The Miami Heat finished 10th in the Eastern Conference last season in Dwyane Wade’s final year in the NBA. It was also the final year of his former teammate, Chris Bosh’s contract. That was a big $27M that came off their books. But the biggest move they made would come be a four-team trade that sent their starting center, Hassan Whiteside to Portland, and brought them Jimmy Butler on a max contract. The trade not only brought them one All-Star but also allowed for the emergence of a second one.
The Second All-Star
Bam Adebayo, in his third season, has played 34 minutes per game, up from 23 minutes per game a year ago and upped his averages to 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s also played almost 60% of his minutes at power forward, rather than center, where he played 99% of his minutes a year ago. His average has about doubled which is in line with about double the amount of shot attempts, again in just 11 more minutes per game.
While Adebayo’s skill set has certainly improved and been the biggest driver of his success. Improved perimeter play has made his life that much easier. Naturally, Jimmy Butler has regained his all-star form scoring 20 points per game and getting to the free throw line better than anybody in the league, knocking down 83% of his attempts there.
But on top of that, two rookies and a second-year player have stepped up big-time for the Heat. Duncan Robinson, who started his college career at Division III, is shooting a scorching 45% from the three-point arc on over 8 attempts per game. Rookie Tyler Herro out of Kentucky is not too far behind at right around 40% off the bench. Herro was the 13th pick in last season’s draft so good production was expected. Kendrick Nunn was not drafted after college…..in 2018. He then had a quick stop in Golden State before the Heat signed him. He has started every game for them this season and scored nearly 16 points per game, including 18 games of more than 20 points.
The X-Factor for the Heat coming into the re-start will be Andre Iguodala who was acquired from the Grizzlies in February. They’re just 7-7 since he joined the team but his defense and leadership will be relied upon as the Heat go into the playoffs. The offset there could be less playing time for one of their surprise scorers – Robinson, Herro or Nunn – and scoring is not Iguodala’s specialty these days.
Not Much Room to Move
Miami currently sits fourth in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games behind the Celtics and 2 games in front of the Pacers. They will play the Celtics once and the Pacers twice in their final eight games and those games will decide their playoff fate. With additional games against the Nuggets, Bucks and Raptors, it’s unlikely they can catch the Celtics. But two wins against the Pacers should solidify them in the fourth spot. If the Sixers can figure things out, now with Ben Simmons at power forward, they could end up facing the Sixers in round one. And the worst-case scenario for the them is dropping to the sixth seed and facing the Celtics in round one.
In any case, the Miami Heat are going to be a really tough out in the playoffs and I wouldn’t actually be surprised to see them advance to at least the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Relying on a few younger guys is that much easier when you don’t actually have to play on the road in the playoffs.
The Future is Bright
Going forward, the future looks really bright in Miami, they have a ton of cap space next season, even if the cap takes a big hit due to economic conditions. Adebayo will eventually get a big raise as will some of the other younger guys but the Heat have a chance to make one or two moves in the off-season and put themselves right back into championship contention.