Launching Pad: Shiny New Toys, Duncan’s Gravity, DJJ’s Jumper

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: 34-18, 4th in the East (1-3)

• Offensive Rating: 111.9 (116.7)

• Defensive Rating: 108.6 (116.7)

• Net Rating: plus-3.3 (net-zero)

• True-Shooting Percentage: 58.5 (57.8)

• Pace: 99.28 (97.25)

• Time of Possession: 14.8 seconds (14.5)

Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)

Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Derrick Jones Jr., Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk

• Minutes: 13

• Offensive Rating: 200.0 (?????????????????????????)

• Defensive Rating: 103.8

• Net Rating: plus-96.2 (????????????????????????????????????)

• True-Shooting Percentage: 86.8 (!!!!!!!!!?!?!??!!?!?!?!!?!!!!!?!????????)

• Pace: 99.05

The Big Number: 0.966

The Heat’s defense remains a question mark. They rank 14th in the league in defensive rating (108.6), which is well below the standard that Erik Spoelstra — and especially Pat Riley — has set for the club. That factoid seems to be, at least, the second biggest reason for their trade deadline deal for a trio of wing defenders.

The Heat are currently allowing 0.966 points per possession in man via Synergy, which ranks 15th in the league. Perfectly average. They’ve been better in zone (0.94 PPP, 7th), though the gap closing is why there was a desperate need for reinforcements.

The hope is that the new additions help shore up things in man. Better containment on the perimeter should lead to less breakdowns on the back end, and less three-pointers allowed. Beyond that, more success in man would allow the Heat to deploy their zone as a change of pace, more than a necessity to hide bad defenders.

Weekly Trends

1. Heat have options

Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, and James Johnson are gone.

Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill* are here.

With that, the Heat have some shiny toys in the chest for Coach Spo to play with.

Iguodala — no, I’m not calling him “Iggy” and you shouldn’t either — and Crowder made their debuts on Sunday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. The duo combined for 20 points, 17 rebounds, and six assists off the bench. Both players had positive plus-minuses, for those who care about that sort of thing.

Iguodala (2-6-3-1-1) didn’t have a huge box score night, but he made the kind of subtle plays that will earn Spo’s trust. Take this possession for example.


Iguodala pushes after a miss, then flows into a dribble handoff with Crowder. Nothing’s there, so the offense resets with a 1-5 pick-and-roll. As the ball screen takes place, Iguodala notices CJ McCollum ball-watching, so he sets a blind pick for Crowder in the corner.

McCollum eventually recovers and contests the shot, but that specific read highlights Iguodala’s IQ. He may not be the best scorer or shooter, but he understands how to attack — and in this case, create — cracks in defenses that others can exploit.

While Iguodala had more of a subtly good performance, Crowder (18-11-2-3-1) did … quite a bit. If there’s a sequence that embodies the Crowder Experience, it’d be this run late in the second quarter:

Crowder had himself a day, particularly in the second half. He provided rugged on-ball defense and enough hustle to dust off the “Culture” hashtag. More eye-poppingly, Crowder drilled five of his eight triples, marking the ninth time in his career that he’s made at least five threes in a game.

The idea of Crowder and Iguodala closing out games, as they did on Sunday night, will hinge almost solely on their ability to knock down shots from outside. They have to keep defenses honest to opening up driving lanes for Jimmy Butler, whenever he returns from his shoulder issue. Crowder passed the smell test on Sunday; Iguodala didn’t, though he made so many plays that it didn’t matter much.

Keep an eye out on Crowder specifically. With Olynyk continuing to struggle defensively, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Spo experiment with a Crowder-Bam Adebayo frontcourt to kick off games.

2. Duncan Robinson, using fear as an asset

Robinson has established himself as one of the NBA’s best shooters. He’s elite off the catch, and a flame thrower firing off of screens. Robinson is especially effective operating in dribble handoffs, generating nearly 1.5 points per possession (98th percentile).

Teams know that Robinson only needs a sliver of space to fire, which puts incredible strain on the defenders tasked with shutting down those handoffs. If Robinson’s man is trailing, it’s up to the big (or whoever) to show high and cut off that window. But that’s becoming a death sentence as well.

Robinson averaged 3.0 assists last week. That isn’t a lot, but it’s a pretty sizable bump from his season average. It’s also notable because a lot of them looked like this:

And this:

Robinson has become a bit of an offense onto his own, similar to how Wayne Ellington was during his stint in Miami. Except, you know, with more size and even more passing feel.

3. Derrick Jones Jr’s hot streak

When the Heat traded Winslow, it was mostly for present contributions and future flexibility. It’s the Riley MO, as we all know. But very quietly, it was a vote of confidence for Derrick Jones Jr, a tweener forward with a budding skill set.

It’s a bit of a gamble. His catch radius on lobs remains absurd. There’s been tangible growth from him as a finisher in the half court. Those are fine skills in a vacuum, but the jumper is the real swing skill for him.

Jones Jr. is shooting 28.6 percent from deep on the season, and 27.1 percent from the corners. Those numbers obviously won’t cut it if he wants to be more than an exciting rotation piece that can get schemed out of a playoff series.

It’s why his hot streak from three — 53.3 percent last week, 47.6 percent over his last eight games — couldn’t have come at a better time. Teams still largely ignore him from beyond the arc, but he’s taking (and making) enough in rhythm to force defenses to at least think about him. That’s a win for him, and the Heat.

Set Play of the Week

HORNS Slice, with a twist

Whew, baby, is there a lot going on here.


The Heat kick things off with an Iverson cut for Olynyk — watch as he cuts across a couple of screens — before settling into (some semblance of) their HORNS alignment.

Kendrick Nunn enters the ball into Adebayo, and then the real fun begins.

Nunn clears, while Robinson sets a screen for Jones Jr. Bogdan Bogdonovic gets caught on the screen, leaving Buddy Hield in limbo. If he continues to chase Robinson, Jones Jr. is open for a lob. Instead, he hangs back, which allows Robinson to pop up for three.

Harry Giles steps up to help while Bogdonovic recovers. Adebayo reads this and slips to the basket. After receiving the pass, Adebayo is faced with a 2-on-1; Hield steps up, presenting a passing window for Jones Jr, or a rather glaring mismatch inside.

Adebayo takes advantage of the latter, finishing with a leaning layup over the sharpshooter.

As mentioned in the second section, the threat of Robinson as a shooter terrifies defenses. His screen for Jones Jr. is what sets up the entire chain reaction.

2 replies
  1. Craig Dillinger
    Craig Dillinger says:

    Great breakdown, Nekias! Especially the last play you detailed. I mostly noticed the defense jumping out to defend Duncan and then his nice pass to Bam when I watched it live, so I love how you showed the initial DJJ / Duncan screen action that set everything up. Superb!

  2. Micah Lister
    Micah Lister says:

    Nekias is one of the most talented young writers in basketball. All of his content is appointment reading for me. It’s like the Heat have their own personal Zach Lowe. Thank you Nekias for all you do and thank you Five Reasons Sports for giving him such a great platform. Keep up the great work!


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