Stats & Info: Miami Heat

4-point play: Lakers vs. Heat

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4

Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesGoran Dragic has been getting to the free throw line more since joining the Heat.
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Wednesday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers (26th in BPI) and the Miami Heat (18th in BPI) at 8PM ET on ESPN. Our BPI gives the Heat a 73 percent chance of winning.

1. The Miami Heat are projected to win 37 games, have a 60 percent chance of making the playoffs, and have the second-easiest remaining schedule, according to ESPN's BPI.

2. Goran Dragic has a career average of 4.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes, but was getting a career low of 2.9 free throws per 36 minutes this season in Phoenix. Since coming to Miami, he has averaged 6.1 free throws per 36 minutes.

3. The Lakers will keep their first round pick provided it is in the top 5, otherwise it will belong to Philadelphia. The Lakers have a 74 percent chance of keeping their pick, according to BPI.

4. Ed Davis leads the Lakers in scoring efficiency with a true-shooting percentage of 60 percent and is seventh in the league with an offensive rebound percentage of 13 percent. The only 25-year-olds to have seasons at those levels or above since 2000 are DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler, and Robin Lopez.

Top Stats to Know: PGs in New Places

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19

Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty ImagesGoran Dragic was one of many to be traded just before Thursday's deadline.

A flurry of deals took place at the NBA Trade Deadline, with dozens of players changing teams. Of note, three teams got themselves a new point guard, the Miami Heat, the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks. Let's take a look at the new PG for each team:

Goran Dragic to Miami
Dragic saw his numbers decrease across the board in Phoenix this season compared to last, averaging 16 fewer touches and 11 fewer passes per game this season, according to NBA player-tracking data. He led the team in both categories last season.

Dragic also has seen his number of drives decrease, from 9.6 to 7.2 per game. Despite that, Dragic averages 8.6 points in the paint per game, the 6th-best rate among guards. On Miami, Dragic's inside game will be welcomed. The Heat currently average 36.2 paint points per game, which is the second-fewest in the NBA.

While Dragic's scoring average has dipped from a career-high 20.3 points last season to 16.2 this season, he still ranks 2nd among qualifying guards in field goal percentage at 50.1 percent. Only Kyle Korver (51.2 percent) was higher at the All-Star Break.

With Dragic in the fold, the Heat are now the only team in the NBA to have five players in the top 90 in Player Efficiency Rating this season.

Brandon Knight to Phoenix
Looking only at numbers from this season, Knight could be considered an upgrade over Dragic. Knight is averaging more points and assists per game this season with a higher player efficiency rating and more win shares (via than Dragic this season.

Knight has been a much more proficient scorer from the outside than the inside this season. He is shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range this season, fourth-best among qualified point guards. From two-point range he is shooting just 44.8 percent, third-worst among point guards and sixth-worst overall.

Michael Carter-Williams to Milwaukee
Carter-Williams becomes the first rookie of the year to be traded within his first two seasons since Chris Webber was traded to Washington in 1994 after winning the award the previous season with Golden State.

Carter-Williams has struggled with his shot this season. He is shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range, second-worst among players with at least 100 three-pointers attempted, and he is shooting 25.1 percent on all shots outside the paint, worst in the NBA (min. 250 FGA).He is averaging 0.71 points per play this season, by far the worst in the NBA among the 67 players to play at least 700 plays this season. The next-lowest figure belongs to Trey Burke at 0.81 points per play.

While he isn't scoring much, he has done well to help his teammates out. Carter-Williams is averaging 7.4 assists per game, eighth in the NBA, and his assist percentage of 43.0 is fifth best in the league.

4-point play: Duncan still defensive stalwart

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesTim Duncan continues to carry the Spurs defense as San Antonio welcomes a new-look Miami team.
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Friday’s game between the Miami Heat (18th in BPI) and the San Antonio Spurs (sixth in BPI). Our BPI gives the Spurs a 74 percent chance of winning (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN):

1. Tim Duncan continues to be an elite defensive stopper. Duncan and Pau Gasol are the only players in the league with more than 1000 minutes, more than two blocks per 36 minutes, fewer than three fouls per 36 minutes and a defensive rebound percentage above 25 percent.

