Moore: The Miami Heat Won’t Maintain This Pace All Season
Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jimmy Butler (22), and Bam Adebayo (13) of the Miami Heat.
I want to be clear here: I’m not saying the Heat are frauds, they’re just not 100% authentic.
As of Jan. 23, the Heat are 31-13 with the second-best record in the East and tied for the third-best record league-wide. They are also 5-2 against the Sixers, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks, while also being 20-7 vs. teams under .500.
They have surpassed every preseason expectation and beaten high profile teams. They appear to be sitting pretty for a deep playoff run.
Yet I’m about to fade them into oblivion — at least for the rest of the regular season.
Where There’s Heat, There’s Smoke (And Mirrors)
The Heat have made more shots than they should to a degree that cannot simply be ascribed to personnel and coaching superiority. On the flip side, their opponents make fewer shots than they should to a degree that cannot be ascribed to personnel or coaching superiority.
Miami is 13th in expected field goal percentage per Cleaning The Glass, which is still good. However, they rank third in actual eFG%, which means they are shooting well above their expected outcome for all players.
This would be understandable if they were the Warriors, but a team playing multiple rookies along with Jimmy Butler, who’s shooting just 27% from 3-point range on just 2.6 attempts per game? That’s different.
But that’s not all, Miami ranks 21st in opponent expected eFG%, meaning their opponents should be shooting really well … but they’re not. The Heat have the ninth-best opponent actual eFG% league-wide. So teams can’t hit water if they fell out of a boat against the Heat.
In related news, before Dec. 1, the Heat’s defensive rating was below 105 (per NBA Advance Stats). It’s been 111 since Dec. 1, as opponents have gone from a 51.3% eFG to 53.9% (a major jump in league-wide trends) and opponents are shooting better from 3-point range.
Heat opponents have seen their expected eFG% to actual eFG% differential stabilize to within 0.3 percentage points since Thanksgiving.
The big key is the corner 3’s. Miami gives up the second-highest rate of corner 3’s in the entire league and yet opponents shoot the fourth-worst percentage. There is no “selective allowance” of various shooters that will account for that.
What’s more, oftentimes their pick-and-roll defense specifically rejects switches and brings help from the corner and they just don’t try that hard to get out to the corner.
Watch these sequences and ask if you think these are good looks, often from good shooters: