The Launching Pad: Bam’s Roll Neutralized, The Heat Need Shooters, Pushing the Pace

Insightlast year10 min readJohn Jablonka

Hi, and welcome back to our Miami Heat weekly round-up: The Launching Pad! Each week, I’ll be going over key observations and trends, breaking down some film, and giving my overall thoughts on the week. You can find all of it here, every Monday.

The Stats & Weekly Thoughts:

I got to be honest, this was honestly one of the least enjoyable weeks to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still gladly watch the games, but the offense has been something else and the actual result of the game doesn’t help either.

We’re at the point of the season where the actual wins and losses don’t mean as much in the grand scheme of things. The Heat have clear strengths, and clear weaknesses, and know what things need to be addressed to have a deep playoff run.

The wins do matter a lot when it comes to the standings and that can be the difference between a lock for the playoffs or the play-in, but a win here and there won’t change much when it comes to their ceiling.

The Heat need to do something about the offense. And they need to do something about the vibes of this team because this team hasn’t been it lately.

Looking at some stats:

  • Record: 2-2(L vs Hawks, W vs Pelicans, L vs Mavericks, W vs Pelicans)
  • Net Rating: +1.2 per Cleaning the Glass
  • Offensive Rating: 112.0
  • Defensive Rating: 110.8

The Heat Need to Shoot Better

It’s getting tiring watching the Heat do the same mistakes over and over and over again. It’s tiring to see shooters miss this many good shots because until they start to hit stuff, it’s tough to make any conclusions on the offense.

There’s little Xs and Os to breakdown in their case because most of it has been as a result of poor shooting. There are only so many adjustments that you can make to offset such a drastic decline in the shooting.

You can run different stuff, have people in different spots on the floor, play different guys more minutes, force more turnovers, and most of that won’t matter as much until the shooting comes back.

All these little adjustments are good to raise the ceiling of the offense. They’re good when it comes to creating counters. But there needs to be some level of competent shooting to even be average on offense:

There is a strong correlation between a good offense and having a good 3pt percentage. You can’t have good offense without that. So, there’s only so much that the players or Erik Spoelstra can do to improve everything elsewhere.

Everything is also connected to the shooting. There have been plenty of defensive adjustments made by opponents(more on that later) to neutralize the Heat’s main source of offense. And the Heat’s counter to most would be… to make shots.

If the defense packs the paint, helps off shooters or goes to double certain players, that would create advantages elsewhere. And most often than not, those advantages are open kick outs. Now, the players could do a better job at continuing the advantage by beating the closeout, but you still don’t want to be passing out shots — oh wait, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing.

The Heat’s 3pt rate has been decreasing:

  • 38.2% → 42.5% → 43.8% → 36.8%

So, not only are they missing open looks(that’s also been getting worse as the goes on, and did you know they’re shooting under 30% on open 3s in January because yay!)

They need to do something about this. It’s been a big enough sample to have this shooting as a level of high concern. Without even setting any volume qualifiers, the Heat have only two players shooting above 34%. How can that even happen?

And historically speaking, you need to be at least an average 3pt shooting team to have a chance in the playoffs:

Since 2018, there have been 27 teams that shot average or below average that made the playoffs. Out of those 27 teams:

  • 1 team won(Los Angeles Lakers in 2020)
  • 6 teams made the second round at least
  • 2 teams made the conference finals

And as we’ve seen that there is a correlation between 3pt% and the team’s offensive rating, there is also a correlation between the team’s offense and their playoff success.

Since, 2018, there have been 22 teams that had an average or below-average offense that made the playoffs. Out of those 22 teams:

  • 1 team won(Golden State Warriors in 2022)
  • 2 teams made the second round at least
  • 1 team made the conference finals

There is a tiny, tiny sample size of teams making any noise in the playoffs if they either have no shooting or no offense.

Defensive Adjustment to Bam

To start off the game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Bam Adebayo was feasting against Jonas Valanciunas in drop coverage:

This has been the coverage he has consistently been taking care of. If you play drop against him and give that much space, he will take all of those jumpers(and make them).

It was interesting to see the adjustment that the Pelicans made in the second half:

Adebayo saw no space against the drop. The Pelicans decided to have the defender that would be usually defending the guy in the dunker spot to rotate early and cut off the drive.

You can see in each of the 2 clips that Trey Murphy III ignores whoever he was meant to guard to stop Adebayo at all costs. That rotation was as early as you can be. It was clear the emphasis was “you’re not beating us with Adebayo’s roll”.

The Heat were able to counter that by having Butler, who would be the guy the defense was helping off of, cut and relocate to the opposite dunker spot:

In the first clip, with Murphy instinctively going to stop Adebayo’s roll, he forgets Butler completely. He trusts that CJ McCollum will sink down to take him. But here, McCollum didn’t even realize as Butler was far in the corner. And once he realizes, it’s already too late.

So, it should come as no surprise that the Pelicans continued this adjustment in their second game. They went into this defense from the tip:

They defended the action in the same way, but the Heat seemed to get better looks out of it, or at least they should have had. There were a lot of times when Adebayo got the ball in the paint and there was a 2 v 3 advantage on the perimeter, you should get an open look somewhere.

Now, they did get some open 3s, but obviously, they missed. However, I don’t think they made enough adjustments to take as much advantage as possible or to counter that defense.

This isn’t the first time a defense played like this against Adebayo’s roll and it will continue to get worse. This has already happened against the Chicago Bulls and that killed the offense.

This adjustment cut Adebayo’s possessions as a roller in half! And these possessions are vital for the Heat’s offense to not be terrible. So, they’ll need to figure out a counter to this defense soon.

Pushing the Pace

One very interesting stat from this week was regarding their pace. Here’s their offensive pace which is seconds per possession on offense with both Butler and Adebayo in their last 5 games:

16.7 vs Bucks → 13.9 vs Hawks → 13.1 vs Pelicans → 15.0 vs Mavericks → 15.0 vs Pelicans

In those two games against the Hawks and Pelicans, they made an effort to push the pace, especially with both Butler and Adebayo on. It was noticeable.

That’s how they can get easier looks — by forcing a lot of turnovers and going fast. But it wasn’t just that they wanted to run in transition off of turnovers. They made an effort to run after everything. It didn’t matter whether it was off a miss or even a make

They had a 9.5s pace against the Pelicans off a miss and that is wild! For their standard, this was a drastic change. Compare that to their 14.4s against the Bucks a few nights earlier.

One other change when it comes to pace, and probably more important than anything else they changed, is the fact they got into sets earlier. It wasn’t the usual push the pace in transition or running off of misses to put up shots. It was to get the ball, get down the court and get into whatever action you wanted to get into:

That’s been the biggest thing I get annoyed with on offense. Why would you waste time getting into initial actions? If you’re going to get into a PnR in the first place, why wait until 10 seconds on the clock? That’s exactly what they stopped doing here.

Now, obviously, some of this pace is unrealistic for this team. They aren’t going to be running this much and this fast. They’ve been one of the slowest teams for years. But they can do these little things to make their lives easier by getting into action a bit quicker and this would have a huge impact on their offense going forward.