MIAMI — Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was onto something when he called the Heat “one of the best ball movement drive and kicking teams that I’ve seen in 33 years in this league” earlier this week.
The Heat’s starting backcourt of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters is statistically the NBA’s most aggressive combo, in terms of drives to the basket.
Among players who have played in at least 20 games this season, Dragic ranks second in the NBA with 12.5 drives per game and Waiters ranks sixth with 11 drives per game entering Saturday’s matchup with the Cavaliers. The only other teammates both in the top 10 in this category are Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan (ranked ninth) and Kyle Lowry (ranked 10th).
Although Dragic (shooting 52.1 percent on drives) and Waiters (42.9 percent) aren’t the most efficient finishers on drives, they do pass the ball more than most when getting into the paint.
Among guards who have played at least 20 games and are averaging at least 10 drives per game this season, Dragic is passing the ball on an NBA-high 46.9 percent of his drives and Waiters ranks third with 38.8 percent of his drives resulting in passes. Lowry is second, passing the ball 39.3 percent of the time.
“I haven’t,” Heat guard Wayne Ellington said when asked if he’s been on a better drive-and-kick team. “Those are some of the weapons that we have. Being able to get in that paint, Goran and Dion lead us in that. Those guys get in the paint and people have to help, it opens everything else up.”
To have two guards on the same team who are that aggressive in getting to the basket is unique. Lowry and DeRozan were the only combo that each finished in the top 10 in drives per game last season (among players who played in at least 40 games), and no teammates accomplished the feat during the 2014-15 season.