hand with both the dribble and the lay-in.

A lot of times we evaluate young player’s skill-sets in the big picture, discussing major parts of their game that need a major leap. But frankly, sometimes it’s more about minor improvements on the headliner parts of your game, while taking major leaps in the small areas. That’s what leads to a complete all-around player, and Achiuwa’s looking closer to that than ever.

KZ Okpala

Continued Ball Pressure

After watching KZ Okpala some more in increased minutes, some things really pop out defensively. The ball pressure stuff is a known things, but there are smaller points to make within that category.

Although he’s picking up smaller guys at the opposing baseline or half-court line every play, this possession displays the entire package. It isn’t just one thing that makes him a disruptive defender, since he just looks really complete on that end in every manner.

For one, his lengthy wingspan allows him to put pressure on the ball handler when they turn themselves this way. He can position himself to eliminate any drive-by’s, while jabbing the ball with his right hand to make him shift a bit before poking it out with the left hand.

While he looks like an inexperienced young guy on the offensive side of the ball, he looks like a seasoned vet defensively most possessions. The on-ball stuff looks perfect, while team defense still needs some improvement which only comes with game reps.

A lot of times, on-ball guys become on-ball watchers whenever they’re on the weak-side. That right there is Okpala, which can lead to a blown rotation or an easy back-door cut. That’s the reason he’s utilized as a perimeter stopper and defends the ball-handler at all times in both the Heat’s system and Nigeria.

Same Offensive Role, But Is It The Right Role?

Okpala’s role isn’t just a product of Nigeria’s offensive scheme. Aside from the fact that they’re basically running a Heat offense, Okpala continues to be utilized as a spot-up spacer in the corner and the wing.

He continued to struggle from the outside, until this sequence with back to back triples in the third. The first one occurred when the shot clock was expiring with a great contest, while the second one was just a transition filler.

Only 4 seconds into the shot-clock, he fired that wing three and knocked it down. If that can become his role consistently, then there’s definitely something there with an increased role. But should that be his role at this stage?

I’ve been a huge proponent of finding ways to get him downhill, which was his biggest offensive strength coming into the league and his body-type translates to that style of play. But the counter to that is this league just won’t allow 4’s to not be able to shoot, especially when playing next to a center who doesn’t shoot the three ball. (Yet)

In some ways, he has to figure out the shooting from the outside, but it’s clear that will have to be secondary in this league from a short-term sense. He can be very effective just with his defensive abilities that aren’t one bit overstated, but to stay on the floor in the NBA, somewhat of an offensive game must be mixed in.

Gabe Vincent

Movement Shooting

After an outstanding game one from Gabe Vincent against Team USA, the shooting from the outside didn’t carry over early. On Saturday night, we saw him display pull-up shooting, some spot-up reps, and plenty of on-ball triples out of specific actions which I’ll dive into next.

But an added layer that was shown against Argentina was his movement shooting. From a Heat sense, movement shooting is one of the most important attributes, due to their motion offense and constant off-ball screening. In a bench role, there must be some way to replicate the sets they run for Duncan Robinson, and this type of stuff above relates to that.

A nice Okpala drive to the middle of the floor forces the defender to drop down off his man on the perimeter. That leads to them rotating into splitting the difference between the top of the key and the wing, leading into a very instinctive and smart play by Vincent.

Diving to the corner not only maximizes the spacing for a simple kick-out, but it forces that one defender to make a decision on who to cover. He trails Vincent but he’s not close enough as he lets it fly on the move in the corner. If that type of high difficulty shot is made regularly, his shooting from deep becomes much more lethal.

Perfecting the On-Ball Role

Something I highlighted in my last piece was something I asked Vincent after the season. He’s been a spot-up guy for most of his career, but was handed the keys to the offense in an on-ball role this past season. It wasn’t expected for him to be plugged into certain lineups and immediately run sets, but he did just that, which leads him into the next focus of his game.

When I asked him about focusing on that this Summer, he talked about this off-season becoming an important time for that, saying “that part of my game will need to grow, and will grow.” And these exhibition games are the perfect time for that.

In the clip above, we see Vincent flowing right into a simple PnR, with yet another patient screen from Achiuwa. It forces the 2 on 1, and Vincent feeds him the ball with that coveted pocket pass for yet another athletic Achiuwa slam.

Combining consistent shooting gravity with an ability to put the ball in the perfect spots of his teammates really changes things for his upcoming role in the NBA, but the key there will have to be consistency. This off-season should help that round into form organically.

Bam Adebayo

Post Play into Face-Up Game

While it feels like I’ve been covering Nigeria more than anyone, we’ve gotta finish this off with Bam Adebayo’s play with Team USA. He was moved to the bench with Jayson Tatum, but still got plenty of minutes with a role player type responsibility. Coming in, we knew that he wasn’t going to be the go-to scorer, but we’ve still seen some offensive flashes.

I went into Adebayo’s post-up issues in the last piece, and that must be expanded on a bit after watching him in action again. Looking at both clips above, your takeaway may differ depending on how you look at it.

The first clip can be viewed as a tough turn-around jumper with a generous roll, which that face-up game will be a staple of his in the upcoming season. The second clip is pretty similar, since he was subbed in and immediately went into a face-up jumper off the back-board.

Although those plays could be looked at as a positive, it should once again be mentioned that he’s relying on that too heavily out of the post. He has the mismatch on Matthew Dellavedova, and picks up his dribble to find the kick-out option. When no one is open, he reverts back to the face-up shot that ultimately does end in points.

Will that be figured out by opposing defenses in the NBA? Most likely. It’s becoming a bit predictable that a couple post moves and a drop step won’t be mixed in a lot of the time, which will become the next step.

This isn’t a big deal, since this can pop up at any time once he masters the other areas of his game, but I do feel that we’re rapidly approaching the point when it becomes a necessity.

Pocket Pass Facilitator 

After seeing him thrive with a pocket pass reception in the first match to try and score, these type of possessions prove that’s not the only case. Miami needing a point guard isn’t just to get Adebayo downhill to score. He’s a natural play-maker, and that will always be his play-style in this league.

Team USA’s offense hasn’t been clicking in the half-court. Points are being scored off isos, catch and shoot threes, and not much production out of any true sets. The times when certain actions became effective was when Adebayo got the pocket pass on the move.

They are forced to blitz Damian Lillard, leaving Adebayo in his most comfortable spot on the basketball court: middle of the floor with numbers. Tatum’s defender is forced to cut-off Adebayo on the move, leading to an easy bucket for Tatum off the Adebayo dish.

That’s where a point guard comes into play. It doesn’t just get Adebayo going, it allows Adebayo to get others going. Instead of him facilitating from out of his range or from the elbow as he faces the basket, mixing it up in this fashion can truly change a Heat offense.

It may be about Jimmy Butler’s timeline, but it’s mostly about Adebayo’s skill-set.

