Among many questions created by the Heat’s loss of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh: Who now takes the big shots late in close games?
Only seven NBA players --- led by Reggie Jackson, James Harden and Paul George --- attempted more clutch shots than Wade last season, and none of the seven shot them nearly as well as Wade’s 45.5 percent.
During “clutch time” as defined by the NBA --- final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime with a margin of five points or fewer --- Wade took 101 shots in 146 minutes. Those 101 attempts are more than twice the combined total of Goran Dragic (22) and Hassan Whiteside (25) last season.
And Bosh was 30 for 73 in the clutch the past two seasons (pre-All Star break both years).
So who will take those shots now?
“Everybody,” Dragic said. “It’s who is going to have the better situation to take a shot. [Erik Spoelstra] is going to put an action on the board and it’s our job to execute.”
A few points to consider:
• Dragic was often a bystander late in games, with Wade handling the ball. He said he could deal with that because of Wade’s greatness. But that will change.
“Definitely,” Dragic said. “That’s what I was doing before.”
Dragic’s clutch track record is good: 18 for 34 shooting two years ago, 10 for 22 last season.
“Everyone wants to take that shot,” he said. “I’m not afraid to take it.”
• Nobody in the NBA shot better in the clutch last season than Whiteside, who made 19 of 25 shots (76.6 percent), with 11 blocks and 45 rebounds in 100 clutch minutes.
The problem is that when Whiteside gets the ball in good position late in games, other teams are likely to foul him, and Whiteside made just 13 of 22 clutch free throws (59.1 percent).
He needs to improve that free throw accuracy to become a more viable late-game offensive option. Whiteside said that won’t be an issue.
“I expect to shoot 75 to 80 percent on free throws, even more,” he said. “That’s why I changed my free throws last season.”
• Besides Wade’s late-game heroics, the Heat badly will miss Luol Deng’s clutch three-point shooting; he made 11 of 18 clutch threes last season, second best in the league.
Who replaces Deng’s threes? Beyond Dragic, perhaps Josh Richardson (made his only clutch three-point attempt last year) or Tyler Johnson (5 for 12 overall in the clutch, 0 for 4 on threes) or Luke Babbitt (2 for 6, 0 for 3 on threes in 12 clutch minutes) and Wayne Ellington (1 for 7 in 49 clutch minutes).
Other late-game options: Justise Winslow (9 for 21 overall in clutch) and Derrick Williams (6 for 12 shooting, 18 points in 36 clutch minutes for New York).
Many concluded Wade’s wife, actress Gabrielle Union, was talking about the Heat on Monday (and their parting with the Big Three) when she tweeted:
“If all your personal and business relationships end the exact same way, it’s a safe bet it's you. You are the problem.”
So was she talking about the Heat?
“A tweet is a tweet and it can be applied how ever the reader sees fit,” Union told me. “Putting a target on my tweets isn't the point of tweeting. I'm very clear when I'm attacking someone, they know [because] I've reached out to them directly.”
In the context of that tweet, she later that day tweeted something about dating relationships, which suggested the eye-opening tweet might not have been aimed at the Heat. But only she knows the truth.
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