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Who needs DeMar DeRozan when Miami has Tyler Johnson?

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This season Tyler Johnson just might show fans why he’s worth a $19 million contract in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The biggest surprise for Miami Heat fans this season could be Tyler Johnson winning the Most Improved Player Award and an All-Star berth. Actually that would shock anyone who follows the NBA.

The following preseason figures vanish once the games get real, but consider this:

  • Tyler Johnson lead the team with a Player Impact Estimate (PIE) of 18.9 (Hassan Whiteside 18.5, Jordan Mickey 13.3)
  • Net rating: Kelly Olynyk 6.8, Tyler Johnson 5.2, Josh Richardson 4.2, Justise Winslow 2.6
  • Defensive rating: Tyler Johnson 89.9, Winslow 90.4, Richardson 90.5
  • True Shooting %: Tyler Johnson 67.1%, Whiteside 63.0%, Mickey 59.4%
  • 3P%: Okaro White 50%, Tyler Johnson 47%, Rodney McGruder 44%
  • FG%: Whiteside 60%, White 60%, Tyler Johnson 56%, Mickey 54%

What pops out is T. Johnson's numbers of 3P% 47% and FG% 56%. While these preseason games don't count, they point to Tyler Johnson improving his shot selection with experience. Sort of what fellow Fresno State alumni Paul George did.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra has an important decision to make: is starting more important than who is on the floor at crunch time? Last season he started Luke Babbitt, but quietly subbed him out during the first quarter. He might follow the same pattern this season, with T. Johnson getting 30 minutes a game coming off the bench, when games matter the most in close contests.

One important fact about Tyler Johnson's preseason baskets, 100% of his 3-point conversions and 67% of his 2-pointers were assisted, i.e. Tyler relies on facilitators such as James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, or Winslow to score.

Whiteside was the one and only Heat player (2 games or more) who did not have a single assist during preseason, which makes life difficult for Tyler, who depends on assists for his baskets. That may explain, in part, Tyler’s success with playmaker James Johnson, as half of The Brothers Johnson.

Something to think about: per NBA stats, 96.2% of Miami’s preseason made 3-pointers were assisted (highest % for all teams). Whiteside didn’t assist on any of them, which invites defenders to pack the paint when he’s on the floor. That may partially explain why Hassan’s preseason offensive or defensive ratings were not those of a max salary player: OFFRTG 96.9, DEFRTG 105.1, NETRTG -8.2. In the ESPN rankings for Golden State Warriors versus the NBA, the Heat’s bench was rated better than the Warriors’ bench, probably due to better spacing on the court.