In many ways, Kyle Lowry doesn’t have a true weakness at this stage of his career.
He can still hold his own at the point of attack, sets others up in a way that Miami hasn’t had in forever, and can win a game by 42 points with only 1 field goal made.
In that all-around role, it has shown an incredible expansion for the players around him. The 27 points from Tyler Herro, 21 points from Jimmy Butler, and 20 points from Bam Adebayo isn’t the only reason I say that after beating a Bucks team without key players, but instead it’s the way they’re generating these looks and scoring 137 points in a game.
This is a super talented defensive team, but the descriptions don’t end there: this team can put up points…
Kyle Lowry Forcing Him into More and More Shot Attempts
How is Bam Adebayo’s aggression coming together so fluidly to begin the year. Is it the natural evolution of a young player like Erik Spoelstra noted? Is Adebayo going through those motions with a purpose? Or is it just simply Kyle Lowry?
Adebayo seems to think it’s the latter.
“It’s really because of Kyle in all honesty.”
It’s one thing to just put it out there in that sense, but it’s another thing for it to be absolutely correct when watching the game film. Yes, we see Adebayo “just going” even when Lowry is on the sideline, but there’s a specific edge and confidence that Lowry is feeding into.
Just take a look at the first clip: Adebayo has Giannis Antetokounmpo in space with an empty corner, but decides to pass back out to Lowry instead.
What does Lowry do? He immediately reinserts that ball into Adebayo in the post, and clears out to the opposite side of the floor. This isn’t last year when the guard would stand at the top of the key as a safety blanket for Adebayo’s eventual kick-out. This is Lowry saying ‘you’re shooting this ball no matter what.’
Consequently, Adebayo jabs and fires away for a bucket, which he did many times in this game. Even when speaking with media post-game, he noted that’s been a point of emphasis with him during the off-season. He’s comfortable with that jab jumper, and it’s not just a space provider. It’s a rhythm shot for him.
Lastly, there’s something else to pick up on with these two Adebayo shot attempts. His point of operation.
Adebayo calls it “picking his spots more,” but I call it “not needing to be the elbow release valve every play.” Now, he’s able to work from that inner wing or baseline where he has the space to do many different things.
It’s not just about Lowry making Adebayo take those shots in clear-outs. It’s the responsibilities Lowry has stripped from Adebayo to just be himself.
Some Fast-Break Magic
The Heat finished this game with a transition frequency of 20.2%. Last season, they were 14.9% across the 72 game season.
It’s only one game, but you can tell this is a long term thing. Guys like Lowry and Herro love that style of play, but Adebayo has finally embraced it, which is a scary thing.
Nobody can truly keep up with a coast to coast Adebayo on a nightly basis, and one guy that could probably slow him down better than anybody is the guy he matched up with last night: Antetokounmpo.
Euro-steps, downhill collisions. We’re seeing it all from Adebayo on the break, and it’s not because anybody on the floor is forcing him into that. He’s just finally freed up.
This team is built to run, and they’re embodying that already. But if Adebayo is the pace initiator throughout the season like he did in this season opener, it’ll be quite the offensive agenda for defenses to try and scheme against.
Defensive Freelancing is Upon Us
I brought this up a ton throughout the game last night, since well, it’s something I’ve noted since the Lowry acquisition was finalized.
We knew what Lowry would do for Adebayo in terms of unlocking things offensively. We knew giving Herro a pure point guard for the first time in his career would do wonders. But it just felt like the defensive shift from Butler was more important than anything else.
Butler is obviously one of the game’s best defenders, but I wouldn’t say he does it in a way that many of the other players in his category do it. Like Adebayo for example, we see his greatness on the ball by swarming smaller guards and things of that nature.
But Butler, on the hand, does it in the shadows.
He’s an off-ball master in that sense. It’s something I’ve broken down many times leading up to this point, since the additions of PJ Tucker and Lowry meant more reps for Butler outside of the offensive actions.
Timely doubles is his specialty, and he’s going to be a looming free safety all season, sending that all-out blitz more times than not.
Looking at the clips above, you can see this all happening in the first few minutes of the game. Gambling on some cross-court doubles once Antetokounmpo turned was something I expected, but the interesting part about it was he wasn’t holding back.
Not a ton of show-and-go to say the least, it was just pure willingness to swarm these guys who weren’t his assignment. And well, that is Jimmy Butler.
