Report Card Vol. 2: Grading Miami’s Rotation Players

Insight

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It’s no secret that the Miami Heat are in a transitional year. Internal growth from the young core is and should be prioritized over win/loss totals this year.

If you think otherwise, you’re probably not going to enjoy this season.

With that said, I’ll be kicking off a series of posts, grading each rotation player in five-game increments just to get an idea of how everyone is progressing as the season goes on.

It should be noted these grades are based on each player’s production in their specific role.

You can check out the grades from the first five games right here.

NOTE: This will not include the results from the Bucks game; those stats will be accounted for in the next edition.


THE GUARDS:

GORAN DRAGIC: C-

STATS (two games): 23.4 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 4 apg, 1 spg, 3 tov, 38.1% FG (10.5 attempts), 100% FT (1-1)

Dragic’s five-game stint was cut short with an ankle injury. However, he wasn’t that good in either of the two games he played in, so it’s hard to give him much benefit of the doubt.

TYLER JOHNSON: B+

STATS: 30.9 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.6 tov, 41.3% FG (9.2 attempts), 36.4% 3PT (2.2 attempts), 60% FT (4 attempts per game)

We finally saw shooting regression from The Turnstile (yes, that’s his new nickname), but he still provided much-needed stability to the second unit. He defended hard and well, with opponents shooting 3.1% lower than their average when defended by Johnson.

DION WAITERS: C+

STATS: 30.2 mpg, 12 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.8 rpg, 1.4 spg, 0.8 bpg, 2.8 tov, 34.7% FG (14.4 attempts), 33.3% 3PT (3.6 attempts), 50% FT (1.6 attempts)

Waiters has attacked the basket very well. He’s defended very well. Sometimes, he’s passed the ball very well. He showed all of that off during the Spurs game:

But yet….he hasn’t been able to finish with any sort of consistency. Some of the turnovers he’s committed and shots he’s taken have been baffling.

In other words, he’s been Dion Waiters.

With Josh Richardson back, and Justise Winslow (wrist) hopefully coming back soon, we may finally see Waiters banished from the roster, sent to the fiery depths of h- move to a bench role.

JOSH RICHARDSON: B-

STATS: 30.6 mpg, 12.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2 apg, 1 spg, 1 bpg, 1.6 tov, 45% FG (12 attempts per game), 31.6% 3PT (3.8 attempts), 100% FT (2-2)

All you have to do is watch the Hawks game to get excited:

The aggressive defense. The splashed threes. The ability to finish through contact. The patience in the pick-and-roll, and comfort splashing pull-up, mid-range jimmies when the defense is lax.

Richardson is starting to look more comfortable — and the brace is off! His development on both ends is just as intriguing — and necessary — as Winslow’s.

RODNEY MCGRUDER: B

STATS (four games): 20.3 mpg, 7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1 spg, 55% FG (5 attempts per game), 44.4% 3PT (2.3 attempts), 50% FT (2-4)

With Dragic missing time with an ankle injury, McGruder’s playing time nearly doubled. He did what was expected: fill the lanes in transition, cut when available, knock down threes, and defend two positions:

McGruder understands his role, a simple, yet important part of his development. That’s why Erik Spoelstra already trusts him as a rotation piece.


THE FORWARDS

JUSTISE WINSLOW: C+

STATS (four games): 34.7 mpg, 9.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.3 spg, 0.8 tov, 32% FG (12.5 attempts), 30% 3PT (2.5 attempts), 80% FT (1.3 attempts)

Though his scoring numbers look worse, which could be attributed to the wrist injury he’s been playing through, Winslow looked a little more comfortable on the offensive end. He continued to show off his playmaking ability, and is now in the 81st percentile as a passer in the pick-and-roll, per Synergy:

Winslow looked better defensively, though the numbers don’t reflect it; via SportVU, opponents shot 5.3 percent above their average when guarded by Winslow over the past five games. For what it’s worth, he was especially good in the Chicago game, and defended Gordon Hayward pretty well in the Utah game — dude just made some unbelievable hang-hang-hang-release shots in traffic.

