Miami Heat: No Dwyane Wade, No Problem

Mar 17, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (tight) talks with Heat center Hassan Whiteside (left) during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (tight) talks with Heat center Hassan Whiteside (left) during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Heat may have lost the face of their franchise in free agency, but it won’t reflect in their win total in 2016-17.

The Miami Heat‘s offseason has received negative reviews almost all across the board.

It’s not hard to wonder why. The Heat lost Dwyane Wade, their franchise leader in games played, points, assists, steals, in a messy breakup that ended with Wade signing with the Chicago Bulls.

Chris Bosh‘s basketball future is still unknown due to health issues. Bosh claims he is healthy enough to play but isn’t being medically cleared by Heat doctors, creating a divide between the franchise player and the organization.

The biggest move that the Heat made was retaining center Hassan Whiteside, giving him the biggest raise in league history.

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Other notable moves were matching a four-year, $50 million offer sheet for Tyler Johnson and signing Dion Waiters.

It’s difficult to look at these transactions and feel confident that things are heading in the right direction for Pat Riley and Co., but that’s exactly what is happening in South Beach.

The reason for optimism should come from an emphasis on a core that is a bit younger. There should also be a bit of buzz that the team actually might be better off without Wade.

As insane as it may sound, that was the case in 2015-16. (All lineup stats via

On/off stats are usually great, but they can be a bit misleading under certain circumstances. For instance, it’s not out of the ordinary for them to be skewed due to who the player in question is playing with or against.

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Wade started 73 games last year and played many minutes against other starting units. If the Heat played the Warriors, Wade would be going against

Stephen Curry


Klay Thompson

, not

Leandro Barbosa


Shaun Livingston


The point is that it’s not fair to say that a team is better off without a player because he didn’t play well against some of the league’s best players and lineups while the bench succeeded against others.

For a more accurate representation, we’d have to check out the other starters fared with and without Wade.

For clarity, I’m counting Wade, Dragic, and Whiteside as the Heat’s core. Bosh is their best player but missing a significant chunk of the season while players like Dragic, Wade, and Whiteside missed a few games here and there would end up giving us a smaller sample size than we’d like.

Still, the numbers don’t hint that the Heat will be hurting without Wade.

With Dragic and Whiteside on the floor and Wade on the bench, the Heat outscored opponents by 9.2 points per 100 possessions. Only the 73-win Warriors and 67-win Spurs outscored opponents by more per 100 possessions than lineups involving Dragic and Whiteside without Wade.

On the other hand, inserting Wade for Dragic while playing with Whiteside proved to be a negative move for the Heat. With lineups involving Wade and Whiteside without Dragic, the Heat were outscored by 3 points per 100 possessions.

A minus-3 net rating would be sandwiched between the net ratings of the 33-win Kings and 32-win Knicks.

Substituting Wade in for Dragic next to Whiteside accounts for a minus-12.2 point swing per 100 possessions.

The difference in net rating is similar to the difference between the Warriors and the Magic, or the difference between the last year’s Heat team and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Some of the large difference can be chalked up to spacing. Wade isn’t a long-range shooting threat and he doesn’t pretend to be by firing up ill-advised three-pointers like he’s Josh Smith.

In fact, before a playoff flurry in which he hit 12 threes in 14 games, Wade hadn’t made a three-pointer since Dec. 16, 2015.

Spacing has been beaten into nearly a cliche by now, but the impact is overwhelmingly real. NBA defenses are smarter than ever and they will ignore you and pack the paint if you can’t shoot. Look at how teams treat Tony Allen or Rajon Rondo and how it disrupts their team’s offense.

Wade is an exceptional cutter, which helps neutralize that teams can largely sag off of him when he is drifting around the three-point line. But there’s still no substitute for a shooting threat and spreading the floor.

With Wade and Whiteside on the floor together, you’ve got two players who need to be surrounded by shooting threats.

Dragic is a bit of an inconsistent shooter, but he’s more of a threat than Wade. Although Dragic shot only 31.7 percent from deep since joining the Heat, he’s shot well throughout his career (36.1 percent with Phoenix, 37.5 percent with Houston).

One problem since Dragic’s arrival at the 2015 trade deadline has been that Dragic and Wade are somewhat repetitive.

Both are better with the ball in their hands and not huge threats when playing off the ball, which one of them would always have to be. Neither are great shooters.

Both rely heavily on driving to the basket, evidenced by both being in the top 23 of the league in driver per game in 2013-14, the last full season before Dragic and Wade became teammates.

Dragic is a wiz in the pick-and-roll game, something that is aided by spacing. When Dragic runs the pick-and-roll with either Bosh or Whiteside while Wade is on the floor, the spacing makes it hard for lanes to open for drives or passes.

The Wade-Dragic pairing was never going to allow either to be at their best.

Dragic struggled with how to play next to Wade. Dragic posted a usage rate of 27.2 percent when he wasn’t playing with Wade. That usage rate dropped down to 20.0 percent when Dragic shared the floor with Wade, while Wade tallied a 30.3 usage rate.

Dragic will receive a larger chunk of the offense and he’s well-equipped to make up for much of Wade’s productivity.

Dragic might replace Wade’s role as the team’s biggest scoring threat among their guards and wings, but he’s not the replacement.

Josh Richardson will likely get the become the starting shooting guard for the Heat. Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, and Justise Winslow will also soak up some of the minutes available without Wade.

Richardson, taken with the 40th pick in last year’s draft, looked like one of the biggest steals of the draft as a “3-and-D” wing. Just take a look at his numbers compared to Justise Winslow’s, who was taken 30 picks ahead of Richardson.

Richardson’s skill set makes Wade bolting for Chicago an easier pill to swallow.

There are questions about Richardson. Was his play last year a mirage? Could a player who shot 31.8 percent on three-pointers in college suddenly become a long-range sniper so quickly?

Only time will tell, but nothing about Richardson in 2015-16 looked like a fluke. The more minutes Richardson received, the better he played.

When Richardson earned a larger role with the team in March (averaging 29.1 minutes per game), he averaged 12 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game, per

He also shot a scorching 58.9 percent on three-pointers, the second-highest percentage in NBA history for a player in one month with at least 50 attempts. In that month, Richardson was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month.

While those shooting numbers aren’t realistically sustainable, they’re a great sign that his shooting is not a complete fluke. Richardson may not shoot 46.1 percent from deep again, but if he can hover around 40 percent, the Heat offense will not skip a beat.

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With Dragic and Richardson sharing the floor without Wade, the Heat outscored opponents by 9.1 points per 100 possessions.

Richardson (46.1 three-point percentage in 2015-16) and Johnson (38 percent) will help space the floor, a way of making up for the talent difference from Wade to the combination of young guards.

With Wade, the core of the Heat were talented but their skills didn’t mesh particularly well.

With shooters and defenders taking Wade’s minutes up, the offense should coalesce much better.

It’s tough to say that losing a talent and leader like Wade is a good thing, but the numbers overwhelmingly say that could be the case.

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If you’re thinking the Heat will meander around .500 this season, you might be in for a surprise, especially if Bosh can get back on the court.