It’s been quite the roller coaster over the last handful of years for Heat fans. In the mid 2000s they were good outside of that one season in 2007-08, would finish somewhere in the mid 40s in terms of wins, would make the playoffs but outside of their 2006 title never made it out of the first round. Then the LeBron Era happened and they were one of the best teams in the NBA for four seasons. When that group eventually split up you would think just like with any other franchise that loses it’s best players that they would enter the tanking sweepstakes as they began to rebuild. Only, that didn’t happen. The Heat instead have been hovering in the exact place you don’t exactly want to be as an NBA franchise. Not good enough to make deep runs in the playoffs, but nowhere near bad enough to truly tank their way to the high lottery. Since that 2013-14 Finals loss they have been basically right back to where they were pre-LeBron. They’re going to be competitive, win somewhere in the 40s and either miss the playoffs or get bounced early. But now that DWade is officially gone for good, this franchise can turn the page to their new era, the Jimmy Butler Era. Will things be different? In my mind MIA could absolutely be a sleeper this season, but before we get into all that let’s first relive the few bright spots in what ended up being a 39 win year last season.
2018-19 Season Highlights
A lot of talk and rightfully so when discussing the Eastern Conference revolves around teams like PHI and MIL with a little BOS, BKN, and IND sprinkled in. For whatever reason there doesn’t seem to be much hype around a Heat team that enters the 2019-20 season with a new franchise player and a collection of talent that in theory should make them competitive in a wide open East. A quick look at their roster
and you see a group that has a pretty good mix of talent for today’s NBA. They have their go to guy and #1 option in Jimmy Butler, there’s shooting everywhere you look from the guards to the wings to the bigs, and there is some very intriguing young pieces that could absolutely make a jump this season. In total their $142,605,222 cap number has them with the 4th most expensive roster in the league, and this is before they eventually trade for Chris Paul which I’m pretty sure we all know is going to happen at some point. You also can’t underestimate the impact of no longer having to deal with the drama of Hassan Whiteside, a guy who clearly was unhappy and probably poisoned the entire locker room. With the continued improvement of Bam, Olynyk as a stretch five and then newcomer Meyers Leonard who showed flashes in his opportunities in POR, I don’t think they’re going to miss him. In my opinion the Heat did a great job of reloading to fit today’s NBA, and there are some reasons to be excited moving forward.
Of course, it starts with Jimmy Butler. He turned down staying in Philly for 4 years to instead take the 4 year max from MIA and you could say their culture and the way Jimmy plays are a match made in heaven. Of course we’re already hearing about his 3:30am workouts which was to be expected, but aside from setting the tone heading into the year, he’s actually going to help them in a number of ways on the court.
Take clutch situations for example. The Heat were 6-9 in games decided by 3 points or less, and in clutch situations had the 30th ranked offense to go along with the 4th best defense. Well where does Jimmy Buckets thrive? In clutch situations. He was a huge reason why the Sixers were 10-8 and had the third most wins in games decided by 3 points or less. He is not afraid of the moment and is someone who had a 110 Ortg in clutch situations last year. You don’t think that’s going to help a team that was dead last in clutch offense? Now they have a guy they can give the ball to and considering they played the 5th most games that qualify as having “clutch” situations, that’s a big time upgrade. You look last year and guys like Wade/Waiters/Richardson were their go to guys in clutch situations, now going to one of the best in the league is going to have a real impact.
Then you factor in the defense. The Heat already had the 7th best defense in the league last year, and while you are losing Josh Richardson you are gaining a motivated Jimmy Butler. Once James Johnson gets in shape he should help there, and you know playing the Heat that they are never going to make it easy on you offensively. I’d say Butler making an impact in the two most important areas for success is pretty important.
But I’m also excited to see more of Justise Winslow at the point guard position. This was something the Heat experimented with at times last year, and I don’t think it’s an accident that he had the best year of his young career. His AST% skyrocketed to 21.9% and even though he may have been a SF at times for this team, I’m thinking him as a guard is their best use of him.
We definitely saw enough last season where Winslow can absolutely be the primary backup point guard for the second unit, and you surround him with shooters and I think he can thrive. I truly believe him and Tyler Herro can make a legit second unit backcourt, especially if Herro comes in and plays like he did in Summer League
If there’s one thing that has to improve for the Heat it’s their P&R play. Frankly, it stunk last year. They were dead last in ball handler scoring in the P&R at just 0.75 points per possession. This is an area Butler should help in for sure, but also having Goran Dragic healthy and back is a big boost. He ranked in the 62nd percentile in 2017 when he was healthy, and frankly they can’t get much worse than what we saw last season. This was also a team that ranked 21st in 3P%, and now with Duncan Robinson on the full time roster with Herro it wouldn’t shock me if we saw the Heat become better than league average from behind the arc, which is only going to open everything else up for them. Especially if they can find a way to play at a faster pace, seeing as how their 21st ranked pace last year didn’t really translate to offensive success. Play faster, run Butler more in P&R so he can either attack or find shooters and boom everything looks a lot better.
Also, maybe I’m crazy, but I feel like we’re going to get a breakout year from Bam. He looked pretty good competing against the Team USA roster, and I just feel like with an expanded opportunity he’s going to ball out
I don’t think it’s crazy to say that after the summer the Heat had, it’s all that unrealistic to think they can get back to competing for that 4-6 seed range barring any injuries. When you add legit impactful talent and get rid of cancers, you tend to bounce back in a positive way. That’s why while they may not be getting much national hype, I’m in on the Heat getting back to being a thorn in the side of fellow Eastern Conference teams, and one that could definitely win a round in the postseason, even without Chris Paul.
Official Greenie Prediction: 44 wins