One Team, Three Stats: Heat protect the basket

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

The Miami Heat have gone through some major changes. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Luol Deng are gone, leaving a core of Goran Dragic and young talent.

Interestingly, that hasn’t resulted in a dramatic increase in pace. The Heat have averaged 1.9 more possessions per 48 minutes than they did last season, but the league has averaged 1.6 more overall and 13 teams have seen a bigger increase.

The Basics – Miami Heat

Pace: 97.6 (23rd)

OffRtg: 96.3 (29th)

DefRtg: 99.4 (6th)

NetRtg: -3.1 (19th)

Heat links: Team stats | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

With the Heat set to host Wade and the Chicago Bulls in the first game of TNT’s double-header on Thursday (8 p.m. ET), here are three key numbers from Miami’s first six games.

No. 1

The Heat have allowed a league-low 12.0 baskets in the restricted area per game.

That’s a product of both low percentage and low volume. The Heat are the only team that has held its opponents under 50 percent shooting in the restricted area. And only 29.0 percent of their opponents’ shots have come in the restricted area, the fifth lowest rate in the league.

Hassan Whiteside is the man that protects the rim. With Whiteside on the floor, Heat opponents have taken only 27 percent of their shots in the restricted area and shot just 45 percent there. According to SportVU, opponents have shot just 34 percent (18-for-53) at the rim when Whiteside has been there to protect it, the third lowest rate in the league among players who have defended at least five shots at the rim per game.

It takes more than rim protection to have a great defense, but it’s the best foundation for one. Though the league shoots more 3-pointers every season, the most valuable shot on the floor (1.2 points per attempt) is still one from the restricted area. And tracking data has also told us that 3-pointers attempted after a paint touch are better than those that aren’t.

No. 2

Justise Winslow has an effective field goal percentage of 32.8 percent, the lowest mark among 170 players who have taken at least 50 shots.

The departure of Wade, Johnson and Deng has cleared the way for Winslow to start games, play more minutes, and take a much larger role in the Heat offense. Winslow has seen his *usage rate jump from 12.4 percent last season to 22.2 percent this season.

* Usage rate = The percentage of his team’s possessions a player uses while he’s on the floor.

The good news is that his turnover rate is down. The bad news is that he hasn’t been able to make shots.

Winslow was a bad (and unwilling) shooter from the outside last season. But the biggest drop-off has been at the basket. He has shot 39 percent (14-for-36) in the restricted area, down from 57 percent last year.

Only the Denver Nuggets have taken a greater percentage of their shots from the restricted area than the Heat. But Miami hasn’t been able to finish, ranking 30th in restricted-area field goal percentage, with Dion Waiters (9-for-31, 29 percent) also shooting poorly at the basket.

If the Heat can finish better, their ability to get to the basket will start to pay off. Right now, they’re struggling on that end of the floor, having scored less than a point per possession in four of their six games.

No. 3

As poorly as Waiters and Winslow have finished at the basket, the Heat starting lineup has been solid offensively, scoring 106.7 points per 100 possessions in 75 minutes together.

That number ranks ninth among 25 lineups that have played at least 50 minutes. That’s not fantastic, but along with good defensive numbers, it has been good enough more often than not. Before it got thumped (minus-24 in 13 minutes) by Oklahoma City on Monday, the Miami starting lineup was a plus-36 in 62 minutes.

But the Miami offense has taken a dive whenever coach Erik Spoelstra has gone to his bench. In 218 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor, the Heat have scored a paltry 92.8 points per 100 possessions. Sixth man Tyler Johnson has shot rather efficiently, but he’s been unable to keep the offense afloat.

The departures of Wade, Johnson and Deng may have hurt the Heat’s depth more than anything else.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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