The Launching Pad: Corner Threes Galore, Celtics Repeat Defensive Script, Maximizing Jimmy’s Advantages

Insightlast month6 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

This wasn’t how I envisioned the Miami Heat starting their season. It’s only been four games, so all of this is pretty much an overreaction — but this is all we have right now. And at this point, you can’t make any conclusions about anything. So, with it being so early in the season, these are just observations that caught my eye that was interesting enough to talk about. None of this could matter 40 games later.

Looking At Some Stats (10/19/22–10/23/22):

  • Record: 1-3 (T-11th in East)
  • Net Rating: minus-3.4 (per Cleaning the Glass)
  • Offensive Rating: 110.6
  • Defensive Rating: 114.0
  • Three-Point Attempts (3PA): 28.0 (27th in league)
  • Corner Threes Per Game: 6.3 (down from 11.2 last year)
  • 136.1 defensive rating with Dewayne Dedmon on
  • Starting 5: 39 minutes (+0.8 net rating, 116.4 offensive rating, 115.5 defensive rating)

Abnormal Corner 3s

For the past three seasons, the Heat have consistently ranked amongst the highest in terms of opponent’s corner 3 frequency. In each season since 2019, the opponent’s corner 3 frequency has been over 10 percent, so it’s not a surprise that they’re leading the league this year.

The issue is they’re allowing way more than normal.

The Toronto Raptors last year lead the league at 14.2 percent and that was seen as a risky decision. Well, the Heat now lead the league at 16.9 percent. That has been one of the biggest issues so far with their defense, and this doesn’t seem to be a fluke or small sample — it’s just how their scheme is.

That was one of the reasons why they lost to the Boston Celtics in their second game of the season.

Against the Celtics, it was a lot of soft switching leading to players like Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent, and Tyler Herro being matched up in the post by taller players. With the mismatch, that will have the weakside defenders pre-rotating and sending doubles.

That’s again a common situation that the Heat have found themselves in last year, too. In this game, though, everything else was just bad. The rotations were off, and players weren’t engaged, or slow to react.

And the same thing happened against the Raptors a day later, but there was a difference in how they were given up.

Every example in that clip is defenders helping off the strongside corner to help against drives. That extra defender does mean preventing the drive and a potential shot at a rim — the Heat are 10th in opponent rim frequency.

This scheme has worked out with an elite defense the past few seasons, so I expect the defense to gradually get better over the season, as most of the issues feel more about effort and making the rotations.

Miami’s Offense Against The Celtics…Feels Familiar

This game against the Celtics was pretty much how every game went in the playoffs. Whatever action they run, the Celtics’ defense was pretty simple — go in a drop, don’t sag off shooters, and let the Heat take all the long mid-range shots they want.

The Heat shot 15-for-31 in the restricted area, 8-for-17 in the paint, and 11-for-18 in the long mid-range. That’s exactly what the Celtics wanted, especially when they’re hitting 3s.

Two actions stood out here: A Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro pick-and-roll with Bam Adebayo.

You can see in all of these actions, no Celtics’ defender wants to help off any shooters. This gives Butler no options but to go to the rim into Al Horford or take the mid-range shot. Unless you’re shooting Kevin Durant-esque numbers, that’s not going to be a good offense.

When it comes to those actions with Butler, there needs to be more activity from the others around the arc. In the first clip, Jayson Tatum is not watching Herro, so why not set a screen for Kyle Lowry?

If the defenders aren’t paying attention, GO SET A SCREEN OR CUT!

With Herro’s actions, the solution is down to him. He is too good of a shooter to not take pull-up 3s when Horford is in a deep drop — have the screen be higher, take those 3s, and force Horford to come up.

Maximizing Advantages For Jimmy

To have a great offense, you need to create advantages and convert those advantages. In the first Raptors game, Butler did one of those things very well.

Butler is great at creating advantages. He’s one of the best slashers, and he draws multiple defenders whenever there is a mismatch in the post. That’s one of the key things he wants to do. Though it doesn’t feel like he, nor the team, convert on those advantages.

Per BBall-Index, Butler ranked in the 60th percentile amongst all on-ball players. This showed in the Raptors game.

It was good to see the Heat having Lowry screen for Butler to force those, but that’s the first step of a great offense. In the third clip, Butler draws three defenders — that’s elite. But there needs to be some movement from the rest of the team to capitalize on it. There needs to be actions off the ball, screens, and cuts to make life easier for Butler to actually make a read.

And once those actions happen, Butler needs to be more decisive in trying to create something. At least the most difficult part of actually drawing extra defenders is already there consistently.