2. The Spurs average 11 turnovers per 100 possessions. When San Antonio turns the ball over lower than that rate, it wins 85 percent of its games. When they are above that level, the Spurs win 55 percent of their games.

3. The Heat play at the slowest pace in the league, averaging 91.8 possessions per 48 minutes. But they do better when they play faster. Miami has won 38 percent of games played at that pace or slower and won 55 percent of games played at a faster pace.

4. The Heat currently have a 67 percent chance of making the playoffs despite a below average offense and defense, due largely to having the easiest schedule remaining for the rest of the season in the league.

4-Point Play: Mavericks at Heat

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30

Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Chandler Parsons and the Mavericks visit Chris Bosh and the Heat tonight (8 ET, ESPN).
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Friday’s game between the Dallas Mavericks (4th in BPI) and the Miami Heat (18th in BPI). Our BPI gives the Mavericks a 61 percent chance of winning.

1. The Mavericks have the top offense in the league, but a below average defense. The defense plays its best when actively creating turnovers. When Mavericks opponents are turning it over on more than 12 percent of their possessions, the Mavs give up 101 points per 100 possessions. Yet when opponents turn it over less than that, the Mavs give up 106 point per 100 possessions.

2. Chandler Parsons' average assist rate has dropped this season from 17 percent to 10 percent, but when he is above that 10 percent mark, the Mavericks average 113 points per 100 possessions. When Parsons falls below 10 percent, they average 109 points per 100 possessions.

3. Chris Bosh's game has changed and evolved over time, but while he teamed with LeBron, his skilled passing was not needed. In his last four seasons with the Raptors, Bosh had an average assist percentage of 12 percent. While playing with LeBron, his AST% fell to eight percent, but this season it has jumped right back up to 12 percent.

4. Miami has to keep Dallas off the foul line. When Miami allows opponents a Free Throw Attempt Rate above 0.29, then they give up 108 points per 100 possessions, but when they keep their opponents' FTAr below 0.29 then they give up 100 points per 100 possessions.

Can Wade still bring the heat?

July, 16, 2014

Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsDwyane Wade could be expected to take on a larger role in Miami without LeBron James.
Dwyane Wade reportedly signed a two-year deal Tuesday to stay with the Miami Heat. Let’s take a look back at where he's excelled and where he's struggled in Miami.

The Good: Paint Scorer & Efficient
• Wade shot a career-high 54.5 percent from the field last season, and much of that was due to his ability to score in the paint. Wade led all guards with 10.5 points in the paint per game last season. Additionally, his 64.1 field goal percentage in the paint was fifth in the NBA and best among all guards with at least 300 paint FG attempts last season.

• Wade posted a 22.0 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) last season, his 10th straight season with a PER at or above 20. Tim Duncan and LeBron James are the only other players with a PER of 20 or better in each of the last 10 seasons.

The Bad: 3-Pointers & Health
• For all his prowess in the paint, Wade has never been much of a 3-point shooter. He has never shot higher than 31.7 percent from beyond the arc in his career.

• With the exception of the 2010-11 season, Wade went out of his way not to shoot many 3-pointers during the Big 3 era. He attempted fewer 3-pointers over the last three seasons combined (154) than he did in all of 2010-11 (206). Last season, Wade made a career-low nine 3-pointers in 54 games while also attempting a career-low 32 3-pointers. Among guards to start at least 50 games last season, only Shaun Livingston (6) attempted fewer threes than Wade.

• Wade has struggled to remain healthy recently, particularly last season when he missed 28 games. Wade played in just three games on no rest (i.e. back-to-back situations), averaging 13.3 PPG in those games. By comparison, Wade played in 17 such games in the 2010-11 season, scoring 28.5 PPG in those games. His average in those situations has declined in each of the last four seasons.

• Perhaps four straight runs to the NBA Finals took a toll on Wade's body. As further evidence that he might be wearing down, Wade's 2014 Finals average of 15.2 PPG was the lowest of his NBA Finals career (5th Finals appearance).

Going Back To Ohio

July, 11, 2014

AP Photo/Mark DuncanLeBron has now changed teams twice after scoring 27 PPG.
You may think that LeBron James was the first player to leave Cleveland, win two championships in Miami and then return to the shores of Lake Erie, but he’s not.

