When the Cleveland Cavaliers brought LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving together to form an amazing Big 3 the comparisons to other iterations of Big 3’s was likely. The comparisons make sense and can help us learn about what we are about to experience in Cleveland. While this Big 3 is surrounded by more talent than either the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics it also is without a great deal of playoff experience.
When the Miami Heat came together in 2010 it surprised many when they struggled to a 9-8 record early in the season. They improved and ended up in the NBA Finals, falling short to the Dallas Mavericks. While most Cavs fans are hoping and planning for a NBA Title this season, a trip to the Finals is a reasonable expectation.
We decided to take a look at that Heat team from the ’10-11 season to see if anything stood out statistically that could help us understand how their Big 3 came together.
First we took a look at the difference between 20 game segments of the season. Since the Heat struggled early we expected to find something significant that could give us some answers. We hypothesized that there would be less assists and poor shooting numbers leading to the struggles.
However during the first 20 games of the season the Heat shot 47% from the floor compared to only 48% throughout the rest of the season. Their 20.2 assists per game was the second highest of the four 20 game splits, 21.1 was the highest.
The two biggest numbers that were of interest during the first 20 games were made field goals and free throw attempts. While the Heat shot 47% during this time they attempted between 1 and 2 less shots a game than the next 40. Yet they only made 35 shots a game compared to an average of over 37 in that time frame. Surprisingly they averaged almost a full 3 free throws more a game during the first 20 than the rest of the season.
Since nothing stood out in that comparison we took a look at the difference between the games the Heat won and those that they lost. As expected quite a few stats stuck out there.
Field Goal Shooting
In their wins the Heat made almost 6 more shots per game and shot over seven percent higher per game. Those are huge numbers and show that quality shots, and making them, helps win ball games. This is no surprise but an important aspect to remember.
While the Cavs are expected to run and be a faster pace than we are used to seeing, it is important that they make those shots quality. If a fast break, or secondary break, are not there the team needs to get quickly into running the David Blatt offense. Taking quality shots is a staple of what Blatt wants to do.
The above shooting numbers means that the scoring average would be much higher. In the case of the 2010-11 Miami Heat and their new Big 3 it was almost 14 points a game.
High scoring games put a ton of pressure on the opposition which an opportunistic defense used to average almost 1.5 more steals a game during their wins. They also had over 4 more rebounds a game in their wins. With the pressure to score opposing teams likely took worse shots as well.
Three Point Shooting
With the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade the Heat did not have a deadly 3 point shooter in their Big 3. With that knowledge it was still important for the Heat to create floor spacing with the shot.
However in their wins the Heat shot almost three and a half less three-point shots than in their losses. Though they shot far less 3 pointers they made them at an alarming 9.35% better in their wins. The Heat were judicial in their three-point shooting but made good use of that weapon.
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The Cavs with the deadly Kevin Love behind the arc will likely shoot more threes than the Heat did but they still need to do so with moderation. Three point shooting, while highly efficient, cannot be the foundation of the Cavs offense. Instead, taking a page out of the Heat’s playbook, the Cavs can use great 3 point shooting in a way to open up the rest of the offense.
Overall the Cavs Big 3 is significantly different from their Big 3 counterparts. Yet it is clear that there are things that they can learn from the past. Smart shot choice, including from the 3 point line, was a big key to the Heat’s successful season. While James, Love and Irving all can shoot above average, getting in position for the best shots will be huge.
That is where Blatt’s offense, and the players buying in, will be huge for this team. Blatt’s long history of explosive offenses sets him up to be highly successful in the league. With the Big 3, plus Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, etc, Blatt should be able to have a Top 5 offense. If things go perfectly the Cavs could set some league records.
They have the skill to replicate what led to winning in ’10-11 for the Heat but do the Cavs have what it takes to out do them in the Finals? That is yet to be seen.
How do you compare these two Big 3 versions?