Cup of Joe Presented by Café Bustelo: Getting Back Into The Flow
Before we formally get started, let’s get something out of the way.
Yes, the HEAT have gotten off to a slow 3-4 start thus far, but you have to remember that we’ve seen wacky scores and happenings all across the league. And a lot of that can be attributed to a truncated offseason for bubble teams and a much shorter training camp.
There are no excuses, though.
With Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo at the helm, the team knows what it must do to get back on track and string together consecutive wins.
To that end, Butler showed a lot of gumption against the Celtics on Wednesday, and Adebayo has paced Miami all season. In fact, the 23-year-old leads the squad in points (18.6), rebounds (8.0), assists (5.1) and blocks (1.0) per game.
But there’s one thing in particular about Adebayo’s start that has stood out the most.
Bam Finding The Range
The last time we met in this space, we talked a lot about Adebayo’s new leadership role heading into his fourth season.
And well, it’s safe to say he’s taken ownership of it.
In addition to leading the team in nearly every statistical category, he’s continued to show a willingness to take (and make) jumpers within the flow of the offense.
Per NBA’s tracking data, Adebayo is shooting 17-of-35 on jumpers (48.6 percent).
That’s way up from last season’s clip of 35.6 percent (101-of-284) and about on par with last year’s playoffs where he shot 50 percent (42-of-84) on those looks.
“We want him to put pressure on opponent defenses in every way possible, and he’s just continuing to player-develop, to be able to add more skills and more tools that help our offense,” Erik Spoelstra said. “His ability to pass, his ability to handle, get us into offense, to attack defenses, get to the free-throw line, get to the rim, to be a screener and one of the most dynamic rollers, whether he’s catching it in the pocket or for lobs. And then, since the ball is in his hands, his ability to make free throws and make some of these short-range shots that are not layups or not 3-pointers. We don’t need him to be a stretch-five, but to be able to make enough that just varies your menu and puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Adebayo understands just how important his offensive growth is.
“Coach is putting the ball in my hands, so at that point, you got to improve your whole arsenal,” Adebayo said. “Coach isn’t just putting the ball in my hands just for me to just make simple passes. He wants me to score, so I believe in myself. I believe in my work ethic, and it’s paying off, so confidence is at an all-time high right now.”
Avery Making A Seamless Transition
Speaking of work ethic, let’s get into Avery Bradley.
Heading into the season, there was a lot of chatter about Bradley being a perfect fit due to his veteran acumen and ability to play on both ends.
It wasn’t overstated.
After not playing in the HEAT’s opener against the Magic, Bradley has appeared in the six games since, including a start on Dec. 30 against the Bucks. And as expected, he’s hounded several tough offensive players, namely Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday, just to name a few.
Bradley has also made his presence felt on the offensive end due to timely cuts, spot-up treys and run-outs in transition.
As such, he ranks second on the team with a 69.2 true shooting percentage (minimum of four games played) and third on the team with a 4.7 net rating.
For Bradley, it’s all about seizing the moment.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I get and make sure that I’m ready at all times,” the 30-year-old said. “And right now, those opportunities have been corner threes, cutting opportunities and making plays in transition…our mentality is shots at the basket and 3-pointers, getting up as much as possible, so I’m just trying to get used to our new offensive system here.”
Bradley’s mental makeup also has a lot to do with his smooth transition. Just ask Bam.
“He’s a HEAT guy, and you know that by looking at Avery and his reputation, but talking to Avery, he’s such a down-to-earth dude,” Adebayo said. “He stresses himself out sometimes trying to do the right thing all the time and every time he steps on the court. I can be a teammate with a guy like that. He’s down to earth. He wants to win. He wants to figure out the best ways to put us in a position to win. He wants to guard whoever he has to to give us a chance to win, and I feel like he could be First-Team All-Defense.”
Goran Providing A Major Offensive Punch
One of the guys Bradley has worked well with on the court is Goran Dragić. (Miami is outscoring the opposition by 17.5 points per 100 possessions with that duo on the floor.)
After a remarkable run in the bubble was cut short due to a foot injury, Dragić has put that firmly in the past and continued to provide a major spark off the bench.
All told, he’s tied for sixth in points (13.9) and is fourth in assists (5.0) among all bench players with a minimum of three games played. What’s more, he leads the squad with a 12.4 net rating.
As usual, the Dragon has attacked the basket with relative ease (nearly a quarter of his points have come on the break), but more importantly, he's developed great chemistry with rookie Precious Achiuwa.
Of the 18 field goals Achiuwa has been assisted on, seven have come courtesy of Dragić.
Achiuwa remembers when their connection was forged.
“I think the first thing he actually said [when I first walked in the facility] was, ‘Hey, I need to work out with you.’…and then he was like, ‘Yeah, you know, we need to work on that pick-and-roll lob.’,” the former Memphis big said. “…and from the first day, we just kicked it…so we’re always in constant communication…[about] angles, reads, stuff like that, just positioning. And I really, really appreciate him a lot, just because…his voice has constantly been in my ears, and [he’s] just trying to help me just make my job a lot easier.”
Odds & Ends:
-Achiuwa’s first stretch of games hasn’t only been about offense, though. From the start, the 21-year-old has shown his uncanny ability to switch onto perimeter players and limit them as much as possible. As a result, he’s holding the opposition to just 41.9 percent shooting.
Coach Spo has certainly taken notice.
“Defensively, you see some of his ability to cover ground and do multiple things, guarding multiple positions [and] protecting the basket,” Spoelstra said. “He just has to continue every day to learn NBA situations and learn our system, learn how to communicate these things, and then do it consistently every time.”
-It’s been a work in progress, but Tyler Herro has grown into his new role as a starter and playmaker for the team after thriving in the postseason.
Not only has Herro made great feeds to his teammates off the bounce, but he’s also been able to cash in on pull-up jumpers to the tune of 6.7 such points per game (first on the team).
And while the overall numbers aren’t quite there yet for Herro, Adebayo isn’t concerned since he knows what it feels like to go through a role change.
“He’s in the transition I’m in,” Adebayo said. “You go from a role player to a starter, so it’s a different feel. Usually when you come off the bench, the bench player is a spark, so he’s learning, he’s manifesting, he’s soaking in all the knowledge, so sky is the limit for that kid.”
Until next time.