Miami Heat’s (not so) Elite Shooting

It’s no secret that the Miami Heat’s three point prowess from the 2019-2020 season has disappeared this season. Across the board their shooters are missing shots from behind the arc that they knocked down at a high rate last season. How does a player like Duncan Robinson go from shooting 44.6% from three in 2019-2020 to 38.9% this season? How does Tyler Herro go from 38.9% to 33.3%? How does Kelly Olynyk go from 40.6% to 33.3%?

Shooters can absolutely go through slumps as we all know but this is now a large sample size where elite shooters are not hitting threes at an elite rate. Shooters don’t just forget how to shoot so why the discrepancy? There are multiple factors that can impact a shooters performance, some quantifiable and some not. Could each of these guys be suffering from nagging lower body aches, arm issues, or confidence struggles? Certainly, but as far as we can tell this is not the case. Which leaves two possibilities…how well contested the shots are that they’re taking and the type of shot (meaning what kind of action did they go through to get the shot off).

Looking at how contested shoots were both in terms of frequency and shooting percentage there are some stark differences…

For Kelly Olynyk the stats tell us that his shooting is down across the board. His frequency of looks in terms of nearest defender is about the same, if not better, yet his percentage of makes is down significantly especially on wide open threes. Additionally, per Cleaning the Glass, on corner threes his percentage has plummeted from 37% last season to 22% this season.

For Tyler Herro the story is a little different. On open and tight threes he’s converting them at about the same rate and is getting the same amount of shots. The concerning thing for him is that the amount of wide open looks is down over 7% and his conversion rate on them is drastically down (nearly 14%). A possible explanation for his overall drop in three point shooting could be that he’s taking more of them off the bounce, per Cleaning the Glass last year 79% of his made threes were off an assist…this season only 62% of them are.

For Duncan Robinson it’s a mixed bag. He’s making wide open looks at the same rate as last year; he’s just getting less of those kind of opportunities…this shouldn’t be surprising as he was basically an unknown entity last season. The biggest area of concern is on the open threes. He’s getting about the same number of these kind of opportunities yet is converting them at nearly 10% less of a clip. And yes his shooting percentage is down on tight threes and the number of these kinds of attempts is up but shooting 35% on tightly contested threes is still a tremendous number. Another major area of concern is, like Olynyk, Duncan can’t seem to hit a corner three this year (it could be because these are the threes that have been more contested). Per Cleaning the Glass, last season he shot a ridiculous 50% on corner threes, this season he’s at 31%. That’s not a drop-off, that’s full scale both engines are blown and we’re going down situation.

So understanding the drop-off in shooting, how can that be explained. It could simply be a mental thing in that the internal mental pressure to make threes is mounting and disrupting their thought process as a shooter but we can’t know that unless we get an extremely honest moment from them. I’d argue their shooting woes are emblematic of their half-court offense and I’m not sure there’s a solution on the roster. To me their drop-off in three point shooting comes down to a few small but important factors…

  • Teams appear to be staying home on Butler’s drives more so than last season. He proved he could be an elite playmaker last season and their forcing him to score more.
  • Goran is a year older and added another lower leg injury in last years finals that has robbed him of his burst and ability to separate thereby collapsing defenses.
  • Finally, something that is somewhat understated is that the drop-off from Meyers Leonard’s screening ability to Kelly Olynyk’s is a major one. As is going from Olynyk as your third big screener to either Precious Achiuwa or Chris Silva. Leonard is just a bigger and more solid body screening compared to Olynyk.

Is there a solution to their shooting woes this season? We could just yell “Spoelstra needs to design new, better sets for shooters” or “guys just need to make shots.” To me its a combination of less effective screeners, defenses locked into shooters, and the lack of another dependable creator outside of Butler and Spoelstra. Because after Butler, the Heat’s second best creator of open looks is Erik Spoelstra and his half-court sets. There are only so many sets and so many adjustments Spoelstra can make. The NBA is a players league and the only solutions that can solve this are Bam or Herro taking a leap as a creator, a rejuvenated Goran, or trading for someone not on the roster. Until that happens the Heat just have to cross their fingers that the same shots they’ve missed so far start to fall.

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