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NBA Daily: 50 Predictions Revisited From The 2018-19 Season

In October 2018, Drew Maresca made 50 predictions before the NBA season. Now, he’s back to lament his poor foresight by taking a look at the results.

Drew Maresca

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August is traditionally a quieter sports month, especially as it relates to basketball news. So what better time to revisit our 50 Predictions piece from 2018-19 than right now? While we typically review our predictions in late June, we decided to wait a bit longer this season in order to have a complete picture of 2019 free agency, trades, etc.

Back in October, my fellow Insiders and I made a number of predictions about the NBA season and the surprises it had in store for us. This was my first year taking over the Predictions piece from the great Joel Brigham. Having spoken with Joel, I was aware that this process would be humbling – I didn’t realize the extent to which it would be, though.

Unfortunately, narratives and rumors permeate all of our thought processes. Thus, some of these predictions were entirely my own and some were influenced by talking heads – my colleagues included – like many of the falsehoods about Anthony Davis’ all-time great 2018-19 season. But fear not, I will be better in this regard come 2019-20.

Some of my predictions were spot on – albeit not too many – and others are laughable. Either way, please read on and enjoy everything that follows – most of which will be at my expense. And now, without further ado, here are my 50 predictions for the 2018-19 NBA season, revisited:

Award Predictions:

  1. Anthony Davis will be the 2018-19 MVP – Incorrect. And I wasn’t even really that close as he didn’t even finish in the top 10. Still, I stand by this pick. He was a popular pre-season selection. Unfortunately, Giannis Antetokounmpo was the other popular pick. And he won.
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo will win Defensive Player of the Year – Incorrect, but close. Antetokounmpo finished second and was a world beater in pretty much every way. So this one nearly came to fruition.
  3. Zach Lavine will be named Most Improved Player – Incorrect. I really thought there was a chance entering December. But guys like Pascal Siakam, D’Angelo Russell and De’Aaron Fox did too much to separate themselves. And LaVine came back to earth. He averaged 28.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in October and 27 points per game through the Bulls’ first 14 games. But he settled back in to more traditional performances – which are good, but not necessarily MIP-worthy.
  4. Nikola Jokic will be finish in the top-five in MVP voting – Correct. Jokic had an incredible year and led the Nuggets to the second seed in the Western Conference. Jokic’s 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game were more than enough to generate national attention.
  5. Nick Nurse will win Coach of the Year on the back of a franchise best season – Incorrect. Mike Budenholzer was named Coach of the Year given an impressive campaign in which he modernized the Bucks’ offense and led them to an NBA-best 60-win season. Nurse finished ninth and led the Raptors to 58 wins and their first ever NBA title.

Other Individual Predictions:

  1. Anthony Davis will lead the NBA scoring – Incorrect again. Davis finished 10th in points per game and 34th in overall points scored.
  2. For the first time since 2013-14, Blake Griffin will play in 70+ games – Correct. Griffin played in a shocking 75 games this past season – significantly more than he’s played in since 2013-14 (80).
  3. Lonzo Ball will post increased scoring and three-point percentages in less minutes per game – Partially correct. Ball scored 0.3 points per game less; however, he shot better from long-range (.329 up from .304) in four minutes less per game.
  4. Kristaps Porzingis returns to Knicks lineup after the All-Star break, the Knicks play above .500 with him in the lineup and they avoid the lottery – Incorrect. Instead, Porzingis didn’t play a single game in 2018-19, demanded a trade from the Knicks and now plays for the Mavericks. Do I lose points if I’m really, really wrong?
  5. Three players will average 15+ rebounds – Incorrect. Only Andre Drummond averaged more than 15 rebounds per game.

Rookie Predictions:

  1. Luka Doncic will be named Rookie of the Year – Correct. I understood the hype around DeAndre Ayton and Trae Young, but Doncic was too good and too experienced to overlook.
  2. Trae Young will end 2018-19 in the top-three Rookie of the Year ranks with at least 16 points and 7 assists per game – Correct. In fact, Young finished second in ROY voting and averaged 19.1 points and 8.1 assists per game.
  3. Alonzo Trier will average more points per game than Kevin Knox – Incorrect. Knox averaged 12.8 points per game versus Trier’s 10.9; but the fact remains that Trier surprised pretty much everyone by carving out a role in the NBA.