 

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5 Takeaways from McGregor’s Loss, More in UFC 264

With McGregor breaking his tibia at the end of the first round, the Poirier-McGregor trilogy came to an end. After a dominant first round, Dustin Poirier seemed like he was on his way to another win but then the unfortunate injury cut things short. The series goes to Poirier and now he’s on his way to fight Charles Oliveira for the undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship. The rest of the card was loaded with fighters taking the next step in their UFC career. Let’s take a look at the top takeaways from this weekend’s card

 

  1. There seems to be one more chapter left in the Poirier McGregor Series

 

Although he was winning the first round handily, Dustin Poirier wasn’t able to put the finishing stamp on this fight. With the lack of closure on this fight and the continuation of the trash talk and bad blood, it seems like these guys are destined to throw down in the octagon once more. When it comes to how their paths will intersect again, that’s a much tougher question to answer. Dustin will be on his way to fighting Charles Oliveira for the belt. On the other hand Conor has to recover from this injury and now is coming in 3-4 for his last 7 MMA fights. Conor truthfully is 2-3 wins away from legitimately challenging for UFC Gold once again. But this is Conor McGregor, and he tends to get what he wants. If Dustin Poirier becomes champion and pulls a Kamaru Usman and calls out the money fight with Conor McGregor, we could see this fight again. If not in that manner, we can see this fight in 2-3 years after Dustin might be past his title reign and at 34-35, these guys will still be in great competitive shape. If Dustin fails to win the belt, maybe that’s the next fight for him since it would get him probably the most money out of any fight. Regardless, this rivalry seems far from over and I feel we are bound to see these two grace the octagon once again.

 

2. Gilbert Burns is one (small) step closer to a shot at UFC Gold

 

Gilbert Burns was able to solve the puzzle of Wonderboy Thompson in the co-main event of the card, and regardless of Dana White wanting to tout his win as a “boring” one, this sets him one step closer to a rematch with Kamaru Usman. Burns was able to rock Usman in the first round of their first encounter and on his account he claimed to get over-excited chasing the finish. That lead to his ultimate demise, but not without showing he does have the ability to put the champ in danger. Stephen Thompson has some of the best takedown defense and his wide karate stance and unique usage of kicks makes him a hard puzzle to figure out. Burns was able to close the distance and rely on his ground game expertise in route to tying a personal best 3 takedowns. With this win, he shouldn’t need more than another win or two to be able to challenge Usman once again.

 

3. Sean O’ Malley has to fight a top Bantamweight next 

 

Sean O’Malley and Kris Moutinho put on an absolute show to start off the pay-per-view card. The Sugar Show was in full effect with O’Malley showboating in between strikes and hitting at a near record clip. He landed 230 significant strikes before Herb Dean saw enough. But Kris Moutinho raised his stock just as much in this fight, if not more. He continued to walk O’Malley down even after getting dropped at the end of the first round. He would’ve made it to the scorecards if Dean didn’t waive the fight off but it was more than likely for his own good. This fight showed us that O’Malley is leaps and bounds ahead of someone who is a newcomer and is worthy of a top bantamweight to fight next. Whether it’s Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz, Petr Yan, or “Fob Ront” (His own personal twist on Rob Font) is still yet to be seen 

 

4. Tai Tuivasa is evidence of building your own star 

 

Tai Tuivasa has become beloved by fans because of his famous post fight “shoey”. When he stepped into the arena during his walkout, the crowd erupted for one of the biggest pops of the night. Tai is proof that you can build your own star in the UFC. He’s been interactive with fans on social media and shows the awesome personality he has on top of being a great Heavyweight. It’s in the best interest of the UFC for more of their fighters to understand how to build fandom behind your name. Of course winning will always be number one, but if you’re able to create a community of fans in the UFC, you will have unbound support throughout your career. 

 

5. Michel Periera is our next exciting fighter rising up the ranks

 

Periera’s fight vs Niko Price was a fight between two of the most exciting, spontaneous fighters there. With this win, he has won 4 of his 6 UFC fights, 5 of 6 if you don’t count his DQ loss vs Diego Sanchez which he was winning handily. He’s proven to be able to do it on the ground and standing up, and his unique style makes him a hard person to imitate in training. With some good competition under his belt like Niko Price and Khaos Williams, it seems like now is the time to put him up against an upper echelon guy in this division. Two guys I feel would be great learning matchups for him would be Carlos Condit, who’s coming off of a loss now or Geoff Neal who is on a slight skid. One thing’s for sure for Periera, his unique fighting style and showmanship in the ring will make him a name to remember.

 

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Which Miami Dolphins to Draft in Fantasy

 

Since I began playing fantasy football in 2012, I have been able to pick up some ironclad rules as to how to draft and operate my fantasy team. Without divulging all my “confidential” information, I can give the one that always hurt me the most: I refused to draft or pick up any Miami Dolphins. The heart and the brain just could never decide how to properly handle sits and starts. Also, any NE Patriot, they truly are a week-to-week team depending on the matchup. Now in 2021 I still have that rule but maybe some of you guys or gals are better than me at this and can handle the emotional roller coaster. Here I am to break down some possible fantasy football options on your 2021 Miami Dolphins.

Myles Gaskin
Myles Gaskin when healthy last season was one of the top 10 most productive RBs when it came to yards from scrimmage and 11th overall player.

 

Finishing the year with 972 in just 10 games played, dealing with covid, and spraining his MCL. If he had produced instead of 97.2 yards from scrimmage per game around 85-87 because of more usage at 16 games, he would have a little under 1400 total scrimmage yards with around 5-6 TDs. Gaskin 2 main obstacles in reaching said numbers in now a 17-game season would be how much teams focus on stopping the run to see if Tua can really beat them with his arm early in the year and also having players like Ahmed, Brown (potential TD vulture) and Gerrid Doaks looming in a potential RBBC but with that said, Gaskin has shown the resiliency needed to always fight his way onto the field as an integral part of the offense and I expect it to continue that way.

William Fuller
Speaking of Tua, his shiny new toy from the off-season is William Vincent Fuller V. A true threat to score from all 3 levels. He brings something that this offseason sorely lacked last season in speed, game-breaking speed to be exact. I won’t sugarcoat it for you though, he’s about the biggest boom or bust player in the entire league.


Every game that Fuller surpassed 100 yards receiving he followed it up with less than 60 yards every single time, with 2 instances of less than 38 yards, but in 2020 with DW he had his most consistent year in terms of playing all 11 games before his suspension as well as being a constant TD machine with 8 In 11 games. If Tua can put it all together, he and Fuller could put up huge fantasy points in a 17-game season.

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Devante Parker
DVP is someone that feels like I always must defend in some sort of fashion, but this is a guy who all his career was put down for missing games for little nagging injuries but quietly performed even while dealing with a QB controversy and an outdated playbook.

In games where Parker saw 9+ more targets he had 10 catches for 110 yards vs Seattle, 6 catches for 61 yards and 1 TD vs the Broncos, 8 catches for 119 yards vs the Jets, and 7 catches for 116 yards vs the Bills. If Tua can find the chemistry that Fitz had with DVP, they both could unlock a dynamic duo with him and Fuller that will leave defenses with pick your poison scenarios every game.

