The Launching Pad: Trade Deadline Special

Commentary2 months ago7 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

A tough road trip that honestly could have easily been 3-0. They managed to scrape out a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers by holding them to under 100.

Did you know that the Heat are 10-1 when they hold their opponents to under 100?

It was a close game against the New York Knicks, but unfortunately, they couldn’t get it done down the stretch. When it came to the Milwaukee Bucks game, I was actually surprised that they were in the game for pretty much all of it.

This week kind of got me encouraged in a way that despite all of the issues, the talent on the roster, and the poor shooting, they actually did a pretty good job staying in the game to make it competitive.

Now, that’s also not a sign of a contender but I do think that shows this team’s core isn’t as bad as it looks and with a few moves, they’d able to be competitive against anyone in the playoffs.

In other news, Bam Adebayo has been selected as an All-Star for the second time in his career and it was well deserved. He’s been the team’s arguably best player this season:

  • 2nd in games played
  • 1st in total minutes
  • 1st in total points(almost 200 more than Tyler Herro, who’s second)
  • 2nd in efficiency
  • 4th in assists
  • 1st in rebounds
  • 1st in blocks
  • 2nd in steals

And this is not even mentioning how important he is for the team on the defensive end.

But this week’s games don’t matter because it’s one of my favorite times of the year this week. It’s trade deadline season!

Looking at some stats:

  • Record: 1-2(W vs Cle, L vs Nyk, L vs Mil)
  • Net Rating: -1.7, per Cleaning the Glass
  • Offensive Rating: 110.8
  • Defensive Rating: 112.5

Trade Deadline is Here

This is either a fun period for you where you can whip out your trade machines to create realistic or wild scenarios to make your team better. Or you simply can’t wait for the trade deadline to pass to finally focus solely on the actual basketball.

When it comes to trades from other teams, it’s pretty exciting. Just yesterday, we’ve seen the first major trade that landed Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian-Finney Smith. These moves that can change so much throughout the league are FUN.

What’s not so fun is when it’s your team involved because it’s great if they are able to make a solid trade, but it also sucks when your best trade deadline acquisition is a player that you already have on the roster.

And that’s exactly how this trade deadline can go for the Heat. There might be multiple players being sent out or Pat Riley will decide to send Dewayne Dedmon for Mike Muscala or Nerlens Noel and that will be the end of it.

What’s certain, though, is that they do need a trade if they want to compete for a championship this year. I still believe that can be possible this season.

So, what are some of their needs to get into that tier of contenders?

The Heat have two key needs — 3pt shooting and frontcourt depth. Those are their two priorities that must be addressed if they want to compete. However, one is more important when it comes to the playoffs.

Let’s start with their shooting.

Currently, they suck at it and it’s tough to even think about how they could improve that. Not only do they have everyone regressing significantly from last year, they completely took Duncan Robinson out of the rotation without replacing him.

However you feel about Robinson, he was an elite sniper and it’s tough to find high-volume shooters that can consistently shoot a high percentage.

When looking at their high-volume shooters from last year compared to this year:

  • Kyle Lowry: 37.7% on 9.0 3s per 100 possessions → 33.3% on 9.1
  • Gabe Vincent: 36.8% on 10.2 → 32.2% on 10.0
  • Tyler Herro: 39.9% on 10.2 → 37.0% on 11.5
  • Max Strus: 41.0% on 13.9 → 34% on 12.5
  • Duncan Robinson: 37.2% on 15.3 → 33.1% on 13.7

That’s not replaceable by a single deadline, which makes their need to address the shooting rather difficult.

And because of the difficulty and the realistic options that they could acquire, their best path going forward should be to focus on the frontcourt depth. Ideally, you’d want to still improve the shooting with those moves too, but they would come as a luxury.

The thought process behind that is the 3pt shooting isn’t as important in the playoffs as it is now. We’ve seen this Heat team win games shooting even worse from 3. This also doesn’t apply to the Heat alone. Teams can and have won with poor shooting in a given series regularly.

Because 3pt shooting is highly volatile, bad teams can go off in a given series too. There’s a good chance to bank on internal improvements when it comes to shooting.

The same can’t be said about the frontcourt depth and the issues that it gives them.

Although they have been, statistically, a top defense for the season, those numbers can be misleading. Couper Moorhead had a great article talking about how their defense drops significantly if you remove possessions ending in a turnover.

Despite allowing the fewest points in the paint and one of the fewest shots at the rim, the opponents still shoot a high percentage at the rim and inside the paint. They’re just good at limiting shots in the first place.

They are too small to have any kind of rim protection once the opponent gets inside. As good as Caleb Martin has been, he’s just not that guy on defense. He’s a perimeter-oriented guy. They need a PJ Tucker type of guy on defense.

With the Heat’s preferred defensive scheme and the players that they have, a mobile wing/big is the type of guy they need on defense. My standards right now are also low — if you’re a good defender that’s over 6’7, you’re good to go.

We’ve seen how elite the defense was with Butler, Tucker, and Adebayo — they had a 104.5 defense in the regular season(96th percentile and 7.8 better than average) and a 106.0 defense in the playoffs(87th and 6.0 better than average). Having that kind of defender is what maximizes the players and the scheme.

Some of these players include OG Anunoby, Jared Vanderbilt, Grant Williams, Naz Reid, Dorian-Finney Smith, Marcus Morris, Nicholas Batum, and Robert Covington.

Any of these players would help the defense a lot. Some are a better fit on offense than others. Some are more expensive than others. But it’s these types of players that need to be the priority. This move would raise their ceiling more than anything else in the playoffs.

Finally, if they can get another cheaper option that can play the 4/5 to help with the bench would be even better. This also doesn’t have to be a significant player — Kelly Olynyk or Nerlens Noel would do just fine.

Now, how they are able to make the moves is a different story.

Quick side note. I am writing this and I just saw on Twitter that the Heat are open to trading Lowry and are hearing offers of Strus. This changes what moves they can make, but the needs and what they should prioritize doesn’t. Hopefully, there won’t be a notification that they just did a trade before I publish this.

The Heat have their top three players in Herro, Butler, and Adebayo. They won’t get moved. Everyone else should be moved to improve the shooting and front-court depth. Realistically, I don’t see Victor Oladipo being moved or both of Strus/Vincent.

So, if the Heat come out with those five players above plus any combination of the targets above and possibly others, I feel pretty comfortable going into the playoffs.