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Is Henry Walker a keeper for Miami?

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Miami Heat forward Henry Walker was plucked from the NBDL during the 2014-15 season and almost immediately thrust into rotation minutes. One of a handful of developmental pieces in Miami's pipeline, should Walker be in the Heat's plans going forward?

Henry Walker has the ability to be an efficient floor spacer for the Heat
Henry Walker has the ability to be an efficient floor spacer for the Heat
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

With Miami Heat's overall instability during  the 2014-15 campaign, we were able to see Miami use the NBA Development League to take a look at some prospects who could factor into the team's rotation in the future. 

Injuries to Josh McRoberts, Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and Dwyane Wade spawned the likes of Hassan Whiteside, Henry Walker, Tyler Johnson and more. 

I don't need to explain where Hassan Whiteside stands in Miami's plans. 

But between some of the young players already on the roster, and developmental pieces with options, the Heat will have some interesting choices to make with the back of their roster, and with the projected salary commitments to their expected starting lineup, one of  them may factor into a heavy role in 2015-16. 

A player with a head start in that race is Henry Walker. The 6-foot-6 wing averaged 26.2 minutes in Erik Spoelstra's rotation and, maybe a little by necessity, was given complete trust as his primary floor spacer, leading the team in 3-point attempts per game and 3-point attempt rate by wide margins. And we know Spoelstra has no issues letting his triggermen log attempts. 

For full disclosure, I've had the opportunity to train Walker early this offseason (Here's a peek), and with that I followed my protocol of watching every single possession Walker participated in last season and filed an analytic report to unearth interesting observations.

I'm going to summarize part of those findings here and you can form your opinion, but Walker has the projectability to actually be a perfect fit as a complement to this team's core. I'll explain. 

WALKER BY THE NUMBERS

Walker's 24 games for the Heat were an interesting case, if only for how dramatically one dimensional his offense was. 

Walker was a walking 3-point attempt.

To start with, his 3-point attempt rate (percentage of attempts that are 3-pointers) was a whopping 78.6. The most eye-opening information I found was that Walker was one of 12 players in the NBA who played at least 20 games last season that shot more than 70 percent of their overall attempts from beyond the arc. Walker's 78.6 rate ranked fourth. In other words, 132 of his 168 field goal attempts last season came from beyond the arc.  

The three ahead of him? James Jones, Mike Miller and Steve Novak. Kyle Korver was fifth.

That's the company of men who are known strictly for being spot up shooters and as immobile as Hall of Fame statues parked outside arenas.

That's cool, because it might actually be exactly what this team needs. (What Walker has going for him here is that at 27-years-old, he's a bit more mobile and athletically projectable than them. More on that later.)

A deeper look at where his shots were coming from showed another very sharp split in his 3-point production. 

Oddly enough, in the era of the glorified corner 3-point shot, Walker shot a very solid 37 percent with 3-pointers above the arc, but was only 6-of-26 from the corners. 

Overall picture, Walker offered the Heat an extremely valuable shot when he unleashed left wing 3-pointers. Walker's left wing 3-pointers give Miami an M-1 Abrams army tank of a weapon. The correlation is real, too. In Walker's best season (2010-11) with the New York Knicks, Walker showed a similar split. 

Walker left wing

The question now becomes if we can spread the stroke a bit. 

Also noteworthy, Walker shot a low percentage at the rim, but given the sample, we can probably throw that aside.

Bottom line is, you can do worse than a player who shoots 34 percent  from 3-point land on 5.5 attempts per game. And beyond this fairly limited sample, we do have evidence of one thing: Walker can shoot. 

It's probably why Spoelstra gave him the green light he did. 

Walker was shooting 45 percent with the Sioux Falls Skyforce in 17 games prior to his call up. Walker has also put together a 37 percent clip from distance in 157 NBA games prior to his Heat stint. 

At the very least, Walker presents the Heat with a formidable outside threat, one that if it can cut down on heavily contested looks, and add an slight uptick on attempts from the corners, could be an elite sniper. 

WALKER ON FILM 

The issue at times with Walker last season was his over aggressiveness. At times Walker put himself in this position: 

Walker Contest


And this one: 

Walker Contest 2


Walker shot 1-for-13 with a defender within 3-feet of him. Tiny sample, but it confirms a common sense basketball principle. To be fair, Miami probably never got a chance to build a consistent offensive flow with the alternating starting lineups, injuries, and late season acquisition of Goran Dragic

But Walker showed enough awareness to make better decisions several times, and those flashes on film give us enough hope that with a consistent role and more repetitions in this offense, the productivity can go up. 

Take this sequence: 

Walker many times shot this on sight. And at first it seems like a solid look. But...

Henry Walker Look 1


On the closeout, instead of settling for the contested look, Walker wisely swings the basketball to Luol Deng on the strong side. As it is, Walker created a better opportunity for a score. 

Henry Walker look 2


Deng passes the basketball to the corner, and a Goran Dragic drive on the baseline led to this kick out. Walker filled the left wing, where as we stated earlier, he shot a blistering 51 percent. Yes, he made this shot. But the process to find this shot was the best part about it. Another old basketball principle is the notion that the basketball will find you if you do the right things within the offense. Walker lives it on this play, especially playing with willing passers who can create like Dwyane Wade and Dragic. 

Henry Walker look 3


I found several examples of Walker making the right decision within the offense, but it wasn't consistent. The important thing is Walker showed off-the-ball skills and passing awareness that could lend itself to better shot selection. 

Aside from simply making the extra pass, Walker also flashed the ability to put the ball on the floor, and I think this offseason would be a great time to add some counters out of his triple threat that can get him within 10-feet of the basket where he can find good looks and create kick-out opportunities. 

With Dragic, and presumably Wade, handling the basketball, and Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh drawing their share of attention, Walker has an opportunity to be a prototypical '3-and-D' wing with a little extra versatility. Miami does not need a talented creator, it needs 3-point shooting and perimeter defense. Walker brings those skills to the table. 

With an adjustment in some decision making, Walker can be more productive than he was in his stint this season, and be a valuable part of the Heat's rotation. Remember, it's not like there will be a lot of cap space to go around. 

Miami has established three dates before the end of the calendar year that present options on Walker's contract, so the Heat are interested in continuing this evaluation process. 

And we will continue to work in the meantime. 

Jay Ramos is a performance enhancement specialist, basketball specific skills trainer and analytics consultant for professional athletes with Next Level Basketball.