Launching Pad: Nunn’s buckets, Butler’s passing, Bambidextrous

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: 9-3 (3-0, 2nd in the East)

• Offensive Rating: 107.7 (113.6)

• Defensive Rating: 101.1 (102.7)

• Net Rating: plus-6.5 (plus-10.9)

• True-Shooting Percentage: 58.7 (64.4)

• Pace: 102.15 (97.5)

• Time of Possession: 14.3 seconds (14.6)

Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)

Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Meyers Leonard

• Minutes: 11

• Offensive Rating: 117.4

• Defensive Rating: 60.0

• Net Rating: plus-57.4

• True-Shooting Percentage: 68.7

• Pace: 107.66

The Big Number: 1.434

Roughly 1/8 of the way through the NBA season, the Miami Heat remain one of the best shooting clubs in the league. They rank fourth in three-point percentage (38.4), and have five players shooting well above league with moderate-or-better volume.

Meyers Leonard is shooting a blistering 61.9 percent from deep, which makes it even more perplexing that he’s only averaging 1.9 attempts on the year. The man took four (4) threes this week!

What makes the shooting scary is that it’s come on the back of good looks. The Heat are the most efficient team in the NBA on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers. They’re generating 1.434 points per possession on those looks via Synergy. A 48.8 percent clip on those shots pace the league by nearly three percentage points.

Your primary culprit: Duncan Robinson. He’s an absurd 19-of-26 (!!!) on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers. When you combine that with his mostly-fine defense, it’s becoming harder to make the case that he should return to the bench when Justise Winslow returns.

Weekly Trends

1. Kendrick Nunn keeps shooting

Nunn has had an absolute roller coaster of a season so far. He’s been historic, borderline unplayable, and sneaky good all in a three-week stretch. Just look at these splits.

First five games: 22.4 points on 17.0 shots, 52/48/100 shooting split

Next four games: 9.3 points on 11.0 shots, 34/19/60 shooting split

Last three games: 21.7 points on 17.0 shots, 51/43/80 shooting split

If there’s been one source of consistency from Nunn, it’s been his willingness to take shots when he feels they’re makable.

To his credit, Nunn has been one of the NBA’s best volume pick-and-roll threats. Among 55 players that have logged at least 90 pick-and-roll possessions (passes included), Nunn ranks 9th in efficiency (1.065 PPP). He’s ahead of guys like LeBron James (1.052), D’Angelo Russell (1.032), Kyrie Irving (1.008), James Harden (1.0), and Trae Young (0.983).

Nunn has the profile of a three-level scorer so far. He’s converting roughly 65 percent of his shots at the rim, 47.4 percent of his middies, and 41.2 percent of his above-the-break threes. His ability to make shots with forward momentum — pull-up jumpers, floaters, hang-in-the-air layups — have made him difficult to defend with a head of steam, especially in transition.



Nunn’s a hot-and-cold bucket-getter at this stage. Luckily for the Heat, he’s running hot right now.

2. Point Jimmy

Who the heck is this guy?

When the Heat added Butler, they were expecting to add a bonafide number scoring option. Through nine games, Butler only has one 25-plus point outing under his belt. His 18.4 scoring average, if it holds, would be the lowest it’s been since the 2013-14 season.

Yet, the vibe right now is that his passive style is intentional.

Butler is averaging a career-high 7.2 assists, well above his previous high of 5.5 in 2016-17. He’s made it a point to empower the players surrounding him. It’s why Nunn can afford to shoot until his arms fall off. It’s why Bam Adebayo can stretch himself as an intermediate threat.

Via’s tracking data, Adebayo and Nunn are Butler’s favorite targets, receiving 11.7 and 9.8 passes per game from him respectively. Adebayo is converting 61.5 percent of his shots off of Butler passes, while Nunn is boasting a 50/50 shooting split.

Butler is spreading the wealth, and doing so in a myriad of ways. He’s operated as the post hub of Miami’s split action sets, run pick-and-rolls, engineered transition opportunities, and found guys in scramble situations.



At a certain point, Butler will have to assert himself more as a scorer. For now, though, it’s hard to argue with the process or the results.

3. Bam’s off-hand work

Speaking of assertiveness, let’s give a quick hat-tip to Adebayo for doing a little bit of everything on offense. I talked about him in this space last week so there isn’t need to rehash everything. One thing that I missed was his off-hand improvement.

It appears Adebayo has made a concerted effort to become an ambidextrous finisher. Before the Heat’s matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, I made a compilation of all of his left-handed finishes this season.

He only logged one shot attempt with his left on Saturday, a missed dunk off of a lob. Still, a 7-of-15 clip (46.7 percent) for a big that struggled with non-dunk finishes with either hand last year is something to build on.

Set Play of the Week

Runnin’ in circles

It feels like the Heat are adding in a new off-ball screening wrinkle every week. The play I wanted to focus in on looks like their post split action flipped on its head. Instead of going north-south, the Heat are working east-west beyond the arc.



The Heat busted out this bad boy a few times against the Detroit Pistons. The logic is sound: let’s put stress on Detroit’s weak perimeter defenders until they make a mistake.

This play gives off the look of staggered screen action for Robinson (running off two angled picks), but then Robinson curls inside. This serves as the first read. If the Pistons don’t switch, that will leave Luke Kennard trailing Robinson, and Bruce Brown following Nunn over a screen from Adebayo. With Nunn being a plus-shooter, Andre Drummond would have to stay high to take away a pull-up triple.

Of course, the Pistons switch, so the Heat flow into part two of the action. Nunn is still scheduled to come off the Adebayo screen, but with the switch and Kennard’s positioning, he isn’t able to come off cleanly. But thanks to Kennard essentially face-guarding, Nunn is able to reverse course, creating a 2-on-1 on the other side of the screen.

Brown sees the Nunn-Robinson screen coming and tries to call out the switch, but by then it’s too late. A push-off from Robinson creates an extra foot or two of space. Butler feeds Robinson, and he drills the bomb.

Improv is fun, folks.

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