Long before James there was Hall of Fame NFL receiver Paul Warfield who spent six seasons (1964-69) with the Browns before being traded to Miami where he won two Super Bowls in five years (1970-74) with the Dolphins, including as part of the 1972 Perfect 17-0 season. After spending a year in the World Football League Warfield returned to Cleveland for his two final NFL seasons (1976-77).

The major difference is that LeBron, like only Gail Goodrich before him among (current or extremely likely) Hall of Famers, is returning prior to his 30th birthday with many prime playing days ahead.

Point of Departure

Scorers of his magnitude do not often change teams yet this is the second time LeBron James sought a change of scenery following a season in which he averaged at least 27 PPG.

Over the past 30 years only three others – Tracy McGrady who went from the Magic to the Rockets in 2004, Adrian Dantley who went from the Jazz to the Pistons in 1986, and Kiki Vandeweghe who landed in Portland after averaging over 29 PPG for the Nuggets—changed teams after dropping in 27 or more per contest.

Odds and Ends

Once LeBron James announced that he’ll return to the Cavaliers next season, oddsmakers in Las Vegas were sent scrambling. According to the Las Vegas Superbook - Hotel & Casino, Cleveland is now a 4-1 favorite to win the 2014-15 Pro Basketball Championship. Cleveland’s odds opened at 60-1 while Miami opened as a 2-1 favorite and are now 40-1.

Top of the Charts

With all due respect to Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and even Foots Walker, there’s no disputing the greatest player in Cavaliers history. LeBron James leads the franchise in most major categories. Those that he doesn’t will be sure to fall in swift succession over the next four years.

Who’s No. 1? Take Your Pick.

Should the Cavs stand pat right now they would have the first roster with four top-overall draft picks since the 1986-87 through 1988-89 Showtime Lakers featured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1969), Mychal Thompson (1978), Magic Johnson (1979) and James Worthy (1982). James (2003) joins Kyrie Irving (2011), Anthony Bennett (2013) and Andrew Wiggins (2014).

King When It Counts

The 2014-15 Cavaliers are getting one of the greatest postseason performers ever. James’ career PER of 27.7 in the postseason is second only to Michael Jordan’s 28.6 (with a minimum of 50 playoff game appearances). The average NBA postseason PER is 15.

James had a string of six straight seasons leading the league in player efficiency rating (PER) snapped in 2013-14 when he finished second to Kevin Durant. Only Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have led the league in PER more often than James.

What's ahead for the Heat

June, 17, 2014

Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/MCT/Getty ImagesThe Miami Heat lost in the NBA Finals this season, and might have a whole new look next year.
Not long after the buzzer sounded to end Game 5 of the NBA Finals and the 2013-14 NBA season, the talk turned to the future for the Miami Heat and who would be on their roster for next season.

The Heat have had tremendous success in the “Big Three” era, reaching the NBA Finals in each year, just the fourth team in NBA history to have a run of four consecutive Finals NBA appearances.. With a return trip next year, the Heat would join the 1957-66 Boston Celtics as teams to make five consecutive NBA Finals trips. Those Celtics reached 10 straight finals, winning nine titles.

However, the Heat that take the floor to start next season might have a different look, as all three of the team’s marquee players: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, have early-termination options and can become unrestricted free agents.

Norris Cole is the only player on Miami’s roster that has a guaranteed contracted next season ($2M), although Udonis Haslem ($4.6M) and Chris Andersen ($1.4M) each have player options to return. Shane Battier is also retiring, and Ray Allen’s NBA future, with Miami or any other team, is uncertain.

Early talk in the offseason has centered around the Heat possibly bringing in Carmelo Anthony, who reportedly will opt out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks.

The most realistic scenario for the Heat to sign Anthony would be for James, Wade and Bosh to all opt out of their contracts and re-sign with the club for a starting salary of around $14M, or more than $6M less than they would’ve made by not opting out.

That would allow Miami to bring in Anthony for around that figure as well. If Anthony doesn’t opt out, he’d make $23.3M in the final season of his contract with the Knicks.

The Knicks can offer Anthony a five-year, $129M deal this summer, while any other team could give him up to four years and $96M. So the odds of a “Big Three” becoming a “Big Four” seem unlikely.

If James, Wade and Bosh all return, Cole’s contract alone will take the Heat slightly over the projected salary cap ($63.2M), so Miami’s best free agency tool will be the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. That would allow the Heat to sign any free agent to a contract with a starting salary up to $5.3M.