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Jaylen Waddle
Jaylen is the biggest unknown in this offense as he should in theory be looking at the starting slot job, but something about the way the Dolphins like to slowly bring rookies along especially early in the year doesn’t let me foresee him having enough targets to warrant an early draft pick for him. If you can take him late in the draft or through waivers/FA, he would be a great bench stash as he could explode later in the year once he’s adjusted to the speed of the game as well as showing the coaching staff, he can handle what’s required from him on the mental side because we know what kind of electric talent he is with the ball in his hands.

Mike Gesicki
Mike was probably the biggest disappointment in terms of how little they game planned to use him as the weapon that he is. Too many times I would see the game clock and notice it’s the middle of the second quarter and Gesicki was just getting his first target in the game. Mike is one of the few true mismatch TEs in the NFL and when you don’t script 2/3 of the first 15/20 plays to him, what’s the point of even having him on the team?

When you also only get 5.7 targets per game (13th best among TEs) you don’t get a chance to get into a rhythm in the same way WRs and other elite TEs can. If Mike can get more opportunities and be fed early and often he could put up big numbers with Tua as they have already shown the trust needed to perform at elite levels like in the Kansas City game.

Jason Sanders
Jason quietly put together a very strong 2020 finishing as the number 1 overall kicker in fantasy football with 172 points. He was also able to do it at a consistent pace as he beat his projections in 12 of the 17 games he played. If Jason finds himself again with an offense that struggles in the RedZone, he may find himself to finish well in the top 5 in fantasy points for Kickers again in 2021.

Tua?
The biggest wildcard for the entire Miami Dolphins is Tua Tagovailoa because if he doesn’t perform how many expect, the entire offense might take a step back. Let’s not dive too deep into his numbers as they have been looked at from every which way possible enough this offseason. Let’s instead try to project what he could potentially look like with a real offseason, another year post-injury, more time to work on chemistry with WRs, and with the organization giving him their full support for 2021. Tua could potentially be looking at a year with around 3500-3800 yards with 24-28 TDs passing and another 3-5 TDs rushing. Tua has the talent at the skill positions to potentially have a second-year breakout but it’s up to him and the talent put in front of him to go and get it done.

 

 

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Breaking Down the Film of a Miami Heat-Olympic Reunion

After Team USA faced off against Team Nigeria on Saturday night, also known as the Miami Heat showcase game, there’s plenty of things to dive into from this match-up. Gabe Vincent dominance, Bam Adebayo starting, Precious Achiuwa’s block, and a crucial possession from KZ Okpala leave us with plenty to discuss.

So let’s not waste any time, and jump right into the film of each of their individual performances.

Bam Adebayo:

Double Drag Dominance 

When discussing a Miami Heat offense, the DHO’s will obviously be harped on, but they mix in a bunch of base sets with double drag. The frequency of those actions is another story.

With the firepower that Team USA has, they can run this set into the ground with an off the dribble shooter like Damian Lillard, a perimeter threat like Bradley Beal, and an athletic and skilled roller like Adebayo.

It felt like almost every time Adebayo received the ball in this action, points were an end result. When looking at the first clip above, the initial screen from Beal forces Okpala to switch onto him, leaving an open floor PnR for Lillard and Adebayo.

There’s no way for a defense to react that quickly on the front-line, meaning the back-side help is what they’re relying on. Easy slam for Adebayo for the first bucket of the game, and it wouldn’t be his last time in that action.

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Obviously Miami wouldn’t have the offensive gravity that a USA team has, but there’s a consistent theme with what I’ve been discussing. Finding ways to get Adebayo on the move is the point to harp on here, and these type of plays get him in his comfort zone.

Moving to the second clip above, it’s the same personnel, same action, just a different side of the floor. They start it off the same exact way with an Okpala switch, and a pocket pass to Adebayo, which I will dive into deeper in the next section.

The only difference this time around is that Okpala helps down for the cut-off, triggering some needed rotations from a defensive standpoint. Beal sees these rotations occurring as Vincent recovers, and immediately cuts to eliminate any offensive reset. Adebayo is patient and hits Beal in stride, and it’s the spot that he’s been doing most of his play-making damage for the last two years.

While the goal is to get him downhill with a scoring purpose, the most important part is the stuff that can be ran with added layers. The Heat’s constant back screening and movement would lead to plenty of these looks, but it would only happen if Adebayo gives his defender a reason to step up.

Pocket Pass Perfection

In that last double drag clip, we saw what that pocket pass led to, but that was far from being the only possession. The Heat adding a point guard will never stop being discussed, especially when seeing the immediate offensive leap from Adebayo when receiving the ball without hesitation after the ball-handler is blitzed.

The first clip above isn’t a pocket pass, but it’s important to show what can happen when capable passers are able to draw defenders whenever attacking the basket. An off the ball screen forces Beal and Adebayo into a 2 on 1, which leads to him getting Achiuwa to jump for an easy dump-off to Adebayo.

The second clip is the more important one, where Lillard avoids the screen in the PnR and gets Adebayo the ball in stride. After some easy rolling and paint buckets early on, both Okpala and Achiuwa angle themselves toward the paint on this possession. Adebayo reads it and takes that free throw line jumper that I expect to expand by the start of the season.

It’s really just as simple as getting him in his spots while putting a defense into a state of constant movement and recovery. If that can be semi-replicated in a Heat offense, that is when Adebayo can take yet another jump.

A Post Move Deficiency 

Before stating the one negative aspect from Adebayo in this game, I decided to expand this play a few seconds to point something out with Achiuwa, who is up next in this piece. His ball control and hands still seem to be problematic at times, and I don’t believe it will be fixed until he slows down a bit. And well, he won’t be able to slow down until he gets significant playing time, which is what the Olympics and Summer League will do for him.

Back to Adebayo, this play flows into an isolation for him on the block, and his next move is usually pretty predictable. (Especially when you’re being defended by your teammate) After one shoulder check on the back down, he tries to spin into that baseline jumper. Of course he’s much more comfortable when he is facing the basket, but shifting to that whenever he’s in the post will get shut down quickly.

This puts him in an odd spot as he tries to scoop it up with the reverse, which doesn’t work. The positive flashes were fluid with him on Saturday night, but developing some type of go-to with his back to the basket feels like it’s essential.

Precious Achiuwa

Major Defensive Flashes

Precious Achiuwa clearly had his moments last night, but we have to start it off with “the” moment. Jayson Tatum feeds the ball into Kevin Durant with a wide open baseline, which is the last player you want to give that to. As he spins into the drive, Achiuwa reacts and tries to beat him to the spot.

He may not have beat him to the spot, but he beat him at the rim. An incredible showcase of athleticism leads to an emphatic block at the basket, taking some things out of Adebayo’s book from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Using the left hand for a block on that side of the rim eliminates the contact for a foul call, and he gets a career highlight in the making.

In some ways, the second clip above is more important than the first. Achiuwa’s defense is an interesting topic, since his individual defense has looked pretty good up to this point, both on the block and the perimeter, but some rotations and switches become problematic at times.

