The Whiteboard: Offensive evolution for the Miami Heat and a history of Chris Paul’s assists

Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, The Whiteboard

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The Miami Heat have looked absolutely dominant to start the season. Their only loss was an 11-point blip to the Indiana Pacers but their six wins include victories over the Bucks, Nets, Hornets, Grizzlies and Mavericks, all of which have come by double-digits. They currently have the second-most efficient offense and the best defense in the league by a wide margin, outscoring opponents by an average of 16.4 points per 100 possessions so far this season.

We’ve already hit on a few factors driving their hot start here at The Whiteboard, including the bounce-back season from Tyler Herro. But it’s also worth taking a more holistic look at how their offense has adapted with the arrival of Kyle Lowry and become a totally different animal from what we’ve seen the past few seasons.

How has Kyle Lowry changed the Miami Heat’s offense?

The degree to which Miami is pushing in transition has already gotten a lot of attention. Lowry, Herro and Jimmy Butler average a combined 13.4 defensive rebounds per game and each of those players has been aggressively turning those boards into opportunities to run. Per the NBA’s play-type statistics, 18.4 percent of Miami’s offensive possessions have been used in transition this season, up from 14.9 percent last year and 13.3 percent the year before that.

If we look at their offensive style chart (which visualizes their offensive style by four attributes — pace, ball movement, player movement and shot selection) from this year compared to last season we see the emphasis on pace and ball movement (simply making quicker decisions instead of holding the ball) but also a big change in their shot selection.

Last season, 43.2 percent of Miami’s shots were 3-pointers, the seventh-highest mark in the league. This season, that’s fallen to 35.0 percent which ranks 25th. Some of those shots have been moved to pull-up jumpers inside the arc, where they’re averaging 15.8 per game, up from 11.4 last season but making a healthy 42.4 percent. And a large part of that change can be traced to Tyler Herro whose been given more opportunities to create with the ball in his hands this year. His personal 3-point attempt rate has dropped and he’s already attempted 33 pull-up 2-pointers in seven games.

So far, the changes — move quicker, be more decisive, take a good shot instead of waiting for a great one — are working. Maybe there’s some regression to the mean coming for Herro’s pull-up shooting and maybe there’s ultimately more of a balance to be struck between what we’ve seen in the past and what we’ve seen these first seven games. But this is undoubtedly a more confident, capable and deep offensive team and the rest of the league should be on notice.

A brief history of Chris Paul’s assists

On Tuesday night, Chris Paul passed both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash to take sole possession of No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time assist leaderboard. There’s a chance this is where he finishes his career, trailing Jason Kidd by roughly 1700 career assists and John Stockton by an unbelievable 5500.

You don’t get where Paul is without a lengthy career and spanning eras and playing for five different teams has given him a pretty interesting list of assist partners. A look at the 10 players he’s assisted most over the course of his career reveals some familiar names and a few you might have forgotten were ever his teammates.

In total, Chris Paul has assisted 140 different players over the course of his career. And at the other end of the spectrum, you can also find a fairly bizarre list of teammates that he assists five times or less over the course of his career — Lance Stephenson (5), Chris Andersen (5), Grant Hill (4), Josh Smith (4), Antawn Jamison (2), Reggie Evans (2), Sasha Pavlovic (2), Nate Robinson (1) and Marcus Fizer (1).

#OtherContent

Lots of fun tidbits in Owen Phillips’ weekly roundup of interesting charts but my favorite is just how many wide-open 3-pointers Jaren Jackson Jr. is getting (the Ja Morant effect).

There’s a good chance Dejounte Murray breaks a pretty remarkable Spurs career record before the end of this season.

People keep floating Pascal Siakam trade ideas. Stahp. The Raptors are 5-3, sixth in the Eastern Conference and there are plenty of other reasons it makes no sense.

More weird NBA fan fiction, please.

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