How Has Terry Rozier Fit So Far with the Miami Heat

Insight2 months ago17 min readJohn Jablonka

So, Terry Rozier hasn’t exactly had the perfect start with the Miami Heat. He’s played 17 games so far and it’s been a bit up and down(with more up recently). It has to be tough getting used to a new team, a new system, a new coach, and a lot of different players, especially when considering you’re making a change from a team that wasn’t winning to one that is expected to. Playing in Charlotte with LaMelo Ball and all the young guys isn’t the same as playing in Miami with Jimmy Butler. With that considered and a completely different role, he had a rough, rough stretch to start his days in Miami.

In his first 10 games with the team, he ended up averaging 12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists on 40.2% eFG and 45.3% TS, shooting 35-for-81(43%) 2pt and 11-for-47(23%) 3pt. It’s shocking how bad that efficiency was. But again, a lot of factors went into that.

Since the All-Star break, though, we’ve seen a better Rozier. A Rozier that you were kind of hoping for. In the last seven games, he’s averaging 18.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on 54.9% eFG and 57.8% TS, shooting 35-for-66(53%) 2pt, 14-for-36(38%) 3pt. These are the numbers and the shooting splits that help the Heat.

There are a couple of reasons for this kind of change.

One easy one is just plain variance. Rozier has been a streaky shooter over his career but he’s never been that bad. He’s been a much better shooter than what he’s shown with the Heat and that can easily be explained by just a cold streak being with a new team and getting the shots up differently. That kind of affected him across the board. His finishing, his mid-range, and his 3-point shooting all were down compared to what he normally stays at. I severely doubt he suddenly fell off completely.

It was also him getting shots up differently. Pre-ASB, he was used a lot more off-ball and had a different role:

  • 2pt AST%: 28% → 17%
  • 3pt AST%: 91%(!) → 64%
  • Touches: 62 → 68
  • Time of possessions: 3.9 → 4.9
  • Average second: 3.83 → 4.27
  • Average dribble: 3.39 → 3.89

He wasn’t being used in a way that played to his strengths. This also isn’t close to what he was doing in Charlotte, in terms of usage and touches, but it’s closer.

A lot of that had to do with what the team was doing in general when they were healthy. Pre-ASB, they had Tyler Herro taking most of the usage. In 133 minutes with both Herro and Butler, Rozier’s 2pt AST% went up to 45% and his 3pt AST% was 100%(!). That’s not his game.

Though he did showcase a lot of promising off-ball plays — he was active as a screener, constantly looked to move, and just felt active.

Now, post-ASB, he’s used as a primary ball handler. He makes up a lot of the usage in the pick-and-roll. He wasn’t running a lot of that before. Per Couper Moorhead, In these seven games, he’s leading the team with 180 PNRs(ahead of Butler with 105 and Duncan Robinson with 50) and they’re scoring 1.04 points.

That’s exactly why we’ve seen that jump in scoring, playmaking, and efficiency. This is what role Rozier should’ve been playing from the start and it’s the role he should continue to play in.

Now, with a bigger sample size and one that has him in the right role, let’s go through his time with the Heat(focusing on the recent stretch primarily). So, let’s dig deeper to evaluate his game and what’s been going well. As well as some limitations, questions, and fit going forward(especially when healthy and in the playoffs).

I want to focus on this recent stretch because this is the role that he should be playing as when everyone is healthy. I also want to keep in mind that the previous role before ASB should be better this time around considering he has played with the team longer. Before, he just didn’t look like someone that knew what to do. He felt like not knowing when to pick his spots, where to be on the court, and generally how to fit in with everyone. That should obviously be less of an issue. But going forward, I want to evaluate him against being a primary ball handler.

Let’s start with what I think Rozier can and has brought the team.

He is a good primary ball handler. He is a good pick-and-roll player. He can provide some of the downhill threat. He’s been fun to watch in transition always wanting to push. And he’s been a solid tough shot maker.

There are a lot of things that he adds to this that they just didn’t have with either Herro, Kyle Lowry, or Gabe Vincent. And that is a huge plus. That always has to be kept in mind. In a vacuum, I don’t believe Rozier is a needle-moving piece for this team or any contending team. There are a lot of limitations in his game that just don’t scream as a guy you want to eat up a lot of minutes or shots in the playoffs. But when considering the team’s context, it makes sense and it’s good enough for this team. So, considering what they’re replacing and what they’re adding on top of, what Rozier does helps.

The most important thing is that downhill threat. That ability to turn the corner has a burst to the rim, and get by a defender off the dribble with his shifty-ness.