But as seen above, he locks in on Beal to finish the second quarter, as he begins to put his moves on him off the dribble. The first part of this is that his foot speed is looked faster than ever, as he didn’t give Beal a slimmer of hope the entire possession. The second part is that he didn’t fall for any fakes, which wasn’t the case in his rookie year.

If Achiuwa’s able to contain in that fashion without biting on the slightest of fakes, it changes a ton of things about his game. Once again, we will continue to harp on playing time being the hidden gem for him, especially since this is his first true off-season.

Stretch Big?

From a film breakdown sense, there’s nothing to dive to deeply into here. From a shot selection sense, I don’t think anybody expected to see this from Achiuwa this soon.

Adebayo backs off of Achiuwa as he receives the ball on the perimeter, and Achiuwa makes him pay. Expanded range for Achiuwa not only helps his own game, but it could possibly shift the way Miami elects to utilize him in the future. To answer questions a lot of you probably have, yes, this could very well mean that he could play next to Adebayo for extended minutes.

Do I expect this to become a high frequency thing for him? Absolutely not. Well, just not this soon.

Looking at that play, his form looks perfect and there’s no hesitation when he lets it go. Will he have that same freedom in an NBA environment? I don’t think anybody can answer that but Achiuwa, yet it’s very clear that his self confidence translates to level of effectiveness.

Needing A Decision-Making Boost

If there’s one thing that can be taken away from this game in a negative sense, it’s that his decision making still needs a major upgrade. Looking at the first clip above, he just doesn’t really ever decide what he’s going to do with the ball until the last second. It refers back to slowing down a bit and just reacting, instead of forcing stuff.

Some unnecessary dribble moves lead to a trickling shot clock into a poor shot to end the possession. Those type of things just can’t happen, and they will continue to happen until he is comfortable enough to just make the occasional defensive read.

The second clip isn’t as much an inability to be decisive, but just about his shot selection. The shot clock was once again ticking down, but relying on a baseline isolation into a deep two is quite the choice.

One thing I will say is that he looked much more patient on his screens in most possessions, but patience with the ball in his hands has to be next in the queue. And well, he’s only coming off his first year, so he has time.

KZ Okpala

One-on-One Defensive Attributes

KZ Okpala’s evaluation only needs two sections: a defensive one and an offensive one. The reasoning is that’s his positive and negative elements. He looks so comfortable and fluid on one end of the floor, while so out of place on the other.

Starting with his defensive presence, I could probably make a 3 minute montage of him pressuring the ball-handler down the court every play, or sprinting toward the baseline after a bucket to press. But that doesn’t sum up his abilities on that end the way this play above does.

Nigeria basically went 14 deep in this game, subbing guys in and out for different circumstances. This situation, though, is a 3 point game with 13 seconds left. Everybody in the building, everybody on the team, and everybody watching on TV knew they were getting the ball to Kevin Durant.

But what if you don’t let it get to that point?

That was Okpala’s mentality on this final possession, while it says something about him for the Coach to trust him in this spot from a one-on-one sense. Aside from that, just watch Okpala on this play. He stays square between Durant and the ball-handler, not allowing them to get into the initial action.

It leads to them fouling with 3 seconds left which essentially ended the game, all due to Okpala’s DB skills. It’s not an overstatement that his defensive skills are that good, while the only thing I can add is that his over-aggression can get him in trouble at times, such as the two early fouls in this game.

Lack of Offensive Stability 

As for the other side of the ball, things just don’t appear to be coming together. Before the game, I mentioned that I wanted to see Okpala in a role that wasn’t a spot-up guy in the corner or the wing.

But that was exactly what his role was offensively.

PnR’s with him as the ball-handler seem to be a cakewalk for defenses, since they can go under screens effortlessly, without adding any weak-side help. The play above was just a miscommunication on the switch, and still he couldn’t capiatlize.

Other than that, his length and quickness should be the perfect combination for a versatile attacker on the ball. Yet, some things seem to be holding that back.

Take a look at the second clip above, where although he’s being defended by Adebayo, the dribble spams have continued to be the unnecessary go-to. His player build shows that he has the pieces to put it all together, but at the moment, the pieces are all over the place.

Gabe Vincent

Defensive Physicality Continues

Before jumping into the topic of the night with Gabe Vincent, his shooting, I want to touch on something that continues to pop up with him. His defensive toughness is no fluke, since he showed that whenever he was plugged into the lineup last season, basically being the sample for how the 2-2-1 press should work.

Diving on the floor, scrappy possessions, and most importantly, utilizing his unexpected strength. Plays like the one above occur frequently, where the offensive player sees a clear height advantage, not knowing the strength advantage is nonexistent.

Beal tries to bully Vincent on the back-down, but it just doesn’t work as he stays complacent with the contest and positioning, leading to a miss. While many observers were focused on shooting when he came in the game last season, his defensive physicality forced some to do a double take. And combining that with a revived jumper makes it quite interesting.

A Shooting Leap or a Shooting Normality?

When Vincent spoke with media after the season ended, he mentioned that he tweaked his jumper mid-season, which forced him into an adjustment period. He wanted to maximize his range and consistency, and this first game proved that to be true.

He shot the ball in multiple ways: pull-ups, spot-ups, off the dribble. That type of diversity for him is so crucial, and it may have been a focus for him over the past few months.

I asked him after the season about his next step being a leap as an on-ball threat, after being utilized more and more in that way with the Heat. He said that would be a focus for him in the off-season, sharpening those skills with the ball in his hands, and there was some immediate production against Team USA.

Playing on that stage against some of the NBA’s top talent, it’s not normal to be the leading scorer as a NBA player on a two-way contract. But between the Heat’s developmental system and Vincent’s self working improvements, he has a shot to be really effective as long as consistency continues to be his label.

It may be looked at as a shooting leap in this initial game, but I believe it’s actually a shooting normality. It’s just now really coming together.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

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Canes add 4th commit for 2022 in CB Graves

Despite the big misses this past week, July is expected to be a big month for Miami on the recruiting trail, and it seems like we got the first taste of it on Friday afternoon.

Coaches got great news from 4-star CB Chris Graves out of Bishop Verot (Ft. Myers, FL), who committed to the Canes over LSU, UF, and South Carolina. The 4th commitment in the 2022 class, Graves is ranked as the 288th-best player in the country according the 247Sports’ Composite and the 15th-best athlete.

The 6’1″, 175 pound Graves, who doesn’t turn 18 until August 2022, is listed as an athlete because he is a converted wide receiver. Out wide, he totaled 500+ receiving yards as a junior.

 

But a couple of traits that DB coach Travaris Robinson coveted while recruiting him was his length and his physicality. 247Sports’ Andrew Ivins notes in his scouting report that he’ll likely fit in a system that likes to play a lot of press and/or bump coverage.

 

Another interesting tidbit that Ivins dropped was that another person who played a big role in bringing Graves to Miami is former South Carolina CB and recent NFL first-round pick Jaycee Horn of the Carolina Panthers.

