Barry Jackson

What the numbers reveal about Heat’s underperforming starting lineup

‘’The biggest things you want to see is a player align their dreams with their actions and habits’’

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media about forward Derrick Jones Jr. after practice on the third day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season at FAU Arena on Thursday, September 27, 2018 in Boca Raton, FL.
Up Next
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media about forward Derrick Jones Jr. after practice on the third day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season at FAU Arena on Thursday, September 27, 2018 in Boca Raton, FL.

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Wednesday:

It doesn’t take advanced metrics to determine that the Heat needs to make a change — or multiple changes — in its starting lineup.

But here are some numbers that make the case:

During the past 10 games, that starting group of Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson has been outscored by 36 points in 107 minutes (which equals a minus 16 per 48 minutes).

During those 10 games, that lineup has shot 43.1 percent from the field, 30.8 percent on threes (20 for 65) and committed 34 turnovers. During the past five games, that unit is shooting 4 for 21 on threes.

For the season, that quintet has been outscored by just eight points in 162 minutes, but the poor recent work is difficult to overlook.

Though the Heat would seemingly be sacrificing defense (but injecting scoring) by inserting Dion Waiters in place of McGruder, keep in mind that players defended by Waiters are shooting 44.1 percent while players defended by McGruder are at 46.8 percent.

One thing Heat coach Erik Spoelstra assuredly is considering is whether to disrupt a second unit that has played well.

During the past 10 games, a group of Waiters, Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr. and Bam Adebayo has outscored teams by 19 in 47 minutes while shooting an absurd 8 for 12 on threes and 18 for 30 overall.

But the need to inject something new into the starting lineup should supersede concern about disrupting the second unit, especially because Kelly Olynyk warrants more minutes than he has been receiving recently (29 total over the past four games).

Olynyk, incidentally, still ranks third on the Heat in plus-minus at plus-55, behind only Winslow at plus-83 and Richardson at plus-71.

Bottom three: Wayne Ellington (Heat has been outscored by 103 with Ellington on the court), James Johnson at minus-74 and McGruder at minus-54.

The Heat has been active in exploring possible moves to thin its roster, a league source said this week.

But beyond the obvious trade candidates (Waiters, Tyler Johnson, Whiteside, Wayne Ellington), one league official said don’t discount McGruder, who has a bargain $1.5 million contract that’s set to expire.

That official said he would expect an inquiry by a contender such as Boston that’s in need of a glue-type role player like McGruder. The Heat is over the projected $132 million luxury tax threshold for next season, and re-signing McGruder would raise that tax bill.

Though the Heat would get little back in return for McGruder (perhaps a conditional second-round pick), dealing him would lessen the rotation logjam and reduce the Heat’s $9.7 million tax bill.

The Heat has tried for more than a year to thin its roster and trade big contracts, so it’s unclear if renewed efforts will be successful before the Feb. 7 trade deadline.

And what about a pursuit of Memphis’ Marc Gasol or Mike Conley, or are now available (according to ESPN)?

Conley wouldn’t make sense not only because the Heat has Winslow and Goran Dragic (who would be difficult to trade while injured), but also because Conley is due $32.5 million next season and $34.5 million the following year.

Gasol’s contract has a $25.6 million player option next season, the final year of the deal. The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported the Grizzlies want a team trading for Gasol or Conley to take Chandler Parsons’ contract, which pays him $24.1 million this season and $25.1 million next season.

The Heat easily could send similar salaries back to Memphis (about $50 million) for Gasol and Parsons and could try to dump contracts that extend beyond next season (James Johnson, Olynyk or Waiters). But it’s highly questionable if Memphis would have interest in that.

Adebayo has injected energy and had some very good moments in his second season, but his offensive game remains a work in progress.

For the season, he’s 32 for 92 (34.7 percent) on shots from 3 to 16 feet.

The Heat is plus-28 with Adebayo on the court. He’s 23rd among 40 qualifying centers in rebounds per 48 minutes. (Whiteside is first.)

Players defended by Adebayo are shooting 43.5 percent, compared with 42.5 against Whiteside. Those players in general are shooting 47 to 48 percent, so Adebayo and Whiteside are holding them well below what they typically shoot.

Opponents have noticed Adebayo’s improvement. Among those who have made a point to approach him and compliment him after games: Vince Carter, Victor Oladipo and Nene.

Jones Jr. hasn’t yet been invited to the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest during All Star weekend, but the expectation is that he will be. And he would participate if asked.

Related stories from Miami Herald

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


  Comments