The Unique Combos of a Miami Heat Pick and Roll
As we continue to go through some of Miami’s base offensive sets heading into the new season, we must dial back a bit. In many cases, the way actions are triggered are through normal pick and roll/pick and pop sets, since the true damage in a Heat motion offense is occurring on the weak-side off the ball.
So, this piece is going to be all about personnel combos. There weren’t many PnR weapons in the past with limited resources and a bunch of guards who carried the same type of skills, but that changes now. This Heat team has diversity throughout, so let’s immediately jump into some of the ways different players will be used in these actions…
Duncan Robinson Ghost Screening
When I think about Kyle Lowry’s insertion into pick and roll sets, my mind doesn’t immediately go to Bam Adebayo lobs, known as 1-5 PnR. It actually goes to Duncan Robinson being used as a popper.
I’ve talked about this in past pieces, but Robinson’s ghost screening is the key to spacing whenever things look jumbled up. If the gaps are closing within the lane, sending Robinson to set a screen and pop out has a tremendous pull not only on his defender, but all defenders.
That’s why you hear the word “gravity” linked to him so frequently.
We’ve seen it used with Adebayo a ton, but also with Jimmy Butler at the top of the key. But what makes Lowry different than the Butler combo?
Well, it’s just about the above the break pull-up threat. When it’s run through Robinson and Butler, good things can come from it with a hard drive from Butler, but it doesn’t create extra space. The reason for that is defenders can go right under the screen for a cut-off, basically daring Butler to shoot a contested mid-range pull-up, which is essentially the third option in that action.
First option is a Robinson three. Second option is a full back dive from Butler. Third option is a corner spray. The defense wins frequently when Miami settles for that fourth option.
Looking at the clip above, defenders must consistently go over the screen on Lowry. We saw it a lot with Fred VanVleet spraying out in Toronto, but once again, Robinson’s pull is just different.
The looks Robinson will be getting in these actions may not look much different, but it’ll look a whole lot better for Lowry and crew. It basically leads him into a top of the key isolation possession like he’s playing one-on-one in his front driveway. That’s the getting a bucket feature Lowry brings, and Robinson will be the key to trigger that.
The Late-Game Go-To
Throughout this past season, Miami had a pretty effective go-to down the stretch of games. You always want to put the ball in the hands of your best player, and Butler-Adebayo pick and rolls enhanced that.
Speaking of playing a game of one-on-one, that’s what many of Butler’s attacks looked like late in games, throwing himself into the dropping big to create an offensive advantage. And even though Lowry will be on the floor late in games, this combo will still be a common go-to.
Throwing Lowry in the weak-side corner leaves that as a kick-out option when his defender slides down, which will be his spot no matter what if he’s playing off the ball. The reason for that is Robinson will be a strong-side staple if Miami leads into Butler-Adebayo pick and rolls down the stretch.
As seen in the first clip above, the defender is glued to him in the corner, not even thinking about ducking down to Butler. That is the spacing excellence that I’m talking about, and it’s why I feel Robinson will be closing many more games this season than he has previously.
Although these are two examples of Butler buckets, Adebayo will still get as many looks as Butler in this position, either throwing down the alley-oop or flowing into that push-shot in the lane. As orchestrated earlier, they have options.
A Butler-Lowry Inverted Punch
(I’m not going to ask this question again. I’m not going to ask this question again.)
Ah, nevermind. Why was the Butler-Dragic inverted pick and roll so effective last season?
This is not to discredit Dragic in anyway. He was huge for them in these spots as an oddly successful scorer off the roll last season, since he was physical enough to set hard and angled screens on opposing forwards. But the true reason it worked was the pure downhill dominance of Butler.
If you give him a good enough angle to use his shoulder bumping under the rim, the team is in good shape. Inverted pick and rolls will be huge when Butler and Lowry share the floor, starting with the fact that Lowry is a fantastic screener.
While this will be looked to often, normal pick and rolls will be just as effective. As seen in the last clip, Lowry knows when to hit guys on the short roll and Butler knows how to score at a high level off the short roll. It’s a perfect match.
Adebayo will just need to provide enough of an off the catch presence to maximize that two-man set.
What PnR Improvement Benefits this Team the Most?
I should start this section off by saying Robinson’s game is not going to be flying in a bunch of different directions just because he got paid. He’s going to continue to play his simple spot-up role, while a needed jump in field goal attempts will be the hope.
But if you were to ask what pick and roll asset changes things most, it’s Robinson ball-handling.
