The Launching Pad: Non-Existent Rim Defense, Jaime vs Thunder Breakdown, Struggling Offense vs Denver & More

Insight2 months ago11 min readJohn Jablonka

Welcome, welcome, welcome! Here’s this week’s Launching Pad — a weekly round-up where you’ll get everything that you need to know about what happened with the Miami Heat. Everything here will bring you up to speed with all of the games and news you missed by expanding on all of that through deep dives, stats, discussions, analysis, and film breakdown.

Games from the week!

  • 100-107 loss vs Oklahoma City Thunder
  • 108-110 loss vs Washington Wizards
  • 88-100 loss vs Denver Nuggets

Stats from the week!

  • Offensive rating: 105.7 (107.5, 110.2, 98.9)
  • Defensive rating: 112.8 (113.8, 112.2, 112.4)
  • Net rating: -7.1 per Cleaning the Glass
  • eFG%: 50.0% vs 56.0%
  • TOV%: 11.8% vs 12.1%
  • ORB%: 24.8% vs 19.7%
  • FTr: 15.6 vs 14.3

Rim Defense!

Despite the relatively low defensive rating for all three games, the defense against both the Thunder and the Wizards wasn’t up their standards. There were way too many defensive lapses that simply shouldn’t happen. All of it had to do with their rim defense. That was an issue in various ways but it all ended up in them giving easy shots at the rim — guys were getting beat off the dribble too easily, the help was non-existent, they couldn’t defend slips, and were getting beat on back-cuts every single time.

That all starts with their point-of-attack defense. That is the first line of defense that was getting beat all the time in those two games. There was practically zero effort on all of those drives. Just watch how the Wizards were cooking everyone 1v1 with little to no resistance — at the 50s mark, you had Bam Adebayo getting beat by Kyle Kuzma like he was prime Michael Jordan.

Maybe it was because this was the Wizards(a team that currently is behind the Detroit Pistons in the standings), but the effort and the approach was horrible.

The second issue came with the second line of defense not helping. This was particularly an issue against the Thunder. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen someone make a rotation in time to either block a shot, contest a shot, or deter a shot. Anyone that gets a drive to the rim, it’s an open shot 10/10 times. The help from the weakside was non-existent.

Not having guys rotate in time or be the weakside defender hurts a lot when you’re also getting beat on back-cuts and curls.

That was an issue in the Wizards game too and it was 100 times worse with the way they defended them. Wizards were screening a lot and the Heat were switching a lot. So, the counter to that was to slip the screen & go to work there — the Heat had no idea how to defend that.

The Wizards were spamming screens just to hunt the Heat switching. And there was no help at all. The Heat were switching. That was an obvious choice to do so and yet, for some reason, the Heat were still late or provided no help on the backside. Every player that slipped just drove with momentum to no defenders or late help and was already at the rim.

The Heat did adjust at times where they did rotate in time or sent more help on drives. But all that did was put the defense in rotation and open up kickouts for wide-open 3s.

It was a tough couple of nights for the defense.

Offense Struggling vs Denver

The Heat scored 88 points against the Nuggets. They had a 98.9 offensive rating, which not-so-surprisingly is not even their bottom-five performance(sixth).

The Heat have been struggling to score points against the Nuggets in both matchups and going back to the finals. That’s been their issue all the time. Pretty much 90% of their issues start with Jimmy Butler not playing like the team’s best player. He finished with 15 points on 16 shots with two assists. No team is likely to win if the best player is having a performance like this.

One key thing that did stand out was their low 3-point rate. They only attempted 21 3s and made five of them. In their previous matchup, they went 7-for-26. For comparison, they take around 33 for the season.

You’re not going to win many games with your offense if you don’t get up 3s and you don’t make the ones that you get. But those are tough 3s too. This isn’t an issue of making shots against Denver. It’s generating easy ones. The poor shooting and not being able to generate any kind of offense isn’t really surprising.

Outside of Butler, they didn’t have anyone who could force the Nuggets to do anything. The Nuggets defense was allowed to guard everything 2v2. No one was taken off the dribble. The cuts weren’t available. A lot of early help is being sent on picks and not exploiting that. But at the same time no need to over-help and be in full rotation because again, no one can take anyone off the dribble or force strong help.

