The Launching Pad: Oladipo Showing His PnR Game, Adebayo Drawing Attention, Guard Screening

Insight2 months ago9 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

“Good things happen when this team is healthy”. That was how I described the week in last week’s Launching Pad, and yet this same healthy team lost to the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs at home.

No matter how you want to spin that, it doesn’t look good. Good teams beat bad teams most often than not. Sure, there will be games where a genuine contender will lose to one of the worst teams without their starters because that’s basketball.

A lot of strange things can happen in basketball, but that wasn’t it. There wasn’t anything unusual about these losses. They just played badly — once on offense, the other on offense.

But what’s surprising is the starters — more specifically when Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are on — the team does very, very well.

During this week, the Heat with both Butler and Adebayo on:

  • 82 minutes
  • +13.7 net rating
  • 127.9 offensive rating
  • 114.2 defensive rating

They are winning their minutes significantly when both are on. That’s exactly what you want to see. In fact, that duo’s net rating is the highest it has ever been since Butler arrived. They haven’t been this good with both of them, especially on offense ever!

Last year, with both on, the team had a 111.9 offensive rating — this year that number is 120.5, per Cleaning the Glass.

The only issue — and a pretty big issue at that — is when just one of them sits. That net rating drops all the way to minus 15.7. You can’t have that big of a drop-off when just one of your top-2 players sits.

It’s encouraging to see that the starters are winning their minutes by a good margin, alongside other individual growth — Tyler Herro’s passing and Adebayo drawing significant defensive attention.

They still have a relatively easy stretch that they need to take advantage of.

Looking at some stats(12/05/22-12/10/22):

  • Record: 1-3 (L vs MEM, L vs DET, W vs LAC, L vs SAS)
  • Net Rating: -6.8
  • Offensive Rating: 109.5
  • Defensive Rating: 116.3

Oladipo’s PnR Game

We finally saw Victor Oladipo play. Our biggest off-season acquisition for the third straight season — not sure how that’s possible but it’s true!

In theory, Oladipo would’ve provided everything that this team needs. Oladipo has always been one of the best guys at getting to the rim. Per BBall-Index, he’s been in the 90th percentile or higher in rim shot creation in five different seasons from 2014-2021 — even in the year following his injury.

Even with a slight decline and an average at best 3pt shooting, that rim pressure would be immensely valuable.

And in the past two games, he also gave us some flashes of his pick-and-roll game. Though, the results may not have been that great.

One of the most common ways the PnR ended was with him getting into the paint for a floater or a mid-range shot:

When he managed to get his defender going over the screen by either a good move to freeze his defender on one side or by getting a re-screen, that put the defensive big in a drop, where he was able to get to his spots for a floater.

At times though, he did have some questionable shot selection:

Not sure how to feel about taking pull-up 3s even when the defense goes under his screens. I mean there is a reason why they’re going under in the first place.

And in both possessions, that was the first action early in the shot clock. A pull-up 3 off a screen will be there most of the time at any moment. It would be much better if he got the re-screen and tried to get into the mid-range instead.

With him, it does look like there needs to be a re-screen most of the time for him to create any type of advantage.

The defense will be going under a lot. So, the counter to that is to set another screen, which will force the defense to go over(you rarely want a defender going under twice because even a bad shooter will make an open mid-range shot).

I liked his patience on this possession, too. Once he got over the screen, he keeps Ivica Zubac engaged and waits to see what Dewayne Dedmon does. At the same time, Caleb Martin takes advantage of the defense not watching him and cuts under the basket. Then we have good, quick recognition from Oladipo to find him inside.

That was great. But there were also a couple of possessions, where I felt like he made his decision to pass pre-maturely — as if the decision was predetermined, even before the defense reacted:

When he attacks, he makes a poor decision on the pass to Duncan Robinson. The defender wasn’t stunting that strongly, so he was going to recover to Robinson quickly. And the pass was also inaccurate, so any advantage was negated. In the second clip, it also seems like he makes the decision before anything happens.

There were also two possessions that showed potential:

In the first clip, he runs a PnR with Adebayo(great counter from Adebayo with his step-up screen!) and he’s able to keep the defender engaged before setting up Adebayo with a pocket pass. That gives the Heat an option off the bench that can set Adebayo up.

In the second clip, he shows the potential of that burst to the rim when he’s able to reject the screen.

Adebayo Drawing Attention

Adebayo has been something else since the second Washington Wizards game on 25th November. From that date, in eight games, he’s averaging 25.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists on 62.8% true shooting.

Digging deeper, he’s 37-for-47(78.7%) in the restricted area, 40-for-81(49.4%) from inside the paint(non-RA), and only 3-for-9(33.3%) from the mid-range.

I say only in regards to the mid-range because he replaced that with a much better quality shot — though I’d still want that restricted area number a bit higher.

But because of this increased production, it did come with an increase in defensive attention. In most cases, Adebayo has drawn single coverage, with drawing some help against certain mismatches.

During this week, though, he’s been seeing certain defenses for the first time. Some of the adjustments include getting fronted, stronger digs, unpredictable help from different directions, and straight-up getting doubled.

Adebayo simply getting this much attention is huge for this team. The first thing that a great offensive player has to do is to draw extra attention, force defenses into rotations, and create some advantages in the first place.

That’s step one and it looks like he’s there.

What was surprising is seeing the extra help in transition!

This is the first time I recall a wall being built for Adebayo. In that second clip, he had three defenders all helping off to prevent him from getting inside the paint.

The next step for him is to beat that help and make plays for others. That’s what’s needed for him to be in that next tier of creators.

I’ll be going over Adebayo’s growth, limitations, and next steps as a creator in more detail later this week.

Guard x Guard Screening

One thing that stood out in the San Antonio Spurs is the guard-guard screening. That was the case throughout the game but was key late in the game.

There was plenty of Oladipo screening for Butler, Butler screening for Herro, Kyle Lowry as one of the screeners in a double screen, and plenty of ghost screens.

These PnRs with these players made the defense think. When Butler was the screener, it allowed him to slip screens and make reads as a roller. Or it also made the defense think about switching in the first place, which would give Herro a clean pull-up.

When it was Oladipo screening, the defense didn’t want to switch, so it forced the defense to show and recover and to fight through screens. This gave Butler a clear line drive.

And when it comes to the shooters, their screening works in a form of a ghost screen(where the player doesn’t establish contact on the screen but rather pops to the 3pt line quickly):

This screening also causes some confusion. Because of the lack of contact on the screen, the defense isn’t always sure whether to switch or not.

And all it takes is that split second of indecisiveness to either create an open 3(first clip) or a straight line drive(second clip).