JAMES JOHNSON: A-

STATS: 24 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.2 bpg, 0.8 spg, 2.2 tov, 57.1% FG (7 attempts per game), 50% 3PT (2.8 attempts), 91.7% FT (2.4 attempts)

For those that are just skimming the grades, your eyes aren’t deceiving you; yes, James Johnson has graded out as Miami’s best player (relative to role) over the last five games.

No, it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

He’s done just about everything you can imagine over the last five games: thrown stellar passes, scored in the post, hit threes (at decent volume!), finished in traffic, crashed the glass, led the break, played the lanes, swatted shots, and even stuff like this:

Dude just casually put Paul Millsap — an All-World defender — in the blender with a behind-the-back dribble and capped it off with a eurostep and a reverse lay-up.

Like, what?

I’m not sure any of this outside of the defense and rebounding is sustainable, but his jack-of-all-trades skillset has made him one of the most important — and productive — players on Miami’s roster in this young season.

DERRICK WILLIAMS: C-

STATS: 14.4 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 45.5% FG (5.5 attempts), 16.7% 3PT (1.5 attempts), 25% FT (1-4)

Bless his heart.

Much like the preseason, effort hasn’t been an issue for Williams. Finally cracking the rotation and the starting lineup last week, he’s made a point to be active defensively, set solid screens, and help keep the offense moving when a shot hasn’t been available.

Oh, and he runs hard in transition:

Trying hard and playing well aren’t mutually exclusive, though.

Williams has made some of the same routine mistakes defensively (like helping off one pass away) that he’s made since entering the league. His three-point shot hasn’t fallen, though the sample size is still small.

We’ll have to see how his play progresses as he gets more reps.

LUKE BABBITT: C-

STATS: 11.4 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 31.3% FG (3.2 attempts), 20% 3PT (2 attempts per game), 100% FT (2-2)

As funny as it is to talk about how surprisingly good Babbitt has been defensively (92nd percentile in overall defense, per Synergy), at some point, that just isn’t worth it if he isn’t hitting shots.

Via Synergy, Babbitt is now down to 28.1 percent FG on spot-up possessions. He doesn’t rebound, doesn’t create for others, and while he’s a surprisingly good screener, it hasn’t been that valuable of a trait because the gravity that typically comes with a good shooter setting a screen and popping out has been nonexistent because, well, look at the numbers.

There’s a reason why Babbitt has slowly been getting phased out of the rotation.


THE BIGS

HASSAN WHITESIDE: B+

STATS: 34.4 mpg, 16.4 ppg, 17.6 rpg, 2 bpg, 1.2 spg, 47.7% FG (13 attempts per game), NICE% FT (5.8 attempts)

Let’s get the bad out of the way.

Whiteside has been woeful in the post as of late, the biggest reason why his field goal percentage has been low over the last five games. His #bodylanguage has also been less than ideal at times.

Losing clearly bothers him. Blocking shots, running the floor, and sealing his man only to watch Dion Waiters chuck a stepback 19-footer with 13 left on the shot clock has to be especially aggravating.

Phew.

Now.

Whiteside has started screening better — as in, actually generating contact. He’s been active defensively, and I think he’s trying to make the blatch (block + catch) his thing this year, kinda like dunking on people was his niche in 2015:

Whiteside has been an absolute monster on the glass, and that’s going to be something to watch for moving forward. Miami’s offense has been, uh, less than ideal. One way to counteract that is to go all-out on the offensive glass to generate extra opportunities. Over the last five games, Whiteside’s 5.4 offensive rebounds per game leads the NBA.

JOSH MCROBERTS: D+

STATS (three games): 11.9 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.7 spg, 15.4% FG (4.3 attempts)

McBob is still trying to find his footing (and his shins and his knees and his legs, and his shot, and), but he’s already given fans the full rollercoaster.

Typically, the knock on him is that he doesn’t shoot. He’s flung up 13 shots in three games trying to establish a rhythm…and he’s made two.

But just when you’re ready to come up with more injury-related hashtags of his name, he does this:

If McRoberts starts hitting anything, it’s hard not to see him getting some starts at the 4 in the near future.

WILLIE REED: C-

STATS (three games): 10.3 mpg, 3.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 57.1% FG (2.3 attempts), 75% FT (3-4)

With McRoberts getting more playing time, Reed’s has decreased. He’s screened well and fights hard on the glass, but he hasn’t had quite the defensive impact most expected he’d bring.

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