Double teams hurting the Heat defense

June, 14, 2014

Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/Getty ImagesThe Heat defense has really struggled against the Spurs in the Finals.

The Miami Heat defense has been out of sorts in the 2014 NBA Finals – so much out of sorts that the San Antonio Spurs are on pace for the highest effective field-goal percentage in an NBA Finals series since the 3-point line was implemented.

Why are the Heat struggling so much defensively?

Drives to the basket

In the 2013 NBA Finals, the Heat stayed home on shooters when the Spurs drove to the basket.

The Heat aren't allowing any more drives than they did last year. The Spurs averaged 33.7 drives per game in last year's Finals and 33 per game this year.

The difference is how often they’re passing the ball: The Spurs passed the ball on 24 percent of their drives in last year's Finals. This year, the Spurs are passing the ball on 36 percent of their drives.

Too many double-teams

The Spurs are passing the ball more often on drives because the Heat are double-teaming the Spurs so often and leaving guys open.

With how adept the Spurs are at moving the ball, the Heat double-teams have been ineffective.

The Heat are switching defenders on virtually every screen in this series. Because of that, they find themselves often doubling the ball, whether it’s a hard double or a hedge.

When the Heat double-team the Spurs, just over half of the Spurs half-court field-goal attempts are uncontested. But when the Heat don't double the ball at all, only 18 percent of the Spurs half-court field-goal attempts are uncontested.

The Spurs effective field-goal percentage is 79 when the Heat double-team the ball in the half-court this series (including 55 percent on 3-pointers), compared to a 52 effective field-goal percentage when they don’t double.

Imagine if the Heat could play straight up defense without doubling the ball and without giving up any open shots. It sounds like a pipe dream, but the Heat are holding the Spurs to a 49 effective field-goal percentage on those shots. By comparison, the Spurs have been nearly twice as prolific (89 effective field-goal percentage) when the Heat double and leave a shooter open.

Based on these numbers, perhaps the Heat should rethink their strategy of switching on every screen and getting caught doubling the ball.

What has gone wrong for the Heat

June, 13, 2014
The Heat are down 3-1 in the 2014 NBA Finals after losing to the Spurs by 40 combined points in Games 3 and 4.

What has gone wrong for the Heat?

Leonard continues to make LeBron work
LeBron James finished Game 4 shooting 6-of-9 against Kawhi Leonard, but most of that production came in the third quarter when the Heat were already down big.

James attempted only two shots (0-of-2) against Leonard in the first half despite recording 17 touches against him on 24 plays. James attempted five shots against all others on 13 touches and 11 plays.

Only 19 percent of James’ touches against Leonard in the Finals have resulted in a James field goal attempt. Against all other defenders, that rate jumps to 34 percent.

James has been held without a touch on 35 percent of the Heat’s possessions when he’s guarded by Leonard. Against all other defenders, he’s been held without a touch 26 percent of the time.

Heat not taking advantage of LeBron’s passing
The Heat have generated 33 assist opportunities per game this NBA Finals (passes that lead to field goal attempts), compared to 42 per game for the Spurs.

James has created the most opportunities for the Heat (35), but only a few members of the Heat have been able to take advantage of his passing.

Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have combined to shoot 12-of-20 off James’ passes this Finals. All other members of the Heat have shot 3-of-15 off James’ passes, including 2-of-11 from 3-point range.

Heat Big 3 can’t get on same page
The Heat’s Big 3 has struggled to put together complete games all at the same time this NBA Finals.

In Game 1, James had issues with cramps and missed most of the fourth quarter with cramps. In that game, James cut down his aggressive play, driving nine times in the first half but only twice in the second half.

In Game 3, the Heat failed to get Chris Bosh involved on offense. Bosh registered 12 offensive touches after averaging 39.5 the first two games (26 in Game 4).

In Game 4, Wade was able to get the basket but was unable to finish. Wade went 2-of-10 in the paint on the game after shooting 69.2 percent in the paint the first three games of the series.

Turnovers have been costly
The Heat have turned the ball over on 19.1 percent of their possessions this series, the highest in an NBA Finals since the 1997-98 Utah Jazz (19.9 percent). James and Wade have 34 turnovers in four games this Finals. Miami turned the ball over on 13.4 percent of its possessions in last season’s Finals, with James and Wade combining for 35 turnovers in seven games.