Trade Predictions:

  1. Jimmy Butler will be traded before the All-Star break – Correct. Thankfully, I neglected to name a team to which he would be traded.
  2. Kevin Love will not be traded – Correct. This was 50-50 for me. I simply didn’t see a team willing to take on Love’s deal with the requisite cap space and need.
  3. Tristan Thompson will not be traded either – Correct.
  4. George Hill and Kyle Korver will be traded – Correct on both. They were the obvious guys for the Cavs to move, both of whom add significant value without being overly ball dominant.
  5. Terry Rozier is traded before the deadline – Incorrect. I couldn’t imagine a world in which the Celtics let an asset walk for nothing. This one should have happened.
  6. Damian Lillard to the Lakers rumors will persist, but a deal will not be made – Correct. With the luxury of hindsight, this one seems pretty obvious.

Team Predictions:

  1. The Raptors will win at least 60 games and finish first in the East – Technically incorrect. I should have just predicted that they would win the NBA Championship.
  2. Utah will also finish 2018-19 with 60+ wins – Incorrect. In my defense, my objectivity ceased to exist after chatting with fellow Insider Jordan Hicks, who spoke so highly of his hometown team.
  3. The Warriors will also win 60 games and three teams will finish with 60 wins – Incorrect. Only one team (Bucks) finished the season with 60 wins. And to be fair, three teams haven’t finished with 60 or more wins in the same season since 2008-09.
  4. The Nuggets will win 55 games – So close, but incorrect. Denver ended with 54 wins, which marks a huge leap for the franchise. Note: I will make this prediction again in October.
  5. The 76ers finish in the bottom five in three-point shooting – Incorrect. I clearly failed to examine rosters around the league.
  6. The Bucks will finish in the top five in three-point attempts – Correct. Lots of credit here to Coach Budenholzer, who modernized an offense that launched the second-most three-pointers in the league – up from 25thoverall in 2017-18.
  7. The Lakers will fail to make the playoffs – Correct. And this was a bold pick last October, I might add. LeBron James didn’t have enough help. And still, I was worried for a good part of the season. If James hadn’t been hurt on Christmas Day and maintained his output (27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game), I probably would have been wrong here, too. He’s still that good.
  8. The Pelicans will qualify for the playoffs thanks to Anthony Davis – LOL. Incorrect.
  9. The Hawks will end the season with the worst record in the league – Incorrect. It’s always hard to predict the order at the bottom of the league. But the Hawks were a pleasant surprise last season, playing quite well after the All-Star break.

Playoff Predictions:

  1. The Bucks advance past the first-round – Correct. They had the MVP and the Coach of the Year.
  2. The Wizards do not earn a top-four seed in the East – Correct. No one saw John Wall’s injuries on the horizon, though.
  3. And the Wizards get eliminated in the first-round – Incorrect, because they didn’t make the playoffs at all.
  4. The Pistons enter the playoffs as a top-four seed – Incorrect again.
  5. And the Pistons advance past the first-round – Incorrect yet again. I was supremely confident in Blake Griffin, who played very well. But he didn’t have enough support, and the East was even better than expected.

Coaching Predictions:

  1. Tom Thibodeau is fired shortly after the Timberwolves move on from Butler – Correct
  2. Scott Brooks is not fired during the season – Correct. But had I known how bad it would get in Washington, I might have predicted otherwise.
  3. Brooks is let go before June 1 following a first-round playoff elimination – Incorrect on two fronts. First of all, the Wizards didn’t qualify for the playoffs. But more importantly, Brooks is still their head coach – and I’m a little surprised by this. The Wizards moved on from general manager Ernie Grunfeld. And their star player is out for probably the entire 2018-19 season. Brooks enters 2019-20 on the hot seat. I don’t see Washington sticking with him if the team decides to trade Bradley Beal. So if that happens, look out.

Miscellaneous Predictions:

  1. The league-wide average will exceed 110 points per game (2017-18 average was 106.3) – Correct. The average score per game per team actually eclipsed 111 points.
  2. There will be a 10 percent increase in fouls per game due to rule changes regarding how freedom of motion fouls are called – Incorrect. The league average increased from 19.9 fouls per game to 20.9 – an increase of just over 5 percent.
  3. There will be fewer teams with 25 or less wins than there was last season in part because of the revised NBA Draft Lottery – Technically there was the same number of teams with fewer than 25 wins; however, there were more teams with 25 or fewer wins. So, Correct. And the effect of the revised draft lottery becomes even more evident when we expand the scope: nine teams had fewer than 30 wins in 2017-18, compared to only five in 2018-19.
  4. There will be at least five first-time All-Stars – Correct, but just barely so. There were exactly five first-time All-Stars this past season: Nikola Jokic, Khris Middleton, D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons and Nikola Vucevic.

