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Heat grabbed two potential steals in free agent signings this summer

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A strictly by-the-numbers approach names two steals Pat Riley made in the free agent market this summer.

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Alonzo Mourning describes what he considers the prettiest play in basketball: "When you block a shot and keep it in play, and start a break with it, it's the prettiest play in basketball."

To him a blocked shot that goes into the stands equals a turnover, "It looks great when you block it up into stands and you get all the oohs and ahhs, but what do you benefit from that? They get the ball back. You know what I'm saying? They get a chance to score again."

For Mourning, turnovers, such as a block that gives the other team possession of the ball, are costly. Besides blocks, other turnovers come from bad passes, steals, missed shots and personal fouls. One number which measures all of them is PIE (Player Impact Estimate).

On the NBA stats page, PIE figures are available for the following Miami Heat players:

PLAYER PIE(%)
Hassan Whiteside 17.2
Chris Bosh 15.1
Derrick Williams 12.7
Willie Reed 11.4
Goran Dragic 10.7
Tyler Johnson 9.8
Udonis Haslem 9.0
Luke Babbitt 7.2
Josh McRoberts 7.2
Wayne Ellington 6.8
James Johnson 6.7
Josh Richardson 6.6
Justise Winslow 6.4
Dion Waiters 5.8

These figures fail the eye test.

A simplified version of PIE is

Positives:  + PTS + FGM + FTM + DREB + OREB/2 + AST + STL + BLK/2

Negatives: - FGA - FTA - PF - TO

Divide by the sum of all the players numbers for both teams in a game

10% is average for a player, i.e. 100 points divided by 10 players in a game equals 10%.

What does the PIE tell us? Top 5 PIE numbers in the NBA: Stephen Curry (19.7), Kevin Durant (19.4), LeBron James (18.9),Russell Westbrook (18.8), Chris Paul (18.4). Whiteside's 17.2 was good enough for eighth in the league. They created points and got possessions for their team, while the lowest-ranked players coughed up costly turnovers, mostly by missed field goal attempts.

Derrick Williams and Willie Reed stand out as key signings for the Heat because of their 12.7% and 11.4% PIE numbers. They score, rebound and defend well, while not turning the ball over to the enemy frequently.

Coach Spo on Derrick Williams

Willie Reed Highlights

Whiteside at the 5 position, Reed at 4, Williams at 3, Tyler at 2, and Dragic at the 1 total 62%, for a 50-win season. No single combination of five players can be on the floor every minute of every game, but this group might be a good one.

The above table's figures are for the entire last season, which drags down Richardson's number because he started off slow. Poor shot selections hold Winslow and Waiters back, because each missed attempt counts as a turnover. Henry Walker and Gerald Green had problems of never meeting a 3-point attempt they didn't like. Hopefully the coaches will talk sense into Waiters and company not to hoist up bad shoots. Going 5 for 15 yields a box score featuring double-digit scoring, but the ten misses count the same as turnovers with potential chances to let the other team score 20 to 30 points.

No one statistic totally gives the true value of a player. What the PIE does offer is guidance on room for improvement in the next eight weeks before the season starts.

During the 2005-06 championship season, Miami lead the NBA in rebounding and was second in scoring percentage, which by the way are the key metrics in the PIE formula. Fixing shot selection problems before the season begins might be a way to grab a playoff berth for the 2016-17 season.

The exciting newcomers Miami signed this summer will keep the Heat relevant to the surprise of most NBA writers. Congratulations to Erik Spoelstra and Nick Arison for tying the knot this summer, and there is no better way to start their new phases in life than getting a second ring this season.

NOTE:

A paper titled "Estimating an NBA player’s impact on his team’s chances of winning" listed Bosh as the Heat's best player in the 2013-14 season, with Mario Chalmers third and Dwyane Wade ninth. Analytics nowadays have gone past simple box score math into sophisticated analysis.