More Ball Movement May Mean A More Potent Offense In Miami

VIDEO: Chalmers feeds LeBron with between-the-legs dish

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Last season’s Miami Heat were the best shooting team in NBA history, with an effective field goal percentage of 55.2 percent. And through eight games, this season’s Heat have been better (58.9 percent).

It’s early, but the idea that Miami could sustain last year’s level of shooting is scary for the rest of the league. The Heat lead the league in offensive efficiency again, scoring 10.4 more points per 100 possession than the league average, the best mark since 1977-78, when turnovers were first counted.

The Heat’s defense is a story for another day. Coach Erik Spoelstra was looking for a better start on that end of the floor, because his squad was a bottom-10 defensive team through five weeks last season. But they’re there again, ranking 24th defensively through Thursday.

That the Heat lead the league in effective field goal percentage and offensive efficiency isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise is that they also lead the league in assist rate.

Miami has assisted on 71.7 percent of their field goals, the second-highest mark since the NBA-ABA merger, trailing only John Stockton and Karl Malone‘s last season in Utah.

Highest assist rate since 1976-77

Team Season FGM AST AST/FG
Utah 2002-03 2,894 2,103 72.7%
Miami 2013-14 314 225 71.7%
Utah 1998-99 1,684 1,204 71.5%
New Jersey 2003-04 2,813 2,009 71.4%
Utah 2000-01 2,960 2,110 71.3%

This season’s Hawks are sixth on this list at 70.8 percent.

It’s hard to fathom that the Heat will sustain that rate over 82 games, but it is the continuation of a trend with the Heat. Each of the last two seasons, their assist rate has taken a big jump.

Heat assist rate, last four seasons

Season FGM AST AST/FG Rank
2010-11 3,031 1,639 54.1% 25
2011-12 2,446 1,317 53.8% 24
2012-13 3,148 1,890 60.0% 13
2013-14 314 225 71.7% 1

Historically, there’s never been a correlation between assist rate and offensive efficiency. There have always been great offensive teams with low assist rates (last year’s Thunder and Knicks are great examples) and bad offensive teams with high assist rates (like last year’s Bulls and Timberwolves). Heck, the Heat themselves ranked third in offensive efficiency when they ranked 25th in assist rate in LeBron James‘ first season in Miami.

But Spoelstra likes his team assisting more. The idea is that James and Dwyane Wade are more dangerous when the ball is moving … and when they’re moving themselves.

And James and Wade have seen the greatest jump in percentage of their buckets that have been assisted. In fact, they’ve seen their numbers go up every season in Miami.

Percentage of field goals assisted, James and Wade

Season James Wade Total
First 7 seasons 37.2% 28.8% 33.6%
2010-11 32.3% 36.7% 34.4%
2011-12 37.4% 39.9% 38.4%
2012-13 40.1% 43.6% 41.6%
2013-14 65.3% 58.8% 62.7%

As difficult as it may have been to game plan against James in Cleveland, it has to be even tougher when he’s catching the ball a variety of locations around the floor.

We’re looking at only 126 baskets between the two of them this season. But it’s certainly a noticeable trend. And while there’s been transition highlights along the way, only 10 of the Heat’s 49 assists to James have come on fast breaks. Another six have come on the secondary break, but 33 have come in half-court situations (31) or out of bounds plays (two).

As good as the Heat are when James and Wade have the ball in their hands in isolation situations, they may be even more potent when the ball is moving. And the early signs are the ball is moving more than ever in Miami.


  1. lucky fri says:

    i think home court advantage is a big playoff factor and they should worry about it. to play one or two rounds not at home is already though. but what if they finish third in the east. they would have to play 3 rounds playoffs without home court advantage.

    beside some spectecular fast breaks the heat dont play sensational basketball (offense or defense). they dont need to. i think they want to play sensational but they didint made up ti now so they just say we dont need to play sensational bb.

  2. Benjie says:

    The miami heat are still adjusting,like wade say they needed motivation. The pacers are scary but that’s because they thrive with sub .500 team to beat in 9 games. But it’s such a shame wade gave the winning ball to boston ,we’ll even the best learns from there mistakes. I still believe miami will lead the eastern conference come April you’ll see. Greg oden will play come February like a surprise last year with the birdman. And man they will be scary with beastly and rashard Lewis and Ray Allen and battier make there 3 pointers . They got big rebounders and shot blockers now. It won’t be game 7 anymore each series.

  3. As much as this is true, expect haters to leave comments on here soon enough #back2backChamps #dontbeMad

  4. theking0522 says:

    As a Heat fan, I can care less about the way Miami plays defensively. Playing great defense for 48 minutes takes a lot from the player and wears them out for the playoffs. I have no doubt that the Heat can be the best defensive team when they want to. They can turn on that switch whenever they want. They have proven that before. They are better offensively this year and that is all I care about….Because comes playoff time, I know the defense will be there. They don’t need to give me 100% defensively now. SAVE IT FOR WHEN IT COUNTS!

    • Dan says:

      totally agree…good says!

    • Mzz Lookng forward 2 a Heat3Peat says:

      I agree with you 100%. The Heat has the ability to turn on “the switch” when they need to, and it use to frustrate the heck out of me. It no longer bothers me because it works and that is why they are back 2 back champions. We all know offense sells tickets but defense wins games. They have a long season ahead of them and I don’t want them to burn out before the playoffs. They have been to the finals 3 years in a row and that is exhausting in itself. Who cares if they don’t win every game during the regular season….because having home court advantage is irrelevant this season since the format has changed…..besides they’ve proven they can win with/ without home court advantage just ask OKC. Let’s Go Heat!!!!

    • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

      Jalen Rose voice:


  5. clockwork says:

    Just need to improve their defense…

  6. Hunter says:

    To whomever may stop the Heat. GO MAVS!

  7. Kunjaymaster says:

    The problem is the style of defense that they play requires too much effort that’s the price they pay for playing Bosh as center, that’s why you only see them playing good defense on important games. No that i’m happy with it, but that’s how it is.

  8. Fonzi Ricki says:

    Everyone knows that James,Wade and the Heat are better with the ball moving.The only three who don’t are the big 3 of the Heat.That is why they often go to their bad habits of iso basketball.