This has resulted in the Spurs averaging 21.8 points off turnovers this NBA Finals. In last year’s Finals, the Spurs averaged 12.0 points off turnovers.

Heat can’t match Spurs shooting off dribble penetration
Both the Heat and Spurs have been able to get into the lane on drives this NBA Finals, as the Spurs have only three more than the Heat. However, the Heat have not been able to drive-and-dish as effectively as the Spurs have.

Even the more dependable Heat shooters have struggled in these situations. Ray Allen is 1-of-5 and Rashard Lewis is 3-of-8.

The Heat have not made a shot off a James drive-and-kick in the series (0-of-6).

Kawhi Leonard wreaking havoc on LeBron

June, 12, 2014
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsKawhi Leonard has been the primary defender against LeBron James in the NBA Finals.
On the surface, it appears that LeBron James has not struggled against Kawhi Leonard. Video tracking shows that James shot 12-of-18 (66.7 percent) with Leonard as his primary defender in the first three games of the 2014 NBA Finals.

But those numbers don’t show the full impact of Leonard’s defense.

In Game 3, James had a series-high 73 offensive touches but attempted only 14 shots. James was guarded by Leonard on 65 percent of the Heat’s possessions with James on the court in Game 3, the most Leonard has defended James in any game this series.

Let’s take a look at how Leonard has made LeBron’s life more difficult in the NBA Finals.

Fewer shots
Only 17 percent of LeBron’s touches against Leonard in the Finals have resulted in a field goal attempt. That’s half the rate James has against all other defenders. That means Leonard has been successful forcing him to pass the ball or turn it over.

Fewer touches
Leonard has been successful keeping the ball out of LeBron’s hands. James has been held without a touch on 35 percent of the Heat’s possessions when he’s guarded by Leonard. Against all other defenders he’s held without a touch 25 percent of the time.

Fewer drives
James has driven to the basket on 13 percent of his touches against Leonard. That rate jumps to 22 percent against all other defenders. Leonard has been able to keep James in front of him and force tough angles to keep him away from the basket.

It all equals more Leonard vs James
Leonard finished a Heat possession on James 65 percent of the time when James was on the court in Game 3. James attempted only 14 field goal attempts in the game despite a series-high 73 touches.

The percentage of possessions with Leonard defending James has increased every game this series.

The Heat recognized the work James put in to score with Leonard on him in Game 3 and tried to adjust by setting screens. On 14 different possessions in Game 3, Leonard started a possession on James but switched off due to screens. That happened nine times total in Games 1 and 2.

James was 3-of-4 with six points and an assist in those situations in Game 3.

Whether or not the Heat overcome the 2-1 series deficit could depend on how successful James is against Leonard’s defense going forward.

Bosh hot from three-point range

June, 10, 2014
The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have combined to make 45 three-point field goals in this series (25 by San Antonio, 20 by Miami).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most three-pointers made through the first two games of an NBA Finals series. The previous best came in 1995 when Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic combined for 38.

Of all the hot shooters in this series, Chris Bosh has been the most on fire from behind the arc.

Chris Bosh
Bosh from downtown
Chris Bosh is averaging 18.0 points on 59.1 percent shooting this series and has connected on 4-of-6 shots from downtown – including a clutch three-pointer with 1:17 remaining in Game 2 to put the Heat up for good, 95-93.

After averaging just 13.2 points over his first 12 games this postseason, Bosh is putting up 21.2 points over his last five.

Bosh leads the Heat in three-point makes this postseason with 29, one more than Ray Allen. He’s shooting 43.3 percent from beyond the arc and a little over a third of his shots have come from three-point range this postseason (67-200).

Take a look at how his three-point game has evolved over the years.

Back in the 2011 playoffs, Bosh attempted 291 shots – and only four were of the three-point variety.

Bosh in clutch time
This postseason Chris Bosh is tied for the fourth most three-point field goals attempted in clutch time situations (last five minutes of the fourth Quarter or overtime with the score within five points) with nine. He is 3-for-9 from three-point range and 4-for-11 overall from the field in those games.