The reason for that is displayed in the clip above. He’s constantly blanketed when flying off the off-ball screens, which at times leads to Adebayo flowing into his next option. But as seen here, this is a fun wrinkle.
Reverses his direction with a swing through motion, keeps his dribble alive inside the arc, and finishes it out with a lob pass to Adebayo. The interesting part about this is it came a minute into the game, meaning that may have been a hopeful trial from the coaching staff to sprinkle in.
Of course it wasn’t great containment from the defense, since worrying about Robinson floating down the middle of the lane with Adebayo on your hip is an odd choice.
But if this can be used in a very small sample size, since over-usage will lead to fast elimination, it could be huge for their offense and a major headache for opposing defenses.
A New Markieff Morris Staple: Popping
Markieff Morris will no doubt be the back-up 4 for this Heat team. Other than a lack of true depth, the reason I’m more confident than others is that he brings something that the other front-court options don’t.
PJ Tucker will be stationed in the corner, Dewayne Dedmon will predominantly be a roller, and KZ Okpala won’t be a primary option. The only other guy who can portray this specific skill is Omer Yurtseven.
Morris was a huge part of the Lakers’ horn sets, where two guys are screening at the top of the key on each side with the other two players in the corner. He was the popper in these sets for a few reasons: 1) he’s a threat above the break as a shooter and 2) it’s the one spot of the floor he can truly play-make.
When Miami use him as a simple pick and pop threat, will defenses respect it enough to worry about it briefly? That’ll be the question when the season begins, but his task will just be as simple as knocking down open threes at a decent clip to make this work.
Morris is also a very physical screener which adds to this point, but everything comes back to him being the only rotational big who can pop out effectively and potentially make teams pay.
Could We See Some PnR Ball-Handling Reps for Adebayo?
What is your main takeaway from the play above?
Was it Adebayo’s decisiveness to flow into a hard drive? Was it the two hard clear-outs by Robinson and Victor Oladipo to give Adebayo space?
If it was either of those two, the same point is reached: the Heat have been trying to find ways to get Adebayo downhill. Even though he can probably do it on his own in space consistently, there’s been a plethora of back-screening, simple clear-outs, and more creative actions to get this done.
But what if they just find a 4-5 pick and pop duo with Adebayo as the ball-handler?
This may be something that could come up way down the line of the season, but it’s something that has crossed my mind when diving into this stuff. As I like to call it, it’s the Yurtseven move.
There is 100% going to be a point in the season when Adebayo and Yurtseven are sharing the floor, and it just feels like they would have to at least try it out. Guys like Meyers Leonard could shoot from deep, but there wasn’t enough versatility to quickly screen, spin out into his spot, and fire away.
Yurtseven has that.
If they’re facing a bigger team, they will place the slower big onto Yurtseven which is a clear Heat advantage. The reason for that is Yurtseven can bring that slow-footed big out to the elbow, giving Adebayo the green light to attack in space against a back-pedaling big with zero chance.
We could see a similar thing with Butler screening for Adebayo to get to the rim, but it just eliminates the kick-out threat off the pop. Like I said before, this is something that won’t be a feature early on, but I won’t be shocked if it eventually turns into a positive element in Miami’s offense.
A Change of Speed for Tyler Herro
Tyler Herro has built a recent rhythm with athletic bigs who are lob threats. It’s a perfect combination for young guards, due to the fact they play at a very fast pace and have that instinctive outlet.
An evolving chemistry with Adebayo to a positive looking bench duo with Precious Achiuwa. But now, Herro will have a slight change of speed with his big man side-kick Dewayne Dedmon.
He may not be that athletic rim rocker, but he is a veteran big who is very efficient around the basket and just needs that ball in catching range in the interior to get up a good look. And well, that is what Herro needs.
Somebody that will slow him down a bit, bring down the rushing levels from the last two seasons, and give him a simple big who isn’t asking for much. He’s going to rebound, set screens, and give Herro the pathway to be the fantastic scorer that he is.
That’s the picture perfect big man for Herro off the bench.
Now, of course Herro will still be getting plenty of minutes alongside Adebayo, so those fast-paced opportunities will still be there. But minutes with starters aren’t what many are worried about heading in, it’s his level of comfort with a bunch of on-ball reps with multiples reserves.
And yet, I think Dedmon is ultimately the guy that pushes Herro in the right direction offensively in his new role.
These two-man combos are endless when thinking through them, and that’s an absolute field day for Erik Spoelstra. Yes, most pick and rolls are just instinctive flows from players when things breakdown, but in a Heat offense under Spo, there’s always extra layers to the PnR that eliminates the early season predictability.
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