Barry Jackson

How much do Miami Heat and Dragic miss Waiters? Take a look at this

Miami Heat forward James Johnson celebrates Dion Waiters' three pointer over Hornets' Kemba Walker in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat vs Charlotte Hornets NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
Miami Heat forward James Johnson celebrates Dion Waiters' three pointer over Hornets' Kemba Walker in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat vs Charlotte Hornets NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. pportal@miamiherald.com

In the 23 games he has played since the Heat began winning a lot in mid-January, Dion Waiters has made a compelling case for the organization to re-sign him summer.

He also has made a compelling case in the games he hasn’t played.

Waiters, who remains out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, has had a dramatic impact on the Heat’s record.

Miami is 27-20 when he plays.

The Heat is 8-18 when he doesn’t.

From a plus/minus standpoint, six of the Heat’s top nine lineups have included Waiters.

So have three of their seven best two-man lineups: Waiters with Hassan Whiteside (ranks second at a plus 112), Waiters/Rodney McGruder (ranks fourth at a plus 89) and Waiters/Wayne Ellington (ranks seventh at a plus 67). FYI: Ellington and James Johnson, at plus 135, are the Heat’s best two man lineup from a plus-minus perspective.

It’s not only Waiters’ 15.8 point per game that the Heat misses, but also his defense (he’s among the league leaders for shooting guards in field goal percentage allowed) as well as his ability to get to the basket, which creates open shots for others, especially three-pointers.

He ranks sixth in the NBA with 11.1 drives per game, and Waiters passes on 41 percent of those drives, which is second in the NBA.

What’s more, Waiters is averaging 4.3 assists per game and also often makes the pass that leads to a pass that leads to a basket, with no assist obviously credited there since this isn’t the NHL.

“Obviously Dion brings something that’s kind of irreplaceable, as far as getting into the paint and doing all that,” Tyler Johnson said Sunday night, via Fox Sports Sun.

One stat that bears out his value in creating open threes, especially when paired with Goran Dragic: When those two are on the floor together, Miami is shooting 45.2 percent on threes, which would lead the league. When only one or neither is on the court, Miami shoots 33.5 percent on threes.

And that brings us to the topic of how Waiters’ absence is affecting Dragic, who has shot only 31.5 percent in the four games Waiters has missed with an ankle injury.

Certainly, there are other factors for Dragic’s shooting slump, including the revelation that he is playing with a painful foot injury. But Dragic clearly has a larger burden, and is drawing more attention, without Waiters on the court.

Consider this:

• Though Dragic has averaged 20.6 points in 23 games without Waiters compared with 19.5 with him, he’s more efficient playing with Waiters.

In games Waiters has played, Dragic has shot 48.9 percent from the field and 43.4 percent on threes.

In games Waiters has not played, Dragic has shot 45.6 percent and 37.2 percent on threes.

Dragic has a 2.1 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio in games Waiters has played, 1.9 to 1 in games he has missed.

In games Waiters has not played, the Heat has been outscored by 66 points with Dragic on the court.

In games Waiters has played, the Heat is plus 121 with Dragic on the court.

Bottom line: Dragic often has been at his best this season with Waiters alongside, as anyone can see. And that assuredly must be considered when the Heat mulls how big an offer to make Waiters this summer.

• According to Elias Sports Bureau, when Tyler Johnson scored 24 points and James Johnson added 20 in Sunday's loss to the Celtics, it marked the first time a pair of Heat reserves scored 20 or more since Michael Beasley 928) and Daequan Cook (27) did it on March 4, 2009 against the Phoenix Suns.

Check out this tape of UM’s most ballyhooed basketball recruit this century.

 
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