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One surprising number held back the Miami Heat last season

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Heat perform with a lot of heart, but scoring more points than the other team still separates the winners from the losers.

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Miami Heat gave their fans an exciting show last season, but fell short in one area that Heat championship teams from previous seasons had - players who could create their own shot.

Give Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, or Chris Bosh the ball when teams tighten their defenses against Miami in the playoffs, they found a way to make the basket on their own.

One startling number gives an insight on why three of the four teams reached the Conference Finals last season - the pull-up jumper.

The top six teams in the NBA on that shot per NBA stats were,

  1. Houston Rockets (65-17) at 50.8 EFG%
  2. Golden State Warriors (58-24) at 49.1 EFG%
  3. Boston Celtics (55-27) at 45.9 EFG%
  4. Portland Trail Blazers (49-33) at 45.9 EFG%
  5. Indiana Pacers (48-34) at 45.7 EFG%
  6. New Orleans Pelicans (48-34) at 44.7 EFG%

Those teams combined for an overall 323-169 record, or 65.7% winning percentage, during the regular season, which is pretty good.

The top two teams, Rockets and Warriors, on the list met in the Western Conference Finals, while the top team from East, Celtics, met a top shot-creator from the East, James, in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Meanwhile the bottom six teams in the NBA were,

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (35-47) at 38.7 EFG%
  2. Phoenix Suns (21-61) at 39.5 EFG%
  3. Orlando Magic (25-57) at 40.2 EFG%
  4. Dallas Mavericks (24-58) at 40.3 EFG%
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder (48-32) at 40.4 EFG%
  6. Miami Heat (44-38) at 40.5 EFG%

Notably both winning teams among the bottom six got knocked out in the first round as defenses tightened up and took away the passing lanes to their catch-and-shoot 3-point threats.

Let’s look at the numbers from last season for Heat players currently on the roster.

Pull-Up Jumpers

Wayne Ellington 41 35 39.2 38.4 54.4
Rodney McGruder 11 7 41.7 66.7 50.0
Kelly Olynyk 41 34 37.3 40.7 44.7
Josh Richardson 43 37 41.5 25.0 42.6
Hassan Whiteside 30 24 41.4 0.0 41.4
Goran Dragic 38 36 37.5 30.8 41.2
Tyler Johnson 38 33 36.5 31.8 39.1
Dion Waiters 15 14 31.5 25.9 37.1
James Johnson 36 36 33.6 18.4 36.8
Dwyane Wade 37 30 31.6 28.4 34.7
Justise Winslow 32 35 19.1 0.0 19.1
Bam Adebayo 33 35 16.7 0.0 16.7
Derrick Jones Jr. 9 11 0.0 0.0 0.0

The Heat sported losing records when the three players, who really struggled on making pull-up jumpers, Derrick Jones Jr., Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow, were in the game, so having a decent jump shot does seem to matter over the course of the season.

NBA players are paid millions of dollars to make life miserable for the Heat on offense, and Miami has to figure out a way on offense to return the favor and make life on the court very unpleasant for other teams by putting the ball in the basket against them.

Miami has two men in Kelly Olynyk and Rodney McGruder who excel (over 50 EFG%) in making buckets with pull-up jumpers, if forced to go that route.

Even in college McGruder could put the ball on the floor and find a way to score, so perhaps McGruder being part of the 30-11 miracle finish wasn’t a fluke after all.

Notice that Jones Jr, Adebayo and Winslow are the three youngest members on the team, so there is hope that they will be relentless in learning how to create their own shot against the NBA veterans whose duty is to shut them down, and deliver a surprise to Heat fans with breakout seasons.

The pull-up jumper numbers don’t tell the entire story of winning games, but they illustrate the elite NBA defenders make passing the ball off as a safety value very difficult, and the ability to make shots off the dribble, when needed, can win games.

If an open look isn’t possible, the player is on his own to put the ball on the floor and win the game, as Wayne Ellington did when the Toronto Raptors took away his corner 3-point shot and left an easy path to the rim for him.