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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Dallas

The Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, while Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Victor Oladipo were all out. Those guys were definitely missed, since the offense was missing for many stretches, but some extra defensive weapons against the Mavericks’ offensive shot creators would’ve been huge as well. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Trevor Ariza may be more than a 3 and D guy, but there was some emphasis on the three element tonight.

I’ve talked a lot recently about Trevor Ariza’s elite levels off the ball with his cutting, as well as his underrated passing and driving abilities, which Bam Adebayo echoed when I asked him about it. The reason this is important to note is that the three ball can still be his biggest offensive threat, as shown in tonight’s game in the first quarter specifically. Knocking down 4 straight threes early on in the first quarter, while three of them being consecutive in the first few minutes, was absolutely necessary due to the drop-off in scoring with the starting lineup. When looking at the way Ariza has shot the ball since joining the team, it’s pretty obvious that he is a rhythm shooter. And when talking about that spot in the starting lineup that Kelly Olynyk once filled, it’s important for Miami to have capable shooting, while sprinkling in the utmost disruption on the perimeter defensively.

#2: Some first half Luka Magic with….premier defenders on him.

Even without Jimmy Butler, it felt like a swarming rotation of Bam Adebayo, Andre Iguodala, and Ariza guarding Luka Doncic would be enough. But well, it didn’t seem to matter who was guarding him. There’s only a certain amount of disruption that can be caused against him, since he is able to create any type of separation on every spot of the floor. Miami began to throw some more of that press and zone at them when Doncic was off the floor, which worked for a long stretch, but then some more blitzing came into play. The Heat were blitzing two of their best defenders at Doncic in the half-court, which puts a lot of pressure on Miami’s weaker defenders to scramble into recovery mode. That led to Tim Hardaway Jr getting hot, which is what they had to live with many possessions to get the ball out of Doncic’s hands.

#3: Has Miami become too reliant on Kendrick Nunn?

Kendrick Nunn has been hitting major strides as of late, but he had a rough shooting first half tonight, and it seemed like that was a main reason Miami had the lead slip away. Once again, without Butler, the creation on the floor at all times is pretty scarce, which is why I discussed that Ariza run being so important. They needed that on-ball mid-range killer that they’ve seen recently, but when shots weren’t falling for him, the entire offense began to plummet. Goran Dragic stepped up as that type of player when he checked in, keeping Miami afloat for many spurts. Of course there are down games that occur for every player, but this kind of showcased this team’s overall reliance on Nunn every night, which leads to the continued watch of Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro’s status. As much as the topic has become who is the odd man out, I truly believe those guys returning can take a ton of pressure off Nunn, and end up benefiting him majorly.

#4: The expected Bam Adebayo scoring breakout wasn’t the case.

Bam Adebayo has a tendency of reading the room when Butler is out, since he can elect to be much more aggressive offensively when they lack creators. There was a point in the third quarter when Adebayo only had two more points than Dewayne Dedmon in the single digit range, which just can’t be the case on nights like this. He filled up the box score in the assist and rebound category per usual, due to the fact that he’s such a high impact player, but the continued point will be that impact wasn’t the needed area tonight. They were in need of a young star who is capable of initiating offense at any moment, mostly since he’s more than capable of doing so, but that wasn’t the case. It’s the next step in his game that will continually be harped on, but once again, it comes down to self realization.

#5: So, Jimmy Butler gets 4 days off.

As mentioned a few times earlier, Butler didn’t play tonight after he had some flu-like symptoms, which was not Covid related. And Miami getting two nights off before their game on Friday means that he got a 4 day break, leading to a possible positive result in the long run. The hope for Miami is that they can get another week off by avoiding the play-in round, but that is all in question at the current stage. Either way, it’s important for him to get some extra rest before this final push with quite the layout of Eastern Conference talent, including Philadelphia, Milwuakee, and Boston twice. They’re going to need their leader and focal point well rested for those games, which looks like it will be the case now. Other than some individual takeaways tonight, there just isn’t much that can be looked at from a team perspective other than the lack of on-ball offensive weapons.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Cleveland

The Miami Heat beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night on the first night of a back to back. It was a pretty all-around scoring performance, which wasn’t headlined by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo surprisingly. So, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Max Strus was indeed….loose.

