The Launching Pad: Great Wall of Whiteside, Dwyan3 Wad3, Olynyk Finding Himself

Insight3 years ago7 min readNekias Duncan

Welcome to The Launching Pad, a weekly roundup of Miami Heat basketball. Who’s playing well, and who should pick it up? What numbers should you be watching? What was that beautiful play Miami ran in the second quarter? You can find all of it here, every Monday.

The Stats (Weekly stats in parenthesis)

• Record: 3-2 (2-0, 6th in the East)

• Offensive Rating: 109.2 (115.0)

• Defensive Rating: 103.1 (98.0)

• Net Rating: plus-6.1 (plus-17.0)

• True-Shooting Percentage: 53.3 (57.0)

• Pace: 102.00 (100.5)

• Time of Possession: 13.8 seconds (14.1)

Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)

Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk

• Minutes: 10

• Offensive Rating: 115.8

• Defensive Rating: 77.3

• Net Rating: plus-38.5

• True-Shooting Percentage: 61.5

• Pace: 96.47

The Big Number: .750

We’re going to go back to the Synergy well for this one.

In general, the Heat want to get downhill on offense to force defensive reactions. Those reactions, in theory, should lead to wide open catch-and-shoot opportunities.

The Heat are creating those spot-up looks. In fact, 21.7 percent of Miami’s shots have been spot-ups, the fifth-highest mark in the league. The issue is that they’re only generating 0.75 points per possession on those shots, the second-worst mark in the league.

That is obviously ugly, but it’s encouraging. The Heat should have a lotttt of positive regression coming if they keep generating that volume of looks.

Weekly Trends

1. Hassan Whiteside is shutting things down

Hassan Whiteside seems all the way back on the defensive end. That is a huge development.

And it is absolutely terrifying for opposing offenses.

Whiteside is doing it with blocks, and he’s doing it from everywhere. The paint isn’t a safe space, no matter if you’re big or small:


Those pockets of intermediate space – those that are designed to be there as part of Miami’s drop coverage in pick-and-roll – aren’t as available when Whiteside is in. Below, Tim Hardaway Jr. tries to splash home a floater. It, uh, does not go the way he expected it to:


If you needed any more proof that the range is back, just ask Al-Farouq Aminu:


The Heat currently rank fifth in the league in defensive rating (103.1), and Whiteside is quite literally the biggest reason for that.

Their defensive rating drops to 99.4 when Whiteside is in, a mark that would rank third in the league. It raises to 104.0 when he’s on the bench – a very good mark, but a notable difference nonetheless.

Whiteside’s defense has sparked Miami’s offense, even though he’s struggled individually. One number that stands out: 14.2 percent of Miami’s scoring comes via fast break when Whiteside is on the court. That number drops to 5.3 percent when Whiteside is on the bench.

That, of course, speaks to his presence as a rim protector, but also as a glass cleaner. He currently leads the NBA in defensive rebounding (11.4 per game).

The Heat have a 77.5 defensive rebound rate when he’s on the floor – a mark that would rank third in the league. It drops to 71.3 when he’s on the bench; that would rank 21st, slightly ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers.

While it obviously isn’t ideal for Whiteside to awkwardly go coast-to-coast or miss some jump hooks he normally makes, you can live with that when he’s changing the game on the interior like he has been.

Welcome back, big fella.

2. Dwyane Wade: Three-point marksman

Dwyane Wade has been a lot of things over the course of his career: A point guard, a shooting guard, a dynamic passer, an elite mid-range-and-in scorer, a low-post savant, a game-changing defender, and a champion. You get my drift.

The one thing he has consistently not been is a three-point shooter. He’s a career 28.8 percent shooter from Kaboom Town. Of the 398 players that have taken at least 1,000 threes for their career, he ranks 395th in accuracy.

So, of course, he’s making them like nobody’s business.

Wade caught absolute fire against Portland, erupting for 18 points in the first half. That part isn’t new. The fact that he went 4-of-5 from three ranks pretty highly on the “Wait, WHAT???” scale.

It started out normally enough, with Wade knocking down a trailer three in transition. Nobody was within 15 feet of him. He had time to get set, take a deep breath, file his taxes, and unleash from deep.

His second make came straight out of the Damian Lillard playbook, which is pretty fitting to be quite honest:


The third one came in the left corner: A result of miscommunication between noted defensive specialists Seth Curry and C.J. McCollum. It was a relatively open look that came in rhythm. Okay. Fine.

What in the HECK is this?


There’s getting hot, and then there’s whatever Wade was on Saturday night. It was incredible to watch and predictably funny to follow on Twitter.

On the year, Wade is shooting a career-high 38.9 percent from three on a career-high 3.6 attempts. He’s shooting 44.4 percent on catch-and-shoot looks. I mean, come on.

We can talk about possible regression some other time. For now, this is just flat-out fun.

3. Welcome back, Kelly Olynyk

The year didn’t start particularly well for Kelly Olynyk. He was abysmal in the preseason, shooting 32.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep.

The regular season started, and Olynyk remained cold from outside. Through Miami’s first three games, Olynyk shot 6-of-8 inside the arc, but only 2-of-8 behind it.

Luckily for the Heat, Olynyk got rolling over the past week. He averaged 15 points with a 59/36/86 shooting split. His 36.4 percent shooting on 5.5 attempts from deep is something the Heat can definitely live with moving forward.

What makes Olynyk dangerous is his unpredictability. He can score from anywhere. The threat of him shooting opens up his pump-and-drive game. Olynyk finally finding his stroke means we can expect more plays like this:

Set Play of the Week

21 Series (of passes)

A lot of teams – particularly the Houston Rockets – run variations of 21 as part of their early offense looks.

The alignment starts off with one perimeter player taking the ball up court, while the other stations in either wing waiting to receive a pass. From there, you typically see a left-to-right or right-to-left dribble handoff between the two guards that flows into a pick-and-roll with an arriving big. Although, there are plenty of counters available depending on how the defense reacts.

Here’s a great primer (it’s only a minute and 47 seconds) for anyone interested in how Houston in particular runs it.

The Heat busted out this baby during their blowout win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.


You can see the 21 set develop as Josh Richardson crosses halfcourt and dumps the ball off to Goran Dragic. Damyean Dotson is clearly preparing for the dribble handoff. Look at how he positions himself early so he can fight through and deny the ball.

This is where it gets fun.

Richardson reads Dotson’s posture and changes course. Instead of continuing right, Richardson throws in a subtle juke before cutting, completely catching Dotson off guard.

The chain reaction is set off from there. The defense collapses on Richardson, Richardson dumps it to Wade, the defense collapses on Wade, and Wade dumps it off to Whiteside.

If a dribble-handoff is akin to an RPO in football, the decision making in space from Richardson was pretty much an option route.

Touchdown. Or something.