NBA Season Preview: Miami Heat

2019-20 Regular Season Record: 44-29 (.603%), 5th in Eastern Conference, Lost in NBA Finals
Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra

Since the end of the LBJ/Wade/Bosh era in Miami, the Heat have been consistently inconsistent, making the playoffs every other year since 2014-15. Last year they won the Southeast division with 44 wins, placed 7th in Offensive Rating and 11th in Defensive Rating, and were one of the best 3-point shooting teams throughout the season (6th in makes, 9th in attempts and 2nd in percentage). Led by Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, the Heat managed to surprise everyone in the playoffs and make it all the way to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers in 6 games. In the regular season, Jimmy Buckets was excellent, with 19.9 ppg on 45.5% shooting, 6.7 rpg, 6.0 apg & 1.6 spg. He picked it up in the playoffs with 22.2 ppg (48.8% shooting), 6.5 rpg, 6.0 apg & 2.0 spg, which included some monster performances in the NBA Finals (40 pts, 11 reb, 13 ast, 2 stls & 2 blks in Game 3 & 35 pts, 12 reb, 11 ast & 5 steals in Game 5). Adebayo had a break out year (15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 5.1 apg, 1.1 spg & 1.3 bpg, 55.7 FG%) as he made his first All-Star Game, earned 2nd Team All-Defensive Team, and finished 2nd in MIP voting, and was a key reason for the Heat’s success. The Heat’s youngest players, specifically Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn & Duncan Robinson made huge impacts on winning and got better as the season went on. Unfortunately for the Heat, both Adebayo and Dragic got hurt in game 1 of the NBA Finals and were unable to make an impact on the series. 

What can Bam Adebayo do for an Encore?

Bam Adebayo enjoyed an incredible season and has a high ceiling in today’s NBA. At 6'9", 255 lbs. Bam is strong enough to bang in the post with bigs, as well as nimble and athletic enough to get out beyond the 3-point line and defend. His versatility is exemplified by his 1+ steals/blocks per game average – something he will improve upon as his understanding of the NBA game gets better. Look for Bam to push those averages both above 1.5 this season, and into to Shawn Marion territory. His offensive game is not a refined, nor finished product, but he has shown serious improvements over his first three years in the league, as he has a knack for the offensive glass – placing 11th in the NBA in offensive rebounds. For Bam to take it to the next level, he will need to work on his shooting – his 69.1 FT% was the lowest of his career, and he nearly doubled his attempts at the charity stripe. Improving his stroke will not only give him a few extra free points per game, but assist in his eventual evolution to the 3-point line, as he has only attempted 36 3-pointers in his career for a 13.9% conversation rate. Look for more career highs this year with increased efficiencies from Bam.

Sophomore Jinx for the Young Heat?

The Miami Heat got great production out of their rookies last year, as they enjoyed similarly nice years. Tyler Herro averaged 13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg in 27.4 mpg (earning All-Rookie 2nd Team honors), while Kendrick Nunn averaged 15.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.3 apg in 29.3 mpg. Add in 2nd year man Duncan Robinson at 13.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.4 apg in 29.7 mpg and the Heat have a nice trio of young players to compliment their 3-headed monster of Butler, Bam and Dragic. While Nunn regressed in the playoffs, the same cannot be said of Herro. The rookie out of Kentucky was a phenom, setting all kinds of youth-related records in the playoffs. There should be no reason for any of three players to regress in the upcoming season. They will have an additional year of valuable experience but will have to contend with the fact that they have a target on their back – the Heat won’t be sneaking up on any team this year. The pressure of going deep in the playoffs will only strengthen the young trio’s resolve to get better and help their star teammates to take the final step in the championship quest. 

Can the Heat Backup their NBA Finals Run?

With superstar Jimmy Butler, the Heat should be just fine in the regular season. That’s not the challenge. The real question is whether or not they can they get through the post-season. The challenges to their East throne will come from Milwaukee, Boston and Brooklyn. Many deemed their run a product of the “bubble strangeness”, but assuming Butler plays to his lofty standards, a healthy Goran Dragic, an ever-improving Bam Adebayo as well as the aforementioned trio of young players (Herro, Robinson, Nunn), the Heat will be a tough out in the playoffs. They are a well coached team that now knows what it takes to go deep into the playoffs.

Tom’s Take: The Heat will make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals once again, this time losing to the Celtics in a tight 7 game series

Photo Credit: Schuler/Imago/Icon Sportswire