The NBA power rankings for October 2015 revealed Miami Heat topped the league in 3-point shooting percentage.
Surprisingly, the Heat topped all teams in 3-point shooting percentage at 44%. In the first two games they had the best free-throw percentage in the NBA at 93% and second-best FG% of 69% within 5 feet of the basket resulting in seventh place field-goal percentage of 46%.
Their effective field shooting percentage was fourth at 52%. They were behind elite teams such as Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, but ahead of the Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, OKC Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers. Their shooting accuracy from a sample size against both an elite team and a lesser team was better than it appeared.
What was the problem?
The Heat played at the slowest pace in the NBA in their first two games. Their 93.5 pace was dead last among all teams, bar none, since the beginning of this season. The promise in the summer of a faster pace is not being put into practice. Figures do not lie - the Heat have not changed their glacially slow style.
The eyeball test gives the impression of the team winding down the clock on many occasions, as a defensive strategy, before starting their set play. This makes sense if the other team shoots worse than the Heat, but if the Heat are fourth best in eFG%, then a fast pace benefits them more the other team. The Heat do not face the Cavaliers or Warriors every night, so their accurate shooting will give them 50+ wins because most games will be against average or below average teams.
Will Miami finish the season with the league's best 3-point percentage at the end of the season? Almost certainly not, but they should not minimize their early success as simply a fluke. Increasing the pace simply means not deliberately waiting until the last seconds of the shot clock before attacking the basket. In the first two games that strategy worked against the Heat, because right now they one the most efficient scoring teams in the NBA. They more likely to score with the ball in their hands than the other team, according to the NBA stats.
The amazingly high team free-throw percentage of 93% will not continue, but it is a valuable weapon the Heat possess. Their finishing within 5 feet of the rim is also another strength. They will not shoot at a 44% 3-point rate for the season, but it does show the shooting reps are paying off. In addition catch and shoot practice has little injury risk to the knees. If the Heat do stay elite at 3-point range it will catch the other teams by surprise, because that is not in their game plan against Miami yet.
(As a side note, the Skyforce drafted Jabril Trawick, Deonta Stocks, Russell Byrd, Jereal Scott, Deshaunt Walker to join their affiliate players for training camp starting November 1. Having success with two players last season, Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson, the D-League additions certainly strengthened the Heat this season. If the Heat don't get a draft pick in 2016, then a call-up becomes the alternative route to develop future talent.)
For now, the surprising fact that the Heat lead the NBA in 3-point FG% and FT%, second highest FG% within 5 feet of rim, while placing fourth in eFG% should have the team reconsider the strategy of playing at the very slowest pace in the NBA.