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The Miami Heat need to address their scoring needs this summer

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

(work cited at the end / bottom)

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike the Lakers, the Miami Heat had a great season. They were the # 1 seed in the Eastern conference, boasted a top 10 offense and a top 5 defense, and led the league in 3 point shooting percentage.

Despite the great season that Miami had, recent history seems to dictate that there is no guarantee that they can expect to find themselves so close to the NBA finals next season. For the runner up of the Eastern conference finals (ECF), there has not been a precedent for that team to make it back to the same stage the following year. In fact, the 2018 Boston Celtics were the last ECF finalist to make it back to the conference finals the following year. The 2006 Miami Heat were the last team to lose in the ECF, and then advance to the NBA finals the ensuing year. Thus, as the team continues to strive towards their first title since the Big 3 era, trends in the NBA’s competitive landscape seem to indicate that Miami cannot be complacent in their offseason approach towards key areas of development.

The Miami Heat’s difficulty scoring at times in the postseason, is the key area of development that I will focus on today. This flaw was most apparent in their matchup with the Boston Celtics. Per basketball reference, Miami scored 99.7 points per game against Boston. This is in juxtaposition to the 110 points per game they scored in the regular season, and the 107.3 points per game they scored during their two prior playoff series. While they led the league in 3 point shooting accuracy at 37.9%, against Boston, Miami experienced a sharp decline, shooting it at 30%.

To compensate for the struggles that Miami had to generate offense, they became very reliant upon hustle plays, such as putbacks. Miami averaged 1.29 points per possession on putbacks in the playoffs, good for third in the NBA. They also relied upon isolation offense. Per NBA.com, they were in the 100th percentile amongst playoff opponents utilizing isolation offense and scored a playoff leading 1.06 points per possessions. Miami's excellence in hustle plays helped to compensate for their inability to consistently generate offense throughout the playoffs.

As their series against Boston concluded, it became apparent that second chance points and isolation offense would not be enough to beat formidable opponents like Boston. Miami would need to address this area of need, particularly their ability to organically create offense outside of Jimmy Butler.

When called upon to score in the playoffs, Jimmy has shown the propensity to be able to do so with the NBA’s best. In game 6, Butler put on a virtuoso performance that solidified his hold as a top 10 player in the NBA. He scored 47 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished out 8 assists, and had 4 steals. He rose to the occasion each time Miami needed a basket, and he carried a heavy load, as evidenced by his 46 minutes played and game high 34.3% usage rate.


(Per House of Highlights)

If Miami wants to return to the NBA finals, they will need to find additional sources of scoring to pair with Jimmy Butler as his game continues to age. While Jimmy has displayed the capability to be a brilliant scorer, in recent years, his offensive attack has morphed itself into that of a big man as some of his physical capabilities subtly decline. Louis Zatzman of fivethirtyeight noted that: “Per Second Spectrum, [Jimmy] initiated more than 36 plays per 100 possessions as a handler in the pick and roll in 2016-17, which marked his career high and ranked 45th in the NBA among players who ran at least 500 of the plays. This year, he lost over a third of that pick-and-roll frequency from 2016-17, running just over 23 per 100 possessions. His propensity for jumpers — another traditional hallmark of guards — is also near a career low. His burst both with the ball and into the air has lessened. He rarely flies past defenders on drives, ranking 230th in blowby percentage among 273 players with at least 100 drives.” To stay elite and compensate for this decline, Jimmy is often the screener in pick and roll situations, and he utilizes his size, foot work, and dexterity around the rim to take the majority of his field goal attempts in the paint (59.7% of his shot attempts came from 0 -10 feet in 2022 versus 48.2% in 2019).

Because his game is contingent upon these things, teams like Boston are able to play drop coverage with bigger bodies such as Robert Williams III and Al Horford, and in turn, wall off the paint / Butler’s primary form of scoring. One can surmise then that as Jimmy’s game continues to age, his ability to score against stout playoff defenses like Boston may be on the decline.

It follows then, that the archetype of a player whose game complements Jimmy’s, and addresses Miami’s need for scoring, consists of a player that can score / create at all 3 levels, and that defenses can respect their shooting. With that being established, Tyler Herro is the name that comes to mind for me.

(As a quick aside, the overlaps that exist between Jimmy and Bam Adebayo’s method of scoring should not take away from the importance of Bam continuing to develop his game offensively. Bam continuing to take leaps, like in game 3 against Boston where he had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists is the type of development that Miami needs to hopefully find themselves competing for a championship next year. )

Can Tyler Herro be the secondary scorer whose game complements Jimmy Butler? His skill set seems to fit the requisite archetype.


(Per NBA official page)

Herro this season played with great pace. He improved his finishing at the rim (0 -3 feet) from 66.7% to 68.8%, he continued to expand his midrange game and floater taking 27.9% of his shots from midrange (up from 25.2%), and he continued to shoot the ball well from 3 at 40.0%. Herro averaged 20.7 points per game, on 45 / 40 /87 shooting splits en route to the NBA’s sixth man of the year award.

Furthermore, in exit interviews, Herro indicated the desire to take on a larger role within the team. Herro taking another leap in his 4th season, could be the added boost that Miami needs to address their scoring issues, and get over the hump in the Eastern conference.

The apprehension I have with Herro comes on the other side of the ball. Despite the flashes of brilliance that he has exemplified early on in his career, the question remains, can Miami’s number 2 option, or potential number 1 option, be a liability on defense? There has not been a strong precedent for the top scorers on a championship level team to be a liability on the defensive end. (e.g., Antetokounmpo, James, Leonard, Durant as last 5 FMVP and top scorers in their respective series). In addition, aside from injury this postseason, the early returns on Herro’s playoff performances have been volatile.