That will be Jimmy Butler all season.
A Simple Game of One-On-One
Walking into the Miami Heat practice facility after they finish practicing, there’s a consistent theme.
On one side of the court, there is Jimmy Butler going one-on-one with different coaches, trainers, and players for about 30 minutes every day. Udonis Haslem was the one a few days ago getting in those defensive reps, as they went at each other in a one-on-one setting where Butler fits in best.
And going through those motions isn’t just for some extra sweat and cardio. There’s a purpose, and that was seen in this game against Milwaukee.
Lowry does take a lot of pressure off Adebayo, but he also puts Butler in better spots to score as he noted after the game. In other words, Butler finds himself playing one-on-one in the half-court a bunch, doing it as loose as he does against UD after practice.
But Butler’s game hasn’t changed at all, so why is this important to note?
Well, Butler’s game may not have changed, but the team around him has. Looking at the clips above, nobody can fully commit to the double that they always seemed to do last season with zero reluctance. No knock to guys like Kendrick Nunn, but they had certain limitations on that kick-out that Lowry just doesn’t obtain.
If they double team Butler in that fashion, you’re not only at risk of giving up a Lowry three, but you’re also giving him a 4 on 3 on the backside, which is one of his best offensive skills in terms of decision making.
Allowing Butler to play one-on-one all day is a treat, and it gives this Heat offense a fun wrinkle that they weren’t able to fully commit to in the past. (And yes he missed in that clip, which is new after watching him go 1 on 1 last night)
Confidence is Higher, Release Point is Higher
We’re officially at the point where a 27 point performance from Tyler Herro off the bench to kick off the season doesn’t even surprise anybody. It’s just normal now.
So many limitations that were once placed on him as a scorer with the constant necessity for a screen are no longer in place. It’s not that he added a bunch of unstoppable combos to get to his spots. It’s just a simple formula.
Confidence is higher and his release point is higher.
In many ways, those two things can go hand in hand. When a player is having an off game and confidence is lowered, you always begin to notice shots being short due to them becoming flat-footed.
But when that confidence is as high as Herro’s is at the moment, that shot is higher than any defender’s wingspan.
He’s rising over the top of defenders all over the floor, and he isn’t being fazed by contests. It’s a skill that has pretty much gone under the radar for Duncan Robinson over the years, since essentially blocking out a defenders close-out can change a scorer’s outlook.
And Herro’s outlook has completely changed.
Some may think these points are being overstated, but they absolutely aren’t: placing Herro in this simplified bench role is the reason for him emerging. Play-making and rebounding have been sprinkled in through the natural flow of the game, but he’s not being asked to do any of that.
Mostly since Butler or Lowry are lined up next to him at all times.
“I love playing with Kyle,” Herro said about Lowry. “My first two years in the league I didn’t really have a point guard who could get everyone organized, and that’s no knock on my former teammates.”
And that last part is the truth. Guys like Goran Dragic were great for the original growth of Herro, and what they brought on a regular basis, but that just wasn’t his role. Dragic was in a scoring role as a scoring guard, but now Miami has that pure point they’ve been missing.
Or should I say, that Herro’s been missing.
Inside Game Coming Along for One Reason
A three-level scorer is emerging. The mid-range game from Herro has been pretty close to unstoppable through the preseason and first regular season game, his outside shooting has been highly efficient, and the inside game in question has been tweaked now as well.
The floater has been an interesting gadget for him, since it means he isn’t one dimensional inside the paint. Instead of spamming underhand scoop layups on every pick and roll drive, he has an outlet that can be relied on.
And well, that floater has been a constant sticking point after these Heat practices.
It isn’t just about the floater either. The added muscle that he put on has entered the equation as well, and I think we’re seeing just where he added that weight.
Going back to my earlier point of firing over the top of defenses with a high release point, the added strength in his legs is the main reason for that. But it seems like that behind the scenes work has gave him the confidence to embrace contact more and more.
Looking at the first clip above, Herro wasn’t doing that last year. Going right at that dropping big, bumping him with his shoulder, then fading away with the bank. That right there is a new Tyler Herro.
And in the big picture, nothing is better than a ‘more’ confident Herro at this stage. And who is feeding him that confidence? His teammates around him, as he’s illustrated over 20 times since camp ended.
And that is a major shift for him. It’s a major shift for this team. And that domino effect all started when Lowry landed in Miami.