Trade deadline fixes: Southeast
Not much to fix in Miami, but Hawks and Magic might make a nice match
Basketball Prospectus is taking a look at the NBA division by division and suggesting ways each team should tackle the upcoming trade deadline, starting Tuesday with a look at the Pacific Division. Wednesday dealt with the Southwest, Thursday was the Northwest, and today is the Southeast.
The NBA trade deadline drops at 3 p.m. ET March 15, and while all eyes remain on Orlando's Dwight Howard, every team in the league will be trying to improve its position. For some teams, it's the immediate future that is the biggest concern, and they will be looking to fill holes for a springtime playoff run. Others are looking more at the big picture, and they'll be looking for young talent, salary-cap flexibility and other franchise-building assets.
The primary statistic you'll encounter will be wins above replacement player. We're presenting WARP for each feature player in two flavors, separated by a slash. The first number measures a player's WARP value based on his productivity for this season to date, prorated to 82 games. The second projects his combined WARP value for the next two seasons. This will give you a quick glimpse of both short- and long-term value.
The problem: What issues can a team have when it's outscoring opponents by 11.2 points per 100 possessions? Not much, and that's why the Heat are the odds-on favorite to take home all the marbles this June. The changes Erik Spoelstra made to his team's style of play have paid off, as Miami has improved from third to first in offensive efficiency over last season while hanging tight to its fifth-place standing on the defensive end. Spoelstra has his charges playing more of a pressure-style defense, resulting in a jump from 25th to third in forced turnover percentage. That's fed directly into the Heat's success on the offensive end, because LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Co. are unstoppable in transition. You can't improve the offense from first, and as for the fifth-place defense, it's not far behind the efficiencies put up by Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas and Boston. In other words, there doesn't seem to be anything on the Heat worth "fixing."
But what about this: The Heat have allowed the highest rate of 3-point attempts in the league and rank 25th in opponent percentage from deep. This isn't unusual for teams that deploy a pressure defense; the Nuggets, Grizzlies and Mavericks are among the teams that force a lot of turnovers but also allow a lot of 3-point attempts. The percentage may be a fluke, as research has shown that teams don't have nearly as much of an ability to limit 3-point percentages as you might think. The real variance comes in the number of attempts allowed. The Heat need to do a better job of finding shooters and running them off the 3-point line.
The fix: Miami has a plethora of premier perimeter defenders on the roster -- James, Wade, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. It's not personnel or effort that's the issue; it is philosophy and design. However, the give-and-take doesn't have to be this extreme. The Knicks are second in forced turnover percentage and 19th in rate of 3-point attempts allowed; the Blazers are fourth and 18th. It's certainly not worth overhauling the roster, but it merits attention. The Heat have allowed nine or more 3s in 15 games this season, and five of their seven losses have come in those games. It could hurt them in the postseason. The only suggestion we can really make is that maybe Spoelstra goes small when other teams get hot from deep, keeping Battier on the floor. His always-strong defensive metrics are off the charts this season, and the Heat are 4.4 points per 100 possessions better on that end when he's in the game. Battier is playing about 22 minutes per night, which seems about right.
Perhaps certain matchups can dictate when Battier's minutes are boosted. That said, the Heat are 15-0 when Battier plays fewer than 22 minutes, so perhaps it's best to leave well enough alone.
Battier WARP: 1.7 (this season)/2.2 (next two seasons)
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