Erik Spoelstra looking to get Dion Waiters into his ‘strength zones’ on offense

Miami Heat's Dion Waiters dribbles next to Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Miami Heat’s Dion Waiters dribbles next to Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Dion Waiters isn’t known as an efficient basketball player.

And Waiters, who is a 40.8 percent career shooter, hasn’t done much to change that reputation with the Heat. The 25-year-old is shooting 37.2 percent in his first season with Miami.

Most of Waiters’ shooting struggles have come around the rim this season, as he’s made 37.9 percent of his shots on drives. He’s actually made the lowest percentage of his shots on drives among guards who have played in at least 20 games and are averaging at least eight drives per game this season.

Waiters’ drives to the basket result in points 50.2 percent of the time — the second-worst percentage among guards who have played in at least 20 games and are averaging at least eight drives per game. Only Goran Dragic is worse with his drives resulting in points 46.9 percent of the time.

But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wants Waiters to keep that aggressive mindset because his ability to get into the paint is helping free up Hassan Whiteside when his defender has to help on the drive. 26 of Waiters’ 74 assists have come on passes to Whiteside — the most assists Waiters has to any teammate — and Whiteside is shooting 66.7 percent on assists from Waiters.

“I tell Dion all the time, ain’t nobody can stay in front of him in the league,” Whiteside said. “He can get in the paint when he wants to. When he gets in the paint, even if he doesn’t score, he creates so much. He creates so much, you don’t really need a pick-and-roll. He creates so much offense and triggers for us. And I’m always in his ear, ‘Get in the paint. Don’t let anybody off.'”

Waiters’ ability to create off the dribble, whether he finishes or not, is probably his most effective offensive tool.

As a perimeter shooter, Waiters is shooting 31.3 percent (52-of-166) on jump shots and 24.4 percent (19-of-78) on pull-up shots. He’s been most efficient on the perimeter on catch-and-shoot opportunities, making those shots at a 41.5 percent (27-of-65) rate.

“I want to get him in his strength zones,” Spoelstra said after Waiters’ 4-of-17 shooting performance against Golden State on Tuesday. “He was very good obviously creating off the dribble, getting into the paint, making plays either for himself at the rim or you could see the variety of passes he can make once he gets into the paint. We don’t want him to settle. We want him to keep on working to get into his strength zone. Five guys working to help other guys get into their strength zones, but not to settle on some of those shots. He’ll get it and he’ll understand it.”

And Waiters knows what his strength zone is.

“That’s when I’m my best, when I’m aggressive,” Waiters said, “when I’m attacking and just making plays for myself and others”

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