Coup's Notebook Vol. 29

Coup’s Notebook Vol. 29: Tyler Herro And Bam Adebayo Spur An Offensive Change And More From The First Week Of The Season

The Miami HEAT are 2-4 with a Net Rating of -2.2, sitting No. 23 in Offensive Rating (109.2) and No. 18 in Defensive Rating (111.4). They have one game remaining on an abbreviated West Coast trip before returning home to face the Warriors once again on Tuesday. Here’s what we’ve been noting and noticing.


While it may not have been the first thing on your mind when Tyler Herro inserted was into the starting lineup, that move has initiated what appears to be a shift in Miami’s offense.

For the past three years, Bam Adebayo has always had a partner in dribble-handoff crime. For most of that time, it was Duncan Robinson. For some of it, Max Strus. The action, with Robinson or Strus flying around Adebayo once, twice or even three times, was a staple of the offense. Get threes up early. Get them up often. Those actions weren’t quite as prevalent in fourth quarters when defense tightened up, but for three quarters at least they were a staple.

Herro is more than a handoff player. He’ll use them, sure, but he’s not squaring up at seventy miles an hour the same way his predecessors will. There’s far more pick-and-roll to his game, more on-the-ball creation, more 24-seconds of usage in the shot clock as opposed to five or six. It comes with some risk, as does any change. Slight changes to your identity, no matter how much talent is involved, always has the possibility of teeter-tottering everything else you do. The upside is that your offense may generate far more two-on-the-ball, may level up with what’s required for a true Top 10 showing.

In those first two games, against Chicago and Boston, Miami’s offense didn’t look much like itself. A mishmash of what was and what could be. Truthfully, after a blazing first half against Toronto, the second had a few head-scratching stretches. They didn’t truly look like themselves until the middle quarters against Portland, with the threes flowing and the defense creating deep runs. The HEAT’s offense is ranked No. 27 after the break so far at 102.7 per 100 – 93.6 in fourth quarters – even if all numbers are funny numbers at this stage of the season. You use the evidence you have in front of you until you have better evidence. But the flashes have been there, with Herro and Adebayo at the center of those bursts of light.

If there’s been a true thesis statement for what this iteration of the offense might become, it came, as your professors might tell you it should, in the opening grafs of the season. Chicago doesn’t have a ton of great options with Nikola Vucevic at center. Instead of choosing drop coverage and the pain of a dozen cuts they opted to have Vucevic either outright blitz or hedge out on Herro, offering brief, fleeting doubles as the ball-carrier is surveying the court rather than, in a handoff situation, with his back to the basket. And so in the first quarter, there it was, Herro the threat, Adebayo getting his Draymond Green on.

Notebook Vol. 29: Offensive Thesis

Martin makes the timely cut there, but the play becomes a plus as soon as Herro delivers the package with a built-in advantage. If Miami wants to go from good to very good to maybe even great on offense, that’s how they do it. Spacing won’t always be perfect with the various lineups they use. It won’t be the Golden State Warriors. But it most certainly could be more than what they’ve been, and what they’ve been has pushed them pretty far of late.

It’s telling that these scenarios weren’t much available against Boston. Switching is the great flattener and the Celtics had Miami’s offense ironed out. Toronto switches plenty, too, and within the switch there are still those moments of two-on-one for Adebayo to slip and Herro to identify.

Notebook Vol. 29: Beat Toronto Switch

Through six games Miami’s pick-and-rolls are up to 68.8 per 100 (No. 10 in the league) from 64.4 over the last three seasons – they were No. 26 in pick-and-roll usage last year – and handoffs are down from 25.8 in those years to 17.7. Nearly a direct swap. Not wholesale changes – Strus and Robinson are still in the rotation to run the ol’ roundabout – but significant ones. And with Adebayo on the floor they’re running even fewer handoffs than their team average, using them at a rate that would rank in the Bottom 5. That the scales are tilting toward guard initiation offers some hope for that fourth-quarter offense which finished No. 21 – in the clutch, No. 24 – last season.

The HEAT had a good thing going with their sniper-driven handoffs. We might see some growing pains along the way, but there’s potential right now for something more dynamic. We’ve seen it a little. If Miami is right about how Herro is going to be treated this season, they’ll eventually want to see it much more. Despite what we saw at times against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, you can’t always rely on your defense to create your offense. The path to a trophy goes through the half-court.

“We kind of know the answers to the test going into the season,” Spoelstra says. “Most teams will try to take the ball out of Tyler’s hands. That’s a great compliment but it’s also a big responsibility of his to go to put pressure on the defense, read the defense, become more proficient at getting the ball back to Bam when they’re trying to swarm him and get deflections. He’s really been diligent at working at that. Bam, when he gets it in open space, he’s one of the best in the league in that realm.”