 

Horn spoke to Graves Thursday night and convinced him that coach T-Rob could coach and develop him.

 

It’s no secret that cornerback was a huge position of need for Miami. Especially considering that with a sub-par performance from Miami’s corners in 2020, there was only one freshman newcomer in Malik Curtis, who happened to attend the same high school that Graves hails from.

 

Miami missed out on 3 big targets in the past week: CB Jacolby Spells (West Virginia), DL Zane Durant (Penn State), and LB Demario Tolan (LSU).

 

Tolan’s commitment especially hurt because Miami lost this battle to former Canes DC Blake Baker and some Canes fans have gone restless over the lack of excitement on the trail.

But as we talked about on the latest episode of The Sixth Ring, it’s still early to get an idea of what Miami’s class will look like, especially when no games have been played yet.

 

Miami is still in play for a lot of big fish, including Jaleel Skinner, who is the #1 ranked tight end in the country, and five-star CB Jaheim Singletary, who is currently committed to Ohio State.

 

Believe me when I say this: if Miami wins games, recruits will take notice and it’ll be hard to ignore.

 

Don’t forget to sign up for Prizepicks, the industry’s leading over/under fantasy game. Use the code “five” to get up to $100 matched on your initial deposit. They’re continuously adding more options so you can you predict even more specific stats when it comes to either the NBA Finals or the MLB regular season.

Five Takeaways from the McGregor-Poirier Presser

Leading up to potentially the biggest fight in UFC history, Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier took two completely different approaches going into the press conference. Conor came in as the Conor we knew when he made his phenomenal run, making quirky remarks, waging psychological warfare, and guaranteeing victory. On the other hand, Dustin kept everything strictly business, not biting at any bait thrown out by McGregor or paying any mind to the pro-Conor crowd. But he did not have a lack of confidence or focus coming in. This led to a perfect balance of two fighters on the opposite ends of the spectrum going right at each other. Let’s take a look at some of the top takeaways from the press conference 

 

  1. Dustin delivered the best line of the Press conference

Before I can deliver the line in a way that was as powerful as how Dustin said it, some context is needed. For the first 15 minutes of the press conference, McGregor would continually attack Dustin while Dustin would remain calm. After these continual attacks, one media member asked Conor why he went from being kind in the buildup to the last fight to now flipping the switch end being aggressive, as to which Dustin answered

 

 “Because he got knocked the f#%k out… Not McGregor Fast, McGregor sleep” 

 

This comment got the biggest pop of the night and left Conor unable to say anything. Dustin picked his shot perfectly and delivered exactly what needed to be delivered without overdoing it. He kept quiet for most of the time but when he spoke, it was worth listening to.. 

 

  1. Conor has no lack of volume on the Mic

 

It was very evident that from the start of the press conference, we were going to see the McGregor of old. The psychological warfare, the head games, the non stop verbal shots, it was all there for Conor. Every time a question was asked to Dustin, Conor would interject and trash Dustin in whichever way he could. Conor seemed to have prepared a myriad of one liners to try and get into Dustin’s head. From personal attacks to his wife to just saying he sees a dead man, there was no shortage of the verbal ammunition McGregor had prepared.

 

(Catch a preview of the fight with Alex Donno’s Five Rounds sponsored by Quarterdeck)

 

 

  1. Dustin was unaffected by the trash talk

The biggest growth for “The Diamond” from the first fight might be his mental growth. Undoubtedly his skills in the octagon have taken leaps and bounds but for Dustin, the mental edge that he brings into every fight is one that is rarely seen. He famously says 

“ A fight isn’t a fight until there’s something to overcome” 

In this press conference, Conor would continually cut Dustin off, talk trash to him, get the crowd riled up and even try to make things personal by bringing up his wife. At the end of all of it, Dustin was completely unphased by any of it, smiling away. When one reporter asked both guys if they respect each other, Conor gave his classic “ I don’t give a fook” while Dustin said yes I respect Conor and everything he’s done. At that moment the world knew that the pressure from early in his career has made The Diamond unbreakable. 

 

  1. Conor’s losses have affected his luster 

When Conor McGregor was going to face Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight championship, he was the winner of 15 straight. That type of winning against top level competition was nearly unheard of and the way he was knocking people out left and right touted his left hand “The Kiss of Death”. Even going into the Khabib fight he was the winner of 18 of his last 19 in the UFC so the star still shined. But now being 3-3 in his last 6 with his only win since 2016 being a win over a past-prime Cowboy Cerrone, that threat and mystique of Conor is no longer there. Of course he is still the sport’s biggest star, but is he still the top of the competitive mountain? Absolutely not. He got knocked out by Dustin Poirier and  choked out by Khabib and Nate Diaz. Those losses take away the invincibility factor and make his words have less meaning. Athletes now understand it’s what’s done inside the Octagon that really counts, and Conor can only affect you if you buy into what he says. 

 

  1. Dustin won the Press Conference 

When it came down to it, we saw what we thought we would see with both guys. Conor came out constantly attacking Dustin and on the other hand Dustin would let most of it slide. But when it came to delivering the KO punch, Dustin delivered it perfectly, getting the biggest reaction from a Pro-McGregor Crowd. Add that on to the unphased mentality of Dustin Poirier and it was clear that McGregor was unable to get into Dustin’s head. Conversely, the small lines that Dustin did say would shut Conor up completely, taking him out of his element and looking starved for a comeback. Of course we will see how it plays out in the octagon but when it came to the verbal warfare, tally this win down for Dustin Poirier.

 

You can follow Johnathan on Twitter @ThreePieceCombo

How Would Jeff Green Plug into the Miami Heat’s Roster?

After diving into a bunch of top free agency and trade options for the Miami Heat this off-season, it’s time to take a look down the depth chart a bit more. In a perfect scenario, the Heat snag their point guard as free agency opens, and possibly get a deal done for a three level scorer through a trade.

No matter the situation, cheaper guys will need to be added to fulfill the rotation. And as much as I touch on a young big being slotted in next to Bam Adebayo being super ideal in a long term sense, it just doesn’t seem like a viable option at the current moment with what is out there.

One group of guys that is for sure out there though is cheaper wings and bigs that can be plugged into that four spot next to Adebayo. There is still a chance that Trevor Ariza could be back on a similar deal, but it seems like certain guys on the same money-line may be better fits for next year’s roster.

The first guy up is Jeff Green, who is getting up there in age, but doesn’t seem to matter considering the fact it’ll be a short-term deal and he’s still contributing at a high level. So, what exactly does he bring to the table at this stage, specifically in a Miami Heat system?

Pick and Pop Specialist or Pure Floor Spacer

When watching Jeff Green this past season with the Brooklyn Nets, next to a big three of that caliber, he found himself as the corner spacer a lot of the time. He’s the perfect guy for the job, since his smooth looking jumper took a three-point shooting leap to the best mark of his career.

Shooting 41% from three on a little under 4 attempts a game is impressive, but the spot-up numbers made it look even better. Almost all of his threes come off the catch and shoot, but untimely possessions force some stats to become jumbled. On set jumpers though, he shot 44% this past season, while it jumped to 56% in the post-season in a small sample size.

