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Miami Heat’s new secret weapon: Whiteside’s soft touch

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How the Miami Heat can use Whiteside’s complete turnaround at the charity stripe after the All-Star break.

Golden State Warriors v Miami Heat Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In a recent article Zach Lowe listed ten things he likes and dislikes, one of them being Hassan Whiteside’s soft touch on the court.

[Whiteside] has an uncanny soft touch on flip shots, putbacks, and the occasional midrange jumper. His shots sort of deaden on the rim before dropping.

When defenders plug up Whiteside's path to the hoop, he'll loft one of the longest-distance floaters you'll ever see:

Looking at the video clip, you’ll see Hassan makes his basket right at the charity stripe, where lately he’s had notable success. The best Miami Heat players at the free-throw line after the All-Star break are:

Okaro White 83%
Tyler Johnson 82%
Goran Dragic 81%
Hassan Whiteside 81%

The worst are:

Luke Babbitt 0% (never draws a foul)
Rodney McGruder 50%
Dion Waiters 58%
Willie Reed 59%

Before the All-Star game both Whiteside and Reed’s FT% stood at 58%. Miami’s game plan hasn’t adjusted to the present success of Hassan’s deadly 80% accuracy around the free-throw line. Miami fans still celebrate Josh Richardson’s 46% 3p% of last season, versus the 30% 3p% this season, even with a larger sample size of 177 3PA versus 115 3PA. Time to move on to the present reality before the season expires.

80% FT% is even more efficient than an excellent 50% 3p% accuracy, which Miami has been hanging its hat on this season. How can the Heat exploit their best offensive weapons, as shown by cold, hard facts?

Lately, teams have caught on to Miami’s drive-and-kick strategy by sealing off the painted area, as seen in the Toronto Raptors game. Trying to make passes into the crowded paint areas leads to turnovers, contested field goal attempts and a stagnant offense.

Zach Lowe’s observation indicates the Heat stationing Okaro, Tyler, Goran or Hassan at the charity stripe to open up cuts at the rim. This slight variation of stationing shooters at the free-throw line, instead of under the basket or at the arc, frees up space for proven finishers in the painted area to score much-needed baskets.

Post All-Star paint touch FG%
Wayne Ellington 100%
Tyler Johnson 100%
Hassan Whiteside 68%
Josh Richardson 67%

Since the Dion Waiters injury, the successful drive-and-kick strategy has not been the same without him running the show. Miami thrived because Waiters has a special talent of attacking the rim to collapse defenders around him, which isn’t easily replicated by other players on the team.

With only ten crucial games are left on regular-season schedule, a revised game plan tailored to the available members of the team remains the only option for success. The answer could lie in Hassan’s soft touch creating high-percentage opportunities.