Insiders Predictions:

Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA)

  1. The Warriors will not win the most games in the league – Correct

Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA)

  1. Eight teams will finish at .500 or one game below – Incorrect. Only one team finished with a 41-41 record and no teams ended the season with 40 wins.

Matt John (@MattJohnNBA)

  1. Kawhi Leonard re-signs with Toronto on a 1+1 – Incorrect

David Yapkowitz (@David_Yapkowitz)

  1. The Nuggets will enter the playoffs as a top-four seed – Correct

Shane Rhodes (@Shane_Rhodes1)

  1. The 76ers will enter the playoffs without securing a top-four seed – Incorrect

Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies)

  1. Tristan Thompson will average a double-double for the first time in his career – Correct

Lang Greene (@LangGreene)

  1. Carmelo Anthony will end the season with less than 13 points per game and worse than 40 percent shooting from the field – Incorrect on both counts. Anthony averaged 13.4 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting; however, he only played in 10 games.

Benny Nadeau (@Ben_Nadeau)

  1. Allen Crabbe will end the season in the top 10 for three-pointers made – Incorrect. Wrong Net, Ben. D’Angelo Russell finished ninth with 234.

Jordan Hicks (@JordanHicksNBA)

  1. Joe Ingles will lead the league in three-point percentage – Incorrect. In fact, Ingles finished 31st in three-point percentage with a 39.1 percent clip – which is worse than both of the previous two seasons.

Jordan Hicks (@JordanHicksNBA)

  1. Derrick Favors will be traded before the deadline – Incorrect, but fake bonus points because Favors starts the season with New Orleans after being traded for two second-round picks at the start of free agency.

Some of my predictions were terrible, and others were borderline prophetic. We will be back soon to see if the Basketball Insiders team and I can do better than we did last October.

For those of you keeping score, I got 19 correct and 21 incorrect, and my fellow Insiders had four correct and six incorrect. I sense major improvements on the horizon..

Basketball Insiders contributor residing in the Bronx, New York.

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NBA

NBA Standout Player Watch – Jan. 26

Basketball Insiders releases its first standout player watch of the year for the Eastern Conference. Tristan Tucker highlights some of the players that have shown out but are still vastly underrated.

Tristan Tucker

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This season, the All-Star game will not be played, though players will still be able to receive the honor and go down in the record books all the same. While players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and many more are surefire All-Stars, Basketball Insiders wants to give credit to some of the players that are being overlooked around the league.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at Basketball Insiders’ first edition of its standout player watch from the Eastern Conference, in no particular order.

Jerami Grant

When the Detroit Pistons signed Grant, someone that averages 9.8 points across his career, to a three year, $60 million deal in the offseason, everyone around the NBA raised their eyebrows. It was then reported that the Denver Nuggets offered the same deal to try and keep Grant, but he took on a role that would see him be the feature offensive piece in Detroit.

That move has completely paid off and Grant is having a year that almost no one, other than himself, could have expected. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 24.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and .9 steals per game, all career highs.

Grant is also having his most efficient season beyond the arc, shooting 38.2 percent from deep on 6.9 attempts per game, a fairly high number.

The Pistons are bad, there’s no way to sugarcoat that, but Grant alongside other pleasant surprises in Josh Jackson, Wayne Ellington and Saddiq Bey have made the team enjoyable to watch. Grant is playing like a legitimate superstar and should be named to the All-Star team this year, in whatever form that may take.

Zach LaVine

Over the last three seasons, LaVine has continued to improve and this season is no different. Despite averaging 23.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 45.3 percent shooting from the floor and 37.4 percent from deep across his Chicago Bulls career, LaVine has yet to make an All-Star team.

Perhaps that will all change this season, as LaVine is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and blocks, plus close to a 50/40/90 split. The Bulls are decent this season, currently at 7-9, but for LaVine to be an All-Star lock, they’ll likely need to be in playoff position at the time of All-Star selections.

Jaylen Brown

Brown appeared on Basketball Insiders’ week one MVP ladder, and that was no mistake. There’s a reason Brown was never included in any potential James Harden trade chatter, no matter how much the Houston Rockets may have wanted him – and that’s because he’s the real deal.

This season, Brown is the seventh-leading scorer in the league and is putting up an astounding 27.3 points, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals, shooting 43 percent from deep on nearly seven attempts per game.