Most of these options that I will discuss are capable of knocking down that corner three to eliminate easy tags on the roll. But incorporating more than the corner three shifts this conversation.

In a Brooklyn offense, he played a good amount of small ball 5, meaning he was a constant screener in many lineups. And when guys like James Harden or Kevin Durant are in the PnR, easy wing threes are a result as seen above.

Relating back to the Heat, the question becomes: would those looks be similar without Nets-level rim pressure? As mentioned earlier, in this scenario, I’m acting as if they completed their agenda by adding a veteran point guard in free agency. And if you give Jimmy Butler another attacker and facilitator, like Kyle Lowry, then things can look similar.

But those type of vets can obviously mesh with a stretch four like himself, but what about Bam Adebayo?

The Bam Adebayo Complement

In simple terms, you can say it’s clear they would fit well together with his natural perimeter spacing, as pointed out in the previous shooting section. But I believe this conversation can be expanded in different ways.

For one, take a look at the first two video clips above. The outcome you may get from that is the same as before, a spot-up threat from deep, but that’s not the important part.

Instead, his area of operation strikes as an interesting point. Both of those possessions that resulted in a three began with him creating the space from the elbow. Who else loves those elbow jumpers? Bam Adebayo.

We’ve been talking about ways to push Adebayo into more of a scoring mentality, and this could be equally as important as a point guard. Guys like Jae Crowder and Trevor Arize didn’t operate from those type of spots inside the arc, forcing Adebayo to take advantage of it.

The only time actions on the wing were ran for him was when the shot clock was ticking down and he was forced to shoot. This acquisition may push him into different spots that can propel his offensive abilities. Why else should he relocate from the elbow at times? Well, look at the last clip above.

They must slowly back Adebayo away from the constant DHO’s, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to abort the entire offensive plan. To continue the spacing, hand-offs must be run to get guys like Adebayo into the right spots to be effective. But it just doesn’t always have to be Adebayo running that action.

As seen in that clip, they can expand Green off the free throw line into DHO’s, which we can call the Adebayo role. Now, don’t take this as Adebayo never occupying the free throw line, where he’s grown so comfortable, and Green leaving his second home in the corners. It’s just that this pick-up gives the offense some diversity, and it’s well known that Miami’s offense needs some additional options to keep it fresh.

Defensive Versatility

When I said he was playing a lot of small ball 5, it was mostly because he’s very capable of doing it, and that alone has to grab Miami’s attention. He’s able to switch onto smaller guys, much like Ariza did last season, while holding his ground on the block, much like Crowder did the year prior.

They need middle ground between those two players, and I believe Green can be that guy, regardless of his age. As seen above, easy rotations once guys get blown by at the top of the key became second nature for him, and that’s a necessary element on a Heat team with the lack of strong point of attack defense.

It’s not just about a guy that can handle a bigger match-up, which I’ll dive into next, but taking those match-ups mean that they have a viable weak side defender for Adebayo to roam the perimeter. Ariza’s quickness allowed him to be the perfect tagger when Butler and Adebayo were in the action, but once the big man got the reception, he was one drop step away from an easy basket.

So, could Green change that narrative in some ways?

He does a very good job at containing in a general sense, either the avoidance of biting on the perimeter or the non-committal play-style when defending the PnR. In the play above, he doesn’t overplay either one of them, forcing the ball-handler to dump it off to the big.

Alex Len gives Green that shoulder that usually works against those type of forwards, but he didn’t move him like he expected. He stays strong when he rises up, and gets the block to complete a great defensive possession.

The reason I included the word versatility to begin this topic is not just because of his ability to guard the perimeter and paint. It’s actually because he can be plugged into some different spots on that end of the floor, either as the help-side guy that I mentioned before, or the main defender in the action when Adebayo is on the sideline.

His length plays a big part in all of this, and his experience definitely helps a lot as well. At this stage of his career, he probably wants structure, and a coach like Erik Spoelstra would definitely give him that.

Secondary Offensive Options

To cap this off, it’s always great to talk about the “other” parts of his game. We know about the shooting stuff and his favorite spots on the floor, but what is his secondary option?

Well, he is not much of a mid-range player, but can knock it down when it is given to him. Going back to my point about his work on the elbow, that number may rise in a Heat offense.

Other than that, he shoots about 3 shots a game less than 10 feet from the basket, which is where he does his damage offensively when we aren’t discussing three-point shooting. And if we’re going to get very specific, a good portion of his two-point attempts are generated from the perimeter.

With slower bigs defending a quick trigger, it leads to plenty of pump-fakes into dribble drives. While Ariza lacked that type of rim pressure, Green can bring that when the triple is falling, which is super beneficial to the Heat’s motion offense.

The other way stuff inside the paint is generated is when he’s the screener. Once again, it helps when you’re playing with the offensive firepower the Nets have, due to constant blitzes becoming the theme, but it’s still his game when he receives it in there.

The Heat aren’t really known for those type of entry passes for post touches, but a point guard will get him that pocket pass when he needs it. Not only do we see another utilization of the pump-fake on the play above, but it’s another strong and hard take that Miami misses. They may not want to fully commit to a true big, but a stretch four that plays bigger than he is will truly be useful.

And going back to Adebayo, once he gets the confidence and offensive freedom next season, it makes all of these guys’ jobs easier. Cleaner spacing, some 4-5 pick and pops, and much more. It’ll be an Erik Spoelstra field day.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

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The Keys to the Rest of the NBA Finals

The Phoenix Suns are up 1-0 in the NBA Finals.

What determines the rest of the series?

 

1.Bucks figuring out the size issue vs Phoenix. In Game one Suns center Deandre Ayton had 22 points and 19 rebounds, if that happens every game it will be a short series for Milwaukee. Brook Lopez played just 23 minutes and when that happens there is nobody on the Bucks to battle Ayton’s size. Believe it or not this wasn’t just coach Bud not playing his starters heavy minutes like what happened in the bubble with Giannis last year. When Lopez was out there in game one Chris Paul and Devin Booker were hunting him on switches and made him unplayable. If Lopez is going to be on the floor Milwaukee needs to avoid Lopez being switched onto Paul or Booker plain and simple. Lopez shot 50 percent from the floor and finished with 17 points in his minutes which is good from a production standpoint. Although the +/- stat doesn’t say everything especially with a one game sample, Lopez had a team worst -17 last night which isn’t going to cut it. An answer for some of Lopez’s defensive struggles can be to keep him on Ayton and Ayton only. 

 

2. Free throw differential between the two teams. In game one the Bucks shot 9-16 from the line while Phoenix shot 25-26 from the line. Devin Booker himself shot 10 of 10 from the line and if he is going to make more free throws than the Bucks himself, I’m not sure this series is winnable for Milwaukee. Khris Middleton played 45 minutes in game one and didn’t shoot a single free throw and that must change moving forward. Middleton must match or be close to matching Devin Booker’s scoring in this series. A great way to do so is by getting to the line more often where Middleton shoots nearly 90 percent. Jrue Holiday got to the line just two times himself and that won’t cut it especially when he shoots 26 percent from the field as he did in game one. Two free throw attempts from Holiday and Middleton combined is something Phoenix will gladly take each game this series.