The trio of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson had 1 more point than Max Strus at the half, and that just sums up this season for Miami. By that, I mean it just continues the discussion of inconsistencies and not knowing what you’re going to get on any given night, or from which individual player. But tonight, that player was Max Strus for many stretches. He’s a shooter, but that description would sell him short for his unexpected explosiveness when moving downhill. He sprints in transition, moves swiftly off the dribble, and even searches above the rim for put-backs. He’s an interesting player, but most importantly, he’s a spark guy, which is exactly what Miami needed tonight. The reason that he is so interesting, though, is that he can be plugged into Miami’s developmental system over time, which has proved to be so effective with players like himself.

#2: Miami wanted rookie year Kendrick Nunn and they got something better.

I’ve spent plenty of time in these articles discussing Kendrick Nunn’s specific skill-sets or individual performances, but this must be evaluated in the big picture. Early in the season, many people were calling for rookie year Kendrick Nunn again after he didn’t look like the same player. Fast forward a couple of months and they have something much better than anything proven in his rookie season. Once again, I don’t think anybody expected this level of shooting from the outside, especially on a consistent basis. And although I’ve harped on his use off the ball lately, his eagerness to get the ball and search for buckets off the dribble basically saved this game from getting out of hand. Nunn said a while back that all he needs is playing time to prove himself, and he’s done just that.

#3: Trevor Ariza loves the three, but his attacking seems to be even more lethal.

Trevor Ariza had some great moments tonight, specifically to begin the game in the first quarter, but something must be noted about his offensive game. He’s labeled as a 3 and D guy, which is something he seems to live up to with the amount of three point shots he takes every night, but that doesn’t tell the whole story on the offensive end. When he attacks the basket, good things happen, and it’s really that simple. Combining his length with his patience off the dribble leads to a pretty positive result, but it just comes down to him searching for it more and more. He did throughout the first half tonight, and it led to an efficient 12 points in that span. It’s hard to point out things to add to his game when he’s one of the few guys clicking, but it truly is apparent.

#4: Duncan Robinson is the fastest player to hit 500 threes, and somehow his game is still growing.

The story of the night for Duncan Robinson is that he hit his 500th career three, which he was the fastest player to reach that mark in NBA history. Clearly that is quite the accolade, but this is just the beginning for him. Not only do I mean there are many more threes to come, but actually he has so much more room to grow in other areas. Although we can talk about his close to perfect three-point night, there was one shot inside the arc that occurred tonight, and that one stood out most. Mid-way through the third, Dewayne Dedmon rises up to the perimeter for a high pick and roll with Robinson. He avoids the screen, which eliminated his defender, and flows into the painted area where he rises up for a soft jumper for two. And those are the moments. Those are the flashes. Those are the shots. He has so many more limits to reach in his offensive game, and due to the amount of work he puts in behind the scenes, he will get there.

#5: On to the next one.

The final takeaway from this game has absolutely nothing to do with this game, since now it’s all about the next one. Miami plays the Charlotte Hornets tomorrow night on the second night of a back to back, and that’s a game that Miami will want to get when evaluating the standings. An important thing to mention is Jimmy Butler’s need tonight, since although the minutes weren’t an exceptionally low number, he didn’t have one of those takeover nights that extract a lot of energy. LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk returned tonight for Charlotte, which means Miami will probably need a different Butler tomorrow night. And well, essentially a different energy level after the ball is tipped, due to the fact it took Miami some time to bring that tonight. On to the next one.

The Continued Offensive Growth is Second to Nunn

Kendrick Nunn’s NBA career thus far has been a constant cycle of ups and downs. NBA starter to bench warmer then back to NBA starter has happened over and over and over, and yet, he’s still competing with the best of them whenever he gets an opportunity out on that floor.

