Jimmy Butler was the headline addition for the Miami Heat this year, but unheralded rookies have impacted the team in eye-opening fashion.
Per NBA stats the four Heat rookies Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala, Chris Silva have logged the third most minutes for rookies together on one team in the NBA teams this season, 127. Compare that number to a total of 1 minute of floor time rookies have seen for the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers. In fact eight NBA teams have played their rookies less than a total of 10 minutes for the season as of yesterday.
The Heat are the only team with a winning record to grant their rooks more than 60 minutes of time on the court. So far Miami rooks have played an average of 12.7 minutes per game, with the Boston Celtics giving their newcomers only 6.7 minutes per contest as the next over .500 team to do so.
Here are some figures for Heat rookies compared to other rookies’ contributions to their team after yesterday’s action:
- Points per game: 31.9 – second most (Memphis Grizzlies, 32.2)
- Field goals attempted: 26.1 – second most (Golden State Warriors, 26.3)
- FG%: 45.2 – eighth among qualifying teams (min. 5 games)
- 3-pointers attempted: 10.4 – the most among all teams for rookies on a team
- 3P%: 37.5 – eighth among qualifying teams
- Free throws attempted: 5.1 – fourth among qualifiers
- Rebounds: 9.7 – third most
- Assists: 5.4 – third most
- Turnovers: 5.2 – tops in the NBA for rookies
- Steals: 2.7 – tops in the NBA among rookies
- Personal fouls: 6.0 – tops in the NBA for first-year players
- Plus/minus: 1.1 – way ahead of number two Toronto Raptors’ 0.3
The positive impact of Butler and the Heat’s rookies may have upset a veteran with alpha-male aspirations, but that happens occasionally among a large group of people. The drama seems worth it considering the promise of long-range success the new additions bring to Miami this season and the following ones.
Of course Zion Williamson hasn’t suited up yet, so the picture for rookies will change as the season unfolds. Meanwhile coach Erik Spoelstra has given his group much more exposure than most playoff teams dare to, and has been rewarded for his faith in them with their outstanding performances.
The turnovers and fouls are issues to fix going forward, but without a top-10 pick the Heat’s newcomers have outperformed expectations and added some spice to the sauce. Scouting reports will try to neutralize the rookies’ production, but then Spoelstra has scouting reports of his own on other teams, so those reports can be used both ways.
In sum the Heat’s rookies have been surprisingly large contributors to the team’s success, and hopefully they can stay one step ahead of how the competition schemes to stop them.
Stats courtesy NBA stats