Cup of Joe: Going Through The Ups And Downs

Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, James Johnson, Cup of Joe
by Joe Beguiristain

Ok, everyone, take a deep breath.

Yes, the HEAT’s last two contests were disappointing, but there are always ups and downs throughout the course of an 82-game regular season.

That’s just what it is.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though.

Check out what Erik Spoelstra had to say after Sunday’s loss to the Knicks:

“This is not our first rodeo. We don’t need to panic. We don’t need to, like, try to reinvent the wheel,” Spoelstra said. “We know how to do it. We’ve done it. This personnel has done it. This season has become real for us, like it becomes real for everybody. Seasons don’t just go easy all the way through.”

As the old saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy.

And while Miami has experienced a little bit of a rough patch, there have also been some positive trends to take note of.

Naturally, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are at the center of it all.

Jimmy & Bam Leading The Way

If you’ve been following along this season, you know that Butler and Adebayo have been the team’s catalysts on both ends of the floor.

In particular on the offensive end, the duo has generated 1.034 points per pick-and-roll (353 actions).

What’s more, Butler is producing 1.057 points per drive, which is in the 77th percentile.

That said, Butler isn’t the only one finishing plays inside.

Adebayo has continued to show improved touch around the basket and is shooting 51.8 percent (145-of-280) from less than 16 feet out, excluding dunks. Over the past two weeks, he has shot 66.7 percent (32-of-48) on those looks.

Last year, he shot 46.5 percent (154-of-331) on those same attempts.

“You can see how the growth of his game and [him] being assertive and offensive-minded helps our offense,” Spoelstra said. “…his touch shots and baskets in the paint were much different than where he was…and that’ll continue to get better.”

JJ Back In The Fold

Speaking of getting better, James Johnson is officially back.

Since playing against Portland on Jan. 5 for the first time in over a month, Johnson has made the most of his opportunity.

In addition to knocking down all seven of his threes, the burly forward has also handled the ball effectively, attacked the basket and played hard-nosed defense against guys like Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony, Julius Randle and Bobby Portis.

As a result, the HEAT have outscored the opposition by 19.4 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor during his recent three-game run this past week.

Adebayo has certainly taken notice.

“I’m glad to have a teammate like that, where he stays ready so he doesn’t have to get ready,” the 22-year-old said. “And when he gets…his moment, he actually flourishes.”

Of course, staying ready entails putting in a lot of work behind the scenes with the coaching staff. That’s exactly what Johnson attributed his success to.

“We stay ready around here. Big shout-outs to [Eric and Bill Foran] in there and Octavio [De La Grana] and [Anthony Carter] and [Chris Quinn] and Malik [Allen],” the 32-year-old Johnson said. “Our player development is no joke around here.”

Take a look at what that player development led to in the video below:

Balance Is Key

In addition to keeping Johnson ready, the coaching staff has also been able to develop Miami’s young talent, including Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson just to name a few.

As such, seven guys are averaging double-figures in scoring, and the squad is still ranked among the league’s elite in both true shooting percentage (No. 1 at 58.6) and assist percentage (No. 6 at 63.5).

Coach Spo credits Butler for that.

“That’s how this team is built. That’s how our best player is wired. And it’s fun basketball to be a part of if everybody can embrace it,” Spoelstra said. “It could be multiple guys, different guys on different nights. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be one guy with a high usage rate. Jimmy really facilitates this kind of attitude, and it permeates throughout the team. And guys are enjoying each other’s success.”

If the HEAT’s defense can catch up with the offense and get back to where it was earlier in the season, there will be even more to enjoy when we meet again in two weeks.

Until next time.

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