The Boston Celtics haven’t been at full strength for much of the season, without Jayson Tatum as he deals with a case of COVID-19, but Brown has his franchise among the frontrunners in the Eastern Conference nonetheless.

Julius Randle

Randle had a season to forget last year after signing with the New York Knicks on a three-year, $62 million contract in the summer of 2019, as he took a dip in scoring and efficiency across the board from his breakout season the year before with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Something changed in the 6-foot-8 power forward over the offseason, as he is having a career year with the Knicks and has the team firmly in the playoff picture with an 8-10 record. The main difference in Randle’s game has been his shift in playstyle, transitioning to a playmaking big instead of someone that’s primarily an undersized low post threat.

Randle is averaging career highs in multiple statistical categories, up to 22.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.

Nikola Vucevic

Vucevic is criminally underrated year after year and this season is more of the same. One of the only reasons the Orlando Magic is able to remain competitive in the face of huge injuries to key players like Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu is the play of Vucevic.

Vucevic has been giving it his all this season, putting up a career-high in points per game with 23.2 and has put in the work necessary to improve his long-range game. He’s shooting 42.6 percent from three on 6.4 attempts per game, by far and away the best deep shooting performance of his career.

While Vucevic has been named to an All-Star team before, his name is rarely mentioned when discussing the best bigs in the league, a narrative that he’s doing his all to change.

Domantas Sabonis/Malcolm Brogdon/Myles Turner

So many players have been playing stellar ball for the Indiana Pacers that it was impossible to narrow this selection down to just one.

Sabonis has downright played his way into the MVP conversation, notching a double-double in every single game he’s appeared in this season. Sabonis was an All-Star last year, and his play has continued to improve as he’s averaging 20.9 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

Brogdon has also played his way into the MVP race, having been included in Basketball Reference’s ladder in the first month alongside Sabonis. It’s not hard to see why as he’s averaging what is by far a career-high 21.9 points with 7.1 assists on 39.5 percent shooting from deep on 7.1 attempts per game. Brogdon has also improved his on-ball defense, averaging 1.6 steals per game, a career-high.

Meanwhile, Turner may just be the most overlooked of them all, as he’s the heart and soul of this Indiana defense. Turner should be firmly in the lead for the Defensive Player of the Year award, as he’s holding opponents to shoot below league average and has averaged a whopping 4.1 blocks per game.

Honorable mentions: De’Andre Hunter, Gordon Hayward

It was hard to narrow this list down in the first place, with so many notable performances coming out of the Eastern Conference on a nightly basis. OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher are showing out for the Toronto Raptors and are helping that team back into the playoff picture, Shake Milton looks like one of the best guards in the conference while Tobias Harris is revitalizing his career under Philadelphia 76ers’ head coach Doc Rivers.

However, our honorable mentions this week are De’Andre Hunter and Gordon Hayward, both of whom are playing at a near All-Star level.

Hunter made the jump into a lead wing for the Atlanta Hawks after a promising first season and is up to 17.4 points per game, upping his efficiency across the board and fresh off a 33-point performance versus the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Charlotte Hornets’ signing of Hayward to a huge deal was widely panned across the league but the Hornets were always going to have to empty their pockets to get a player of his caliber. Hayward is averaging 24.1 points per game and is eerily close to a 50/40/90 shooting split. Hayward, alongside teammate Terry Rozier, have the Hornets in contention for a playoff spot, with both players playing at extremely high levels.

With so many outstanding players in the league, this list will be sure to change on a weekly basis. Be sure to check back at Basketball Insiders to see which players continue to shine!

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NBA

What We Learned: Eastern Conference Week 4

What did we learn about the Eastern Conference this week? Jonathon Gryniewicz takes a look in the most recent edition of Basketball Insiders’ “What We Learned” series.

Jonathon Gryniewicz

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It’s not even a month into the NBA season, but the 2020-21 Eastern Conference has already looked super competitive, with 14 teams within six games of each other. There’s bound to be some separation in the coming weeks, don’t expect any team to go down easy.

But which have paced the East? Who’s flopped? Let’s take a look.

The New Look Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the newly acquired James Harden recently played their first game together against the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The back-and-forth game ended in a double-overtime, 147-135 Nets loss. The three of them had plenty of time on the court together and divvied up the scoring; Durant scored 38 points on 25 shots in 50 minutes; Irving 37 points on 28 shots in 37 minutes; and Harden 21 points on 14 shots in 51 minutes.

But, outside of the box score, what did we learn about this team from their first performance?

