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Miami Heat need to get their mojo back with a possible solution

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Heat culture was an on-and-off thing last season, that was off more often than on.

Liberty v Virginia Tech Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

The Miami Heat finished last among all NBA teams in fast-break points scored (FBPS) with 813, while the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks lead the Eastern Conference with 1506 and 1452 total points respectively.

Though that number stands out, unfortunately the Heat surrendered 215 FBPS (1028) more than they made; conversely the Bucks outscored their opponents by 549 points in the fast-break department last season.

No wonder Ira Winderman commented, “The backstory of last season’s Heat was of a culture gone sideways — tardiness, sloth, lenience.”

With that observation one candidate comes to mind in the Heat’s draft range next month: Canada’s own Nickeil Alexander-Walker (NAW).

The only player in Tankathon’s top-30 to average at least 4 assists and 2 steals, he takes his defensive responsibilities seriously, as well as setting up teammates with nifty assists.

During Alexander-Walker’s 3-game performance in the Sweet Sixteen the ball didn’t stick in his hands as he displayed the ability to score, pass and defend.

The bottom line for NAW according to TheStephien comes down to whether he can overcome his physical limitations in the NBA.

“And I suppose that brings us back to Arron Afflalo, a player with essentially the same frame and athletic ability as NAW who translated as a shooter but not a defender.”

At 6’6”, 200 lbs, and 6’9” wingspan, NAW physically fits the Josh Richardson mold, who has far outperformed his draft status, but not received All-Star recognition yet.

Maybe the duplication isn’t so bad, because Miami’s tedious style remains stuck in the mud by over-using hand-offs (2nd most behind the Philadelphia 76ers despite having the lowest FG%, 36.4, in the league) and pick-and-roll action, while the teams like the Bucks deploy transition plays as their bread-and-butter action.

Last season Milwaukee’s top 2 play-types were spot-ups, 23%, and transitions, 22%, with no other NBA using them as often.

Tellingly Miami was 12th in using spot-ups, and 27th in transition baskets over the regular season.

The Heat need help incorporating transition plays into its game plan because teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings gave Miami fits with the new guidelines which encourage unimpeded movement on the court.

Looking at the team numbers, only a few Heat players ranked better than average (50 percentile) running transition opportunities successfully (PPP is Points Per Possession).

  1. Bam Adebayo - 86.8 (1.32 PPP)
  2. Dion Waiters - 68.1 (1.19 PPP)
  3. Kelly Olynyk - 67.8 (1.19 PPP)
  4. Josh Richardson - 51.4 (1.12 PPP)
  5. Derrick Jones Jr. - 47.5 (1.10 PPP)
  6. Goran Dragic - 32.4 (1.03 PPP)
  7. Hassan Whiteside - 30.8 (1.02 PPP)
  8. Justise Winslow - 16.3 (0.92 PPP)
  9. James Johnson - 6.4 (0.78 PPP)

The Milwaukee Bucks borrowed a formula familiar to Heat fans from the LeBron James days with a transition-style offense and defense that goes at the basket and sprays out to spot-up shooters on the perimeter.

In the Bucks 125-103 win over the Toronto Raptors, Giannis Antetokounmpo made only a single 3-pointer on his 4 tries, but his teammates shot 37 of them for a team total of 41 attempts.

Erik Spoelstra greatest success came from extensive use of the transition offense through LeBron James, but has struggled using Goran Dragic as point guard and Hassan Whiteside as center in a slower, more traditional setting where Spoelstra’s creativity has been hampered.

I like Alexander-Walker as a high basketball IQ compliment to Adebayo, Waiters, Olynyk, Richardson in running transition plays like Jim Crutchfield does in his very successful pressure defense style of play that creates a lot of high-quality transition opportunities.

stats courtesy NBA Stats