They spent so much time in the corners of the court shooting three-pointers the past two seasons that Ray Allen and Shane Battier should probably have those little areas of real estate inside AmericanAirlines Arena permanently named in their honor.
Allen is gone now, though, and he took all that diligence and reputation with him. Replacing the three-point shooting abilities of Allen, Battier and even LeBron James is going to be one of the Miami Heat’s biggest challenges this season. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra brilliantly devised his idea of a “pace-and-space offense” to complement James’ diverse skills, but now that offense will require some tweaking.
Spoelstra isn’t starting from scratch, of course, but he spent this summer fitting his innovative philosophies to the personnel that remained in Miami after James left town, and also the new players the Heat signed in the offseason. The offense will run through Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but there will be more shots for Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. Most importantly, though, corner three-pointers are expected to remain an integral part of the Heat’s offense.
Last season, the Heat took more corner three-pointers than any other team in the league (696) and had the highest shooting percentage from those spots (42.8 percent). James, Allen and Battier are gone, but those wide-open shots in the corner should remain.
“The opportunities for other guys to step up and fill those gaps are there,” Spoelstra said. “We want our guys to shoot and we spent a lot of time this offseason working on their range, and we also have guys who have proven résumés to shoot.”
One of those players is Danny Granger, and plenty is expected of him this season if the Heat is to compete for the Eastern Conference championship. Granger has shot over 38 percent from three-point range for his career, but he hasn’t come close to those numbers since his knee injury. His 12-game run with the Los Angeles Clippers at the end of last season was a positive sign, though. He was 12 of 34 from three-point range (35.3 percent).
Granger came to Miami in part to play with James, so when the four-time MVP and engine of the Heat’s back-to-back championships left for Cleveland, Granger had second thoughts. But the Heat convinced Granger that Miami would be the best place for him to resurrect his career, and, of course, there would be all those open three-pointers from the corner.
“When you’re playing with players like [Bosh] and D-Wade they draw a lot of attention and it opens up a lot, and that’s a credit to those players and a credit to the system as well,” Granger said. “The system gives you a lot of open three-point shots. I love that.”
Granger, 31, has had two procedures on his left knee to treat patellar tendonitis, so he’s not going to be as mobile this season as he was for all those years with the Indiana Pacers. He shouldn’t have to be, though. After all, Mike Miller could barely walk during a large portion of his time in Miami and he still spread the floor effectively. Battier wasn’t winning any track meets either, and he was open plenty. Allen’s years of running circles around players were mostly behind him when he joined the Heat, but the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers still led the Heat with 309 attempts from behind the arc last season.
“It’s super inviting,” Granger said. “That’s one of the things that attracted me to sign with the Heat [and] some of the other famous players who have been attracted here as well. You know playing against them how hard it is to guard the three-point line with the spacing and everybody is touching the ball.
“It’s a very difficult offense to guard, so now that I’m in it I’m trying to learn and hopefully I’ll be very efficient.”
The Heat’s three-point shooting was down across the board last season with the exception of James Jones, who is now playing with James in Cleveland. Jones shot 51.9 percent from three-point range in 20 games. Beyond him, Michael Beasley actually led the team in three-point shooting percentage (38.9 percent).
James was second on the team in three-point attempts (306) and Battier third (275). That’s a total of 890 three-point attempts between Allen, James and Battier that the Heat must replace. Luol Deng hasn’t come near 35 percent from three-point range since the 2010-11 season, but he concentrated on his outside shooting this offseason.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have come in that shoot it very well,” Wade said. “Obviously you don’t have the best three-point shooter ever with Ray Allen, so it takes that down, but the guys in the rotation, they can shoot the ball, and you’ve just got to give them confidence to shoot it and knock it down. My job and Chris’ job is to make shots easier for them as much as we can.”