This is something that the Heat haven’t had from anyone in the pick-and-roll. He’s able to turn that corner quite regularly and get right to the rim. His rim-finishing stats, in general, aren’t that great — he’s never been a great finisher, hovering around sub-55 % for his career. In this recent stretch, he’s 20-for-32(62%) within 5ft. That’s 62% on over four attempts. That’s a huge plus from what they had. He’s also averaging 12.0 drives and shoots over 57% there!

What he has shown is having the ability to do it off the dribble in isolation. He has been able to get by defenders with a whole bunch of crafty moves, hesitations, and throwing guys off with the change of direction. I can’t remember the last time they had a shift guard like that can make those moves look so easy as they get by defenders with such finesse.

This one aspect has the potential to be a game changer because it’s something they haven’t had since Goran Dragic(though nowhere close to what Dragic was doing).

And it has to be said about Rozier that this isn’t his game either. He has been getting to the rim well in his career — over 23% of his shots come at the rim. That’s good, not great, especially when you factor in his low efficiency at the rim and his low free throw rate, which is 17% for his career and has barely reached 20% twice. So, inefficient scoring and not drawing fouls doesn’t move things but again, it does in comparison to what they have or had.

A lot more of his shots, particularly in the PNR, come like this:

Or in isolation, it’s also this:

That’s just some tough shot-making. It’s effective. It’s good that a player can create separation, use their handle to get a shot off and be able to get to the rim(even if the jumpers take up most of the possessions). But that’s also more effective at a low volume unless you’re really good. For the season, he is shooting 47.9% on four shots with 7+ dribbles. That has gone up to 60.0% on four shots post-ASB. Recently, he’s been around that mid-40s but has been streaky. Not a great thing to rely on — I’m not a fan of hooper shots, especially if that’s your offense.

One thing that has stood out that I liked is what he can do when the defense switches:

There have been times when he’s got a switch whether it was against OG Anunoby or Kevin Durant and has been able to create a good look. It’s not a complete liability whenever there’s a mismatch switching on. It’s good enough in his game where he’s able to get good looks. That’s important. Being able to exploit a switch vs a mismatch is something that’s absolutely necessary because it eliminates the possibility that a defense can just switch against you.

But another thing that has stood out is this:

There have been many possessions where he has settled or forced a shot. It is somewhat of an issue if he has that volume of reps in the PNR. That’s way too many tough hooper shots and it does feel at times that he falls in love with that where he goes for that shot. That is not what I liked at all.

So, when it comes to his scoring. There are definitely things that he adds to this team that significantly helps. The downhill threat is needed and something they haven’t had since Dragic. But that’s not enough in comparison to all the tough shot-making. And for a guy taking roughly 15 shots, that’s not a good ratio. But at the same time, this is likely not going to be a thing with Butler taking over in the playoffs.

Outside of his on-ball scoring in the PNR, I’ve really enjoyed him in transition:

He likes to push. I just love his energy to want to get out and run and attack the rim. He’s looking to drive and attack constantly! As well as those outlet passes too. A simple thing but he gives them yet another option that can get out in transition that is effective, which is huge for this team to get easy points.

Finally, as he’s been used off-ball, he has done a good job attacking the closeout. At times, he has stopped a bit soon to go for a floater(which is at times annoying), but a lot of the time, he’s still attacking aggressively. And it’s those quick drives that I’ve been enjoying.

Moving on to his passes, which have also been up and down(and a bit more down). Since coming to Miami, he’s already leading them in assists per 100 possessions with 9.1 — 2.8 being at the rim and 3.3 being 3pt. That’s 6.1 being high-quality shots.

One immediate thing that has stood out is his ability to throw a lob!

It’s always fun seeing that and it’s been happening a lot more with Rozier handling the ball. That’s an easy point that Adebayo will get.

Related to his downhill threat, he’s had a number of those dump-off passes. He’s been able to draw the defense and engage them enough to open up pockets down low. That’s what plays in those rim assists(which leads the team). I don’t think anyone has been as good as Rozier at getting those passes down below. That’s another option that he gives that no other guard has been able to do.

That’s unfortunately where it stops with Rozier and his passes. I haven’t seen much to make me believe that running a lot of PNRs will do great for the offense because of his passes. I haven’t seen many skip passes. I haven’t seen many successful kickouts.

A lot of his passes are in the pocket like this:

But with his limited(not as frequent) strong drives to the rim, he hasn’t opened up a lot of good opportunities for Adebayo. Those dump-offs are a great thing and have done better than anyone else. But at the same time, he’s run over 100 PNRs with Adebayo and the majority look like that.