And when you have Butler deferring and taking a backseat, you’re forced to have other players do the job, particularly Terry Rozier:

On which possessions out of a Rozier-Adebayo PNR did you see a window for a kick out, the defense being collapsed, forcing Jokic to step up, or putting the defense in any kind of rotation one way or the other?

All of these possessions involve them being guarded 2v2 with help showing slightly enough to make the paint hard to get to but not enough to allow easy kicks. Rozier or anyone else wasn’t able to drive fully to the rim to stretch the defense further either.

Even on plays where the defense is in the paint early, neither Rozier or Adebayo are good enough passers to exploit that.

In the first clip, Rozier is too small to even see Robinson in the corner on the skip. Adebayo gets the pocket pass and Reggie Jackson is there to help but he’s not making that read instantly.

At the 18s mark, you have Rozier again missing a wide-open skip to Robinson. Maybe that’s just his limitation because of size but that’s an issue.

That’s an issue with everything non-Butler-related. But that’s made worse when Butler defers a lot.

Here are some possessions with Butler just not looking for his shot. These are both team’s bench units. Butler has Zeke Nnaji on switches(Denver is a switch-all lineup with those players). And there wasn’t a time when Butler simply picked on someone. They could’ve exploited that switch all lineups by picking whatever match-up they wanted. Butler simply didn’t.

Butler is the only player that can force the defense to do something most of the time. That’s how you get the defense in rotation and create those open 3s. Without him playing aggressively, you’re relying on possessions like Rozier. And that’s where you get the Heat unable to crack 90 points in 2024.

Jaime Continues to Shine

Jaime Jaquez Jr had a rough stretch after coming back from his injury. He hit the rookie wall and it showed. Whether it was his 3-point shot disappearing or him struggling inside the arc. He’s been looking better post-All-Star break, though.

In these 11 games, he’s averaging 15 points per 75 possessions on 56% eFG and 58% TS with 16% usage. He’s shooting 58%(!) from 2pt, though continues to struggle from 3pt shooting 33%.

He had one of his best games against the Thunder, though — 25 points on 9-for-10 2pt, 1-for-3 3pt, and 4-for-6 ft:

This was a typical Jaquez game where he was efficient. He got to the rim. He created well for himself. He had great possessions in transition. And was doing the work off ball.

  1. A double drag screen attacking Shai Gilgeous Alexander. Stops near the rim and hits him with nice footwork to get a clean look
  2. A post up vs Gordon Hayward getting to the paint for fouls
  3. Another post up but this time, Jaylin Williams rotates early from the baseline to come help. Adebayo in the paint draws the defense and that’s an open skip to the corner
  4. Transition drive
  5. Transition drive
  6. Isolation drive vs Josh Giddey getting to the paint
  7. Post up getting to the paint, drawing defense and making a kick for 3pt
  8. A handoff with Adebayo, turning the corner to the rim
  9. Off ball cut on the baseline
  10. A strong isolation drive
  11. PNR and again getting deep to the paint with good work to finish
  12. Great off ball cut to the paint

This was a great offensive game but it’s also been his defense that stood out:

I’ve loved his awareness off-ball. That has been an issue for me with him and it’s something that has been trending upwards. he’s been making those weakside rotations consistently now where he’s able to blow up plays.

That’s exactly what he does in the first clip. In the third clip, he makes a good read to help vs Chet Holmgren cutting to strip him. That’s another thing his hands have been lethal off ball, just knowing when to exactly hit the ball loose.

His rotations, his hands, and his off-ball awareness knowing when to help, tag, and sink, have been so effective.

Things That Caught My Eye!

  • Nikola Jovic and post splits!

We’ve been seeing Jovic being used in the post-split actions and I kind of like it. There are many options and set ups that can work with this.

You can have him in the low post as a hub with all the cutting and handoffs going on like in the first clip and second clip — finds Robinson coming off a screen or Patty Mills cutting.

You can run him on the high post with backscreens for Butler to give all the space he needs inside or set up a perfect play for a backscreen for Butler to get a lob pass.

Or if it’s against a mismatch inside, have him draw the defense to make kickouts for 3s.

So many options to run from this. I’d want to see more of this

  • Bam making his DPOY campaign

Adebayo’s defense against the Nuggets was something else. The way he defends Jokic was amazing with how he battled fronting him, denying the ball, holding his own in the post, and making every shot tough

  • In those 2 matchups, Jokic has scored 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting in 101 possessions
  • This play… my favorite this week!

And that is all for this week’s Launching Pad!