The Miami Heat currently have the worst offense in the Eastern Conference, scoring the fewest points per game. They must make a change soon.
One strategy it seems they are leaning towards is the dribble handoff, which occurs when a player with the ball dribbles towards a teammate who is running towards him. The ball handler passes to the player without the ball, who takes the shot.
This is something head coach Erik Spoelstra has called for years, dating back to when Chris Bosh would set a screen and LeBron James would find Dwyane Wade for the field goal attempt.
Miami called dribble handoffs on 5.7 percent of all possessions last season. While that’s not terribly often, this was the seventh-most of all teams in the league. The backcourt tandem of Wayne Ellington and Goran Dragic both impressed as scorers off the handoff when given chances.
Building off that success, only one team in the league uses the dribble handoff more often than the Heat (9.8 percent frequency) so far this season.
The addition of Kelly Olynyk has helped implement the offense as he played for the Celtics, who called the most overall handoffs last year. Boston called the most handoffs in the Eastern Conference the season prior as well.
Despite increased volume for Miami, they have remained efficient thanks to incredible improvement by Josh Richardson (1.18 points per possession), who has also been used to set screens occasionally as well.
Ellington (1.14 PPP) has also remained a viable threat to score on similar opportunities. Watch how smooth he looks on the three-point attempt after the pass from James Johnson.
He is another reason why the team can continue to thrive on these plays, writes Zach Lowe (via ESPN):
“Johnson might be the league’s most unpredictable handoff quarterback … You get the sense that Johnson delights in improvising — in exploring possibilities as he discovers them. A scripted set is boring. That mindset got him in trouble in his pre-Miami stops; he tried insane, no-chance-in-hell jump passes, and turned the ball over too much.”
Dion Waiters (0.95 PPP) and Tyler Johnson (0.89 PPP), meanwhile, have also had above-average success on handoffs for Miami. Both can be used as decoys or as legitimate shooters after handoffs in case defenders are locked in on Ellington or Richardson.
This has become a central focus of their identity and a major offensive game plan for Miami.