During the regular season, Bosh had the fourth highest three-point field goal percentage in clutch time situations throughout the NBA (among players with a minimum of 20 three-point field goal attempts). He shot 16-for-31, making 51.6 percent of those threes.

Game 3 notes
• The Spurs are 9-5 in Game 3s of a best-of-7 series when the series is tied 1-1 in the Gregg Popovich era.

• The Heat are 3-0 in Game 3s at home when the series is tied 1-1 in the James-Wade—Bosh era (since 2011 playoffs). Miami has gone on to win each of the last six series in which they were tied 1-1. The last time they lost a series in which they were tied 1-1 was in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

• Should Miami win Game 3 – the Heat have won each of the last six series in which they led 2-1. Their last such series loss was the 2011 NBA Finals.

• Should Miami lose Game 3 – the Heat have a 2-0 series record when trailing 2-1 in the James-Wade-Bosh era. Miami fell behind 2-1 against Indiana in the 2012 Conference Semifinals and then proceeded to win the next 3 games to close out the series. The Heat also fell behind 2-1 in the 2013 NBA Finals against the Spurs, but rallied back to win in 7.

Spurs shoot their way to series lead

June, 6, 2014

ESPN Stats & InfoThe Spurs shot 87.5 percent from the field in the fourth quarter.

The Spurs win extended their NBA record to eight straight home playoff wins by at least 15 points. It was San Antonio’s 11th straight Game 1 win, which ties an NBA record according to the Elias Sports Bureau (Celtics, 1985-87 and Bulls, 1996-98).

The Spurs 24.6 turnover percentage was the highest by a winning team in an NBA Finals game since 1996-97. San Antonio’s 23 turnovers were its second most in any game this season.

Fourth Quarter Dominance

After three quarters, when Miami led 78-74, it seemed like they would pull out the win on the road.

But the Spurs dominated the Heat in the fourth quarter, outscoring Miami by 19 points. They ended the game on a 31-9 run.

The Spurs went 6-of-6 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter. Of those six attempts, five were uncontested.

The Spurs outscored the Heat 14-6 in the paint in the fourth quarter. The Spurs went 7-of-8 on those attempts.

The Heat failed to record a single point in transition in the fourth quarter after scoring 23 transition points in the first three quarters.

LeBron James was far less aggressive attacking the basket in the second half. His average field goal distance in the first half was 5.2 feet. It dropped to 15.6 feet in the second half.

Dwyane Wade and James were a combined 2-6 in the paint in the second half. They went 9-13 in the first half.

Looking Ahead

Don't count out LeBron and the Heat.

His teams are 6-4 in series in which they lose Game 1. That stacks up favorably to the records of the players with which he is most often compared.

But if James and the Heat want to continue that success, they will have to slow down San Antonio's shooting in Game 2.

The Spurs shot 66.7 percent (12-of-18) on catch-and-shoot jump shots in Game 1, tied for their best this postseason. The Heat were slow to close out on those attempts as 14 of the 18 were uncontested, with the Spurs going 10-of-14.

Guarding LeBron is Spurs' top priority

June, 5, 2014

AP Photo/Kevin C. CoxWhat can the Spurs learn from guarding LeBron in last year's NBA Finals?

Do the San Antonio Spurs NBA Finals hopes hinge on simply stopping LeBron James?

The stats from last year’s NBA Finals would suggest so. But how should the Spurs handle controlling James and what can be learned from last year’s NBA Finals, when the Spurs gave James plenty of cushion on the perimeter?

Over or under the screen?
Because of James’ decision making, going over or under the screen is almost a moot point.

When James was the pick-and-roll ball handler last NBA Finals, the Spurs went over the screen 58 percent of the time and under the screen 42 percent of the time. The Heat were almost equally efficient in either scenario.

When the Spurs went under a James pick-and-roll, James shot more but as a team the Heat went 10-of-20 with 1.08 points per play.

When the Spurs went over a James pick-and-roll, James passed more but as a team the Heat went 11-of-23 with 1.03 points per play.

Giving too big of a cushion
The Spurs were able to limit damage on James' drives last NBA Finals, holding him to 40 percent shooting on those plays. To put that into perspective, James shot 64 percent on drives this regular season and is shooting 69 percent this postseason, both according to Player Tracking Data.

