The Launching Pad: Butler’s Rim Pressure, Getting Duncan Involved, A Defensive Trio

Insight2 months ago7 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

Last week, I noted of the Heat’s relatively easy schedule, despite it being all on the road, and how they need to take advantage of it.

Before this week, the Heat were 3-9 on the road with a minus 4.0 net rating(though they had a 111.1 defense), so they struggled to win on the road. And I know none of these teams were contenders, but no win is easy in the NBA — we saw that last week.

Yet they managed to go undefeated with players missing time. Kyle Lowry missed two games, Bam Adebayo missed one, Jimmy Butler missed one, and Victor Oladipo missed one.

Although they came away with a four-game win streak, I didn’t see many of their issues addressed. Why else would they need 24 triples to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on a game-winning shot? And still had a below-average offense. Or how about scoring 87 points against the Indiana Pacers?

You’ll take any kind of win at this point because you never know what any win streak can do to the team’s chemistry and morale. Everything is better when you win.

At the same time though, you want to see some progress in addressing your weaknesses or building up on things that work. I still don’t know what works for the Heat on offense.

Looking at some stats(12/12/22-12/17/22):

  • Record: 4-0(W vs IND, W vs OKC, W vs HOU, W vs SAS)
  • Net Rating: +6.3
  • Offensive Rating: 109.7
  • Defensive Rating: 103.4

Butler’s Rim Pressure

In the game against the Houston Rockets, Butler was the team’s entire rim pressure.

  • Butler had 7 of the 20 rim attempts
  • 22 of the 44 drives
  • 14 of the 22 passes off drives
  • 7 of the 20 paint touches

That’s one player’s production doing around half of the team’s drives and shots at the rim.

Even in the San Antonio Spurs game, he accounted for 25% of the total rim attempts — second behind Adebayo.

The Heat’s lack of rim pressure has been an issue for quite some time now and it doesn’t look like there is an answer for that on the team.

Here are some interesting stats without Butler:

  • 25.5 rim FGA per 100 possessions(would rank 19th)
  • 29.0% rim frequency (19th)
  • 60.6% rim FG (30th)
  • 62.5% rim FGA that was assisted (29th)

When Butler is on:

  • 23.6 rim FGA per 100 (24th)
  • 26.8% rim frequency (25th)
  • 66.2% rim FG (15th)
  • 55.4% rim %AST (14th)

Although the attempts and frequency are technically higher, it’s the percentages and how much they’re assisted. The second stat matters a lot when it comes to rim pressure.

The slight increase also does make sense, especially with the percentage of attempts assisted. Without Butler dominating the ball, they would run more cuts, post splits, and have more movement. That opportunistic rim pressure is great, but not enough to have a good offense, especially if you’re the worst at converting there.

That higher frequency is completely negated if you’re shooting six percent worse.

Butler can’t do this by himself and this should be the number one thing to address on the offensive end.

The Defensive Trio

Caleb Martin, Haywood Highsmith, and Oladipo.

They’ve been something else on defense this week. For the season, when just two of those three are on, the Heat have a 107.3 defensive rating. There is some shooting luck, but even if you adjust the percentage to be more league-average, it would still be an above-average defense.

Those three are able to play on the perimeter, stick with their man, play in the zone, switch, play the passing lanes, and do anything else you’d need them to do.

Per BBall-Index, Highsmith is in the 97th percentile in defensive positional versatility, Martin is in the 94th percentile, and Oladipo is in the 73rd percentile.

All of those possessions show how much impact they have and are a big reason why the team had a 103.4 defense this week.

I can’t wait to see those three play alongside Butler and Adebayo. I don’t know how that would work but it would be fun to see a lineup of Oladipo, Martin, Highsmith, Butler, and Adebayo. Again, not sure how that works, especially on offense but it would be fun to see them wreck havoc on defense.

Duncan’s Offensive Involvement

Duncan Robinson hasn’t been seeing consistent playing time, especially in the second half. For the season, he ranks 11th in minutes per game in the second half — even behind Orlando Robinson and Highsmith.

Against the Spurs, he played 17 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter. The last time he played the entire fourth was against the Portland Trail Blazers on October 26th when the game was pretty much decided.

He was involved in a lot of actions in the fourth, which either got him a shot or created better looks for someone else.

It started with this play:

Robinson goes to set a ghost screen for Tyler Herro and flares out to the corner. Because of that ghost screen, there is confusion between the defense as to whether to switch. Two defenders stick with Herro before they get hit by Adebayo’s screen. And with no one even realizing Robinson is open, Herro whips out a great skip pass.

Entering the fourth, they continued to use Robinson in these sorts of actions:

It starts with him setting a backscreen for Herro before coming off a stagger at the top. The defense switches the first screen and goes over the second. Zach Collins was already dropping off of Adebayo, but because Robinson is sprinting to get the ball, his threat of the pull-up draws him in. With two defenders on the ball, that opens up a pocket pass for Adebayo and that’s a clear lane to the rim.

Here, they go to a similar play to the first one. Robinson sets a ghost screen for Herro, which again causes confusion on the switch. Adebayo is already there setting a flare screen, and that’s too easy.

They go to the same play here(ghost screen + a flare screen), but it’s a different result. You can see how Jeremy Sochan going over, rather than going under and trying to beat him to the spot. That small difference made that window disappear.

This then turns into Adebayo screening for Robinson. Sochan has to go over again, this draws Jakob Poeltl to step up, and take away the pull-up. This is now an empty side PnR with Robinson drawing two, and it’s a pocket pass to Adebayo.

Finally, there’s this play. Although it was a miss, the process was still good. Everything flows from the same action. Here, Robinson is defended well and takes everything away. So, the most obvious solution is to flow right back into a dribble handoff, as the defender was overplaying and would now be trailing.

With Collins in a drop, Robinson doesn’t hesitate going downhill and goes right in for the floater.

That’s five different plays all stemming from one kind of action and it all involved Robinson. It’s these types of actions where Robinson has the most value, but he’s been used in these the least in the last four years.

He provides so much movement with these actions and can easily flow into a number of counters. It’s this type of movement that gets the defense in rotation and generates good looks.