It’s always the “now” when discussing Kendrick Nunn. Can he step up tonight? How much of a boost can he give this team at the current stage? But although he’s 25 years old, he is only in his second NBA season, and he’s still growing as a player.

Growing a lot.

It’s not easy to stay mentally or physically ready when you’re constantly being interchanged between roles, but not only has he stayed parallel to his old self, he has made necessary improvements that make him more than just a “spark.”

The Heat organization had many expectations placed onto players that were a bit unrealistic in hindsight. But they didn’t seem to put any expectation on the future of Nunn, and that’s worked out very well.

So, after yet another scoring explosion against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, let’s take a look at what truly stood out on the offensive side of the ball.

– Punishing bigger defenders

Miami’s offense has obviously been inconsistent so far this season, but one area they’ve been highly effective with is transition offense. When a team relies on their defense on a nightly basis, that must translate to fast-break opportunities, and Nunn has been at the forefront of that.

As seen here, Bam Adebayo gets a steal and pushes the ball down the court as Nunn trails. He was forced to slightly reset after he caught the pass, and this is where an interesting growth in his game is apparent. He has the ability to take advantage of bigger defenders, not just through his speed, but through angles and body separation.

Although a quick crossover gets him this open look on the reverse, his ability to keep defenders on his hip as he rises up is something he wasn’t as comfortable with last year. An underrated element to some of the changes from last year to this year is headlined by his body language, since he’s playing at a completely different speed with a defined role.

– Tighter handles leads to more separation

When seeing Nunn’s confidence level rising in an empty corner in isolation, it just shows the type of rhythm he is in. The exact reasoning for this confidence rising has a lot to do with his improved attributes.

He is much more comfortable putting the ball on the floor since his handle seems a lot tighter. On this play, he keeps the dribble alive as he’s scanning toward the opposite side, before he realizes it’s time to just go. And when he’s moving left toward the baseline, you can almost guarantee he’s going to utilize the pull-back dribble into a jumper.

When talking about the lack of separation created between Miami’s guards, the evolving ball handle from Nunn can really change some things for him in the big picture.

– Reading each and every defender

As Nunn catches the ball on the wing with a short shot clock, his initial move is to read the first defender. Most player basically just flow into their comfort move, but not K-Nunn.

Seeing his defender running at him full speed, he flows into a slow pump-fake to truly sell it, and it eliminates him from the play. Now, it looks like he has his favorite mid-range jumper with nobody in sight, but he immediately reads the next defender.

Keldon Johnson is forced to split the difference between him and Jimmy Butler, and you can see there’s a slight hesitance from him to fully lock on Nunn. So, he rises up for a smooth finger roll at the rim, just further showcasing the most crucial attribute of all: reading a defense in fast motion.

– A mixture of the past three things discussed

After touching on his success against bigger defenders, an increased handle, and reading his defender, here’s one play that shows all three of those elements.

Jimmy Butler begins the possession in the high post, which is where he finds himself frequently lately, as Nunn circles around to find an opportunity with the Trevor Ariza off-ball screen. Now, as he receives the ball on the wing, he patiently reads the defender, gives a slight jab left knowing that he can take the bigger defender off the dribble, and uses his body to create separation for the open layup.

The reason this play is important to show is to prove the fact that these moments aren’t one time instances, and actually are things he’s incorporated into his game every night.

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– Diversified scoring, drop coverage killer

Before last night’s game, I mentioned that it could set up for a big time Nunn performance due to the Spurs drop coverage that he always loves to exploit from the mid-range area.

Since last year, he’s always been a good mid-range scorer, but he’s actually controlled that area of the floor a lot more than usual. Instead of awaiting an open jumper to present itself, he searches for it and finds his favorite spots in any of Miami’s normal sets.