But giving James spaces to shoot didn’t work out as well as the Spurs may have planned, as he made 50 percent of his uncontested jumpers.

Who should guard LeBron?James’ three most common defenders in the half-court offense last NBA Finals were Kawhi Leonard (44 percent of plays), Boris Diaw and Danny Green (15 percent each).

James had his best success against Leonard, who may be the closest physically to James. Against the smaller Danny Green and thicker Boris Diaw, James struggled.

James vs. Green
Green’s quickness helped keep James away from the basket. James was able to drive on Green only four times in the series, and had a higher rate of taking jump shots off the dribble against Green than anyone else, going 2-of-9 on those attempts. James was also unable to get to the line against Green, drawing only two shooting fouls against him.

James vs. Diaw
James went 3-of-21 when guarded by Diaw last postseason and averaged 0.40 points per play (he averaged nearly 1.0 point per play against everyone else). Diaw’s size and speed created major problems for James. James was 1-of-6 posting up Diaw, 1-of-5 when driving on him and 1-of-10 when guarded by him outside 10 feet.

James vs. Leonard
James didn’t shoot well on drives against Leonard (2-of-7 FG), but found other ways to score.

James answered the inability to drive by posting up more, shooting 6-of-11 when posting up Leonard (2-of-14 versus all other Spurs).

When James had to shoot over Leonard, he started to do so with a quicker release. Only five of his 14 jump shots against Leonard in Games 1-3 were uncontested last Finals, but in the final four games of the series, 13 of his 22 jumpers against him were uncontested. James shot 50 percent overall (41.7 percent from the 3-point line) on uncontested jumpers against the Spurs last Finals.

Why LeBron shouldn't have passed to Bosh

May, 30, 2014
In the closing seconds of Game 5 on Wednesday, LeBron James drove into the lane and elected to pass the ball to Chris Bosh for a corner 3-point attempt.

LeBron James
Over the last two days, there has been a debate about whether or not LeBron should've taken that shot himself or if his pass to Bosh was a wise decision.

Should LeBron have taken that shot or passed?

Because of new analytical data that the NBA is now collecting, we have an answer to that question. The answer is that he should take that shot.

Here’s how we know that:

The SportVu data tracks where all players are, including the defense. With that information, we can look at how well James makes that shot with a couple players right on him. Over the course of the season, he makes that shot about 70 percent of the time. That’s true whether it’s one guy closely guarding him or two defenders on him with one being a big man. That 70 percent number is the best in the NBA and far above the NBA average, which is about 43 percent.

A normal basketball player should definitely pass out of that situation. However, LeBron is not a normal basketball player. If he’s in that specific game-winning or game-tying situation again, I, having worked with coaching staffs before doing analytics, would want to plant in his head that he should shoot that shot.

Top stats to know: Heat-Pacers Game 6

May, 30, 2014
1. The Heat are one win from becoming just the third franchise in NBA history to appear in the NBA Finals in four straight seasons. The Celtics appeared in 10 straight from 1957-66 and four straight from 1984-87. The Lakers appeared four straight times from 1982-85. The Heat are trying to become the first team to win three straight titles since the Lakers (2000-02).

The last time any MLB, NBA, NFL or NHL team reached four straight championships was the New York Yankees from 1998-2001.

2. The Heat are 9-0 at home in potential series-clinching games in the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh era (since 2010-11 season). LeBron James is averaging 28.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists in those games.

3. James was in foul trouble for much of Game 5, totaling a playoff career-low seven points on 2-for-10 shooting while pulling down just two rebounds.

Game 5 was the fifth playoff game of James' career in which he scored fewer than 15 points. How has he responded the next game in those situations? His teams are 0-4, and he’s averaged 20.5 points per game while shooting just 36.1 percent from the field. All four of those games were from 2007 to 2011, with the last coming against Dallas in Game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals.

4. The Pacers are 3-0 in elimination games this postseason, winning Games 6 and 7 against the Hawks in the first round before Wednesday’s victory over the Heat. Indiana, however, is just 1-8 on the road against the Heat over the past two seasons and has dropped six in a row (including both the regular season and postseason).

5. Odds would be against the two-time defending champion Heat if the Pacers force a Game 7. There have been 119 Game 7s in NBA history, and road teams are just 24-95 (.202 win percentage) in those games.