Miami came into their game in Dallas on Wednesday ranked 26th in 3-point makes, 25th in 3-point attempts and 28th in 3-point percentage. You could really see it in the way the game played out - the Heat had match-up advantages up and down the line-up but they couldn't really take advantage of them because they didn't space the floor and there was no one who could take advantage of the ball movement their stars created. Instead, the game was played at a crawl and the Heat allowed a Mavs team that was completely gassed coming off a stretch of 19 games in 32 nights and was missing Deron Williams and Devin Harris to hang around to the very end and almost steal one in in the final seconds.
When you have Dirk Nowitzki and Zaza Pachulia guarding Chris Bosh and JJ Barea and Ray Felton guarding Goran Dragic, there's no reason the game should be all that competitive. If the Mavs had to play 2-on-2 against those match-ups, they would lose 100 out of 100 times. The problem was that Miami couldn't space the floor to let those guys do what they do nor did they run the offense through them. Dwyane Wade held the ball for most of the game even though he had the Mavs best defender (Wesley Matthews) on him and the only guy on Miami who could really space the floor for him was Bosh, which prevented him from fully utilizing the massive speed advantage he had on the Mavs lumbering pair of big men. There was one play where he faced up Zaza and dunked on the entire Dallas roster.
2) Enter Whiteside
If you wanted to see the value of what Whiteside can bring to the floor, this game was a perfect example. Whiteside came off the bench and was +7 in 18 minutes with 10 points on 5-5 shooting, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks (and at least 5 more altered shots). He completely took over the game on both sides of the floor and there was nothing the Mavs could do to slow him down. This play kind of summed up the night for Whiteside:
Everyone talks about Hassan's plus-minus numbers, which I think is terribly unfair. For one, his main back-up is Chris Bosh sliding down a position, whose one of the best players in the NBA and one of the best small-ball 5's in a league where that style has become all the rage. Second, the Heat have the same offensive rating whether or not Dwayne Wade is on the bench and a worse defensive rating when he is on the floor and no one says anything. There's a lot of people in Miami who want to live in the past and not face up to the reality of who their franchise superstar is at the moment.
Look at from a logical perspective. What skill-set is going to have a more negative impact on the floor? A 5 who blocks shots and rolls to the rim or a 2 who doesn't play defense, holds the ball and can't shoot 3's? It's just very hard to win in the modern NBA without enough shooting on the floor and the SG position is one of the places where you almost have to have shooting - there's a reason "shooting" is in the name of the position. You aren't necessarily going to get shooting from the other 4 positions so a non-shooter at SG really boxes you in terms of the types of line-ups you can throw out there.
3) Where will Whiteside go?
A lot of the talk in Dallas is that the Mavs will pass on Whiteside because they are worried about his attitude and the way he behaves off the court. What I want to know is why you are paying a coach almost $10 million a year if you don't think he's capable of getting the most out of the players you give him? It's great that Rick Carlisle has been able to use smoke and mirrors to keep this franchise on the fringes of the playoffs every season but they haven't won a playoff series in 4 seasons and they seem no closer to being able to do that this season. If they don't end up as the 5 seed, they are going to be swiftly ejected from the playoffs like they were never even there.
Is this really a franchise who can afford to pass up a dude who would be the perfect fit for them on both sides of the ball? Just because their coach doesn't want to coach him? Rick Carlisle probably wants to coach JJ Barea for the rest of his life. That's why you don't give a coach complete control of your personnel decisions. There has to be someone in charge whose thinking big picture.
The other option for Whiteside that I've been spit-balling around is Washington, who desperately need to shake things up after one of the most disappointing seasons in the league. Imagine this starting 5 of the future:
That's pretty much the ideal 4-out line-up and they would actually be capable of playing at the fastest pace in the league. I'm not sure how you defend Wall to Whiteside P/R's with three shooters around them - I'm pretty sure you don't. They would be a better version of the Detroit Pistons with a much better triggerman running the show. The Original Sin in Washington was passing up on Andre Drummond and bringing in Whiteside would be the closest move they could make to making that right.
4) Free The Dragon
I feel terrible watching Dragic walk the ball up the floor, stand in the corner and then watch Wade isolate for 20+ seconds. I'm not sure he touched the ball more than 2-3 times in the final few minutes of the game. Did the Heat really give up two unprotected first-round picks to acquire Dragic and then sign a max contract in order to turn him into a glorified version of George Hill?
The numbers check out. Of the 10 players that Dragic has played the most minutes with, his 2nd worst rating is with Wade (+0.9) and his worst is with Luol Deng (-0.8). Contrast that with the 500+ minutes he has played with Justise Winslow (+8.7), Gerald Green (+7.8) and Chris Bosh (+5.3).
Here's a few more fun numbers. Of the 10 players that Wade has played the most minutes with, how many have a better rating than the +0.9 he shares with Dragic? The answer is 2. One of them has barely played this season - Josh McRoberts (75 minutes) - and the other - Winslow (+2.1) - would probably have a positive net rating if paired with a Roomba. Long story short, there aren't many guys who are playing that well when sharing the floor with D.Wade. Make of that what you will.
5) Justise Winslow
His defense is as good as advertised and he is incredibly impressive to watch in person. He bullied Chandler Parsons and he forced a guy who has been the Mavs best player for most of the last month off the floor in the final minutes. There was just nothing Parsons could do - Winslow was stronger than him, faster than him, just as long as him and he wasn't making any of the type of rookie mistakes you would expect for a 19-year old being asked to defend an opposing team's primary option. At 6'6 225 with a 6'11 wingspan, he has the body of a grown man and a super-high basketball IQ and there's no ceiling to how good he can be defensively.
The only question with Winslow is the 3-point shot. He reminds me a lot of Kawhi Leonard when he was at San Diego State - he's a point forward who can defend just about every position on the floor but whom the defense doesn't have to guard beyond 15+ feet. The thing about it is that basically no one ever makes the leap that Kawhi made - if Justise became a 45% three-point shooter he could be a Top 10 player but the odds of that happening are pretty slim indeed.
Even in the modern NBA, though, you can still afford to have one non-shooter on the floor on the perimeter, especially if that guy can create his own shot and move without the ball in his hands. The problem is that you definitely can't have two. And what I wonder is if Miami would be better off having Winslow in that non-shooting slot than Wade. I'm not a big fan of giving guys passes and I'm not much for sentiment either. This is a business and if you aren't helping your team and there are guys who could fill your role better than you your team has to at least think about taking your ass off the floor. The alternative is losing in the first round and costing themselves tens of millions of dollars. It's sweet that Miami gave Wade a $20 million get well present this season but this could quickly devolve into a co-dependent Kobe in LA situation if they aren't careful.
6) Would Miami be better with Wade and Deng out of the starting line-up?
Here's another way to ask the question - which distribution of roles would get the most out of Dragic and Bosh? Line-up A or Line-up B?
At the very least, it's something to think about.