Wayne Ellington: The secret sauce to Miami's offense

An eclectic man of seven teams, Wayne Ellington has been the secret sauce to Miami’s offense in 2017-18.

Miami’s secret weapon is an NBA journeyman with a golden arm.

An eclectic man of seven teams, Wayne Ellington has been the secret sauce to Miami’s offense in 2017-18. Bending around screens like a fast car does sharp corners, Ellington 3-point antics have allowed him to make the second-most 3s in December, right behind Kyrie Irving’s 53. When you shoot 43-percent on 3s that double as athletic feats, it’s not shocking, even when you do it in 100 less minutes than the leader.

Miami’s offense doesn’t generate a lot of easy points, hence their seven fast break points per game, so Ellington’s invincible whack-a-mole routine is all the more valuable. When he’s on the floor, Miami scores nearly 107 points per 100 possessions — good for top 10 league-wide; without him, they plummet to a brutal 99.7 points per 100 possessions — good for the worst mark in the league.

As Ellington's output has increased — his 3-point attempts and accuracy have increased every month since seasons start — he’s seen more attention from others teams. He’s shooting and they know it. A quick visit to Ellington’s stat sheet proves that. At a near 90-10 share, he's doing the largest share of work at or beyond the 3-point line in the league. His predictability and dependency on screens make his accuracy even more impressive. Sometimes opponents will have the screener’s defender jump out at Ellington to help contest his jumper. That doesn’t seem to bother him.

The average 3-point conversion rate in the NBA is 36-percent. Ellington has knocked down 41-percent of his 66 “tight” 3-point attempts — shots from deep where the defender is within 2-4 feet from the shooter. Even crazier — despite the ridiculously small sample size — is that Ellington has hit 6-of-8 of his “very tight” 3s, attempts denoting the defender is inside the shooters jersey and wearing his shoes (0-2 feet). When you try as hard as Ellington does to get open, that thing is going up whether someone is there or not. Plus, the torque, speed, and power with which Ellington rises and fires can render even the hastiest contesters belated.

Ellington has flashed some ability to look for teammates when the closeouts are too hot, too. Though he doesn’t do it frequently, this could unlock his game as a uniquely equipped shooter and distributor — someone who can draw double teams 30 feet from the hoop and dump it to an open man for an easy bucket.

As lethal as he’s been, it wouldn’t be shocking if Ellington’s output continues to soar; three games into January and he’s putting up almost 11 threes per game — outpaced by only two people, and one of them is Stephen Curry.

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