The Basketball Unicorn: How Miami Is An Elite Team With A Healthy McRoberts, Deserves More Credit

Insight7 years ago5 min readGiancarlo Navas

“Trade McBobs”, “get his ass off my team.” I hear this weekly, probably daily, as the majority of the Miami Heat fan base seems fed up with the 6’10 forward who’s shooting 13 percent from 3 and can’t stay healthy.

There’s even a meme of a magical unicorn McRoberts because the sight of him on the court is as likely as seeing a unicorn. It’s a pretty great meme.

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The organization is big on McRoberts, but it’s clear and partially fair why the fans aren’t. Coupled with everything I said before, he’s also making around $5.5 million this season, $5.78 million next season and holds a player option in 2017-18, the final year of his contract.

The question then becomes, why the hell does the team want to keep him? One angle could be that it’s incredibly difficult to move the salary of a player who’s hurt all the time and whose deal isn’t expiring anytime soon. Conversely, maybe there’s a chance he could very well be productive? GASP!! I know, taboo to say. Hear me out, though.


Fun Fact: Miami’s defense is at its best when McRoberts plays.

The more games McBob’s plays in a month, the better the Miami Heat’s defense is. In November, when he played all 14 games, Miami had a defensive rating of 92. In comparison, the San Antonio Spurs, who many consider the best defensive team in the league, had a defensive rating of 93.

In December, McRoberts only played four out of 15 available games before a bruised right knee sidelined him and Miami finished with a defensive rating of 103.

Now in the month of January, the Heat’s defensive rating is at 100 with McRoberts playing one out of 16 games after making his long-awaited return last night, three days before the month closes and one game remaining against the Atlanta Hawks at home.

When he is on the court this season Miami has a defensive rating of 95 and when he is off, 100.

That kind of matters, but it’s to be understood that he plays with better defensive units off the bench. The player McRoberts has spent most of his time with on the court this season is Justise Winslow, with Chris Bosh in second and Tyler Johnson third. All notably, no Wade, Green, Dragic or Whiteside.

But the tandem with Bosh is something I’d like to put a little more emphasis on. In the 236 minutes they have spent together this season, they have a defensive rating of 93 and are plus 12 per 100 possessions. This is the highest net rating for any Heat tandem that has played over 200 minutes together this season.

Want to know what Heat trio has the highest defensive rating with a minimum of 200 minutes? Bosh, Justise and McBob’s. They are plus 12 per 100 possessions (good for fourth out of all Heat trios with the aforementioned qualifications) and have an assist percentage of over 64 (also first for a Heat trio).


The Downside of McRoberts

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McRoberts does have his faults. He’s only attempting 3 FGA per game, which is his lowest output since his rookie year where he took 1.3 FGA’s in only 3.5 minutes per game. He’s playing around 16 minutes per game this season.

A lot of the times, McRoberts is open for shots and just flat out won’t take them. It’s odd because he usually getting the ball wide open and in rhythm, but it seems like his whole career has been this way. Outside of his year with Charlotte, he hasn’t attempted over 5.5 shots a game.

Miami would probably like that to change, and while he is one of the best passing bigs in the sport, it’s also nice for a clearly capable shooter to shoot some wide open shots.

McRoberts shot 36 percent from 3 in Charlotte on 4 attempts a game and 42 percent last season on an attempt per game. He clearly can do it competently and he should try doing it some more.

He helps and he fits. I don’t think you could argue that very much at this point. Sure, he comes with his baggage; his rebounding isn’t the greatest, he’s allergic to shooting and he’d made of balsa wood, which is why he keeps breaking.

But he’s also a plus defender and helps Miami’s often-stagnant offense move the ball a bit better. He’s a good high-post passer and can initiate the Heat’s offense from the elbow, high or low post and even the top of the key…oh and he’s an able shooter when he actually shoots.

So can we please stop acting like he is the worst thing in the world? No more yelling to trade him, but please, let’s keep the unicorn meme. That’s hilarious.