Welcome to The Launching Pad, a weekly roundup of Miami Heat basketball. Who’s playing well, and who should pick it up? What numbers should you be watching? What was that beautiful play Miami ran in the second quarter? You can find all of it here, every Monday.
The Stats (Weekly stats in parentheses)
• Record: 14-5 (2-1, 3rd in the East)
• Offensive Rating: 109.5 (114.3)
• Defensive Rating: 103.5 (107.0)
• Net Rating: plus-6.0 (plus-7.3)
• True-Shooting Percentage: 59.1 (59.6)
• Pace: 101.1 (99.8)
• Time of Possession: 14.5 seconds (14.7)
Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)
Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk
• Minutes: 10
• Offensive Rating: 160.0
• Defensive Rating: 109.5
• Net Rating: plus-50.5
• True-Shooting Percentage: 77.2
• Pace: 98.73
The Big Number: 31.1
You can bank on three things in this thing called life: death, taxes, and the Heat having one of the best defenses in the league.
As of today, the Heat rank 7th in defensive rating. They’ve done so behind a “drop” scheme that has effectively kept opponents out of the paint (7th fewest rim attempts allowed). On the other hand, they’ve also bled three-point attempts, particularly above the break. Opponents are attempting nearly 28 above-the-break triples per game, the 6th most in the league.
The good news: teams are only converting 31.1 percent of those looks, a number that only ranks behind the Chicago Bulls (31.0) and the Denver Nuggets (30.5).
That specific portion of the Heat’s defense will be tested this week with match-ups against the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and the Washington Wizards. All three squads have pull-up artists that can make the Heat pay from deep if the ball pressure isn’t there.
1. Bam’s half-court struggles
We talked about Miami’s half-court offense in last week’s edition, but mostly within the context of their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The general verdict was that the Heat needed more on-ball juice from the perimeter, and there needed to be some sort of plan for Bam Adebayo.
It’s safe to say we got a glimpse of that in Sunday’s match-up against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets bigs, as they generally do against non-shooters, basically ignored Adebayo in the half-court. Their “one-man zone” kept Jarrett Allen or DeAndre Jordan at the basket while Adebayo operated from the perimeter.
Just look at the contrast between how Adebayo guards Jordan, and how that flips on the other end.
For the most part, the results weren’t great. Adebayo missed some jumpers, forced some passes, and ultimately looked flustered. The fact that he finished with 17 & 16 is a testament to his never-ending motor.
There’s some work to be done here. A bunch of this rides on Adebayo and his confidence. He needs to become respected as an on-ball threat. That won’t come without reps.
If teams are going to instruct their centers to basically ignore him outside of the paint, he needs to do one of two things for himself. Either he has to pull the trigger on more mid-range attempts (he’s 15-of-31 on shots between 10-19 feet), or he has to use the runway teams are giving him to explode to the basket.
This is the next step for Bam, and the flashes have been there for quite some time. pic.twitter.com/VSOrv4GJDV
— Jasmine Thomas Fan Acct. (@NekiasNBA) November 26, 2019
More of that, please.
The Heat also need to also need to make sure they’re putting Adebayo in positions to succeed when teams employ that strategy. If they aren’t going to break from their handoff counters (which isn’t a bad thing), we’re going to need to see more of the Tyler Herro-Adebayo pairing. Herro is the best pull-up shooter the Heat have, and will be able make aggressive “drop” defenses pay if they play with a huge cushion.
2. Justise Winslow’s return
Miami’s favorite enigma returned to action on Wednesday against the Houston Rockets. His minutes haven’t exactly been limited since he’s been back (30.3), but Erik Spoelstra has notably (and, to this point, correctly) decided to bring Winslow off the bench.
Nothing from Winslow’s three-game stint should be surprising. The playmaking flashes have still been there:
He’s defended pretty well when he’s been on the perimeter. His 4th quarter defense against Spencer Dinwiddie on Sunday was particularly impressive. Winslow remains quite good at wiggling through screens and staying connected to ball handlers.
