The Launching Pad: Shooting is Our Only Hope, Inverted PnRs

Insight3 weeks 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

Sigh. This wasn’t what I expected coming out of the All-Star break. It’s been six games already and this is how the team is. I thought the break was crucial for everyone to get players healthy, recharge, reset, and get them ready for the second half of the season.

That couldn’t have been more wrong. In the first game out of the break, they don’t crack 100 and go on to lose by almost 30 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, they’re the Bucks(without Giannis Antetokounmpo, though) and they were shooting lights out from deep. Unfortunately, that didn’t get better when they faced the Charlotte Hornets where they were down by 20 at one point.

They manage to grind out a win against the Philadelphia 76ers on the road and against the Atlanta Hawks, but they were closer than they should’ve been.

And let’s not forget they also got blown out by that same 76ers team but this time without Joel Embiid. Then losing to a Julius Randle game-winner.

It’s been a tough week being a Heat fan, especially losing to the New York Knicks the way they did.

We’re also at the point of a season where each wins matters. The Heat are currently seventh with a 34-31 record. They are 2.5 games behind the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets and only 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks. Their seeding isn’t safe one bit.

The fifth seed seems out of the picture now but they can still avoid the play-in and they need to rack up every win they can possibly get. Giving up games to teams like the Hornets is just making life harder than it should be.

Looking at some stats:

  • Record: 2-4 (L vs Mil, L vs Cha, W vs Phi, L vs Phi, L vs Nyk, W vs Atl)
  • Net Rating: -8.1 per Cleaning the Glass
  • Offensive Rating: 109.0
  • Defensive Rating: 117.1

Tired of their Shooting

This is a very dumb analysis. It can’t just be make your shots. It just can’t be that simple. But when you look at the Heat’s offense most nights, it is that simple and I don’t know what else they can do.

I’ve touched on this in a previous Launching Pad, where there is a strong correlation between 3pt shooting percentage and good offense. Not only has that been the case in the 3pt boom, but even in the early 2000s. You need shooters.

One main reason for that is it helps with everything else inside:

If the 3s aren’t falling, it makes sense for the team to try to do something else, right? Get to the rim or the mid-range. But to do that well, you also need shooters to provide that spacing.

Since the All-Star game, the Heat are 26th in 2pt percentage. This team simply has no spacing to give its two best players space inside for them to work. Too many times the defense are able to help off, and pre-rotate to stop everything inside. And as a result, they get open looks like these:

What else do you want from an offense? This is literally taking what the defense is giving you. These are good, high-quality, open shots that most NBA players need to make. Isn’t that the entire point of an offense is to create these advantages?

That’s why this type of analysis feels dumb and simple. And because the Heat are shooting ridiculously badly, it makes the results even worse. Their offense still wouldn’t be perfect even if they shot at least average, but it wouldn’t be this bad either and be that big of an issue.

Did you know the Heat are shooting worse from the corners(34.6%) than the league average from above the break 3(35.1%)?

And in 2023 that’s an issue. Teams are:

  • 10-37(21%) when making 5 or less 3s
  • 238-421(36%) when making 10 or less 3s
  • 681-862(44%) when making 15 or less 3s
  • 366-147(71%) when making 15 or more 3s
  • 71-14(83%) when making 20 or more 3s
  • 609-342(64%) when shooting above league average(36.0%)
  • 361-628(36%) when shooting below league average

This team will honestly go as far as their shooting. If their shooting goes to at least league average, then I believe they have a chance at a playoff run. If not, they will be lucky to make a series competitive only because of Jimmy Butler.

Inverted PnRs!

In the last two games, the Heat run three inverted pick-and-rolls — twice with Herro screening for Bam Adebayo and once with Butler screening for Adebayo.

Herro gets the ball to Adebayo around the elbow area where he usually likes to have the ball with the whole side cleared. Here, however, instead of spacing the floor, Herro goes to screen his own man next to Adebayo.

The Hawks wouldn’t have switched that, so that would give Adebayo a clean drive to the rim. That was a great recovery on the block from Clint Capela, though.

One thing annoying thing, though is all three players on the weakside just standing there with both Max Strus and Caleb Martin standing next to each other. It would probably be better if anyone else was trying to set a screen or anything to keep the defense occupied.

Another similar play. Herro gets the ball to Adebayo on the wing then again screens his own to give him a clean drive to the paint. This time, however, the defense reacted differently with Jalen Johnson showing hard, Onyeka Okongwu recovering, and Dejounte Murray helping off at the elbow.

That took away Adebayo’s drive, but with him still drawing two players, Herro simply flared to the wing for an open 3.

This one was a bit different. It was in early offense with Butler setting the screen. They wasted no time getting into the set with Butler quickly setting the screen on the elbow, which forces Josh Hart to show before Mitchell Robinson recovers.

Bam was able to get into the pull-up around the free throw, that fake drew the defense and he made a good read inside with Butler having a good position to seal off Hart.

It was interesting to see multiple inverted PnRs for Adebayo in the same game and I’m curious to see if that’s a trend going forward seeing as they generated good looks from it.

Things that Caught my Eye

With there being a lot of little things in the last two weeks, here are a bunch of random, quick plays and stats that caught my eye.

Do you know who must hate playing in Miami? Trae Young. This may be a task to find out for another day, but I don’t know what other star struggles as much in Miami the way Young has recently.

In the last four games in Miami, Young is averaging 13.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 7.0 turnovers on 15-for-57 shooting. The Heat made it a mission again to make his life hard, the way they did in the playoffs:

Butler is one of the best at playing the passing lanes. I don’t know who else is up there but he certainly has a case for number one:

Erik Spoelstra run a lineup without both Butler and Adebayo for far too long in the first five games — there were three games with 19, 11, and 17 minutes without both of them. The team had a minus 31.3 net rating in 59 minutes with a 94.9 offensive rating and a 126.2 defensive rating.

The lineup of Herro, Strus, Caleb Martin, Victor Oladipo, and Cody Zeller has been a disaster. Luckily for us, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing it a lot of the time(hopefully), as they only played two minutes in the game against the Hawks.

This team can’t afford to run any minutes without both of their best players. That lineup turns the ball over, doesn’t generate good shots, and ends up chucking up bad ones, which leads to easy transition points.