Miami Heat: Analyzing Okaro White’s Role, Progress

Okaro White has was originally signed to fill a roster spot, but he has evolved into a key role player for the Miami Heat.

For the past couple of years, the Miami Heat have placed great emphasis upon finding hidden talent in the NBA D-League.

Players such as Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson and Willie Reed developed in the D-League, then taken by the Miami Heat. who turned them into effective NBA role players.

One of their most recent pickups came in the form of former Florida State forward Okaro White, who arrived in Miami after spells in Greece, Italy and Sioux Falls.

White was originally only to a pair of 10-day contracts, but he has quickly become an important part of the Heat rotation as he gives them both size, and floor spacing.

While his sample size thus far is very limited, White has been impressive, shooting 46 percent from the field and 47 percent from downtown.

He isn’t a player who comes across as an awkward ball stopper and he has been able to make the extra pass on many occasions, which is vital in Erik Spoelstra’s swing offence.

While White probably won’t become a star, it is fair to say that he could become an important role player in the Heat’s next playoff juggernaut. His versatility and his driven mentality is something that is clearly impressing Spoelstra.

The Heat head coach told reporters that White is a shining example for young players, because he got his head down and didn’t let the fact he was in the D-League cloud his mental attributes.

While the sample size is very small, the early on-off statistics show White’s impact in a good light. The Heat are nine points better offensively when he is on the court and three points better defensively.

His ability to stretch defendes, along with his size, mean that the Heat can essentially play four-out lineups without sacrificing size on the boards. The Heat’s offensive rebounding percentage is also higher when he is on the court, which further emphasizes his importance on the bench unit.

If one digs deeper into individual defensive stats, then they learn that White’s defensive numbers aren’t necessarily just skewed by a small sample size. He is allowing his opponent to shoot 41 percent on seven attempts per game and this number is the best of all the Miami Heat big men.

While he isn’t necessarily defending the best player on the opposition team, he is providing adequate cover, which is all that is needed from a role player.

Thus far, White has mainly been deployed as a spot-up shooter, as the Heat already have enough ball handlers such as Dion Waiters and the revitalized James Johnson. White isn’t a guy who is going to take many shots during a game, but he has proven so far that he shoots with efficiency.

He ranks in the 91st percentile on spot-up shooting, which is the highest any Miami Heat player ranks.

The player that White has technically replaced is Josh McRoberts and to say he has outperformed the former Charlotte Hornet would be the understatement of the year.

McRoberts, for example, ranks in the 12th percentile as a spot-up shooter and he allowed his opponent to shoot 54 percent from the field, which is the worst mark on the Heat roster.

The Heat’s commitment to the D-League is reaping its rewards, and it is remarkable that many other teams have still not caught up to the Heat. The Heat are not finding stars in the D-League, but they are acquiring players who help to get the best out of the good players they already have.

White’s ability to stand in the corner and his quick shooting stroke creates a dilemma for opposing defenses.

In the bench unit White has mostly played with which includes Dragic, Wayne Ellington, Willie Reed and James Johnson, the Heat outshoot their opponents by 11 percent from the field.

While the sample size isn’t huge, it is still clear that White is thriving in lineups with two ball handlers.

The Heat haven’t been able to experiment with five-out lineups due to the absence of Chris Bosh, but the emergence of White may give them a chance to do this.

White is a player who improves the play of Dragic, who often gets a lot of minutes with the young bench unit. It is for this reason, that the increase in his role with the absence of Reed, will not be a negative for the Heat.

Against the Dallas Mavericks, Spoelstra opted against reintroducing Udonis Haslem to the rotation and played White as a small ball center. White didn’t play a single minute as the power forward in the game and the results were relatively good.

White showed the size and defensive ability to be able to defend the paint, and also to match up against opposing bigs. The Heat’s stifling double-team defense is also something that can protect an undersized center, as one can see when Reed is on the court.

A five-out system is effective with the current Heat roster because they have players with speed who are capable of blitzing past a defender and getting into the paint, with four men on the perimeter in this situation, high quality open looks will naturally be created.

Teams will attempt to stay compact to limit the driving room of the Heat’s ball handlers, but this gives the perimeter players enough room to shoot.

While the stretch-4 position isn’t exactly a revolutionary concept, it is still impressive that the Heat have found an effective two-way stretch-4 that no one else bothered to look at. White has the potential to become one of the biggest bargain role players in basketball.

While this new-look second unit could struggle on the boards, there is enough defensive presence for this team to not give up easy shots inside. White is a big reason for this and his emergence gives Pat Riley and Spoelstra a long-term franchise role player.

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