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By the numbers: Exploring the Miami Heat’s 1-3 start

Let’s explore some numbers!

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Miami Heat have tipped-off the 2022-23 season 1-3, with losses to the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls with its lone win coming against those same Raptors over the weekend. The Heat begin their three-game west coast trip, beginning with the Portland Trail Blazers, tonight.

That said, you might hate or despite analytics in some form or fashion, but we are officially a week into the NBA season, so let’s look at some very early, very small sample numbers! No, (most of) these likely won’t mean anything in the end — but who cares? Let’s look at some numbers — individual and team-related, some of which might be the catalyst their lackluster start — regardless!


Individual:

.610 - Jimmy Butler leads the team in scoring at 23.0 points per game, but much of that has been a testament to his assertivness and getting to the charity stripe. Butler’s free-throw rate — number of free-throw attempts per shot attempt — is .610. Meaning, for every 10 field goal attempts, he’s taking 6.1 free-throws per game. He might not be playoff Jimmy Butler, but he’s still getting aggressively picking his spots to attack and getting to the charity stripe at an elite rate.

8.0 - Dewayne Dedmon has committed eight fouls per 36 minutes. Not great! The Mechanic must fix his foul troubles if Miami wants any semblance of production from its bench frontcourt unit moving forward...at least until Omer Yurtseven returns.

1.23 - Tyler Herro has posted 1.23 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, the fourth-best mark in the league. That’s only behind Luka Doncic, Jaylen Brown and Caris LeVert.

1.31 - Bam Adebayo averages 1.31 points per possession as the roll man in a PnR, second-most leaguewide.

(Spam the Herro-Adebayo pick-and-roll as much as possible! It works!)

0.38 - Conversely, Kyle Lowry is averaging 0.38 ppp in the pick-and-roll, the second-worst mark in the league. Small sample, but that’s a mark that will have to considerably improve if Miami has championship aspirations.

38.6 - One of the biggest takeaways through the first four Heat games was the impact that Bam Adebayo’s provided. It’s visible not just when he’s on the floor, but the drop-off the frontcourt has been colossal when he’s off. And the numbers reflect that. Per Cleaning the Glass, Adebayo sports a plus 38.6 NET Rating differential, the second-biggest differential among they’re defined bigs behind the league-leading Santi Aldama at plus-64.9 (John Collins has a plus-44.1, but is defined as just a “forward”). That figure ranks in the 89th percentile leaguewide.

37.4 - The Heat are also 37.4 points better defensively (99th percentile) when he’s on compared to when he’s off, the NBA’s second-best mark. Opponents sport a 14.0 lower effective field goal percentage and are forcing 6.8 percent more turnovers, too.

35.7 - When Jimmy Butler is on the floor, Miami is 35.7 points better offensively, the fourth-best on-off differential in the NBA.

Team:

105.3 - Through four games, the Heat have posted a 105.6 offensive rating — meaning they’ve conjured together 105.6 points per 100 possessions, the third-worst mark in the league. They only rank ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers, who are still configuring rotations with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Norman Powell, and the Los Angeles Lakers, who haven’t been able to throw a rock into the ocean through their three games.

30.1 - One of Miami’s conundrums have been its lack of 3-point attempts. The Heat have hoisted 30.1 3-point attempts per 100 possessions — which ranks No. 21 in the Association — with the 21st-best 3-point rate (percentage of FG attempts as 3PA) at 35.6 percent.

33.1 - It doesn’t help that Miami isn’t knocking down their 3s within the microscopic sample, either, shooting just 33.1 percent from distance, which is also 21st leaguewide They have shot below their season-average from 3-point range in two of their four games, including an 8-for-34 effort from deep in their most recent affair against Toronto.

Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat
Max Strus #31 of the Miami Heat shoots the ball during the game against the Toronto Raptors.
Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

35.1 - Miami’s getting good looks, but just aren’t knocking them down! On open or wide-open 3-point attempts — which is designated by the closest defender being at least four feet away from the shooter upon release — the Heat are converting at a 35.1 percent clip (17th-best) from distance, per NBA.com’s tracking data. On what’s considered “open” attempts, they’re 14-of-41 (34.1 percent); on “wide open” attempts, they’re 12-of-33 (36.4 percent).