On this possession, he gets to his spot and rises up for the bank-shot, which just shows his soft touch and diversified scoring abilities as time goes by. And the most important thing to observe here is his eye level. An issue lats season was his hesitance in a pick and roll, not knowing whether to make the pass or take the shot. Now, he seems to know exactly what he’s going to do every possession.

– Some catch and shoot excellence

There’s nothing to over-analyze on this play specifically, but it’s important to note the big picture improvements with catch and shoot opportunities. He shot a little under 35% on catch and shoot threes last season, which has shot up close to 42% this season on the same amount of attempts.

But the numbers aren’t the only thing that has shown this, since the eye test has pointed toward the different ways he’s being utilized, even as a Duncan Robinson type off-ball runner at times, which is interesting to say the least. An unexpected story line this season is that he’s been their best three-point shooter among the other small guards, and frankly, he’s been the best player overall.

– The Goran Dragic-Kendrick Nunn minutes are……effective?

Something that has stood out to me lately has been the amount of minutes Goran Dragic and Nunn have played together, and better yet, how good that they’ve been. When I asked Erik Spoelstra about their minutes together lately, he said, “Until about two weeks ago, I started to notice more and more that combination was actually being pretty effective, so it’s something we’ll continue to explore.”

Now, it’s necessary to evaluate why it has been so effective all of a sudden, and the reason for that is no surprise, Kendrick Nunn. As mentioned previously, Nunn has been involved in a lot more off-ball sets due to his increased catch and shoot abilities, meaning Dragic can direct traffic, or even vice versa.

This play was an example, as Dragic turns the corner for a hard attack, then floats it over the top to Nunn on the wing for the three.

These not so minor improvements from Nunn should not be swept under the rug, since he’s basically been that one steady rock to give them offense on any given night, which is why we’re approaching him being a closer from here on out.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Depleted Hawks Team

The Miami Heat were looking to expand their winning streak to four games against a Hawks team without Trae Young and Clint Capela, but Atlanta just seemed to want it much more in simplistic terms. These type of losses just further magnify the issues of this current Heat team, which leads us right into the five takeaways from this game…

#1: Miami’s first half defense was not their strong suit.

On a night that Atlanta was without two starters, in Trae Young and Clint Capela, it seemed like defense wouldn’t be as much of an issue. John Collins would have to see Bam Adebayo for valued minutes, instead of him being glued onto Capela, but he got his way anyway. The Hawks were forcing switches leading to mismatches time and time again, and did a great job of taking advantage of Miami’s blitzing, swinging the ball to the open shooter. And the thing about that open shooter is that this Atlanta team didn’t miss much in that first half. Lucky for Miami though, they were knocking down shots as well, but it’s not ideal that you’re identity is the point of inconsistency against a depleted Hawks team.

#2: Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn take turns generating offense.

There have been some discussions lately about the long term options of Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, which has caused these two to be compared constantly. But something that must be noted, is that they can actually be impactful together. Nunn kept them going early by knocking down some shots from the outside, but an interesting element is him becoming the Trevor Ariza of the three-guard lineups, when he should actually be the Kendrick Nunn. Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro struggled on blow-by’s, while it shined light on the fact that Nunn should be the on-ball option. Herro got into a flow in the second quarter, once again, as an off-ball option. Some of his movement led to open space on the perimeter, which is what he will have to do until he becomes comfortable again on drives to the basket.

#3: Duncan Robinson doing the same thing he does every night. Oh, except shoot the deep ball well.

It may become a bit repetitive when reading about Duncan Robinson on everyone of these pieces, but truly, that just showcases his level of consistency since the trade deadline. He obviously didn’t shoot the ball well from deep tonight, but it’s so intriguing when watching the differences in his offensive sets. He’s running much more stuff out of the high pick and roll, which gives him much more room to navigate, and ultimately, forces him to drive more. And a driving Robinson isn’t the worst thing in the world, since he seems to be getting more and more comfortable in that area every night. When I asked Bam Adebayo about his decision making in those spots, he highlighted Robinson’s level of work everyday to improve, and that seems to be exactly it with this level of improvement.

