Erik Spoelstra explains why he remains optimistic Heat offense will get better this season

Al Diaz/

The Miami Heat’s offense is statistically one of the worst in the NBA. There’s no denying that.

The Heat entered Sunday afternoon’s matchup against the Hornets in Charlotte with the 27th-ranked offensive rating (scoring 110.8 points per 100 possessions) in the NBA this season. The only three teams below Miami in those rankings are three of the worst teams in the NBA — the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Hornets.

But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t believe that factoid tells the whole story because he feels the team’s offensive process has been better recently, even as it also entered Sunday with the league’s fourth-worst offensive rating (scoring 111 points per 100 possessions) since the start of January.

“I feel like our offense has been trending in the right direction, and the numbers substantiate that as well the last month-plus, six weeks,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said last week to the Miami Herald. “We’ve been in a much better rhythm, guys understanding their roles while we’re dealing with moving parts.

“It will get better. But we can’t lose sight of how we can win games regardless with the different lineups and all that. We can defend and win anywhere, any place, any time. Then as we commit to that, everybody feels like things are getting a lot better on that side of the floor. So it’s deceptive, the overall ranking compared to what we’ve been doing recently.”

One of the reasons Spoelstra believes that the Heat’s position in the offensive rankings is misleading is because the unit is consistently generating quality shots that just aren’t going in.

The Heat has attempted the fourth-most open shots (defined as those taken when the closest defender is four to six feet away) in the league at 28 per game, according to NBA tracking stats. The issue is Miami is shooting just 34.5 percent on open and wide open three-pointers (defined as those when the closest defender is more than four feet away) this season compared to 39 percent on those type of three-point opportunities last season.

That has the Heat entering Sunday with the league’s fourth-worst team three-point percentage (33.5 percent) this season after closing last regular season as the NBA’s top three-point shooting team at 37.9 percent.

“We’re generating open looks,” Spoelstra said. “That part has been very encouraging. It’s hard to generate open looks in this league consistently.”

But the bottom line is the Heat isn’t converting on enough of those open opportunities and history says that will need to change in order to have playoff success.

Only two NBA teams since the start of the 2010-11 season have qualified for the playoffs after closing with one of the league’s five worst offensive ratings in that respective regular season — the Atlanta Hawks in 2016-17 and the Chicago Bulls in 2013-14. Both teams lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Also, the last time Miami finished a regular season with a bottom-five offensive rating was in 2007-08 when it ended with a poor 15-67 record.

At least one player on the roster, though, believes the Heat can buck that trend this season.

“I couldn’t care less about offense, honestly,” Heat star Jimmy Butler said, as Miami entered Sunday with the league’s fourth-best defensive rating. “Offense or not, we got to lock in on the defensive end and take care of business on that side of the ball.”


The Heat continues to be among the NBA’s best at forcing turnovers, which is helping to inject life into its struggling offense.

Miami entered Sunday with the NBA’s second-highest opponent turnover rate (percentage of opponent possessions that end in a turnover) at 17 percent this season. As a result, the Heat has scored an average of 18.9 points per game off turnovers this season, which is the sixth-most in the league.

“We’re at our best without a doubt when we’re making plays, scrambling around, making multiple efforts, speeding teams up and at times putting two on the ball and then rotating in passing lanes and then getting deflections,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a little bit different than some other Miami Heat teams that we’ve had.”

The NBA announced Saturday the Heat has been fined $25,000 “for failing to comply with league policies governing injury reporting.”

Butler was not on the Heat’s injury report before the team announced he would miss Tuesday’s matchup against the Celtics about an hour before tipoff because of lower back tightness.

This marks the second time this season that the Heat has been fined for violating the league’s injury reporting rules.

The only Heat players ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Hornets are Jamal Cain (G League), Nikola Jovic (lower back stress reaction), Duncan Robinson (finger surgery) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle surgery).

All four players did not travel with the Heat to Charlotte for the start of the four-game trip.