62.7 - That leads me to my next point: open 3-point frequency. Over their first four contests, 74 of the Heat’s 118 3-point attempts — roughly 62.7 percent of them — are dubbed “open” or “wide open”. While that number seems high, it’s not. That frequency’s within the bottom-third across the NBA, meaning they’re not generating enough open attempts from beyond the arc to even convert, relative to league average. That’s not conducive to success for an offense that’s had trouble fostering sustainable half-court offense.

90.7 - Speaking of half-court offense, it’s 19th in the NBA in points per 100 halfcourt plays (90.7), per CTG. That also takes up north of 80 percent of their plays, too (league average is 78.0%).

294.5 - The Heat are No. 8 in the NBA in passes made, averaging 294.5 passes per game, though they’re at the bottom-half of the league in assists, potential assists and points created off assists.

106.2 - DunksandThrees.com has their own offensive rating metric they use — called adjusted offensive rating, which adjusts points scored per 100 possessions for the strength of opposing defenses faced. The Heat’s aORTG is 106.2, the fifth-worst mark in the league. Each of the three defenses they’ve faced rank outside the top-9 in defensive rating and outside the top-11 in aDRTG.

14.4 - They rank 14th in DunksandThrees’ average offensive possession length at 14.4 seconds. They’ve finished eight of the last nine seasons outside the top-20 in this category.

110.7 - Miami’s 17th in defense with a 110.7 defensive rating.

113.3 - On a similar note, it’s 18th in aDRTG, surrendering 113.3 points per 100 possessions. While they are currently the NBA’s third-best offense, the Boston Celtics are the only offense that it’s faced in the top-5 in aORTG.

14.9 - Heat opponents have an average possession length of 14.9 offense, the second-longest in the league. But....

36.2 - They have given up plenty of good looks from deep! That’s automatically going to lower a team’s defensive ceiling. According to NBA.com’s tracking data, over 36 percent — 36.2 percent, to be exact — of 3s that opponents have taken have been considered open or wide open.

39.2 - And teams are knocking down such shots at a 39.2 percent clip (49-125), the 8th-highest clip in the sport. Though Miami is No. 9 in opponents’ total field goal efficiency on such shots at 40.3 percent.

14.9 - Miami is allowing teams to shoot a bevy corner 3-pointers, which isn’t surprising. Schematically, Spoelstra’s squads allow plenty of corner 3-point attempts, a byproduct of protecting the paint — specifically over-stunting from the strongside and providing extra weak-side help. Per CTG, 14.9 percent of opponents’ shots are corner 3s. The team ranked 29th (Orlando)? 12.3 percent. That’s almost as big of a gap as it is from 29th to 21st (Clippers - 9.6%).

46.4 - It doesn’t help that opponents are shooting 46.4 percent on such shots, too, the NBA’s seventh-highest clip. Perhaps there’s some luck to that, maybe there’s not, but it’s noteworthy.

-3.00 - CTG tracks teams’ effective field goal percentage, and their eFG% based on the location of their shot, assuming they shot league average from each position (loc eFG%). Miami’s eFG% thus far is 50.3 percent (24th), while their loc eFG% is 53.3 percent (16th), a minus-three percent difference. That’s the fifth-lowest difference in basketball, the lowest being the Lakers (-8.8%). Perhaps that corrects itself when the sample grows?

49.0 - The Heat have collected 49 percent of available rebounds, the 21st-ranked rebounding rate in the sport. They rank No. 10 in defensive rebounding rate (72.5), but No. 26 in offensive rebounding rate (24.5) — a mark they were top-10 in last year.

13.5 - Thus, they’re in the bottom-half of the NBA in second chance points per 100 possessions, with 13.5.

5.4, 9.7, 14 - One of the most shocking developments from these four games was the lack of live-ball turnovers Miami’s defense has created. It’s tallied 5.4 steals per 100 possessions, the second-worst mark to only the Bucks, which have led to just 9.7 fastbreak points and 14 points-off turnovers per 100, the which both rank in the bottom-four leaguewide.

-5.1 - Along those lines, the Heat’s fastbreak point differential per 100 is minus-5.1, the NBA’s fourth-worst differential. Only the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz were worse. Not ideal, at all!


Let’s see which of these correct itself over time? Which was the most surprising to you? Comment below!