Every year, it seems like some NBA contrarian picks the Miami Heat to make a Cinderella run out of the East. We nod politely as they ramble on about “Heat Culture” and the genius of Pat Riley. We roll our eyes as they monologue about toughness and why Udonis Haslem is still on the team. Well, it turns out that even Paul Pierce can be right every once in a while. It just took a global pandemic and the longest Disney World trip ever for it to happen.
|HEAD COACH||Erik Spoelstra|
|2019-20 RECORD||44-29 (.602)|
1st in the Southeast Division
5th in the Eastern Conference
|DRAFT PICKS||Precious Achiuwa (20)|
|FREE AGENCY GAINS||Avery Bradley – Moe Harkless|
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM 2019-20: Bam Adebayo turned himself into a max player overnight. Jimmy Butler is like the Mendoza Line for NBA superstars. I’m just not sure if he’s above it or below it. Miami’s season was full of pleasant surprises: Duncan Robinson reaching insane levels of three-point efficiency and volume, the Andre Iguodala trade that became the Jae Crowder trade, and Tyler Herro using the four-month quarantine training to be an actual assassin. All of that culminated into a playoff run for the ages as they became the first team to reach the Finals as a five seed before eventually losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
GRADING THE COACH: Erik Spoelstra is the best coach in the East, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. He’s proven that he can coach a top-heavy team on the backs of a few stars just as well as one full of scrappy overachievers. He maximizes the talents of his roster better than any coach in the league. Whether it was inserting Goran Dragic into the starting lineup or confounding offenses with his masterful deployment of the zone, Spoelstra was playing chess in the playoffs while everyone else was watching The Queen’s Gambit.
GRADING THE DRAFT: I don’t think there was another player in the draft that screamed “Heat Culture” more than Precious Achiuwa. Miami is hoping he can help ease some of the burden off of Bam, especially defensively. Both players are great finishers and can cover a lot of ground on the court with their length and athleticism. However, what makes Bam special is his ability to handle the ball and create for others. Achiuwa has a lot of room to grow in that area but should be able to make an immediate impact based on his hustle and size alone.
GRADING FREE AGENCY: Miami did the best they could walking the line between retaining their status as a contender and maintaining cap flexibility for the much anticipated 2021 free agent class. They were able to re-sign a couple key pieces (Dragic and Meyers Leonard) by offering them front loaded deals with a team option in year two.
Although with Giannis committing to Milwaukee, it remains to be seen if the strategy will have been worth it as the loss of Jae Crowder can not be underestimated. His lights out shooting and willingness to defend literally anyone will be sorely missed. The Heat also lost a decent wing defender and an eternal lob threat in Derrick Jones Jr. However, they did a decent job of replacing some of that 3 and D with the signings of Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless. Most importantly, Bam Adebayo secured the bag with a five-year deal worth $163 million (up to $195 million with incentives.
STRENGTHS: The usual suspects. Grittiness. Coaching. Depth. All those things that you know exist but can’t be distilled into a single stat no matter how hard the analytics community tries. Miami has a little something for everyone though as they’ll be one of the best three point shooting teams in the league (which is amazing considering that their two best players just don’t really shoot threes.) With a condensed schedule and the inevitability of COVID-19, load management will be more important than ever. Spoelstra’s creativity with his roster will help keep the Heat competitive even if they hit some bad luck.
OPPORTUNITIES: The biggest opportunity to look out for is whether Big Face Coffee goes public. Goran Dragic as the spokesperson? That man could sell a Euro-Step to a Texan (and he kind of did.) Give me all the shares.
Miami is hoping that their young core (Bam, Herro, Robinson) makes enough strides to offset their lackluster free agency period. If their recent player development history is any indication, that’s a pretty good bet. They’re going to be anxious to prove to everyone that last year wasn’t a fluke.
PREDICTED FINISH (DIVISION/CONFERENCE): With a limited training camp and truncated offseason, there’s going to be some sloppy basketball to start the season Miami’s relatively minimal roster turnover, shorter layoff, and overall team infrastructure may allow them to find their groove earlier than most teams. I predict they’ll go 45-27 which will be good for first in the Southeastern Conference and third in the East.
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