NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at a tale of two seasons for the Miami Heat.
The Miami Heat were 10.8 points per 100 possessions better over their last 41 games than they were over their first 41 games.
That was the biggest second-half improvement in the last 12 years.
The bigger improvement came on offense, where the Heat ranked eighth in the league as they went 30-11 over their last 41 games, 9.1 points per 100 possessions better than they were with their 11-30 start.
It was from beyond the arc where the Heat really turned their season around. Over their first 41 games, the Heat ranked 26th in 3-point percentage at 33.6 percent. Over their last 41, they ranked third at 39.0 percent.
The Heat were the only team that had four of the 32 players who shot better than 40 percent on at least 100 3-point attempts after Jan. 13. Luke Babbitt (45.8 percent) and Dion Waiters (44.5 percent) ranked third and sixth in 3-point percentage among that group.
With the improvement came an increase in volume. Through their first 41 games, the Heat took 29.7 percent of their shots (the 20th highest rate in the league) from beyond the arc. Over their last 41 games, they increased that rate to 33.2 percent (11th).
Though they were already decent on the other end of the floor, the Heat also improved defensively in the second half of the season. They were of three teams (Golden State and Boston were the others) to rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor over after Jan. 13.
Strength of schedule had something to do with the turnaround...
First 41 games...
- Opponents finished the season with a cumulative winning percentage of 0.519.
- 15 of the 41 games were against the league's top 10 defenses.
- 23 of the 41 games were on the road.
- Included three stretches of five games in seven days.
Last 41 games...
- Opponents finished the season with a cumulative winning percentage of 0.478.
- Only eight of the 41 games were against the league's top 10 defenses.
- 23 of the 41 games were at home.
- Included no stretches of five games in seven days.
The absence of Justise Winslow may also have been a factor. Winslow, who shot a brutal 24 percent from outside the paint and was a starter when he was healthy, was lost for the season at the end of December. His absence resulted in a smaller lineup that spaced the floor better.
Winslow is now healthy, the Heat replaced Babbitt with Kelly Olynyk, and spent more than $100 million to retain Waiters and James Johnson. They sacrificed some financial flexibility to run it back.
The question is whether that second-half success can be replicated.
HEAT NOTES - GENERAL
- Have played at a below-average pace (possessions per 48 minutes) in each of the last 11 seasons and in 24 of the last 25.
- Were outscored by 270 points at the free throw line last season. That was the biggest negative differential in the league.
- Finished ninth in the East, but had the conference's fifth best point differential (plus-87), that of a 44-38 team.
- Were 14-2 in games played on Wednesdays and 27-39 otherwise, including 0-8 on Sundays. The only other team that was winless on any particular day of the week was Phoenix (0-9 on Mondays).
HEAT NOTES - OFFENSE
- According to SportVU, only 38 percent of their ball screens resulted in a shot, drawn foul or turnover from the ball-handler or the screener. That was the lowest ball-screen usage rate in the league.
- Made 3.8 more 3-pointers than they made in 2015-16, the second biggest increase in the league, behind only that of Brooklyn (+4.2). 79.3 percent of the Heat's 3-point attempts were catch-and-shoot attempts, the second highest rate in the league. They shot 34.9 percent on contested 3-pointers, the second best mark in the league.
- Shot 70.6 percent from the free throw line, the worst mark in the league. Were the only team that didn't have a player shoot 80 percent or better on at least 75 free throw attempts.
- Have ranked in the bottom 10 in assist percentage (AST/FGM) in each of the last three seasons and in seven of the last nine.
- Only 50.5 percent of their turnovers, the lowest rate in the league, were live balls.
HEAT NOTES - DEFENSE
- Have been a better-than-average defensive team (allowing fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average) in 20 of the last 22 seasons.
- Improved defensively with each quarter, from 108.4 points allowed per 100 possessions (23rd in the league) in the first quarter to 100.8 (first) in the fourth.
- Opponents took just 27.0 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the lowest rate in the league. Also, 24.3 percent of their opponents' 3-point attempts, the highest rate in the league, were contested, according to SportVU.
- Opponents shot 57.0 percent in the restricted area, the second lowest mark in the league.
- Opponents had an effective field goal percentage of 52.8 percent in the first six seconds of the shot clock, the lowest mark in the league.
HEAT NOTES - LINEUPS
- Most-used lineup was Dragic, Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Babbitt and Hassan Whiteside. It allowed only 99.4 points per 100 possessions in 105 minutes after the All-Star break after allowing 112.3 in 142 minutes before the break.
- Scored 108.5 points per 100 possessions with both Dragic and Waiters on the floor, 105.8 with one of the two on the floor, and 101.9 with neither on the floor.
- Allowed 102.3 points per 100 possessions with James Johnson on the floor. That was the lowest on-court DefRtg among Eastern Conference players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game in 40 or more games.
- Scored 117.6 points per 100 possessions in 134 minutes with James Johnson playing center (without Whiteside, Josh McRoberts, Babbitt, Willie Reed or Udonis Haslem).
HEAT NOTES - INDIVIDUAL
- Goran Dragic attempted 33.5 free throws for every 100 shots from the field last season, up from 18.9 the season before. That was the biggest increase in free throw rate among players with at least 500 field goal attempts both in 2015-16 and '16-17. Though he played only 96 more minutes, he scored 178 more points at the line.
- Dragic also had the league's biggest increase in 3-point percentage (from 31.2 percent to 40.5 percent) among players who attempted at least 200 threes both seasons.
- Over the last five seasons, Dragic has shot 65.8 percent in the restricted area, the best mark among guards with at least 1,000 restricted-area attempts over that time.
- Wayne Ellington had a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of just 0.77, the second lowest mark among 174 players who attempted at least 500 shots from the field.
- Tyler Johnson played 2,178 minutes off the bench, most in the league. He and James Johnson were two of only five players to average at least 10 points and three assists off the bench (minimum 40 games).
- 55 percent of Rodney McGruder's 3-point attempts came from the corners. That was the highest rate (by a wide margin) among 135 players that attempted at least 200 total threes. But his 34.7 percent from the corners was the worst mark among 22 players with at least 100 attempts.
- Josh Richardson had an effective field goal percentage of 46.7 percent last season, down from 55.0 percent the season before. That was the biggest drop in effective field goal percentage among among 156 players who took at least 250 shots in 2015-16 and 500 shots in '16-17. Hassan Whiteside (from 60.6 percent to 55.7 percent) had the fifth biggest drop.
- Dion Waiters had a usage rate of 26.4 percent, up from 17.6 percent the season before. That increase of 8.8 was the third largest (behind those of Harrison Barnes and Russell Westbrook) in the league among 244 players who played at least 500 minutes in 2015-16 and 1,000 minutes in '16-17.
- Waiters was one of three players who shot less than 50% on at least 200 FGA in the restricted area. But he shot 12-for-27 (44.4 percent) from 3-point range in the last four seconds of the shot clock, the best mark among players with at least 25 attempts.
- Waiters had an effective field goal percentage of 55.4 percent at home and just 41.7 percent on the road. That was the biggest home-road effective field goal percentage differential among 205 players who attempted at least 200 shots both at home and on the road.
- Whiteside led the league with 4.9 second chance points per game. He recorded assists on just 4.2 percent of his possessions, the lowest rate among 222 players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 40 or more games last season.
NBA TV's Heat preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Monday, Oct. 2. See the full preview schedule here.
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