The Launching Pad: Let Strus Be Loose, Hunting DHOs, Switching to Dropping

Insight3 weeks 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

Another winning week and they also could have been undefeated if it wasn’t for one very, very bad fourth quarter on defense. Each week, it feels like the team is trending up and up. For the season they are now 14th in net rating, 16th on offense, and eighth on defense.

This was also interesting to see how they’d go about it without Tyler Herro. The answer? They did pretty well, especially when Jimmy Butler was on. In those three games, the Heat had a 126.2 offense with Butler on in 107 minutes, but a shocking 100.0 offense with him off in 42 minutes. That’s where Herro would help.

But his absence had indirectly raised some questions about changing up the starting lineup.

Looking at some stats (11/7/22-11/14/22):

  • Record: 2-1
  • Net Rating: +7.7(per Cleaning the Glass)
  • Offensive Rating: 118.2
  • Defensive Rating: 110.5
  • Starting 5 in the last 3 games: 39 minutes (+36.3 net rating, 144.1 offensive rating, 107.8 defensive rating)

Strus Needs to Start

With Herro out, we got to see Max Strus play with the starters and that worked beautifully on offense. In 39 minutes, they had a 144.1 offensive rating. Now, that is a small sample, and had Strus’ hot shooting skewed those numbers — the team did shoot 51.6% from deep.

Looking at just the offensive rating at face value in a small sample shouldn’t lead to any strong conclusions mainly because of that 3pt noise. However, what’s noteworthy is their shot profile.

In those three games, the Heat’s shot profile was this:

  • 35.1% rim frequency
  • 12.1% short mid-range
  • 10.8% long mid-range
  • 20.2% corner 3
  • 21.6% above the break 3

Having a 77.0% rim or 3pt frequency is what you want from an offense. As much as people may dislike analytics, those are efficient shots that make an efficient offense.

Compare that to the usual starting lineup that has Herro instead of Strus and you see a significant difference:

  • 28.1% rim frequency
  • 31.2% short mid-range
  • 10.6% long mid-range
  • 8.7% corner 3
  • 21.2% above the break 3

That’s not a shot profile you want. Without going all nerdy, there is somewhat of a correlation between having a high rim or 3pt frequency and a good offense. That 58.1% frequency would rank dead last in the league.

What’s even more surprising is the usual starting five are shooting 43.7% from 3! They shoot that high, yet are still below average on offense.

I’ve talked about the team needing shooters in the last week’s Launching Pad, where I mostly discussed the 3pt volume increasing with one of Strus or Duncan Robinson. After this week, it’s clear that the team has a better shot profile that will lead to a better offense with one of those high-volume shooters.

With one of those shooters on, in 373 minutes, the team’s shot profile is:

  • 30.7% rim frequency
  • 19.2% short mid-range
  • 8.9% long mid-range
  • 13.1% corner 3
  • 27.8% above the break 3

When you have both off, it’s basically the same as the starters’ profile. Previously, I thought it was more about Herro changing up the offense, but even if you replace Caleb Martin with Strus in the lineup, that five resembles the efficient profile. The only reason that lineup’s offense sucked was that they shot 22.5% from 3.

But like I said, in a small sample size, that 3pt noise is going to skew a lot of these numbers. The most important thing is their shot profile.

With Strus’ recent play, it’s a no-brainer not to have him start going forward.

From Switching to Dropping

In this game against the Charlotte Hornets, the Heat must have played drop with Bam Adebayo the most this season. Though it does feel like they have sprinkled in drop on occasions more frequently, I can’t remember it being used this much in a single game.

I have mixed feelings about this. There are no mixed feelings about Adebayo’s work in drop, but it depends on who’s guarding the ball handler and the players not involved in the action.

In this play, you have Kyle Lowry defend Terry Rozier. He doesn’t do a good job getting closer to Rozier, being ready and skinny to get over the screen. He trails, which forces Adebayo to step up and take away the pull-up.

As Lowry recovers and Adebayo defends Rozier, Martin does a great job being early at the nail to tag, and either take the pass to the roll away or allows Adebayo to recover. Adebayo does just that with his burst. He was able to take the pull-up and prevent the roll in mere seconds. That’s impressive to take away two actions effectively.

But what’s going on with Jimmy Butler and Strus?

In most cases, Butler would have to rotate as the low man to take the drive away and Strus would sink down to help the helper. But here, is there a need to overhelp this much? With both of them focused on the action, PJ Washington is able to set a pin-in screen for an open corner 3.

The Hornets switched things up here. Mason Plumlee screened the other way and that makes a huge difference. This now turns into an empty pick-and-roll with no one available to tag the roll.

This meant that Adebayo couldn’t step up and take Rozier until Lowry recovered — he also did a better job at getting around the screen. Martin is there again at the nail, but this time, he’s there to help on the drive. With this being a drive going middle by Rozier, it’s a much simpler read to kick out to Washington one pass away.

This play shows Adebayo’s defensive prowess and why there aren’t any mixed feelings if he’s defending any action. But before that, also notice Lowry’s defensive IQ here. With Martin getting caught on the screen and trailing the play, Lowry immediately steps in to cut him off, whilst Martin switches to the perimeter.

This forces Rozier to change direction but it doesn’t matter because even Adebayo is able to switch at the last minute without giving up the roll to block Rozier.

The drop has been working in these small bursts, so it will be interesting if they continue to go to it.

Hunting DHOs

Do you remember how I said the Heat’s offense without Butler in these three games was a 100.0 offensive rating? Well, this is why:

That’s the issue when there’s no Butler and when Herro is also out. The Heat are extremely 3pt reliant without Butler, especially in that second quarter against the Hornets.

There’s also a difference between having a high 3pt rate and being 3pt reliant. It’s how you get those looks. In that clip, it was hunting dribble-hand-offs.

I’m not even sure if anyone broke the 3pt line on any of those actions. There was zero rim pressure. No one was able to force any defensive rotation. No one was able to beat anyone off the dribble. And all that leads to is spamming a DHO.

A DHO is an effective play — when used right. Any play can be effective if it can force rotations.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • In the last three games, the Heat are first in potential assists with 59.3
  • The Heat average 23.8 assists with Herro and 27.1 without
  • In seven of the last nine games, the Heat’s opponent had a TOV% in the 84th percentile or higher, including five in the 90th or higher