Should the Miami Heat Look to the D-League to Fix its Point Guard Problem?


Larry Drew II is blooming in the NBA D-League, recently dishing out a record 23 assists for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. With the Miami Heat’s struggles at point guard, it may be time to give him a shot.

It’s hard to put a finger on what’s driving the Miami Heat struggle bus, but the play at point guard certainly hasn’t helped. Near the bottom of the league in points per game, the Heat aren’t getting enough from Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, who are a combined 22-of-73 (30.1 percent) from the field over the last five games.

According to, the Heat’s point guards rank worst in the NBA. That’s right, worse than the Lakers. Worse than the Rubio-less Timberwolves. Worse than whatever the Knicks are doing. Miami’s point guards are averaging 14 points (28th),  5.4 assists (29th), three turnovers (7th) and shooting 39.8 percent (24th) per game.

To make things worse, Shabazz Napier’s entered The Beasley Zone and will be re-joining the Heat’s D-League affiliate the Sioux Falls Skyforce for the second time this season.

While the Heat have figured out the rest of the rotation–finally ditching small ball and moving Chris Andersen to center and Chris Bosh to power forward–the team’s ceiling is limited if they can’t get better production at point guard.

The Heat have to work hard for every shot, and ranks dead last in pace in the NBA. More than a quarter of their shots come in the final seven seconds of the shot clock, a dangerously inefficient number.

Dec 29, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Norris Cole (L) reaches for a loose ball from Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (R) as Miami Heat forward Danny Granger (C) defends during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat are certainly an efficient shooting team, ranking near the top in the league in true shooting percentage and near the middle in points per 100 possessions, per, but that’s misleading.

True efficiency means a team can manufacture good shots earlier in the shot clock. If a team takes 20 seconds to find a good shot more often than not, than it’s not “efficient” meaning “achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.” Rather, it is painstakingly careful. A ploddingly slow pace renders efficient shooting useless, and that’s what the Heat have devolved into.

A dynamic point guard can help increase the pace without relinquishing efficiency. The Warriors, Trail Blazers, Clippers, Hawks, Wizards, Raptors and Suns all have stud point guards who play a prominent role in the offense and rank among the top half–if not the top 10–in the league in both offensive rating and pace.

The point guards aren’t entirely to blame for Miami’s problems, but they share the brunt of the guilt. Here’s a look at how the Heat rank at the other positions, per 4th SG…. 16th SF… 21st PF… but that’s skyrocketed to 6th in the NBA with Bosh moving to the 4… 19th C.

So what can the Heat do about it?

Well, Napier can get his act together and continue to develop. The Heat also have the $2.65 million disabled player exception available. They were eying Andray Blatche, but with Hassan Whiteside grabbing a spot in the rotation with those strong hands of his, and with Blatche not able to sign until March, the Heat may move on from that idea and go for a point guard. Or they could look to their D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

There, Larry Drew II recently dished out a record 23 assists in a game. He’s bloomed into a distributor and leader on the court. Chris Reichert of, has more on LD2.

"The guard has started — dating back to last season — to realize his potential as a distributor at the professional level and that came to a head on Christmas Day, when he broke the single game record for assists in the D-League with 23 in a win against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Drew has been on a tear over the team’s last six games, averaging 14.3 assists per contest and, is second in the D-League in assist/turnover ratio at 3.28.Sioux Falls is getting hot, and it certainly coincides with Drew’s ascension as one of the league’s top distributors. He is now second in the league at 11.1 assists per night. In 41 contests last season, Drew had six double doubles, but this season, has already logged seven in just 14 total games. Needless to say, Drew is quickly shedding his shoot-first reputation and proving that sometimes players take a little longer to figure it out. At only 24 years old, the young gun still has a shot at the NBA. He’s certainly doing all the right things at this point of the season."

Drew wouldn’t be as good as scorer as Chalmers, but Rio was doing a better job at that when he was coming off the bench and feasting on other backups. However, Cole has been so bad that Erik Spoelstra had no choice but to start Chalmers. If Drew could supplant Cole and move Chalmers back to his sixth man role the Heat would be better because of it. Drew, in this way, would be closer to what Napier was. If he can bring the passing and feel for the game that Napier had–without the alleged attitude issues and general rawness of a rookie–he could be, at least, a short-term fix. Plus he’s got an awesome nickname! LD2!

Few point guards could turn the Heat into a Hennesey Venon GT, but a top distributor can quicken the process of finding open shots. Taking a look at the league’s top ten point guards in terms of assists per game, all of them (other than John Wall and his deliberately slow Wizards) lead teams in the top ten of either points per 100 possessions or pace (including both of Rajon Rondo’s 2014 teams).

Of course, some of Miami’s sloth-like approach to basketball has to do with Spo’s offense. Dwyane Wade distributes a lot from the post and Chris Bosh from the elbow. Both are elongated processes. But, Jesus, are the Heat inefficient at passing. Despite making 314.6 passes per game (ninth in the NBA), the Heat record a league-low 19.5 assists per game. So, out of nearly 315 passes only 20 end up directly leading to a score. For comparison, the Thunder average nearly the same amount of assists but with nearly 27 fewer passes per game. Insert fart noise here.

But Drew makes his passes count. He times his passes well and puts them in places that make it easy for his teammates to catch and shoot. He’s got vision to find passing windows and make cross-court passes that neither Chalmers nor Cole are comfortable doing.

The Heat would have to cut someone to bring on LD2. Justin Hamilton or Andre Dawkins would get the boot. Neither would likely be picked up by other teams and could then sign with the Skyforce. Who knows if Drew can become the Heat’s new point guard, but after seeing what Hassan Whiteside has done since signing from the D-League, going back to the Skyforce for help might be in the cards.

Next: Watch Chris Bosh Make An Amazing Behind-the-Back Pass

More from All U Can Heat