It’s early in the season, of course, but it’s never too early for an exercise in Small Sample Size Theatre.
One of the elements I’ve found most interesting to start the year is how the Miami Heat have seamlessly integrated their new players into the fold. After The Big Three took a year to mesh, and then Mike Miller never found his niche, it’s been interesting to see Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen slide into their roles without issue.
Lewis has repaired some of the reputational damage done by a season and a half of lazy, uninspired basketball in Washington, and despite minutes and shot totals that are likely an adjustment for him, he has settled in as an efficient bench player. He’s shooting 50% from the field and from long range, and he’s helping out with assists and rebounds at a greater clip than he had in the past few seasons with the Magic and Wizards.
More interesting to me, however, has been the emergence of Allen as the premier sixth man of the year candidate in the very early going. Allen’s minutes are down from his time in Boston, but his scoring, rebounding, and assists are all trending upwards in rate and counting terms. His 15.5-3.5-3.8 Points-Rebounds-Assists line would be the first time he averaged 15-3.5-3.5 since his final season in Seattle. Again, this is four games, but that’s impressive given the drop in minutes from the 35-range down to 28.5 a night.
Beyond the jump in assist and rebound rates, Allen has been scoring at a more efficient clip, too. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, since his teammates on the Heat command a bit more respect than his teammates from Boston, making him less of a defensive focus. His 80.1% True Shooting Percentage is insane if projected over a full season, he’s connecting on 60% of his threes, and, as mentioned, chipping in in other ways to boot.
But it’s not just the Heat helping Allen. Miami scores a ridiculous 144 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor (overall the team is at 117.4) while hardly losing anything defensively.
Has this just been a hot streak to start the year? Almost certainly. But Allen’s deployment in the Heat offense is slightly different than his time with the Celtics. The table below shows his shooting marks from different areas on the floor, as well as what rate of those shots had assists. Not surprisingly, 100% of Allen’s three-point shots have been assisted on, and 20 of his 33 attempts have come from long range.
The trend towards a higher ratio of his attempts coming from long range is a continuation of what we’ve seen from Allen in the later years of his career. The NBA’s all-time leading three point shooter has taken a greater chunk of his shots from threes as his career has progressed.
Again, it’s certainly not a surprise to see Allen performing more efficiently in a more complementary role. However, the success so far has been striking, with Allen merging seamlessly into the fold of the Heat offense. The rates won’t sustain, but the impact very well might. The Heat are good for Allen, and Allen is good for the Heat.