Take That For Data: Winning Weekend on Biscayne Boulevard

Insight3 years ago8 min readChristian Hernandez

With the Miami Heat in the midst of the funk that is beginning to put the direction of the season into question, the Heat reeled off back to back close wins against a pair of team’s fighting to making the playoffs in the West.

The Heat came into this weekend’s games with the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz having lost eight of their last 10 games including home losses to teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, and Washington Wizards. These games, as well as the next two, will be very important for the Heat. They are getting ready to enter a brutal stretch that includes the annual west-cost trip — six games in nine nights — followed by home games against the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Having said that, let’s look into what has worked for the Heat in its past couple of wins and some larger trends now that we’ve gotten more data this season.

Small Sample Size Theater

Winning Weekend on Biscayne Boulevard

Looking at data from just the two wins against the Pelicans and Jazz, you see a very distinct story taking place. The starting lineup for both of those games — Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, and Hassan Whiteside — were outscored by 12 points in their 18 minutes together. At times, it looked even worse than that.

Meanwhile, the 4-man group that has been coming off the bench for Miami — Dwyane Wade, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, and Bam Adebayo — outscored opponents by 25 points in 26 minutes this weekend. While it is important to keep in context that the bench group is spending a lot of time playing against other reserves, you could see their impact even against the starting units during some of those overlap periods.

The team relied on good efforts from every member of their current 9-man rotation, but Whiteside in particular played a markedly different game against the Jazz on Sunday. He got up to play against Rudy Gobert, leading all Heat big men in minutes (34), points (23), rebounds (20), assists (2), and blocks (3).

The Heat are a completely different team when Whiteside plays with high energy. They have to hope they see more of that in the coming weeks to get through a tough December.

The Struggles of James Johnson

According to Synergy, Johnson is 1-of-8 from the field in isolation situations since his return. That is definitely a sign of concern considering he has taken the most isolation possessions on the team in the past two seasons while being graded as high as the 77th percentile in efficiency on isolation possessions two seasons ago.


He’s also struggling to defend spot up and isolation situations, which are areas he has excelled in the past few years. It’s pretty safe to say that Johnson is not his usual self right now, and the mysterious delay in his return might be more a sign that his recovery from his hernia surgery is coming along slower than expected. It is still pretty early in his season, and he deserves a few more weeks to get back fully into game shape, but it’s something worth monitoring.

Best Lineups

Here are the top lineup combinations over the last ten games.

Best pairing: Olynyk-Adebayo

Two-man: Olynyk-Adebayo

• plus-71 in 99 minutes.

• 123.3 offensive rating

• 86.6 defensive rating

• plus-36.6 net rating

Best trio: Wade-Winslow-Olynyk

• plus-59 in 71 minutes

• 119.5 offensive rating

• 83.4 defensive rating

• plus-36.1 net rating

Best quartet: Wade-Winslow-Olynyk-Adebayo

• plus-53 in 62 minutes

• 123 offensive rating

• 84.9 defensive rating

• plus-38.1 net rating

Best full unit: Wade-McGruder-Winslow-Olynyk-Adebayo

• plus-36 in 45 minutes

• 116.2 offensive rating

• 82.7 defensive rating

• plus-33.5 net rating

Worst Lineups

Here are, you guessed it, the worst lineup combinations over the last ten games.

Worst pairing: Ellington-McGruder

• minus-76 in 153 minutes.

• 90.1 offensive rating

• 112.2 defensive rating

• minus-22.1 net rating

Worst trio: Ellington-McGruder-Whiteside

• minus-48 in 104 minutes

• 94.2 offensive rating

• 113.1 defensive rating

• minus-18.9 net rating

Worst quartet: Ellington-McGruder-Richardson-Whiteside

• minus-42 in 86 minutes

• 93.0 offensive rating

• 116.2 defensive rating

• minus-23.2 net rating

Worst full unit: Ellington-McGruder-Richardson-Johnson-Whiteside

• minus-26 in 55 minutes

• 100.9 offensive rating

• 124.1 defensive rating

• minus 23.3 net rating

Noteworthy Individual Performances

One Last Dance

Wade is 3rd on the team in points per game and 1st on the team in assists per game during this stretch. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free throw line — a great sign for the 36-year old.