One of the more curious items through the first couple of games was that the HEAT weren’t getting threes up at anywhere near the same rate as we were used to from them with less than 30 percent of their total field goals coming from range in the losses to Chicago and Boston.

As it turns out, that might have just been because it was Chicago – which limited threes well last season despite ranking fairly low defensively – and Boston.

More threes were always the goal. They told us that more threes are still the goal.

“We’ve got to find a way to get them up,” Kyle Lowry said after the HEAT attempted a mere 26 long shots against Boston last week. “Coach has been talking about it. We have a goal and we haven’t reached it yet, not even close. We have to find a way to get there, somehow someway.”

We don’t know exactly what that goal is, but last season it was upwards of 40 attempts during the time when Adebayo was out with a thumb injury. Miami was well on its way toward that number after shooting 9-of-20 – with a ridiculous Offensive Rating of 147.9 – in the first half against of the first game against Toronto. But then they took just 10 after halftime.

Asked the same question about threes after beating the Raptors, Lowry asked how many they wound up taking that night. Told it was 30, in the end only four more than against Boston, his reply was simple.

“It’s not enough. That’s how I feel about it.”

Against the Blazers and Warriors, everything was back to normal and then some as Miami took over 40 percent of their shots from the arc and now sit No. 11 in three-point rate. There’s still some stuff to monitor in the overall shot profile – their 11 attempts at the rim, per tracking data, in Golden State was one of the lowest totals for the franchise in at least the past ten years, and mid-range shots are still up – but threes are a huge part of this team’s identity and it was tough to believe that they were really going to trade in some of their most important shots on purpose. If Herro, Lowry, Max Strus and Duncan Robinson are in your rotation, threes are in your DNA.


More changes. Such is the first week of the NBA season, when any glaring differences stick out like a sore thumb to those of us who have been starved of NBA basketball for months and thus had far too much time to consider expectations and possibilities. We discussed this a bit last week so we won’t belabor the point too much for now, but now that we have tracking numbers from Second Spectrum we can better express how Adebayo’s offensive profile is different under the tropical sun of Aggressive Bam Archipelago (despite his usage rate actually being a little down from last year).

Thanks to a steady helping of interior feeds Adebayo’s shot profile hasn’t changed too much, but there has been a change. Last year 29.6 percent of his shots came from outside of 10 feet. This year that number is 37.2 percent.

A better measure for this might be Shot Quality as offered by Second Spectrum’s tracking data. This metric takes into account shot distance, defender distance and whether a shot is off the catch, off the move or off the dribble and league averages in all of those situations. Since the 2019-20 season, which marked the beginning of Adebayo’s offensive maturation as Robinson came into his own as a shooter, Adebayo’s last three Shot Quality marks have been, in order, 55.9, 54.0 and 52.2. Keeping in mind that the range for this number across the league is typically from the low 40’s to the high 50’s, Adebayo’s Shot Quality in six games this season is 50.9. Year over year, not yet a massive shift, but still a four-year trend.

There’s a version of the metric that factors in any given player’s individual talent – DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Durant are always among the league’s worst in Shot Quality because of all their mid-range looks, but much higher in the talent specific one – and it tells the same multi-year story of decline for Adebayo.

Just as with the overall drop in threes – so far – this isn’t inherently a bad thing. Having more comfortable options available to you and your team for the postseason can mean the difference between advancing and going home. What we don’t yet know is how good those options are for Adebayo. Three years ago he shot just 22 percent (on 94 attempts) from the mid-range. Then a spike to 42.2 percent before dropping back to 35.3 last year. I’m of the mind to give him a bit of a mulligan for last year given the thumb injury, but that still puts us into a place where we don’t know his true talent level as an in-between creator yet. The league-average version of Shot Quality is going to drop for him as it does for any player seeking out more of a self-created dynamic, swapping out some dunks for isolations and post-ups (neither of which are up, yet, but that’s after a six-attempt showing against Toronto that may or may not be an aberration). DeRozan and Durant, among others, have the efficiency to carry a different shot diet than most. As Adebayo’s opportunities change, we can only wait for the sample size to become more meaningful to get a real read on the effects on his own efficiency.


It’s too early to say whether or not Herro’s free-throw rate has improved or not – his free-throw rate currently sits at .207 free-throws per shot attempt, up marginally from .195 last year after not taking any against the Warriors – but what we have seen from him so far outside of a rough 3-of-12 game in Golden State is some of his most composed play under pressure and through contact. He’s not driving anywhere near a career-high rate. Instead he’s picking his spots wisely, producing 1.12 points-per-drive that finishes with Herro shooting, drawing a foul or committing a turnover. That’s a career-high and is actually, for the moment, a tick above Butler’s efficiency – and Butler is typically among the most reliable attackers in the league.