#4: Mistimed third quarter decisions led to Miami’s drought.

It’s hard to pick out some of the small things when a team is just absolutely shooting the lights out, but there definitely were some signs in that third quarter that played a part. Bam Adebayo was having trouble on the boards, which led to an early insertion of Dewayne Dedmon, who always seems to give them good minutes offensively around the basket. The only issue with that was it was clear Miami was heading toward that surprising 2-2-1 press into a 2-3 zone, but they may have gone into that a bit too late in the quarter. When going zone, Dedmon probably isn’t the best big man option due to limited mobility, which forces the lower tier defensive assets to have more of a load. And that right there is the point of the zone, meaning that exact timing of subbing and defensive adjustment was a bit off in that stretch.

#5: This game was……well, predictable.

If there’s anything that is widely known about this Heat team, it’s that they truly rise up when facing the best teams in the NBA, while fall short against depleted rosters or lower tiered teams. Well, that’s what happened tonight, since they played like the team without two starters. The main theme of this game tonight was to instill a certain level of consistency after finally getting into a rhythm over the last few games. And even though shots were falling at a good rate throughout, everything else basically fell apart. A bad defensive performance, tough time on the boards, and an odd passing display with a team that usually looks so crisp with their ball movement. Jimmy Butler said a few weeks ago that you don’t know what team you’re going to get whenever they play, and that once again shows to be the case.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Shorthanded Win Over Rockets

The Miami Heat got a win over the Houston Rockets on the second night of a back to back, without Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro. The entire supporting cast stepped up on the offensive end all the way through, headlined by a pretty impressive night for Kendrick Nunn. Anyway, here are five takeaways from this game…

#1: Kendrick Nunn stepping up early as expected, continuing his catch and shoot clinic.

Since Miami was far from complete on Monday night, Kendrick Nunn was one of the few names that stood out when evaluating a possible explosive performance on the ball. And as expected, Miami relied on him heavily whenever he was on the floor, and he produced. He was forced to become even more involved as a passer, as the PnR’s were used over and over with Precious Achiuwa as the sole lob threat. But his offense that has really stood out lately is his shooting from the outside. This was mentioned after yesterday’s game as well, but it really unlocks a lot of things for this team when fully healthy. If he can be utilized as an off-ball threat next to a guy like Duncan Robinson, it makes their offense pretty interesting while Victor Oladipo is out.

#2: Andre Iguodala: The one calming hand.

Andre Iguodala was labeled as questionable before tonight’s game, which seemed as if he would be ruled out on the second night of a back to back. He did end up suiting up though, and it was definitely for the best when looking at Miami’s offense when he was on the floor compared to off of it. Many would expect that drop-off to occur on the defensive end, but it was actually that facilitating presence on offense that kept Miami going. He is actually capable of getting guys different looks other than the normal PnR, and more importantly, everybody just seemed much more comfortable when he was on the floor. Although some of the pull-up jumpers could’ve been eliminated tonight, he gave Miami an offensive element that they obviously missed.

#3: KZ Okpala truly misses those extra reps away from actual NBA games.

A pretty obvious takeaway is the fact that KZ Okpala really could’ve used those extra reps in a Summer League or G-League atmosphere. All of his experience has been him getting thrown into odd situations, which he’s far from being able to fill. One game he doesn’t look at the rim at all, while other games he looks at it a bit too much with the amount of space he’s given when standing beyond the arc. He’s clearly talented, but he just doesn’t seem to know how to use that talent at this stage, which is expected. One thing that is widely known is that he’s not a catch and shoot player, but he always seems to be plugged into that type of role. He won’t truly make a leap in impact until he’s able to play his own game, when playing freely off the dribble and in transition, which once again, will not occur until he gets additional opportunities in other areas.

#4: Dewayne Dedmon playing his role to perfection.