You never want to jump to conclusions, but it’s easy to see that their offense could be dominant. When those three were on the court together, Harden served as the de facto point guard while Irving and Durant took their turns in isolation situations. Of course, in such an iso-based offense, there wasn’t much player movement beyond the trio, but they are so good at taking their own man off the dribble they can always get a good shot. What should make them even harder to guard is the fact that they’re all prolific three-point shooters; two can space at the three point line, while the other can use that extra space to either score themselves or collapse the defense and kick it outside.

Of course, there’s some work to be done. Harden and Irving combined for nine of the team’s 16 turnovers, while each of the three took their fair share of shots maybe just a bit too early in the shot clock. Defensively, Brooklyn is a major work-in-progress. Their closing lineup of Harden, Durant, Irving, Jeff Green and Joe Harris would appear to be solid but doesn’t offer much in terms of switchability and consistent rim protection. Beyond that, there isn’t much to be excited about.

Depth could also be an issue. They recently added Norvel Pelle to compete with two-way rookie Reggie Perry for backup center minutes. The team may have to look into an addition on the wing, too; while they currently roster Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, the three are young and, so far this season, have proven inconsistent at best. A veteran that could provide some bench stability should be the priority.

Kendrick Nunn is Emerging for the Miami HEAT

In recent days, Kendrick Nunn has played his best basketball in nearly a year.

The 2020 Rookie of the Year runner-up, Nunn struggled in the Orlando Bubble last season as he saw a continually diminished role in Miami’s run to the NBA Finals. He started this season on a similar note, as he averaged only 5.5 points and played in just six of the HEAT’s first 12 games.

But, with Jimmy Butler and other key players dealing with injury, Nunn has seen a resurgence. In Miami’s last six games, not only has he played heavy minutes, but Nunn has flourished to the tune of 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He’s also shot 37.8 percent from three and 50 percent from the floor.

Of course, there’s the question of the competition. Nunn’s success has come against the Nets aforementioned suspect defense, as well as the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors, two teams that have struggled mightily to start the year. Still, the spark he’s shown should help him maintain a role going forward, even after Butler and the rest return to the court.

If he can maintain hold down a role, or at least a bit of that spark, Nunn could prove a massive boon for Miami, whose offense has been pretty mediocre in the early going.

The Indiana Pacers Injury Woes 

Under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren, the Pacers’ 2020-21 season has seen a terrific start. Through 12 games, Indiana is  8-4 and have played a fun, up-tempo brand of basketball.

That said, they’ve had to deal with a lot on the injury front. After they netted Caris LeVert in the four-team blockbuster that sent Harden to Brooklyn, a mass was found on one of LeVert’s kidneys and he has since been ruled out indefinitely.

Myles Turner, meanwhile, just returned from a two-game absence due to an avulsion fracture in his right hand. In his absence, the Pacers’ defense just didn’t look the same, giving up 129 and 124 points to the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, respectively. The team started the season without Jeremy Lamb and has since lost T.J. Warren to a foot injury that is expected to hold him out for most of the season as well.

No team can lose two starters and expect to continue playing at the same level. If they can’t get healthy, expect it to play a major role in their standing and playoff position at the end of the season.

It will be interesting to watch the East over the next month to see which teams can separate themselves. Be sure to check back for the next part of our “What We Learned” series as we continue to keep an eye on the NBA all season long.

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NBA

Miami’s Struggles About More than One Player

Drew Maresca assesses the Miami HEAT’s early-season struggles and their statistical slide from the 2019-20 campaign.

Drew Maresca

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The Miami HEAT appeared to successfully turn the corner on a quick rebuild, having advanced to the bubble’s 2020 NBA Finals. It looked as though Miami took a short cut even, rebounding from the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh era incredibly quickly. Ultimately, they did so through smart drafting – including the selections of Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro – plus, a little luck, like the signing of Jimmy Butler and smartly sticking with Duncan Robinson.

But despite the fact that they should have improved from last season, the tide may have turned again in South Beach.

Through 15 games, the HEAT are an underwhelming 6-9 with losses in each of their last two games. Miami is also scoring fewer points per game than last season – 109.3 versus 112  – while giving up more – 113.1 against 109.1.

Miami has played the 14th-toughest schedule in the NBA, and there are some embarrassing and noteworthy loses thus far. They lost by a resounding 47 points to the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season, with extra harsh defeats of 20 points to the lowly Detroit Pistons and the mediocre Toronto Raptors.