Olynyk and Winslow

The Heat have played tremendous basketball in this stretch with either of these two on the court:

• Olynyk ON: 112.4 ORTG; 94.3 DRTG; plus-59 in 167 minutes

• Winslow ON: 103.8 ORTG; 92.0 DRTG; plus-60 in 260 minutes

A lot of their success can also be tied with the fact that both players, after struggling with their outside shooting to start the season, have found their form. Olynyk has shot 14-of-33 from deep (42.4 percent), while Winslow has knocked down 10 of his 25 attempts (40 percent).

Season Long Analysis

Justise and Bam’s Defensive Gauntlet

Winslow (79th percentile) and Adebayo (89th percentile) currently sit as Miami’s highest rated defensive players on Synergy Sports among Miami’s main rotation players. When they’ve played together (228 minutes), the returns have been very impressive. The Heat currently have a 93.5 DRTG with those two on the court, which is the best among all Heat 2-man lineups with at least 200 minutes played.

Unfortunately, they haven’t played enough minutes to make @nbastats 2-man lineup qualified leaderboard (currently 330+ minutes), but if they had it would currently rank 2nd in the NBA behind the Memphis pairing of Marc Gasol and Jaren Jackson Jr (93.4 DRTG in 337 minutes).

Adebayo in particular is quickly becoming one of the league’s best all-around defenders. He is currently 3rd in DFG% among 206 players that have defended at least 200 possessions according to Synergy Sports. He’s holding opponents to 33.7 percent shooting, trailing only Jrue Holiday and Pascal Siakam. He is just blowing up pick and rolls whether he has to defend the handler or the roll man, allowing just 10 points in 16 possessions guarding either player in the PnR.


Winslow has really recovered after a sluggish start to his season on the defensive end, but it seems a lot of that can be attributed to him spending less time primarily guarding big men. He’s currently allowing the 3rd lowest points per possession to pick and roll ball handlers among the 116 players that have defended at least 50 possessions.


His ceiling is as an elite defensive ball handler so it’s no surprise to see that he plays so much better with an elite defensive big man in Adebayo. Just further reinforcing this point, Miami’s best defensive 3-man lineup this season with at least 50 minutes played is Winslow, Adebayo, and Olynyk with an 81.3 DRTG.

Miami’s Potent Post Defense

The Heat are now over a quarter of the way through their season, and they currently have three players that qualify for Synergy’s Post-Up defense rankings that are in the 92nd percentile or better. McGruder (92nd percentile), Whiteside (96th percentile), and Olynyk (99th percentile) have held opponents in post-up possessions to a combined 5 for 27 from the field while also creating five turnovers.

Winslow has defended the most post-up possessions for the Heat, as he has been playing out of position guarding 4’s for a lot of these season due to James Johnson’s unavailability. Despite that, he is grading out in the 70th percentile holding opponents to 42 percent shooting while creating five turnovers in 19 opportunities.

These four players are a big reason why Miami is the 7th best team in defending post-up opportunities per Synergy Sports.

Let’s Check-In on #TheKids

Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Bam Adebayo Lineup Analysis (via @nbawowy)

Lineup Minutes ORTG DRTG NET
All Three 134 111.9 101.4 +10.5
Bam + Josh 279 111.7 104.8 +6.9
Bam + Josh, No Justise 146 106.6 107.9 -1.3
Justise + Josh 320 110.1 104.8 +5.3
Justise + Josh, No Bam 187 108.9 107.3 +1.6
Justise + Bam 228 111.7 99.8 +11.9
Justise + Bam, No Josh 94 111.3 97.5 +13.8