The Launching Pad: Top 3 Defense, Rozier’s Inefficiency, Bombing away from 3pt vs Pelicans & Bam’s Spacing!

Insight3 months ago10 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:

  • 92-113 loss vs Golden State Warriors
  • 121-84 win vs Cleveland Cavaliers
  • 88-111 loss vs New Orleans Pelicans

Stats from the week, per Cleaning the Glass:

  • Offensive rating: 106.3(101.1, 125.7, 95.1)
  • Defensive rating: 109.1(118.0, 81.4. 122.9)
  • eFG%: 47.0 vs 57.0
  • TOV%: 7.5 vs 15.7
  • ORB%: 22.5 vs 21.6
  • FTr: 16.5 vs 9.9

We’re getting closer and closer to the end of the regular season and we’re still in the play-in range, being one game back from sixth and three games back from fifth.

They’re not exactly helping themselves either. They let a couple of games slip in March already, lost games they should’ve won, and their health still remains a big question mark.

Just please, fast forward to the end of the season already, there’s nothing else that they can show us at this point to change anything. A lot of the issues that are still apparent, mainly their offense, starts with a certain best player either not being available or not taking it seriously when he does play — that ideally will change in the playoffs, but until it does, this is how the season will play out.

So, in store today:

  • Rozier’s continued inefficiency
  • Is the defense legit?

Rozier has played now 25 games with the Heat — almost the same as what he did in Charlotte and it’s still been a bit disappointing, but that is the Rozier experience.

I still think that was a needed trade. Having Rozier does make the Heat better despite how his stats may look like. But that’s all considering in the context of this team where before this, they had Kyle Lowry taking 6 shots a game. That wasn’t helping as much. Even thinking about what Gabe Vincent gave them, this is still an upgrade.

Is it a meaningful upgrade? Not really. And when evaluating Rozier’s game on its own and how he’s performed, it doesn’t make me feel that encouraged and it won’t if that’s the role he continues to be in.

Let’s look at his pre and post-all-star break:

The efficiency and scoring have technically improved but it improved from horrible to less horrible but still horrible and given the increased usage, it makes it even worse.

There are a few things that stand out here.

  • He has the ball in his hands more but assists went down
  • Way too many 2s and not enough 3s
  • Too high frequency in the long mid-range

The first point is important because pre-ASB, we’ve seen him be more off-ball and playing a different role. But since then, he’s been placed more in a role he played in Charlotte as the lead ball handler.

And yet, the inefficiency continues which is hurting the team. For a guy to take that many shots and to have that kind of usage, it’s unacceptable to be that inefficient, settle for tough shots and not provide much else with his passing or off-ball play.

He has 14 games where his points either matched or were lower than his shot total. That matters when the player is taking 15+ shots.

I don’t know how much longer you can just put this off on a new team, chemistry or just bad luck and variance.

If there are people who say this is too small of a sample, what’s there to argue that his efficient time in Charlotte this year also isn’t just a small sample size? He’s never been like this and the previous seasons, plus his career averages kind of suggest that this is more of the norm with Rozier than something completely out of the ordinary.

That had me tweet out that you can’t convince me that you can win with high usage, low efficient player eating up a lot of shots. And obviously, him playing this way is because of Butler taking a step back, but in the playoffs, for that kind of guard to be effective, the usage and touches need to be down significantly.

Did you know that the Heat have the third-best defense in the league since February? They have a 109.6 defensive rating in 24 games and they’ve had some very good defensive games. Stats and percentiles per Cleaning the Glass:

  • Vs Cavaliers: 81.4(99th)
  • Vs Pistons: 96.9(93rd)
  • Vs Pelicans: 98.9(91st)
  • Vs Bucks: 98.8(92nd)

That’s four games in the 90th percentile or higher. They’ve had 10 in the 80th or higher and only six below 50th. That’s impressive. But what’s more impressive is the Heat having a 110.8 defensive rating with Bam Adebayo OFF. We know that they are elite with Adebayo, but this number popped out.

They are having this good of a defense with Kevin Love playing 130 minutes, Thomas Bryant playing 127, and Nikola Jovic playing 92. Those three have essentially been the backup five in the 377 minutes without Adebayo.

Digging in deeper, the opponent is shooting only 52.4% from 2pt and 36.0% from 3pt, including only 61.1% at the rim with 23.8% frequency. I don’t know how to explain that.

They don’t cause many turnovers either — only 12.7 per 100 possessions, which has been a crucial part of their defense

The defense gets even better when you include Butler on. In that span, without Adebayo, that number drops to 106.5(!!!). That’s even more insane — though smaller sample(230 minutes) and some 3-point shooting luck(32.4%), still wild.