Notebook Vol. 29: Herro Attacks

He was also taking 25 percent of his shots at the rim before the Warriors game, up from 13.7 percent last season. Considering he’s playing against starting-level defenders and against two elite switch defenses – a coverage that was sometimes a struggle for him last year, particularly when carrying the bench unit – that’s encouraging. Herro can still get into trouble challenging top tier athletes on the drive, but he doesn’t have to be LeBron. Being a three-level scorer doesn’t mean scoring a third of your points in each level – you just need to be able to do it at a high level when it’s the right time to do it.

There’s plenty of time to dive into all that down the road, but Herro noted something interesting after the Toronto victory. While getting in the weight room certainly helps with interior finishing, he said he had one of his friends sit in the paint to push and hit him as he attacked in drills during the offseason.

“I just drove at him all summer,” Herro said.

I’m sure some of you are having flashbacks at this moment to youth coaches who would carry sticks or pads or foam rollers into the gym and tell you to finish through contact and over length. I can certainly recall a few drills spent trying to finish over those blue industrial-size floor mops – the ones that would clean up dust but never quite get the sneakers squeaking on older hardwood – while another coach lowered a padded shoulder. It builds character, Calvin.


Nikola Jović made his debut against Portland on Wednesday night, getting backup center minutes in both halves. He picked a rookie’s share of fouls in his minutes and didn’t make much of a direct impact on the court – it always takes a little while for most young guys to adjust to the speed of the game – but it was particularly noteworthy how his mere presence on the floor greased the offensive wheels as Miami was able to play five-out and give Butler space to attack mismatches in the post. Jović will eventually have to make some shots to legitimize those looks – not to mention hold up defensively – and not every team has the post-upable guards that Portland does, but giving Butler plenty of shooters around him has almost never been a bad thing.

Then, with both Dewayne Dedmon and Omer Yurtseven out with injuries the next night, Jović was again given the designated backup minutes against the Warriors. There aren’t too many challenges more difficult for an unseasoned rookie than trying to process Golden State’s whirlwind in real time. The results were as you might expect. Draymond Green got Jović with a fake handoff. Jordan Poole drove him into the paint and faked him into the air. Spoelstra kept Jović’s minutes under eight and in the fourth quarter opted to play Butler at center instead.

There’s really not much else to say right now. There’s no need for numbers or analysis. He’s probably playing a bit out of position at center based on Spoelstra’s preseason comments. Jović looks like a young rookie out there, albeit one with a promising skillset that could compliment Miami’s playmakers, and there’s really no way to say how he looks beyond that he’s been composed in making some non-so-safe passes. There will be more to talk about when he’s played enough to give us more to talk about.


-Strus tied a career-high for two pointers made in the first game against Toronto with five, including a tough floater in the fourth quarter that stemmed the tide as the Raptors ate up what was once a big Miami lead. That floater came directly before a similar floater from Robinson. The HEAT’s Widowmakers are developing their Soldier 76 (or, perhaps more accurately, Sojourn) games, as Spoelstra noted how diligently they’ve been diving into film to better recognize how teams are running them off the arc.

-The HEAT assisted on a much-more-recognizable 73.9 percent of their field-goals in the Toronto win and 77.3 percent against Portland. Their assists were down through the first couple games, but they now sit at 65.5 percent, a tick or two higher than last season.

- Miami has allowed 39.2 percent of opponent shots to come from beyond the arc, second-most in the league. And they’re switching more screens than anyone else, 30.1 per 100 possessions with Boston coming in at No. 2 with 25.4 switches per 100. Everything there is as expected.

-While the HEAT did not have a good rebounding night in allowing 16 offensive boards to the Warriors – Golden State’s offensive rebound percentage of 44.1 was the highest allowed by Miami since 2018 – some words of caution regarding rebounding: raw rebounding margin, as you see it in the box score, means effectively nothing. Rebounding on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor are two totally separate parts of the game, with offensive boards highly dependent on whether or not teams even choose to crash for them. Defensively, you can sometimes do just fine but give up a high total because you happen to be missing a lot of shots, or you can get “out-rebounded” because you force more turnovers than the other side – defense is about getting possession back, and forcing a turnover is even more valuable than a rebound. The number to watch for is Defensive Rebound Percentage, a stat the team has always ranked *very* highly in whenever Bam Adebayo is on the floor, and one where the team was around the Top 10 before the Warriors performance dropped them all the way down to No. 22.