The Launching Pad: Adebayo’s Season Debut, Miami’s Best Lineup, Ellington Elevator Music

Insight

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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

• Record: 2-3 (11th place in East)

• Offensive Rating: 101.7 (18th)

• Defensive Rating: 106.7 (21st)

• Pace: 100.31 (16th)

All stats through 10/29/17


Best Lineup

Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk

• Minutes: 31

• Offensive Rating: 106.6

• Defensive Rating: 87.7

• Pace: 97.8

• True-Shooting Percentage: 55.2


The Big Number: 34.7

The Heat are a drive-and-kick-and-kick-again offense. The nature of that system produces a ton of threes. They currently rank seventh in 3-point attempts per 100 possessions (31.2).

Not only is the quantity there, the quality is too: 34.7 percent of their 3-point attempts have been what NBA.com defines as open (nearest defender four-to-six feet away) or wide open (defender six-plus feet away).

Miami has only cashed in 35.2 percent of those looks so far. For reference, during Miami’s 30-11 run last season, 26 percent of Miami’s 3-point attempts were open or wide open, and they converted 40.1 percent of those looks.

Regression was expected, but not this much. There should be a level of optimism though. Not only is Miami producing more open looks, their best perimeter shooters — Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic — are “only” shooting a combined 36.3 percent on “open” and “wide-open” threes this season. Considering they shot a combined 39.4 percent last year, you should expect that number to go up.


Weekly Trends

1. Bam Adebayo taking his lumps

After playing 5:41 in the first three games of the season, Adebayo was thrown into the fire last Wednesday. With Hassan Whiteside still ailing from a knee bruise, Coach Spo decided to shake things up by starting Adebayo against the Spurs on Wednesday.

Adebayo was matched up against former all-star LaMarcus Aldridge. Let’s just say things didn’t go well.

Aldridge had little issue establishing position against Adebayo, getting to his spots with relative ease. Quick seals, jump hooks, turnaround jimmies, face-up J’s — it really didn’t matter.

Adebayo finished with four points (a pair of lob dunks), eight rebounds and a nice block in that game. He started again on Saturday against Boston, finishing with six points, three rebounds, one block and one steal in 24 minutes.

He’s clearly a work in progress. Aside from needing to get stronger, he’ll have to get better in space defensively. You can see that here when he failed to zone up when Justise Winslow went to double. Jaylen Brown was able to sneak right in for an easy bucket:

That kind of thing comes with reps. Adebayo has already proven to be a good screener and knows how to get himself open. In the first clip, watch how he holds the screen for a beat longer than usual, springing Dragic open on the drive. On the second play, he recognizes San Antonio’s ICE defense, then finds a crease in the defense to create a lob opportunity for himself.

The frontcourt rotation will get tight once Whiteside is back, so it’s important that Adebayo makes the most of his minutes.

2. NBA 2K18 may need to update James Johnson’s badges

Johnson has continued to do a little bit of everything. He’s second on the team in scoring (14.0), fourth in rebounding (5.2) and leads the way in assists (5.4), steals (1.2) and blocks (1.2).

He’s spent time running the offense as a point-forward — and against the Spurs, he ran point-center while also serving as a battering ram.

Among 54 players that have taken at least 25 shots in the restricted area, Johnson ranks third in field goal percentage (80.0). Johnson is shooting an absurd 83.3 percent from the field (10-of-12) in isolation so far and has bullied his way to the rim as a pick-and-roll scorer (62.5 percent).

As of right now, the only significant badge Johnson has is the “posterizer” one — and that’s only a bronze. Ask Victor Oladipo if JJ should only have the bronze badge.

Can the man get the “relentless finisher” badge?

How about the “flashy passer” one? Bronze dimer, at least?

Let’s get it together.

3. Dr. Dion & Mr. Waiters

To say that Waiters has been a mixed bag this year would be … a bit of an understatement.

He’s moved pretty well, so it’s hard to say just how much his ankle is bothering him. However, his averages are down (13.2 points, 2.8 assists) are down from last year, and he’s been pretty darn inefficient (49.2 true shooting percentage).

He’s shooting 55 percent inside of three feet, well above the 50.7 percent mark he posted last year, but still underwhelming. He’s also shooting 30.8 percent from three and 57.1 percent from the free-throw line.

On a positive note, Waiters has excelled as the pick-and-roll ball handler this year. Via Synergy, Waiters has generated 1.196 points per pick-and-roll possession when accounting for scoring and passing, ranking in the 90th percentile. He’s showcased patience, probing the defense before deciding how he’ll attack.

Defensively, he’s been a little more erratic. He’s been mostly fine on-ball, but some of his decisions off-ball have been cringe-worthy. He’s been helping from the corner way too often for my liking. Take this play against the Magic in the season opener:

Miami wants to defend pick-and-rolls two-on-two so they can, you know, stay attached to shooters. Olynyk actually does a solid job of walking the tightrope here, and the driver (D.J. Augustin) doesn’t seem to have a real plan. Not only Waiters’ decision to help a poor decision, it wasn’t even necessary because the drive was contained.

He needs to get going. The shots should fall eventually (he’s draining about 36 percent of his “open” and “wide open” threes), but he has to show better focus defensively.


Set Play of the Week

Wayne Ellington Elevator Music

Most of Miami’s half-court set plays flow out of HORNS. For those unfamiliar with that alignment, that’s when a ball-handler is up top, two players are stationed at each elbow (corner of the free-throw line), and two players are stationed in each corner.

Miami kicked off this possession in HORNS. As Dragic brings the ball up, Richardson runs an Iverson cut (ran across a pair of staggered screens) before Ellington darts from the right corner. As Ellington heads for the three-point line, Johnson and Kelly Olynyk “close the elevator doors” on Ellington’s defender, trapping him behind a pair of screens. Ellington does the rest, catching the dish from Dragic before making the net sing with one of his six second-quarter triples.

More of that, please.

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