The Launching Pad: Point Justise, Adebayo’s Time To Shine, Jones Jr Flying High
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 parentheses)
• Record: 11-14 (2-1, 9th in the East)
• Offensive Rating: 106.0 (109.0)
• Defensive Rating: 106.1 (101.0)
• Net Rating: minus-0.1 (plus-8.0)
• True-Shooting Percentage: 53.5 (55.0)
• Pace: 101.76 (99.50)
• Time of Possession: 14.2 seconds (14.7)
Lineup of the Week (min. 10 minutes)
Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo
• Minutes: 13
• Offensive Rating: 92.3
• Defensive Rating: 80.0
• Net Rating: plus-12.3
• True-Shooting Percentage: 54.8
• Pace: 93.91
The Big Number: 57.8
Don’t look now, but the Heat have quietly creeped back into the top ten in defensive rating. They rank 8th, slightly behind the Toronto Raptors (105.8) despite having maybe half of their versatility on the roster.
I’ve detailed the flaws of Miami’s “drop” coverage, but on balance, it has worked for them. The Heat have “allowed” the third most mid range attempts per game (17.3). When opponents have gotten to the rim, they’ve been met with rejection. They’ve converted 57.8 percent of their shots at the rim against the Heat, currently the stingiest mark in the NBA.
As it turns out, trying to score at the rim against Hassan Whiteside or Bam Adebayo (more on him shortly) is pretty freaking hard to do.
1. Justise Winslow is what we thought he was
Under normal circumstances, overreacting to a three-game sample would be ill-advised. Premature. Irresponsible, even.
Who the heck cares?
Did you SEE Justise Winslow this week?
He led the Heat in scoring (18.3), ranked fourth in rebounds (6.3), and technically ranked second in assists (5.7) though Goran Dragic (10.0) only played one game. Winslow legitimately operated as Miami’s point guard, and the results weren’t a surprise to anyone that had been paying attention to his skill set over the last two years.
Winslow worked wonders with a head of steam, attacking the basket and finding corner shooters with his usual pizazz:
He also generated a bunch of dunks with lobs and pocket passes. Most of them went to Bam Adebayo, another guy that shined bright during the early portion of Miami’s road trip. The synergy between the two was on full display on Sunday, with Winslow finding Adebayo on three different occasions in the fourth quarter.
The most important plays for Winslow came with him forcing the issue. He had success at the rim, converting 11 of his 13 tries. Finishing through contact didn’t seem like a problem, even if it wasn’t always pretty. This, however, was the most important shot he took (and made) all week:
That was fluid. Confident. Smooth. Above all, it’s insanely important. We know Winslow can get to the rim. We also know he can make virtually all of the necessary passing reads in pick-and-roll. Adding anything in the intermediate area — a reliable floater, a pull-up jumper, a Wade-like push/hook with a small on his hip — will open up the floor for him.
He needs to dedicate the rest of this season to finding something that works for him in that area. If it leads to wins, cool! If not, that’s also cool.
2. Bam Adebayo balling in Hassan Whiteside’s absence
Winslow was the star of the week, but Adebayo wasn’t too far behind him. He slapped up an efficient 14 & 8 while swatting a couple of shots (okay, 1.7 blocks) and generating turnovers (1.0 steals). Speaking of steals, I’m still not completely over this:
How long is the list of bigs that can anticipate that pass, tip/catch it, then go coast-to-coast for the and-one finish? Off the top of my head, there’s Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Draymond Green, Pascal Siakam, and Al Horford. In other words: four (super) stars and the likely Most Improved Player award winner (sorry, J-Rich).
Adebayo looks comfortable and confident on both ends of the floor. He’s still winning perimeter switches, and is locking down the paint with more fervor. Here’s a fun stat: of the 125 players that are defending at least three shots inside of six feet per game (minimum: 10 games played), Adebayo ranks 3rd in field goal percentage allowed (47.6).
Watching Adebayo last year, you knew he could be a valuable defender because of his ability to hang in space. The fact that he’s starting to shut down the paint is making some (read: me) reconsider his potential on that end. He looks outright frightening.
Offensively, it’s been much of the same. He’s erasing opponents with screens, then slipping to the basket before his defender can react to what’s happening. The difference in speed between him and Hassan Whiteside is just as stark on the offensive end. That’s a large part of why the Winslow-Adebayo pick-and-roll has been more effective — over 20 points per 100 possessions more effective (0.94 vs 0.71) — than the Winslow-Adebayo pairing.
It’s … well … it’s looking like Adebayo needs to be the starting center moving forward. The difference in rebounding (Whiteside is, at worst, the third best rebounder in the league) doesn’t outweigh the rest anymore. Even beyond the numbers, Adebayo just feels like a better option. There’s more (ball) movement, more urgency, and more pressure on the defensive end.
It’s time to hand the young fella the reins.
3. Derrick Jones Jr, shutting up the haters
Hi, hello, yes. It me, the hater.
I’ve been pretty critical of Airplane Mode when he’s actually played this season. While most of it has been pretty fair — if a dunk isn’t available, he has absolutely no plan with the ball — I can admit that some of my frustration with him was really misplaced confusion with some of the, uh, lineup decisions.
Why is Jones Jr. starting at the 4 when Kelly Olynyk has been a massive plus?
Why has Jones Jr. played more minutes than Justise Winslow tonight?
It’s worth noting that Jones Jr. was a plus-11 in his 31 minutes last week. He looked comfortable — and sometimes scary — on the defensive end. He filled the lanes and caught lobs like he usually does. He also busted this baby out, which, I mean, come on:
Good for him, man. If the Heat end up committing to the youth and giving them reps, they should carve out consistent minutes (in lineups that make sense) so he can stretch himself.
Set Play of the Week
HORNS One Flare (again!)
Something that’s becoming a little odd: though Wayne Ellington is Miami’s airbender, they run their most creative or crisp half-court action with Tyler Johnson as the spacer.
Maybe it just comes down to defenses respecting Ellington more than Johnson, thus rendering some of Miami’s half-court stuff ineffective. That’s something I’m going to be digging into more as the season goes on. But just to reinforce the point, here’s Miami running HORNS One Flare — again, a variation of the most common action in the NBA — for Johnson.
A couple of things make this play work a little better than usual. First, that is a tremendous screen from Adebayo. The Clippers tried to switch the action, but Tobias Harris had no chance of fighting through that road block.
The other thing of note is Adebayo’s man, Boban Marjanovic. The 7’4 behemoth just can’t move, forcing the Clippers to play a more conservative “drop” scheme. With Marjanovic playing so far back as a rule, that leaves the Clippers susceptible to flare screens being set by his man. In this case, it’s Adebayo.
Simple plays like that add up in the long run. That’s good execution from Miami.