The threes are what got Gabe Vincent to the NBA. The twos are what stand to make him a far more dynamic presence for the Miami Heat.
While Vincent has struggled with his trademark 3-point shooting amid his push through knee pain, he went into Wednesday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans a career-best .558 on two-point shots this season, having not previously shot above 50 percent on such attempts.
Basically, he has kept his offensive game afloat by turning to a floater.
It is those running shots, the ones that come just beyond the reach of opposing shot blockers, that coach Erik Spoelstra said have taken Vincent’s game to the next level.
“You have to have a little bit of a feel and a touch for those shots,” Spoelstra said. “He works on ‘em all the time. But there’s a lot of guys that work on them, as well, and they still don’t have the necessary feel and spatial awareness of where the shot-blocker may be and the timing to be able to get off those shots.
“But if you watch him after practice, he’s constantly working on different kinds of finishes off either foot, with either hand, and from different ranges inside that circle.”
To Vincent, it is about an awareness of his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame and other physical limitations.
“Unfortunately,” he said with a smile. “I am not as athletically gifted as a Ja Morant. So I’ve got to find another way to score when I’m down there with a big fella.”
So, no, no over-the-top dunks like the Memphis Grizzlies’ Morant. Instead, a goal of never getting close enough to be looking that big fella directly in the eyes.
“I mean, I think I’ve shot floaters for a long time now, since I was a little kid,” said the fourth-year guard who went undrafted out of Cal-Santa Barbara in 2018. “But I think I just started doing it more at this level as I gained more trust in it, as I’ve picked my spots better.
“Now it’s just a few here and there, and just having a better feel for the game overall.”
When the Heat looked to add a 3-point shooter in January 2020, the decision came down to Vincent or Mychal Mulder, who had been with the Heat’s G League affiliate at the time. The decision to go with Vincent was based, in part, in the belief he also could score off the dribble at the NBA level.
Vincent has been working on those angles since.
“I think a lot of times you’ve got to take what the defense gives you,” he said of his running floaters. “You can’t always manipulate them. So especially when you’re doing your workouts or practicing, you got to have a little bit of an imagination.
“I think you take someone like Kyrie Irving. To me, his imagination is second to none, in the way he finishes the basketball. And having seen him work out a couple of times, you could just see the way he sees the game. And the imagination. It’s impressive.”
With Kyle Lowry only now coming around from knee discomfort, Vincent has helped keep the Heat afloat the past week, to the degree he was a nominee for NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week that went to New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson.
“His steadiness, his two-way competitive nature, he does it on both ends of the court,” Spoelstra said of Vincent. “He’s one of our very best communicators, without a doubt. He’s constantly communicating. He’s a great leader out there. When he’s on the court, he gets guys organized, he’s communicating defensively.
“Offensively, he helps get guys to their spots. And then when he’s out of the game, he’s such a high-IQ player, that he’s constantly helping whoever’s on the court with what he’s seeing. It’s just incredibly valuable for our team.”