On the flip side, Winslow hasn’t had much success at all as a scorer. He’s hit half of his shots at the rim (4-of-8) and has been a disaster outside of the paint. The three-point shot isn’t just off right now; it looks different.
I’m no shot doctor, but it seems like he’s tinkered with his release point in an effort to speed things up. It may very well pay off in the long run, but it’s hard not to cringe at stuff like this:
Winslow coming off the bench has also meant playing a ton of minutes at the 4 defensively. It … hasn’t looked great. Winslow at the 4 should be complemented by a shift towards switching. Instead, the Heat have mostly elected to maintain their “drop” principles, leading to some pretty ugly miscommunications.
Time will heal some of those wounds. As ugly as it’s been for Winslow at times, the Heat have still been much better with him on the court since he’s returned. The offense plays faster and shoots better from the field. The defense is stingier and has a higher success rate ending possessions.
It’s okay to be concerned with Winslow’s half-court fit, but just remember there’s a multi-year sample at play with the Heat outscoring their opponents with Winslow on the floor.
3. The balance of Tyler Herro
Tyler Herro was rightfully dubbed with the “knockdown shooter” rep coming out of Kentucky. Some of us [coughs] questioned what else brought to the table, and he’s mostly shut some of us [clears throat] up with plus-passing feel and a growing catalog of get-out-of-my-way contested rebounds.
Still, the shooting is the calling card. Herro’s numbers are almost unprecedented for a rookie. They include, but are not limited to:
-a 40.4 percent from three on over five attempts
-a 1.57 (!!!) point per possession clip on spot-ups (99th percentile, via Synergy)
-an 82.7 adjusted field goal percentage on spot-ups
-a 1.83 point per possession clip on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers (98th percentile)
Herro isn’t just a great shooter; he’s (statistically) on the path to become a true defense shifter in that regard. It’s easy to be impressed by his touch, but his footwork (settle down, Mr. Ryan) is what really steals the show when you watch. It doesn’t take much time or effort for him to set up shop, and that allows him to flow into pull-ups or side-step attempts easier than most.
Bonus: Kelly Olynyk has found his groove
If you thought a six-minute outing against the Nets would prevent me from talking about Kelly Olynyk, you are sadly mistaken.
(His section was replaced by Herro’s, so I guess you weren’t that mistaken.)
Olynyk struggled to adjust to Miami’s screen-heavy offense in the early goings of the season. Over the past week or so, he’s found ways to inject his brand of spontaneity. The pitch-and-go chemistry with Winslow has picked up where it left off. He’s drilling above-the-break threes. Heck, his willingness to take them is a breath of fresh air in comparison to Miami’s starting center.
His play-style is plodding and weird. It never looks like it’s supposed to work, but it just … does?
The Heat have been nearly 19 points per 100 possessions better with Olynyk on the floor over their last five games. It’s safe to say he’s back in the flow of things.
Set Play of the Week
If you paid any attention to the Heat this preseason, you would’ve immediately picked up on their increased frequency of pick-and-rolls featuring two screeners. “Double Drag” is a common action across the league; Heat fans in particular should remember Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks doing whatever they wanted out of it last season.
The fundamental purpose of Double Drag is to strain multiple defenders at once. Against (what’s left of) the Golden State Warriors, the Heat added some decoy action to further scramble them.
The possession begins with Winslow bringing the ball up the floor. Goran Dragic executes an Iverson cut (running off two staggered screens) before receiving a pass on the right wing. The drag screen action then begins with Herro and Chris Silva as screeners.
The starting position of the pick-and-roll is already unusual; the added wrinkle of a spacer (Herro) slipping the screen is something that Steve Kerr would specifically appreciate.
The Warriors end up committing two to the ball, leaving Herro open in the corner. Dragic finds Hero, who caps off the possession with a pump fake, a side-step, and a rainbow.