 

3. Jae Crowder’s scoring or lack of scoring. In game one Crowder played 33 minutes and shot 0-8 from the field and 0-5 from the three-point line. In the playoffs this year Crowder has averaged just under 10 points per game while shooting 39 percent from the field and 35 percent from three. Crowder needs to get back to those numbers especially as this series goes on the road to Milwaukee. Paul and Booker both had great games, so Crowder’s lack of scoring didn’t matter but that won’t be the case every game. Crowder has been a streaky shooter in his career but if he can shoot around his 35 percent from three playoff average it will greatly improve the Suns chances at raising the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of this series. He is a great defender especially vs Giannis as Heat fans saw last year but he must provide something on offense to be a net positive for Phoenix. Suns forward Dario Saric tore his ACL in game one and Saric had been an underrated piece for the Suns in the playoffs. To help fill Saric’s minutes Crowder may be asked to play even more minutes than the 33 minutes he played in game one. 

 

4. Chris Paul’s and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s health. Paul suffered a shoulder injury in round one vs the Lakers and took most of the series to get back to form. Paul has had tough injury luck in the playoffs throughout his career. He’s missed time with the Clippers and Rockets in the past leaving people wondering what could have been had he not gotten injured. In game one Paul twisted his ankle when he was fouled on a three-point shot by Brook Lopez. Fortunately Paul was able to stay in the game and seems fine, but injuries are always a concern with Paul. Paul is an all-time great player and let’s hope that injuries stay out of the way as Paul seeks his first NBA championship in his legendary career. The other injury to watch in this series is with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hyperextended knee he suffered in the eastern conference finals. Many people including Giannis himself thought his season was over and next season was in jeopardy. Thankfully the injury wasn’t as serious as initially thought but still many assumed Giannis was out for game one, but he surprised everyone and played. He looked very good in game one scoring 20 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in 35 minutes. While he was effective in the first game there is always a concern of reinjuring his knee much like Kevin Durant did with his Achilles in the 2019 NBA finals. The number of minutes Giannis plays is something to watch given he’s coming off an injury. Coach Bud has been heavily criticized in the past for not playing Giannis more minutes but now it may be justified to keep him around 35 minutes. When it gets to elimination games maybe Giannis will play as many minutes as it takes but it’s understandable to be slightly cautious the first couple games. The Bucks or Suns can’t win the NBA championship without Paul or Giannis and that’s why these two and their health is the biggest key to watch for in the series. 

 

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Dolphins schedule

5 Things to know about the 2021 Miami Dolphins.

What to Look For, Three Weeks Prior to Training Camp…

#1- The Dolphins will continue to be a “Blitz Heavy” Defense in 2021.

With the addition of Jaelen Phillips, a much needed boost to the pass rush was had, and a narrative developed that Miami can now “use 4” to get to the QB. Blitzing would not be as necessary, and the numbers they bring could go down. Not So. In 2020, Miami brought 5 or more rushers at the 5th highest rate in the NFL, and used Cover 0 at the highest rate PFF.com has tracked in the last 5 years. Miami likes to play Cover 1, and like to dictate to the offense on 3rd down. That entails fronts that make the offense adjust pass protection, and thus, requires multiple rushers in as many gaps as possible. Jaelen Phillips should help with the overall pass rush win rate which was mid pack at 40% last season. Sending numbers on defense is not a Bug for Miami, it’s a feature.

#2- Miami is now an 11 personnel team on offense. (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB)

Miami drafted a WR at 6th overall. That alone coupled with what they have on the roster says they need to get as many of these guys on the field as possible, but it doesn’t stop there. The signing of Will Fuller allows for more natural alignments with DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, etc. While Jaylen Waddle is the Slot threat, others can play alongside Fuller/Waddle in bunch formations, and force communication in the secondary. Getting speed on the field seems to be what the Dolphins were going for this offseason, and getting the defense to call switches will be a feature. While Waddle stretches the defense laterally, Fuller threatens vertically, Parker, Preston, etc., are free to negotiate routes they are best at running. Make no mistake, this unit was constructed to work in tandem, and thus, they must be on the field together.

#3- The “rebuild” is complete.

Miami tore down the roster, in it’s entirety in 2019, and has meticulously gone about filling every perceived hole on the roster. The Dolphins return 3 starters from 2019 to the 2021 team on offense (Jesse Davis, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki) and 4 on defense (Jerome Baker, Christian Wilkins, Eric Rowe, Xavien Howard). They have drafted, or signed, 15 starters for the 2021 team the last 2 offseasons. Most of these signings, represent longterm commitments from either, high Day 1, 2 draft picks, or significant free agent signings or trades. There is simply not as many holes to fill anymore. The Miami Dolphins window for a championship is now officially open.

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#4- The Miami Dolphins have high expectations.

On the gambling front, Miami is now favored in 9 of 17 games (was 10), and has an over/under win total that has reached 9.5 games. Both represent the highest numbers in near 20 years. Most analysts are picking the Dolphins to be a playoff team, and after nearly getting there last season, and winning 10 games, why not? Miami has also gotten praise for their offseason, from signing Will Fuller, to their latest draft class. Improvement is expected. Second year QB Tua Tagovailoa, has worked on his body, has had a complete offseason (no rehab) and is free of his obligations to rehabbing his Hip Injury from 2019. He should also be completely in tune with the playbook having immersed himself in it for an entire offseason. A big “jump” is expected from what by any measure was, a decent rookie year. 10 wins is not only a baseline for this team, but the minimum requirement.

#5- Miami might have the NFL’s most exciting team.

We know about the defense and it’s propensity to blitz, but the offense is now very different, and a far cry from it’s “ball control” tendencies in 2020. The Offense as constructed, is built to use combination routes to free up shot plays, and the acquisitions of Waddle/Fuller now open up the field laterally as well as vertically. Miami’s running game, should feature more outside zone, now boasting several RB’s that are very good at it (Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, Salvon Ahmed). The return game has players such as Jaylen Waddle, and Jakeem Grant (if he makes it) which are threats to take every kickoff or punt they receive for a touchdown. Simply put, the 2021 Miami Dolphins have a young roster, that is constructed on speed and the big play on offense, pass pressure and turnovers on defense.

Stats are Courtesy of Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, ESPN.

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.

How Would Lonzo Ball Cover Up Some of Miami’s Issues?

Well, well, well. Another Miami Heat possible acquisition, another point guard. While the three different Heat needs are basically all over the board, it gives us some diversity to talk about certain options. But as I will continue to harp on, the other two needs just won’t work unless you fulfill the point guard position.

Unrestricted free agents like Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley are clear options, but why not talk about it in a more complicated fashion? Lonzo Ball will be a restricted free agent this off-season, and decisions will have to be made.

