When Bam Adebayo isn’t on the court with Jimmy Butler, Precious Achiuwa has unexpectedly done well alongside Butler. This matters since having either Adebayo or Butler in the game for 48 minutes means the Miami Heat always has at least one All-Star on the court. Finding combinations that work when either one takes a much-needed breather isn’t that easy.
Per NBA stats the 2-player numbers for Butler and Achiuwa seem promising through the first third of the season. Of all the 2-player lineups for the Heat (minimum of 12 games and 80 total minutes) the duo of Butler and Achiuwa has the best NetRtg of 21.8, plus the only DefRtg under 100 with a figure of 96.5, and best TS% of 64.5%. How can that be?
Perhaps Butler has ability to calm down the sometimes frenetic style of play rookies such as Achiuwa display. Achiuwa has a tendency to play at very fast pace, which sometimes leads to ill-advised decisions at the professional level. A more controlled Achiuwa helps since his NetRtg with other players isn’t promising: Kendrick Nunn, -17.8; Andre Iguodala, -15.8; Kelly Olynyk, -15.2; Tyler Herro, -6.9.
From another perspective the plus/minus figures featuring the combination of Butler and Achiuwa is 17.5 points per 48 minutes. It’s the only positive one for Achiuwa when sharing the court with another Heat player. Hopefully the lessons Achiuwa learns from Butler will carry over to the times when Butler isn’t there to settle Achiuwa down.
Regarding the plus/minus numbers per 48 minutes featuring the Heat’s other All-Star, Adebayo, they are 7.8 when he’s on the court with Olynyk, 6.2 with Goran Dragic, 4.3 with Butler, and 3.5 with Avery Bradley. Adebayo and Olynyk seem to click because they both do well in half-court sets. Together their 98.8 pace is the second slowest one (minimum of 150 min), and features a decent NetRtg of 8.3. Their assist/turnover ratio of 2.05 implies fewer empty possessions and better game flow.
With Dragic temporarily sidelined, the challenge of playing a full 48 minutes of championship basketball will be tested over the next nine games. The Heat face the Utah Jazz twice, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers once each during that time, with most games on the road.
The unavailability of Meyers Leonard has the Heat looking to find a replacement for his bruising presence. Achiuwa’s motto on his twitter account is “Only the violent will survive.” No doubt he brings tremendous hustle to the game, although all too often he makes overzealous rookie mistakes. For whatever reason Butler has the ability to harness Achiuwa’s energy when working together with him, especially on defense. Having a productive Achiuwa, along with healthy All-Stars, could help make surviving this unique season possible.