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Why Toney Douglas Will Be More Important to Miami Heat Than Anyone Thinks

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Why Toney Douglas Will Be More Important to Miami Heat Than Anyone Thinks
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Toney Douglas isn't a superstar by any stretch, but the Miami Heat knew that when they acquired him from the Golden State Warriors in a three-team deal on Jan. 15.

What the Heat also knew, though, was that they could provide Douglas with the perfect environment to thrive.

As it turns out, Miami has been a pretty good place for many veterans to succeed. That's largely because there's already a clear system in place on both ends of the floor, one in which everyone's roles are clearly defined. There's no question about the team's talent hierarchy, which mean's there's little temptation or opportunity for one-dimensional players to overreach.

Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Chris Anderson have all extended their careers with the Heat, maximizing their somewhat limited talents for a team that only needs niche contributions from its non-stars.

In that sense, Douglas isn't so different from many of the vets the Heat already have. But his particular set of skills (Liam Neeson voice) fit especially well in Miami. After leaving a situation in Golden State that set him up to fail, Douglas has to be ecstatic about changing coasts.

And the Heat seem to know exactly what they've got.

Per Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, team president Pat Riley said: "Toney Douglas, we knew him from Florida State. We scouted him heavily, worked him out and probably that year we thought about maybe picking him. … This could be a good opportunity for him."

 

What Went Wrong?

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To understand why Douglas can be such a useful piece for the Heat, it'll help to first touch on why he underwhelmed as a Warrior.

For starters, a stress fracture cost him 14 games in Golden State, a setback that certainly didn't help him develop chemistry with his new teammates. More than that, though, Douglas was cast in a role for which he simply wasn't suited.

He's not a ball-handler. Technically, he's a point guard, but only because he's too small to play any other position. At heart, Douglas is really just a spot-up shooter. Asking him to do anything more than that on offense is inviting disaster.

Per Synergy Sports (subscription required), he averaged .35 points per play as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, a comically low figure that almost any capable point guard could easily double in his sleep. Conversely, Douglas averaged 1.32 points per play as a spot-up shooter. For reference, former teammate Klay Thompson—as deadly a standstill sniper as there is in the league—averaged 1.13 points per spot up play.

Obviously, Douglas' limited playing time compromises the value of his numbers this season. Small-sample-size caveats are very much in play here.

But it's easy to tell what Douglas is (and isn't) as a player from simply watching him. An example from his brief tenure with the Dubs is illustrative of that point.

Here, Douglas is popping up from the corner to receive a pass from Andre Iguodala. Meanwhile, Marreese Speights will work his way over to the wing for a pick-and-roll with Douglas.

NBA.com

Instead of waiting for Speights to set himself, Douglas takes a couple of hard dribbles to his right, negating the value of the pick. Still, Speights manages to pop open toward the top of the arc.

NBA.com

Unfortunately, because Douglas has taken the ball to the exact spot the Philadelphia 76ers defense wanted him to, he's got no angle to attack and Darius Morris is ready to snatch the predictable pass back to Speights.

NBA.com

That's an easy steal, one that directly results from Douglas being asked to serve as an offensive decision-maker.

Granted, that's just one example. But Douglas routinely struggled to handle the rock in his time with the Warriors. He had a curious penchant for traveling, often threw the ball away on simple post-entry passes and often cost the team layups with his open-court gaffes in transition.

The Warriors forced Douglas into an ill-fitting role because head coach Mark Jackson was reluctant to use Iguodala as a primary ball-handler in the second unit. That meant Douglas had to fulfill those duties, a task made even more difficult by Jackson's strange insistence on using a full five-man complement of substitutes—one that lacked any shot-creators.

Ethan Strauss of TrueHoop asked the questions that were puzzling every Warriors fan:

What were the Warriors doing? Why did they use this lineup so often when there was no conceivable way it could succeed? Why did Douglas end up sharing more than twice as much floor time with Bazemore as he did with Iguodala?

Now that Douglas is gone, Dubs supporters may never get an answer.

 

What Will Go Right

At the risk of making a gross understatement, Miami operates a little differently from Golden State.

With the Heat, Douglas will almost never have to run the offense. They've already got LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to do that.

Plus, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are both capable ball-handlers, which means Douglas may never have to do anything but spot up on the perimeter. Expect him to shoot the ball much better with Miami. After hitting just 32 percent of his triples with the Dubs, he could see enough open looks in his new destination to get his long-distance accuracy rate up near 40 percent.

In limited time with the Sacramento Kings last year, he nailed 39 percent of his shots, so we know he's got the stroke to be a factor when he's open.

And as we learned from his days with the New York Knicks, that's when he's at his absolute best.

No matter which personnel group Douglas joins on the court in Miami, he won't be asked to run the show. Instead, he'll be an offensive threat from the perimeter that can help stretch the floor.

On the other end, Douglas will have a field day harassing opposing point guards. All this talk of shooting might have clouded the issue, but it's important to remember that Douglas' best attribute is probably his on-ball defense.

He's a terror in press situations and will fit perfectly into Miami's trapping half-court style. If he has a flaw as a one-on-one defender, it's that he's sometimes too aggressive in his efforts to create turnovers. In the Heat's scheme, it's almost impossible to be too aggressive. All they want is to create chaos that leads to transition chances.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

He'll fit right in.

Actual basketball excluded, Douglas has additional worth to the Heat. If they want to cut him loose to free up a roster spot, that's an option. Now that his $1.6 million salary has replaced Joel Anthony's $3.8 million on the roster, it'll be easier for the Heat to stomach a potential waiver to sign someone (Andrew Bynum, perhaps?) to a 10-day deal.

Admittedly, that's a backhanded way to say Douglas is valuable to the Heat. But it's true.

Ultimately, nobody's expecting anything from Douglas. That's easy to understand, especially considering he's now playing for his fifth team in five years. But the conditions are right for Douglas to excel, and he might be desperate to prove he's still got something to give an NBA team.

Put those two things together and you've got a motivated individual in an optimal position to succeed. What happens next is up to Douglas, but don't be surprised if he gives Miami a real boost.

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