When Erik Spoelstra made the comments about utilizing youth before tonight’s game, it was pretty obvious he was going to insert Precious Achiuwa into that starting role, and keep Dewayne Dedmon as the back-up big. And the same thing stuck out tonight as it did yesterday, which is Dedmon plays his role to perfection, doing what he does well consistently. He truly battles on the boards, but most importantly, the constant effort on the offensive glass creates extra opportunities for the Heat’s offense. He’s also a very good defender in the paint, since he does a good job of contesting attackers without getting off his feet to foul them. There’s zero doubt that Dedmon has that back-up big spot for good with the way he’s been playing lately.

#5: Duncan Robinson showcasing an unfamiliar attribute: Shooting.

Most of these takeaway pieces involving individual player evaluations consists of discussion about the undercover areas of their games. But tonight, the most obvious attribute for Duncan Robinson cannot go without discussing, since he was lighting it up from deep on a night where the defense was expecting it even more. He’s on the top of the scouting reports every night, but when Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler aren’t next to him in the starting lineup, it felt like a lot of those looks generated by Adebayo screens would be out the window. But they weren’t, and in fact, this may be the type of game that gives him a bit more variety moving forward with his scoring abilities.

Could Kendrick Nunn Actually Benefit from a Victor Oladipo Return?

When Victor Oladipo rose up to the rim and came down grabbing that knee, there was only one guy who saw a glimmer of hope and opportunity. Kendrick Nunn.

When talking about a player that has gone through a tremendous amount of ups and downs, Nunn would have to be pretty high on that list. G-League player to immediate NBA starter. NBA starter to non-rotation player come playoff time. Out of the rotation to NBA starter again. Then starter to out of the rotation for yet another brief period, before returning to that starting point guard spot after the unfortunate Oladipo injury.

Oh, and this has all occurred in a matter of months.

Even when hearing the traditional and unoriginal quotes about his work behind the scenes and ability to stay ready, that is not an overstatement, since going through that type of roller coaster is not easy to continually come right back and produce. But he has, and it’s important to discuss what could be next for him barring a returning Oladipo.

Although there is still so much uncertainty around Oladipo’s injury status, let’s just take a brief moment to picture as if he will return at some point this season. Miami’s in a first round match-up as their returning two-way acquisition plugs back into the starting lineup. Where does Kendrick Nunn go?

Well, that answer is as clear as ever at the current stage. One of Miami’s issues lately has been bench production, since Goran Dragic has struggled, Tyler Herro hasn’t been the initiator many envisioned, and guys like Andre Iguodala and Precious Achiuwa are offensively limited. If anything has become blatantly obvious, it’s that Nunn could actually be the perfect piece in the area that Miami is lacking right now with that second unit.

Another element to this being possible is the fact that they’ve been willing to go to these 3 guard lineups night in and night out, some even including Nunn, Dragic, and Herro, which I’m not so sure is the right answer. The point is that they are capable of working them all in, especially since Nunn is probably their most consistent guard when referring to these three guys.

Obviously it’s hard to truly project on rotations and lineups when there is still so much unknown about the health of Oladipo. But if he somehow makes a return this season, the reason for Miami turning it around won’t be due to Oladipo’s two-way play. It’ll be the puzzle pieces falling perfectly into place, inserting guys into roles that’ll allow them to play to their ultimate strengths.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Hawks

The Miami Heat expand their win streak to six after a win against the Atlanta Hawks. The Heat were without Jimmy Butler, which meant a close game down the stretch was going to be a bit different. But Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic, and Bam Adebayo all hit needed shots to spark a 10-0 run late in the game. Here are five takeaways from the game….

#1: Gabe Vincent becomes an unexpected spark, occurring on a surprising side of the ball.

Well, Gabe Vincent fell onto this takeaway piece in an interesting way, since it usually means he had a great scoring night. His impact was actually felt on the defensive end, which seems to be the reason for his jump in minutes. Coach Spo trusts the 2-3 zone and full court press when Vincent and Andre Iguodala are at the top of it, which is an interesting duo. The clear point was to disrupt Trae Young on constant blitzes early, then team trapping in the sets that I just discussed. Vincent is a physical defender, which means fouls obviously come along with that, but the spark he brought for Miami in that first half was the reason the lead was as big as it was.

