The Launching Pad: Turnover Frenzy, Okaro Doin’ Work, & Funky Pick-and-Rolls

Insight5 years ago7 min readNekias Duncan

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: 4-5 (2-2, 10th place in East)

• Offensive Rating: 102.0 (102.3)

• Defensive Rating: 104.1 (101.0)

• Pace: 99.88 (99.35)

• True Shooting Percentage: 55.5 (56.4)

All stats through 11/5/17

Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)

Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow, Okaro White, Kelly Olynyk

• Minutes: 12

• Offensive Rating: 121.8

• Defensive Rating: 90.5

• Pace: 102.43

• True-Shooting Percentage: 75.8

The Big Number: -13.9

A flip seems to switch after halftime for the Miami Heat. The Monstars siege the locker room. A flakka party breaks out—I don’t know. But for whatever reason, the Heat turns into a JV squad in the second half.

Miami ranks fourth in the NBA in first-half net rating, outscoring their opponents by 11.2 points per 100 possessions. Their second-half net rating (-13.9) is, by far, the worst mark in the league. Only the Phoenix Suns (-10.4) and Sacramento Kings (-10.1) are getting outscored by more than 10 points per 100 possessions.

The biggest issue: the offense (89.1 offensive rating, last in the NBA) turns into a steaming pile of poo. They rank at or near the bottom in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, true shooting percentage, rebounding rate, turnover percentage and assist-turnover ratio.

Bad shots and live-ball turnovers lead to easy buckets for the opposition. From there, it just snowballs until the Heat barely resembles an NBA team. Look no further than their fourth quarter against the Clippers on Sunday, where Miami proceeded to blow a 25-point lead before barely hanging on for a three-point win.

I’m not quite sure what the path to correcting this is. More set calls from head coach Erik Spoelstra may give the team some much-needed structure. Allowing a certain wing to handle the ball when Goran Dragic goes to the bench could help prop the second unit. Miami could jump a tier if they turn into a bad second half team instead of the catastrophic disaster they are now.

Weekly Trends

1. Too many turnovers

Anyone that played MyCareer mode from NBA 2K14 through 2K16 remembers the most annoying assistant coach in sports gaming history. He had plenty of post-practice rants, but we all remember his most famous line:

Spo needs to hire that guy or display that same disgust on the sidelines.

Turnovers have been Miami’s biggest problem this season. They’re currently averaging 16.2 turnovers per 100 possessions, tied for the fifth-worst mark in the NBA.

You can deal with some of the “trying-to-make-a-play” turnovers. Like here, Goran Dragic tries to thread the needle on a pocket pass in pick-and-roll. The pass was a little off, but this is also a nice play by Jeff Teague:

However, some of this stuff is just inexcusable. Here’s Dragic botching a 3-on-1 fast break earlier in the game:

Here, Josh Richardson tries to force an entry pass despite the poor spacing. And how on Earth is a pass this short so off-target?

James Johnson literally throws away two points on what should’ve been an easy outlet after the steal here:

Miami committed 24 turnovers in a winnable game against the Timberwolves. They committed 23 turnovers in a winnable game against the Nuggets. Two 20-plus turnover games in a week is unacceptable, especially considering they only had three such games all of last season.

A veteran team with this much continuity shouldn’t be playing so sloppy. They must step it up.

2. Okaro White, doing the little things

We’ve talked quite a bit about Richardson’s development, the polarizing nature of Justise Winslow’s offensive usage, Bam Adebayo’s early flashes, and even the role Rodney McGruder (out for most of the year with a leg injury) could be playing right now. Okaro White had fallen by the wayside, but quickly reminded folks why the Heat like him.

The lanky forward didn’t have a big statistical week (5.0 points, 2.3 rebounds in 17.7 minutes), but he committed himself to doing the little things to make an impact on the floor.

His calling is on the defensive end. He’s quick enough to hang with wings — and some guards in a pinch — while being completely unafraid to bang with brutes on the block. He guarded a little bit of everyone last week, ranging from Jimmy Butler to Blake Griffin.

On offense, he stays within himself. He’s not a Steph Curry-like shooter, and his handle makes James Ennis looks like Kyrie Irving. He screens hard, boxes out and has a keen understanding of spacing.

Those are the kind of plays that will keep him in Miami’s rotation.

3. The inverted pick-and-roll with James Johnson is still working

Miami’s most productive pick-and-roll pairing features a guard (typically Goran Dragic) and James Johnson. You’d think that would come from Johnson being the screener, but it’s the exact opposite.

Dragic doesn’t mind doing the dirty work, and his shove-screens tend to force switches or create enough of a disturbance to give Johnson the sliver of space he needs to attack.

Wayne Ellington is a sneaky-good screener as well:

It’ll be interesting to see how teams plan to combat that. Johnson’s a good enough passer to make hedging teams pay. Going under the screen just gives Johnson more time to get a head of steam. We’ll see.

Bonus: I’m not even going to drop a section on Adebayo’s defense after Couper Moorhead (follow him on Twitter at @CoupNBA) dropped his wonderful piece on Thursday. Read it here.

Set Play of the Week

Kelly Olynyk Quick-Hitter

This play begins in HORNS — or it looks like it will be. Olynyk and White congregate at the free throw line before Olynyk jets for the corner. He sets a screen for Tyler Johnson, who curls inside to receive the pass.

Johnson gains momentum going downhill so Karl-Anthony Towns has to step up to contain the drive. While Towns steps up, Olynyk pops out to the 3-point line. Johnson makes the easy pass and Olynyk sinks the shot.

I can’t stress how important that screen was. The play doesn’t work without Jamal Crawford (Johnson’s defender) falling behind after the screen, forcing Towns to step up in containment.

Not the most elaborate look, but effective nonetheless.