As I’ve talked about with players like CJ McCollum in the past, new coaches like to take the franchise player and try to build around him only. That leaves second and third options in a weird spot, which could either be used as a trade chip or just walk away.

The New Orleans Pelicans are going to have to immediately please Zion Williamson following recent reports, and the way to please him is to win. So, if they end up moving on from Ball, could the Miami Heat enter the discussion?

I believe so, but it’s going to come down to timing this off-season. As I usually do, let’s just jump right into his overall game, and evaluate the ways that he can patch up some of Miami’s weaknesses…

Oh, A Point Guard

If you’ve been watching Lonzo Ball for some time, you’d know that the clip above isn’t anything new. It was seen in AAU basketball, high school, college, and now the NBA. He’s a gifted passer, but more importantly, he’s a fast paced passer.

What that means is that he’s instinctive. Decision making is a key element to many young player’s games, especially most of the youthful Heat players on the current roster. The thing about that attribute is that it can always be improved, but it’s obvious that you either have it or you don’t.

Well, Ball has just that, and the Miami Heat need just that. Transition play-making aside, which I’ll dive into down the line, they need a guy who can set up half-court sets for guys like Bam Adebayo to truly thrive.

It’s not just about his passing opening guys up, but what that skill leads to. In a very odd New Orleans environment, including another point guard in the back-court and plenty of isolations for Brandon Ingram or post touches for Williamson, he had a bunch of off the ball reps. And that’s the one thing that prepared him for this type of offense.

Yes, Adebayo and others need a trusted facilitator to take the keys, but creating a free-flowing offensive rhythm is more than that. Those off-ball reps in New Orleans allowed him to be a screener in many actions, either slipping them for triples or getting guys moving downhill.

Not only does Adebayo need that guy to get him downhill, but being a threat when slipping screens eliminates the delayed recovery. Luckily for Ball, he’s become a threat in that area….

Increased Shooting

Entering the NBA draft, everybody had an opinion about Lonzo Ball’s crooked looking jumper. Would it work at the next level? Would he eventually tweak it or is it too late? And the answer to that last question was apparent recently.

As time progressed, the jumper began to look more and more fluid, which then leads us into the effectiveness of it. Last season, he was still trying to figure it out a bit, and shot 37% from three on 6 attempts.

Then we saw both numbers increase this past season, jumping up to 39% from deep on 8 attempts a game. And from the Heat’s perspective, I believe that’s what makes him so much more intriguing at this stage.

He’s still growing as a player and a shooter, since the pull-up triple territory definitely needs another numbers booth. But nobody expected his spot-up shooting to look so pure this soon, so I guess anything is possible. When comparing him to some of the Heat’s guards, I believe they share a mutual thing relating to the mental side of the game.

We’ve noticed Tyler Herro thriving with confidence and rhythm when a couple of shots fall early, and Ball looks to be that same way when looking at him under a microscope. Discussing physical growth and dedication to improve is one thing, but being willing to jump up to 8 three-point attempts a game following a previous play-style is clearly another thing. That type of willingness is something else Miami should be taking note of as their exact build.

How Do Things Look Inside the Arc?

When shifting into the other two parts of the half-court offense, the narrative changes a bit. Some of the offensive issues are shown when he’s put in these one-on-one or downhill situations, which is clearly something the Heat also lack.

He thrives in certain PnR sets, but not for the same reasons that many other players that I’ve discussed do. He doesn’t dominate with a great amount of separation or a go-to floater/mid-range pull-up. He pressures the rim with his gifted passing ability that the defense is awaiting.

It’s not that he’s incapable of surveying the mid-range for good looking buckets, since plenty of flashes came up like the one above. The beloved snake dribble and right to left step-back equals Lonzo Ball’s PnR peak scoring abilities. If they could get that consistently, this discussion changes.

I don’t want you to think everything is all good with this type of acquisition, even though I’m highlighting a lot of strengths. Miami would be putting a lot into this type of addition, so they will have to be absolutely confident that it makes sense for the team’s short-term and long-term success.

Will the inside the arc stuff be the deterrent for Miami’s interest? I don’t believe so, but the cost may do that for them instead. Once again, the timing of all this will be the true tell, since the Heat won’t be risking this off-season all together for Lonzo Ball. If things line up though at the right time, it’s definitely a possibility.

Some Fast-Break Control

Speaking of high school and college flashes, nothing has changed about Ball’s willingness to run the floor freely. As I touched on in my latest piece answering some off-season questions, transition buckets are an interesting way to view things.

Usually pure youth lineups are the team’s that dominate the fast-break, like the Charlotte Hornets, but with a “position-less” unit, it feels like that area should be harped on more. And after the latest playoff series with a general lack of half-court offense, opening up the floor wouldn’t be the worst thing.

In a lot of ways, the point guard this team ends up getting will tell you how things will operate offensively. The offense would look much different with Ball in it compared to Lowry or Conley, leaving this whole topic up in the air. But in the event that Ball does find himself in Miami, I believe we see an offensive shift.

As I touched on earlier, this type of move would be a pretty big risk for the Heat, so they must alter certain things to make it work. Ball is the type of player that can adjust rather quickly, and he would fit an Erik Spoelstra type of scheme. Why is that? Although Ball is linked to an AAU or high school play-style, Coach Spo is basically the same way, just in a much more complex way.

2-2-1 presses to 2-3 zones to defensive gems free lancing. He’s basically the ideal coach for a guy like Lonzo Ball, but how does he look on that end of the floor?

Point of Attack Defense Slotting In

To answer that question that I just proposed, he is known to create havoc on the defensive end. Unlike a lot of other defensive guys that I dove into so far, Ball isn’t good at just one specific spot of a defense, which is why I say that Coach Spoelstra would love that type of gem.

Active hands, quick feet, and other physical adjectives don’t do him justice, since his IQ is what makes him so impactful. Looking at the clip above, you’d notice at the beginning of the play that four Pelican defenders are guarding three Warriors players.

How did they not capitalize with Draymond Green surveying the floor? Well, that’s because of the small elements of Lonzo Ball’s game.

He was the one guarding Green on this play, which led to him dipping all the way down for tags, daring him to shoot the three. It leads to a bunch of switching and recovering, leaving Ball guarding Andrew Wiggins as Green drove to the basket.

If you watch the play slowly, you’d notice that Ball reacts as soon as Green goes into his spin. The thing about that is he knows the following step is usually the easy kick-out in motion. He jumps out onto Wiggins, putting his arm up in the air, without looking, to deflect the pass. The steal is obtained and into transition offense they go.

The phrase one-dimensional comes up a lot in all of these pieces, but Ball could be able to cure some of that with his diverse and growing game on both ends. To be honest, if you were to ask me if this acquisition is super likely, I would probably lean no due to the unrestricted free agents appearing to be the favorites, but anything can happen in an NBA off-season.

If some things go in a different direction over the next month or so, we may be having a different discussion about the new starting point guard of the Miami Heat, and I’d bet Lonzo Ball’s name has swarmed around the front office at times.

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