#2: Precious Achiuwa showing why he deserves consistent minutes.

Precious Achiuwa didn’t hear his name called on Friday night against the Utah Jazz, which was a bit of a surprise, even though Coach Spo made it clear he just wanted an extra perimeter defender on the floor. And well, Achiuwa had his name called tonight against the Hawks, and proved why he deserves minutes. You can question Achiuwa’s weak ball-handling skills at this stage, or his below average passing ability, but the one thing that can’t be questioned is his heart and constant battle on both ends of the floor. He was huge on the boards throughout the game, against a very active rebounder in Clint Capela. He’s always been an offensive threat on the roll above the rim, but he showed other abilities in his offensive game. He has a great feel for a defense, which means he can readjust a lob pass, take that one dribble, and go back up for a dunk. And that is not something a lot of young bigs have in their arsenal.

#3: Kendrick Nunn, the consistent piece once again.

Some people may be getting sick of hearing Kendrick Nunn’s name in every one of these takeaway pieces, but he absolutely deserves it and must be noted. He’s becoming the one consistent piece on the team for their offense, meaning the team knows what he will give them every single night. The intriguing part of his offensive game that I’ve noted a lot in the past, is his catch and shoot improvements. That may have something to do with an increased confidence that has been instilled in him, but wide open kick-outs to K-Nunn should worry a defense as much as anybody on the Heat. It’s been discussed that a huge reason for Nunn’s success over this stretch is Jimmy Butler, but tonight proved he’s just in a great rhythm individually. Also, the play-making attribute is beginning to take that big leap. It’s not about the assist numbers as much as it is the comfort level with setting up offense for Miami, and that will keep him on the floor, even if scoring tails off a bit for a stretch.

#4: A John Collins showcase game against Miami.

It seems necessary to stray off from Miami Heat analysis for a moment, to take a look at a guy Miami could be linked to in the near future, John Collins. Some may label this game as a bit of a showcase for Collins, who is a South Florida native, and if that was the case, he took full advantage of it. When evaluating certain power forwards to slot next to Bam Adebayo, Collins seems to fit that description pretty well. He proved that offense can work through him in any spot on the floor, and he’s definitely not just an above the rim threat. He has an ability to take guys off the dribble and get downhill, the mid-range pull-up and turn-arounds were falling, and the three point shot can clearly be utilized. He has some work to do defensively, but that can be tweaked upon arrival. This is the type of game that the organization will remember for some time when they’re looking to make a certain move.

#5: Tyler Herro struggles early in return, but gets into a rhythm in the fourth.

Tyler Herro definitely didn’t have the greatest start to his return, which is normal since it takes some time to get your legs back under you and get into any sort of rhythm. But well, it only took three quarters until he turned that around in the fourth quarter. There’s always a moment with Herro in which he flips a switch to retain offensive confidence, which is when his normal body language returns searching for a bucket. Goran Dragic getting inserted into the starting lineup meant that regular bench unit wasn’t seen once again, but it’ll clearly elevate both of their play by bouncing off one another, with an explosive big man reserve in Achiuwa. Herro may struggle with finding consistent one-on-one separation without an Adebayo screen, but he’s still young and improving in his strongest areas. If he can find a way to get consistent play after the All-Star break, barring no Covid contact tracing or injuries, that growth will be displayed the more he gets into a natural rhythm.

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Jazz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Thunder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Breakdown of Kendrick Nunn Against the Lakers

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

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

– Taking defenders off the dribble

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

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

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

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– Floaters from just about anywhere

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

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

– An improved three point shot on the move

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

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

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

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

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

– Creativity in the pick and roll

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

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

– Offense to defense

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

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

– Taking advantage of Adebayo’s gravity

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

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

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

– Back door cuts becoming a staple

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

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

– The play-making leap incoming

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

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

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

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