A team hoping to win the Eastern conference cannot afford to have an inconsistent number 2 scoring option.

Because Tyler Herro does not provide certainty towards addressing Miami’s scoring needs without in turn compromising their defense, the question then becomes, does Miami package him to explore external options? In the past, Miami has shown the willingness to seek external options to bolster their roster. However, they have never done so at the expense of prohibiting their current team’s capabilities. This was seen in 2020, when Miami refused to overhaul their team to acquire James Harden; a trade scenario that actually would have included Herro. So if Tyler Herro is not the answer, the question then becomes, who are the players that would fit the scoring profile that Miami needs without having to cannibalize other areas of their roster? Does that scenario even exist?


Alex Goodlett / Getty Images

Bradley Beal and Donavon Mitchell have been two popular names linked to the team thus far. Beal and Mitchell both present viable options. They both exhibit an innate ability to create their own shot and score at all three levels. (the past 3 seasons, since Tyler Herro entered the league).


However, the path of acquiring players of their caliber could be even more complex than it was for Miami to acquire Jimmy Butler. In that instance, Miami was able to leverage their draft capital and offload contracts to clear salary cap space in a 4 team sign and trade. They leveraged their roster capabilities by sending Josh Richardson to Philadelphia, Hassan Whiteside to Portland, and a 2023 protected first round draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Similarly, Miami was also able to leverage their roster capabilities to acquire Kyle Lowry in a sign and trade. For that transaction, they gave up Precious Achiuwa, a 2020 first round draft pick who has shown great potential in Toronto, and Goran Dragic.

The question becomes, does Miami have the same roster ammunition today, to acquire players of Beal or Mitchell’s caliber like they did with Butler and Lowry?

I may not have the direct answer to that question, but even if one were to put aside the complications of acquiring players like Beal or Mitchell, there is still no guarantee that the addition of those players would be enough to overcome next year’s Eastern conference gauntlet. Milwaukee will be back with a presumed healthy Khris Middleton. Brooklyn remains an enigma with question marks, but they still have Kevin Durant and a presumed healthy Ben Simmons. There is still Boston (tied 2 - 2 against Golden State), Philadelphia, Atlanta and other strong teams out east. When considering those teams, I would be remiss to not consider that even if Miami addresses their biggest area of improvement, scoring, they may have already reached their ceiling as an ECF finalist.

Nonetheless, I believe that the track record of Pat Riley and the braintrust of Miami has built a lot of equity for their supporters to feel confident that they have not reached their ceiling. They still find themselves in a favorable position relative to most of the league.In their defense, they were a Jimmy Butler three point attempt and 16 seconds away from making their second finals appearance in 3 years.


(Per BlackTopBuckets)

As a final note, Miami, unlike the Lakers, did not panic after their first round exit of the 2021 playoffs. They displayed competence and patience by understanding that the season was rushed and heavily impacted by COVID. Despite Miami’s struggles to score the ball in the playoffs, they displayed that their defense could compensate for that en route to the Eastern conference finals. Defense and competence shown in the 2021 offseason is why Miami had a great season. I trust Pat Riley and company will do the same, and I can only pray for that level of competence in the Lakers this summer.

(1)Krell, Austin. “Three observations from Boston Celtics' Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat.” Celtics

Wire, 18 May 2022

https://celticswire.usatoday.com/lists/nba-boston-celtics-3-reflections-heat-game-1/

(2) Manser, Caleb. “Utah Jazz: Three takeaways from crucial win against Wizards.” The Jazz Notes,

28 Feb. 2020, https://thejnotes.com/2020/02/29/utah-jazz-crucial-victory-takeaways/2/

(3) Zatzman, Louis. “Jimmy Butler is More Versatile than Ever.” Fivethirtyeight, 25 Apr. 2022,

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/jimmy-butler-is-more-versatile-than-ever/


(4) NBA. “Tyler Herro Wins #KiaSixth Man of the Year | 2021-22 Season Highlights.” Youtube, 3

May 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNEh0Nv1wiY&ab_channel=NBA

(5) House of Highlights. “Jimmy Butler CRAZY 47 Points Full Highlights vs Celtics in Game 6.”

Youtube, 27 May 2022,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9fg2xOVnDw&ab_channel=HouseofHighlights

(6) BlackTopBuckets. “Jimmy Butler Goes for the Dagger! Miami Heat VS Boston Celtics Game 7

2022 NBA Playoffs.” Youtube, 29 May 2022,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv6CTgwNigk&ab_channel=BlacktopBuckets

(7) “Tyler Herro Playoffs Game Log.” Basketball Reference, 12 June 2022,

https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/h/herroty01/gamelog-playoffs/


(8) “Bradley Beal.” Basketball Reference, 12 June 2022, https://www.basketball-reference.com/

players/b/bealbr01.html

(9) “Donovan Mitchell.” Basketball Reference, 12 June 2022, https://www.basketball-reference.com/

players/m/mitchdo01.html

(10) Wojnarowski, Adrian, and Zach Lowe. “Heat Complete 4-Team Trade for Butler.” ESPN, 1 July 2019

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_id?27099327/heat-complete-4-team-trade-butler.

(11) “NBA Advanced Stats.” Teams Playtype Putback, 12 June 2022, https://www.nba.com/stats/

teams/putbacks/?sort=PPP&dir=1

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