Going back to the team as a whole, some other stats and their ranks in that span:

  • 3rd in defensive rating
  • 15th in 2pt%
  • 3rd in 3pt%
  • 5th in free throw points
  • 7th in true shooting percentage
  • 4th in defensive rebounding percentage
  • 12th in turnovers per 100
  • 7th in live turnovers per 100
  • 4th in free throw attempts
  • 1st in rim frequency
  • 19th in rim FG%
  • 26th in short mid-frequency
  • 29th in short mid FG%
  • 1st in points in the paint
  • 1st in fastbreak points
  • 3rd in points off turnovers

That’s a lot of stats and a lot of ranking in the top 5, which is encouraging. The rim deterrence is just nasty and that’s something they’ve been known for. The rebounding is also elite, again, something that they’ve been known for. Got to keep an eye on the short-mid stats. The opponent has been getting killing them in the 4-14ft.

Here’s also their defensive rating by month:

  • Oct(4 games): 112.3
  • Nov: 111.7
  • Dec: 116.0
  • Jan: 115.5
  • Feb: 104.8
  • Mar: 111.6

They had a bad two-month stretch but then bounced back to elite level and leveled off in March. That kind of shows me promise and a higher level of trust in their defense.

Xs & Os

In this section of the Launching Pad, we’re going through a bunch of film. Everything that just stood out to me on the court. It’s breaking some of the key takeaways from the games, it’s seeing a trend, particular actions, or highlighting individual plays that are fun.

  • Awful offense vs Pelicans; bombing away from 3pt
  • No spacing vs Cavaliers
  • Using Bam differently as a spacer has been a thing
  • The defensive performance vs Cavaliers

So, against the Pelicans, the Heat scored 88 points, and a big part of that was them going 13-for-47 from 3pt. The fact that they attempted 47 3s was a thing in itself — that was more than half of their attempts! They were bombing 3s like they were the Celtics.

A big takeaway was why? Why did they attempt so many 3s, especially when they were without their best shooters? That was actually one of the reasons why.

The Pelicans packed the paint completely:

Look where Herb is!

The Heat had no choice but to chuck up so many 3s. A lot of the time, those were open looks that they had to take and hope they make it. That is what the defense gave them. It was also tough to do anything else. It’s easy to just say be more aggressive and attack, but when the defense quite literally doesn’t respect a single player, there’s no other choice. Sometimes an early 3pt will be the best, open look they’ll get.

But there is also a difference between good and bad processes. Here are some of the 3s, that I’d describe as bad processes:

It’s swinging the ball with poor little movement, getting a 3pt off one pass without getting a drive and kick, it’s settling for contested shots, or just taking shots because the defense is daring you.

Then there are these 3s:

These looks are much better. It’s getting deep penetration with a kick, swing, and firing up in rhythm instead of feeling rushed as if they have to take them.

I liked the play at the 25s mark with Jovic relocating and getting a hammer screen from Adebayo in the corner.

But there was not much else the Heat could’ve done. The Pelicans’ defense executed so well, in addition to the Heat just lacking the personnel to punish that defense.

Related to that is the spacing issues. That’s obviously going to be worse without any of Robinson, Herro, and Love. But the Heat’s spacing issues have still been there even when healthy because there’s no other player who deserves that respect.

Watch these clips. It’s a long highlight of just the Cavaliers game and how bad their spacing was. It was Jarrett Allen helping off Bam in the corner(more on that later). It’s the defense helping off Jovic’s one pass away on elbows. It’s guys overloading the strong side whenever Adebayo is in the strong corner. Those things will be there even with the other shooters.

This brings me to the change with Adebayo. There’s been a conscious decision to play around with how he’s spaced:

This isn’t just him taking 3s or even getting the ball to attempt a 3. It’s just where he’s positioned on the floor. He’s not being kept in the dunker spot or around the paint.

He’s being placed in the corner or above the break. He’s moving around there too. It’s even popping to the 3pt line and staying there.

The defense still treats him as if he’s not even there and there’s an extra defender at the rim because of it.

Still, that’s progress! The fact that they’re experimenting with this is a sign that they want to try something different.

But if that’s the case, I will need Bam to let it fly every time without hesitation whenever he gets the ball. I don’t want pumpfakes or cuts, or anything like that. The way defense guards you will only change if you are a willing(and good) shooter and that will only happen if you bomb away. It can’t be going at 50%.

Finally, let’s leave it on a good note.

Adebayo had one of his best defensive games against the Cavaliers. He’s really making a case for DPOY — quick side note, Couper Moorhead wrote an amazing piece about his defense that you need to check out here!

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