Making that same pocket pass that Herro, Lowry, or Josh Richardson make consistently isn’t an effective thing. A lot of that starts with Rozier not engaging the big to attack, nor forcing the defender to do anything. And all that does on the pocket pass is allow the defender to recover and now it’s as if you just had an Adebayo isolation or a post-up. That’s not setting him up well or helping the offense.

That starts with Rozier most of the time being able to create an advantage on a drive:

Look how many possessions there are with the PNR accomplishing nothing because he can’t fully get downhill and just passes it off. Those drives have been so easily cut off a lot of the time (kind of why you have a lot of hooper shots). His strong downhill threat to the rim isn’t as consistent as you’d like it to be given the volume.

His lack of advantage creation in the PNR vs switches or aggressive defenses also showed up:

That’s another flaw that limits what he can do in the PNR at this volume. Aggressive defenses or switches(with better defenders) have stopped his actions and just stalled the offense regularly. That not only limits his scoring but also his ability to make good reads. Can’t make good reads when you don’t shift the defense in any way.

So, Rozier has been looking much better once some of the shots started to fall down and once he’s been put into a role that’s more suited to him.

That’s been my biggest reason for this jump. You’re using a tough shot maker, solid ball handler and a good downhill threat to be used more on-ball and that’s where he’s been able to get into a better rhythm.

That’s where he’s shown he can get to the rim and finish at an ok-level whether in isolation or turning the corner in the PNR. That has been a pleasant thing to have so far. Related to that, seeing him get downhill and have a strong enough drive to force defenses to do something to open dump-offs inside has also been huge.

This is exactly what the Heat needed from their starting ball handler, which they didn’t from either Lowry or Herro.

But as good as that is, there are hard limitations where there are a lot of possessions where his PNRs don’t get him anywhere. Too many times when his drive was cut off easily or he settled for tough, contested jumpers. That hurts his efficiency and his ability to consistently make high-quality reads.

I also think I may underrate what Rozier has been able to do the last few seasons in Charlotte. I haven’t seen the playmaking out of the PNRs that show any good consistency but maybe that was better in Charlotte. In the last four seasons, he has ranked in the 89th, 80th, 93rd, and 92nd percentile in offensive EPM. You don’t get to that impact by a fluke or if you’re not genuinely impactful. So, there’s still a lot of potential there.

But even if not, I keep wondering how much that even matters. Right now, he’s averaging over 10 possessions per game in the PNRs. Will that even happen when both healthy and in the playoffs? I doubt that and that’s where I can see the impact of Rozier.

What Rozier gives, even with the limitations, at a lower volume is enough. Having that as the secondary option to whatever Butler wants to cook is enough. You can live with a guy taking around 5-7 shots even if it’s average efficiency, but you can’t do so when it’s doubled that. Everything about efficiency and getting high-quality looks matters when considering the volume. I’m imagining how that would work with a playoff Jimmy and it makes sense and I’m talking myself into it.

Relying on Butler to get that rim pressure and create the offense but then having Rozier play off him and provide that release valve as a good downhill threat is exactly what they need.

For comparison, here are some guards’ rim FG% and frequency in the playoffs with Butler on:

  • Gabe Vincent 2023: 45% on 16%
  • Kyle Lowry 2023: 63% on 10%
  • Vincent 2022: 70% on 10%
  • Lowry 2022: 46% on 18%
  • Herro 2022: 66% on 12%
  • Oladipo 2022: 43% on 18%
  • Herro 2020: 63% on 17%
  • Goran Dragic: 71% on 19%

Rozier gives them more of a downhill threat than pretty much everyone. This is what they were missing in the last two playoffs even if Rozier is average at it because they didn’t even have that. They didn’t have anyone to take average efficient shots consistently!

Combine that with the off-ball play that he has shown pre-ASB where he’s a willing corner shooter(though needs to get that % up), wants to screen, and generally active, the fit is there when everyone is healthy in their right roles.

The big question though is what will happen when guys are healthy and by that, I specifically mean Herro. A Herro-Rozier backcourt doesn’t fit if Rozier is pushed into the off-ball role because Herro doesn’t give them what Rozier does. It will be very interesting to see how that all pans out because there is a clear blueprint for it to all workout.

Overall, so far, I do think the Rozier experience has been a positive more than a negative. I don’t look much into what he’s been doing at this high volume where his limitations show up a lot more because that’s on Butler. That’s on the best player making Rozier play like the best player. The skills and how they can translate are there. The potential is there.