It's clear Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is excited about the addition of Kyle Lowry.
During Media Day, Spoelstra spoke about the many parts of Lowry's game that contribute to winning - the control with which he plays, his versatility on offence, his disruptiveness on defence - but there was one part in particular that he went into detail about.
"I love that aspect of his game," Spoelstra responded when asked about Lowry's ability to get out in the open court. "And again, when you look at his impact, there are so many different categories where he impacts winning, and that's one of them - you know, getting easy baskets and generating a pace where guys will run and know that they will get the ball.
"It's not necessarily that bottom line number of your fastbreak points or your pace, but when those happen and if you can get some key easy ones during key moments of the game, that can be the difference of winning and losing, and that can take your offence from one level to an entirely different tier. But his pace is one of the things that I dreaded the most competing against him because it was those unpredictable, unscripted moments that you can't really scheme against, and his level of IQ and skill level in those moments is as good as anyone in the league.
"I think that will help our group, particularly if we can defend the way we want to but also to generate some easy buckets going the other way."
Spoelstra said it's not necessarily about the "bottom line number," but let's talk about those a little.
In the 13 seasons Spoelstra has been head coach of the Heat, the highest Miami has ranked in pace is 16th in the league. Lately, they've played at one of the slowest paces in the league, ranking 27th in 2019-20 and 29th in 2020-21. The Raptors didn't play at a particularly high pace when Lowry first joined the team, but they finished around league average in each of the last four seasons, peaking in the 2019-20 season when they played at the 12th fastest pace.
While Lowry wasn't the only player on the Raptors who pushed the pace, he was the one who kicked everything into gear. In 2017-18, only 17 players scored more points in transition than him on the season. That number grew to 38 in 2018-19 but fell all the way to seven in 2019-20. This past season, Lowry still finished in the top 50 in transition scoring despite appearing in only 46 games, the second-lowest total of his career.
To put it simply: Miami has a history of playing slow but added a lead guard this offseason who thrives in the open court.
It starts with Lowry being a dynamic shooter off the dribble. His PUJIT (pull-up jumper in transition) has long been one of his signature moves.
He's listed at 6-feet and isn't an explosive athlete, but Lowry has developed into a crafty finisher around the basket.
He's an elite rebounder for his position, making him a grab-and-go threat.
Having played alongside other ball handlers in his career such as DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, Lowry knows how to operate without the ball in his hands. That bodes well for his fit next to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
Of course, Lowry is also a great playmaker for others, the type who rewards his teammates for running the floor with him.
There's no publically available stat for how many assists a player generates in transition, but 1) it's safe to assume that Lowry would be near the top of the league and 2) Lowry's impact shows when comparing how many fastbreak points the Raptors averaged per 100 possessions with him on the court to how they fared without him.
As you can see in the table below, the gap was pretty large in four of the last five seasons.
|Season||Kyle Lowry on court||Kyle Lowry off court|
Lowry's pace-pushing ways alone might not be enough to turn the Heat from a below-average offence into an elite one, but it will make for, as Spoelstra put it, unpredictable and unscripted moments that are hard to gameplan against. Add that to everything else he brings to the table, and it's easy to imagine the Heat getting back to their title-contending ways this season.
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