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.

 

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