What’s to blame for Miami’s woes? Unfortunately for the HEAT, it’s a number of things.

First of all, they need more from a few of their stars – and it starts at the very top. Jimmy Butler was Miami’s leading scorer in 2019-20, posting 19.9 points per game. But this season, Butler is scoring just 15.8 points per game on a sub-par 44.2 percent shooting. While Butler shot poorly from three-point range last season, too (24.4 percent), he hasn’t connected on a single three-pointer yet in 2020-21. This, coming from a guy who shot 34.7 percent from deep in 2018-19 and 35 percent in 2017-18.

But it’s not just his lack of scoring that’s hurting. Butler is also collecting fewer assists and rebounds as well. He’s averaging only 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, down from 6.7 ad 6.0 last season.

However, Butler’s main struggle this season has nothing to do with any statistic or slump. Butler has missed seven straight games due to COVID-19 protocols. Although to go-scorer wasn’t playing particularly well prior to isolating from the team – scoring in single digits twice – the HEAT are always in better shape if their leader takes the floor with them.

It’s not just Butler either. Tyler Herro also needs to regain his bubble form, at least as far as shooting is concerned. After connecting on 38.9 percent on 5.4 three-point attempts in 2019-20, he’s sinking only 30.2 percent of his 5.3 three-point attempts per game this season.

While Herro is scoring more – 17.2 points per game this season – and doing so more efficiently, he’s doesn’t pose the same threat from deep this season. So while he’s sure to pick it up sooner than later, he must do so to put more pressure on opposing defense.

It’s fair to assume Herro will solve his long-distance shooting woes, but the fact that he’s also struggling from the free throw line is concerning because it speaks more to his form. Herro is still well above the league average, connecting on 76.5 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe, but he shot a scorching 87 percent on free throw attempts last season.

So what’s behind the slump? More importantly, which Herro can the HEAT count on for the remainder of 2020-21? As much as Herro is on track to grow into an incredible player, Miami needs his efficiency to return to last season’s form if they expect to compete. But like Butler, a major part of Herro’s struggles are off the court.

Herro is currently dealing with an injury, having missed the last five games with neck spasms. Coach Erik Spoelstra noted that giving the injured Herro so many minutes before his big layoff likely exacerbated his injuries.

“There’s no telling for sure if this is why Tyler missed these games,” Spoelstra told the South Florida SunSentinel. “But it definitely didn’t help that he had to play and play that many minutes. We didn’t have anybody else at that point. If he didn’t play, then we would have had seven.”

But the HEAT’s struggles are about more than any one player – and that’s a big part of what makes Miami, Miami.

Still, their team stats are equally puzzling, like that the Miami HEAT currently ranks 20th in offensive rating and 23rd in defensive rating. In 2019-20, they were 7th in offensive rating and 11th in defensive rating. Obviously, something isn’t translating from last year, but what is it that’s missing?

Firstly, the HEAT are only the 18th best three-point shooting in terms of percentage. Last season, Miami was 2nd by shooting 37.9 percent. Herro returning to his old self should help quite a bit, and Butler making at least a few threes should improve spacing, too.

But it’s not just three-point shooting as the HEAT ranked last in field goal attempts last season, tallying just 84.4 attempts per game. And while they’re last again this season, they’ve managed to average even fewer attempts per game (81.7) despite maintaining nearly all of their roster.

The HEAT are also last in offensive rebounding, which translates to fewer field goal attempts and fewer points. And while Miami was 29th in offensive rebounds last season, they’re corralling 2.1 fewer rebounds this season (6.4) than in  2019-20 (8.5). What’s more, Miami is now last in total rebounds with only 40.9 per game. A number that also represents a fairly significant change as the HEAT were 17th a season ago with 44.4 per game – whew!

Lastly, Miami is turning the ball over more often than nearly any other team – sorry, Chicago – in 2020-21. During the prior campaign, the HEAT were barely middle of the pack, turning the ball over 14.9 times per game, a mark that left them 18th-best in the league. This season, they’re 29th and turning the ball over 17.7 times per game – dead last in terms of turnovers per 100 possessions.

It’s not all bad news for the HEAT, though. Bam Adebayo looks great so far, posting 20.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Second-year stud Kendrick Nunn is averaging 21.5 points on 56 percent shooting through the past four games; while Duncan Robinson is still a flame thrower, shooting 44.4 percent on 8.4 three-point attempts per game.

The HEAT’s upside is still considerable, but it’s easy to wonder if they captured magic in a bottle last season.

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