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The Heat should really be moving without the ball more

Dec 29, 2010, 6:50 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Washington Wizards Getty Images

The Heat have won 15 of their last 16 games. They are currently 3rd in the league in offensive efficiency, despite the fact that they don’t play at a very fast pace, have put most of their emphasis on defense, and have been without Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem.So talking about how the Heat’s offense still doesn’t feature enough movement is definitely nit-picking. That said, the Heat’s offense still doesn’t feature enough movement, and it can be really frustrating to watch at times.

The Heat are a very, very good offensive team in half-court situations, but they should be nearly unstoppable with their collection of talent — as of right now, the Heat have the exact same offensive efficiency as the 09-10 Cleveland Cavaliers, and I don’t think anybody would argue that LeBron has more talent around him this year than he did last year. The Heat have been effective because of how good James, Wade, and Bosh are with the ball in their hands and how good players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas and James Jones have been at knocking down open shots, but they could still be doing so much more. According to Hoopdata, the Heat are dead last in both made baskets at the rim per game and the percentage of assisted shots at the rim, which is insane when you consider how good the Heat’s big three are in the painted area.

When LeBron and Wade are on the court together, most of the Heat’s offensive sets involve one of them standing in the corner and watching the other one use a screen or go ISO. LeBron’s become much more comfortable setting up behind the three-point line and knocking down open catch-and-shoot threes than he was early in the year, and Wade has some idea of how to make effective weak-side cuts, but neither of them are making things as easy on each other as they could be. Stopping LeBron or Wade when the entire defense is keyed in on them is already one of the hardest things to do in basketball — stopping one of them from going to the basket when the defense is focused on the other one is all but impossible. Over at NBA Playbook, Sebastian Pruiti has video examples of how the Heat offense looks when they do and don’t move without the ball, and the difference is clear.

Getting LeBron and Wade to make each other better isn’t rocket science, even though both of them look completely lost most of the time when they don’t have the ball in their hands. Against the Knicks, Wade got an easy layup when LeBron started to drive and tossed a skip pass to Wade in the corner, who proceeded to blow by two Knick defenders and lay the ball in before they realized what was going on. There’s really no way to stop Wade making a hard weak-side cut when the defense is focused on LeBron or Bosh, Bosh and LeBron working a high/low post set, or LeBron setting a screen for Wade and rolling hard to the basket. The Heat are currently playing like a very good team, maybe even a great one — when their superstars start using each other’s talents to get high-percentage looks, they’ll be flat-out scary.

  1. thestudiokida - Dec 30, 2010 at 11:09 PM

    AGREE 100% with this article. What we saw in the Olympics and Eastern All-Star teams had me expecting alley-oops and highlights all over the offensive side of the ball but the big 3 have focused on isolation post-plays Bosh, screens/curls for Wade while LeBron scores most of his points late in the shot-clock when he gets the ball near mid-court and drives hard or pulls up for a jumper. The Big 3 have taken over the Heat offense in December; scoring 72+ combined per game & helping them to a 15-1 record. They’ve crafted a way to each play like they used to but they haven’t come together.

    Dallas & Utah scored at will in the paint against the Heat not because the Heat don’t have big guys to defend but because they are great inside passing teams. They are cohesive and pass the ball especially well under the rim and out of post position. To see Millsap drop it over his shoulder to a cutting Jefferson for a dunk is a beautiful thing. Miami’s Big 3 can all pass out of the post, but nobody is moving. Nobody trusts the other to find them on a baseline cut because they each take the offense into their own hands. If they figure this out they will become the best offensive team to go with their already stout defense.

    • thestudiokida - Dec 30, 2010 at 11:12 PM

      Despite the lack of off-ball movement the Big 3 have been incredibly efficient this month. Each is shooting over 50% in December while increasing their shot attempts.

  2. thestudiokida - Dec 30, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    Come to think of it… the Heat offense is as simple as Wade/James handles ball, looks for offensive drive or open shot. If no option presents itself attempt limited drive and pass ball to jump shooter on weak side.

    Too many jump shots (even though the Heat knock down a high % of their open looks) and not enough work to set up easy buckets. What are high-percentage shots for the rest of the NBA would be a virtual certainty for finishers like Wade & James. Scaaaary.

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