Offensive Woes of Miami Heat: 3-Point Paralysis

The Miami Heat came into the 2015-16 season as one of the more hyped and yet completely enigmatic teams after their offseason facelift. With the additions of Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire along with the retention of both Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade, plenty of pundits handpicked Miami as Cleveland’s prime adversary in the East.

However, after a hot 12-6 start in which the team played a league-leading 13 of 18 games at home, Miami has faltered recently, due mostly to their poor shooting, mismatched lineups, and turnover rate.

In a revamped league landscape in which the rest of the NBA is hoisting and making threes at a historic rate, the Heat attempt just over 19 threes per game (for comparison, the league-leading Rockets put up more than 31 threes per game) and convert their three pointers at the third lowest rate in the league.

2014-15 3P% 2015-16 3P%
Gerald Green .354 .309
Luol Deng .355 .310
Goran Dragic .347 .315
Justise Winslow* .418 .216

*2014-15 College Numbers

As you can plainly see, many of Miami’s shooters have simply failed to make their perimeter shots at the rates they had in just the previous season, and it’s hurt the team in more ways than one. Without legitimate perimeter threats, other teams have been able to crowd the paint, leaving the team with the league’s 10th worst turnover ratio per possession.

The Miami Herald’s Ethan Skolnick summed up the Heat’s shooting difficulties best, citing the fact that the team is shooting 35.2% from three in their 12 victories and just 26.2% from three in their nine losses before Sunday’s last-minute win against the Grizzlies.

With the team shooting so poorly from outside, it’s no wonder a player like Hassan Whiteside, inexperienced in the post as it is, has had an uptick in turnovers as the spacing and room to maneuver in the paint has become more and more constricted with opponents respecting Miami’s outside shooting less than ever.

While many of Miami’s offensive struggles lie on the three-point line, they certainly don’t stop there. The team’s $85 million man Goran Dragic, has been a monumental disappointment both inside and outside the paint this season.

Dragic 2014-15 Dragic 2015-16
Catch and Shoot Less than 10 ft Catch and Shoot Less than 10 ft
38.8% 64.9% 33.3 % 59.3

 

As one of the team’s few transition options, Dragic’s catch and shoot prowess and ability to finish at the rim has been sorely missed. Not only is Dragic shooting worse around the basket this season, he’s also averaging almost two fewer shots at the rim per game.

It’s been readily apparent to anyone watching that the Slovenian international simply hasn’t been the world-class finisher at the rim that he’s been in previous seasons, regularly missing straightforward layups by his standards.

Another foreboding facet which has obviously hampered the Heat offensively has been their oft-mismatched offensive lineups. One need look no further than Miami’s starting group to see the disparate play styles featured on the team.

On one hand you have the speedy Dragic, constantly looking to get out and run in transition, while alongside him is Dwyane Wade, who in his reinvention, has become more of a halfcourt, pick & roll and post-up option.

It seems all too often Dragic races up the floor in transition, only to kick the ball out to an unwilling shooter who pump fakes as the offense slowly fades into yet another lazy dribble handoff or pick and roll set, ultimately settling for a contested jump shot.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has also sat center Hassan Whiteside in the fourth quarter of each of the team’s last three losses, due in part to the small-ball lineups of their opponents, begging the following questions: If the team intends to compete as a throwback featuring a traditional big man, why bend to the whims of the opponent? If the opposition goes small in an effort to force Miami’s bigs out of the paint on defense, then why not take advantage of Whiteside’s size mismatch on the offensive boards, especially when the team’s smaller lineups are unable to consistently convert threes, anyway?

If Miami is to truly compete in the East, the team is going to have to find their shooting touch either within the roster or with a trade for a proven perimeter shooter. In this evolving NBA landscape, the Heat simply cannot afford to stay complacent and shoot the three and turn the ball over at some of the league’s worst rates. Unless able to improve in these facets, Miami may once again be left behind in a much-improved Eastern Conference.

photo via llananba