Baker's Dozen - Are the Miami Heat Contenders?

When the Miami Heat became the lowest seed to make the NBA Finals since the New York Knicks in 1999, many pundits were quick to say it was bubble-related, a one-off occurrence and not to be replicated. That sentiment looked on point when the Heat started this season in a funk, losing 13 of 20 games. Many of those same pundits were joined by others who jumped on the "Bubble fluke" bandwagon narrative. However, it was easy to see that the Heat were floundering due to the absence of All-World player Jimmy Butler, who missed 12 of the team's first 18 games. In late January the Heat's season looked slightly lost and Miami seemed destined to miss the playoffs. Cue the comeback.

Butler returned on January 30th, and since then the Heat have gone 16-8 and Jimmy Buckets is the reason. He may be turning in his finest season yet in the NBA, averaging 21.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.5 apg, 2.1 spg on an efficient 48.1% FG. Butler is the superstar that every team needs in order to compete in the NBA and is the engine that drives the Heat's hopes. It all starts and ends with him. 

However, the question still remains: Can the Heat duplicate their success from the Bubble? Besides Butler, do the Heat have the pieces to do damage in the post-season? Bam Adebayo is having another excellent all-around season, averaging 19.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 5.4 apg while shooting an ultra-efficient 56.0% FG. Bam and Butler form a dynamic duo in Miami that can dominate games on both ends of the floor - the two wreak havoc on the defensive end, combining for 2.9 spg, 1.5 bpg & 4.6 deflections on the season. Despite missing a bunch of games as well, Goran Dragic is still an extremely dangerous player for the Heat. The veteran Slovenian is a favorite of Butler's and is known for his left-handed craftiness on the court. Peaking at the right time is important in any sport, and I would hazard a guess that Dragic is using the regular season to play his way into shape for the playoffs. Miami's young trio of Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have all played at about the same level as last year (only Herro has improved his scoring average), which provides Miami with a stable base of production. Lastly, the Heat are a well coached team, led by Eric Spoelstra who is now in his 13th year at the helm in Miami. The Heat play hard, are prepared and make solid in-game adjustments, which is always a reflection of two things: the coaching staff and the willingness to buy-in from the best player on the team, which is obviously Jimmy Buckets. 

The Heat presently sit at 22-21 and in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, with the 4th seeded Atlanta Hawks (!!) within striking distance. They are proving that their march to the NBA Finals was no fluke, and that they are primed and ready to get after an NBA Championship once again. And why not? With a player like Jimmy Butler in his prime, a solid number two in Bam to go along with a handful of key pieces and role players as well as a well-coached team, the Heat can absolutely get back to the Finals once again. 

Line of the Week: Damian Lillard carried the Trail Blazers to a comeback win over the New Orleans Pelicans by putting up 50 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists. It was Dame's first 50+ point night of the season and has helped him push his season scoring average to 30.6 ppg. Dame Dolla deserves to be in the MVP conversation

Have a question for Tom? Send an email to and I'll answer as many as I can in our first mailbag article.

Check out previous columns:

March 7, 2021: All-Star Edition

Photo Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports