The Launching Pad: Vincent Returning to Form, Oladipo’s Offensive Turnaround

Insight3 weeks 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

Oh, it’s been a while since I’ve written the Launching Pad. Since the last post, the Heat went 8-5. But what’s annoying about this record is the fact that it should have been better, considering what those matchups were. Back to this week, though. The Heat are on a three-game winning streak, which would be the fifth time already this season.

They’ve managed to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder shorthanded after going perfect 40-for-40. And although the Milwaukee Bucks were without both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, they did manage to take care of business convincingly at home.

Although it has only been seven games and some questionable losses, it does feel like the team has been trending upward. So, far in 2023, they are seventh in net rating with plus 5.2 with their defense doing all the work. The offense still hasn’t been there, but it’s good to see the defense back to being elite.

One other interesting topic that came up this week was a conversation regarding the starting point guard, in which it seems like most fans would prefer Gabe Vincent to replace Kyle Lowry. And this is a conversation I simply don’t get for many — but that’s a piece for later this week where I’ll be going through Lowry’s season as a whole.

Looking at some stats:

  • Record: 3-0(W vs OKC, W vs MIL, W vs MIL)
  • Net Rating: +8.8 per Cleaning the Glass
  • Offensive Rating: 115.5
  • Defensive Rating: 106.7

Gabe Winning You Games

During last season, there were many games that were won because Gabe Vincent stepped up when he was needed. He established him as a solid backup point guard and someone who can step up as a starter whenever the team needs him to.

He played a huge role off the bench by giving you 20+ points in six different games and scoring in double digits in 24 games.

This year, however, he had a rough start when it comes to his scoring, shooting, consistency, and health. But in the last two games against the Bucks, he showed why he’s still one of the best backup guards in the league.

He dropped 55 points and shot 10-for-19 from downtown. That’s the shooting that has been missing this season — whether it’s a pull-up or catch-and-shoot. And that was needed in games without both Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry, especially against the Bucks who were in a deep drop.

In addition to his hot shooting, which was certainly needed to have some sort of offense and force the Bucks to make adjustments, his pick-and-roll game was also missed.

I like how he’s able to keep that dribble, use the screen again, and use his handle to get the defender to go over the screen, which allows him to get into the paint for a floater.

And it’s the second clip where he shows his value as a passer in the PnR. Vincent is a good passer. He knows how to make these reads — whether they’re a pocket pass, lead pass, or making a skip pass to set up guys for open looks.

Oladipo Looking Good

In the first handful of games, we’ve seen Victor Oladipo play once he came back, he was still working his way through and looked rough offensively.

There were flashes of what he can do when it comes to rim pressure, PnR game and just being an impactful player on offense. Most of his impact came on the defensive end, which he showed right away in multiple games:

That was expected. Players coming back from major injuries will take some time to get back into shape, and rhythm, and just generally get their confidence back.

You can see each game his confidence was getting there. In each game, he showed a little more and a little more — his minutes were going up, he was closing late in games, his attempts have gone up, his drives were increasing, and his shots in the paint increased.

Here are some of his shots in December compared to January

  • 40.0% on 1.8 FGA → 60.0% on 2.9 FGA in the restricted area
  • 58.3% on 1.1 FGA → 45.0% on 2.9 FGA in the paint (non-RA)

This increase in efficiency and volume is huge for him and the team.

This is starting to look like the Oladipo we‘ve seen prior his injuries. And the improvement doesn’t stop here — his drives stats are night and day compared to how it was in December and now in January.

  • 5.0 → 11.4 drives
  • 54.2% on 2.2 → 43.8% on 4.6 FGA off drives
  • 3.3 → 5.0 points
  • 1.7 → 5.0 passes off drives

This is exactly what the Heat envisioned Oladipo was going to provide when he came here — all of those stats would rank second behind Jimmy Butler.

But again, the improvement doesn’t stop here. He feels much more confident in his shot.

Here are his shooting stats from December compared to January:

  • 36.7% on 2.7 → 33.3% on 3.0 catch-and-shoot 3s
  • 15.8% on 1.7 → 45.0% on 2.9 pull-up 3s
  • 68.8% on 1.4 → 40.0% on 2.9 pull-up 2s
  • 38.5% on 2.5 → 53.6% on 4.0 FGA less than 10ft

The percentages are bound to drop off, especially when it comes to his 3pt pull-up game, but everything looks sustainable and the volume is a big difference.

He clearly looks like a completely different player on offense. Everything about it looks better — whether it’s his confidence when attacking the basket or as a shooter.

And because of that, I feel confident that he played his way to be a lock as a closer. He’s currently second in minutes per game in the fourth quarter in seven games in January. He’s also first in shot attempts. I guess it’s safe to say he’s there to stay.

It looks like Erik Spoelstra trusts him late on offense, too:

The Heat spammed an Oladipo PnR with Bam Adebayo and Max Strus. Possession after possession, it was the same thing and it ended in one of two ways — he got to the rim or his spot with ease, or he set Adebayo up.

This improved Oladipo on offense combined with the elite defense he brings, and he can make this team dangerous going forward.