2019-20 Season Preview: Miami Heat
NBA.com Global on Oct 22, 2019 09:08 AM
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) passes the ball in front of Orlando Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams, right, during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
Jimmy Butler was looking for a fresh start. One on his own terms, with a team, and in a culture, of his choosing. He found what he was looking for in Miami, where the Heat are looking for a true superstar anchor for the franchise now that the Dwyane Wade era is officially over. It was Wade who served as the biggest influence on Butler deciding to take his talents to South Beach. But the Heat missed the playoffs in Wade’s farewell campaign, the third time in the last five seasons they’ve missed out on the postseason. Butler’s arrival eases any concerns of the Heat missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001-03, before the Wade era began.
The four-team deal the Heat completed to get Butler sent Josh Richardson to Philadelphia, Hassan Whiteside to Portland and a protected first round pick to the LA Clippers. The biggest loss, of course, being Richardson, who was the Heat’s best player last season … Rumors swirled all summer about who might join Butler in Miami. Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul were both mentioned as possibilities, until they were traded for each other … Erik Spoelstra’s tenure as the coach in Miami will continue for the foreseeable future. He agreed to a long-term extension to continue as the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference on the eve of training camp … The Wade era in Miami might be over but Udonis Haslem, the 39-year-old Miami native and “Heat Lifer,” will suit up for his 17th season and continue to serve as backbone of the locker room.
1. Adebayo ready for prime time. Bam Adebayo’s elevation from Whiteside’s understudy to the Heat’s new man in the middle was in the works for some time. Despite being a bit undersized for the position, Adebayo makes up for whatever perceived physical limitations with energy and activity that is undeniable. He embodies the qualities the Heat preach and he’s bought in to the program in ways Whiteside never did. He started 22 games after the All-Star break and saw significant increases in every statistical category.
2. Where to play Winslow? Justise Winslow’s value to the Heat was magnified last season when he filled in as a starting point guard (37 games) with Goran Dragic missing 46 games, mainly with a knee injury. Winslow was more productive running the show (14.2 points, 45 FG%, 36 3PT%, 5.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals) than he was in the 15 games he started at forward (9.7 points, 36 FG%, 30 3PT%, 5.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.9 steals). Spolestra will have a decision to make with Butler in the fold and Dion Waiters and Dragic (an All-Star two years ago) healthy.
3. They need a Herro. As impressive as rookie shooter Tyler Herro was in NBA Summer League, it would be wise to remember that it was just that: NBA Summer League. But Herro was impressive. And in a league where knockdown shooters are at a premium, he’s got the one skill that should earn him minutes on a Heat team ranked 21st in the league last season in 3-point shooting (34.9%). Where he fits in a stacked backcourt rotation, however, remains to be seen.
MAN ON THE SPOT
Jimmy Butler could have played the free-agent market any number of ways. He was on any list of the top free agents. There were plenty of teams interested and armed with the cap space to make him a max offer. But he made his mind up about the Heat and went his own way, joining a team without a second superstar in a summer when dynamic duos turned out to be the rule. Butler could have been the missing piece in several different situations, but he was determined to chart his own course. Now, he owns the responsibility of lifting the Heat out of the lottery and back into the top half of the East playoff chase.
Goran Dragic | 13.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.8 apg
Must return to All-Star form if he and Butler are going to live up to the hype.
Dion Waiters | 12.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.8 apg
Injury issues have had no impact on the self-confidence Waiters wears like body armor.
Jimmy Butler | 18.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg
A top two-way player in the game, he intends to correct the narrative about his leadership.
Kelly Olynyk | 10.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.8 apg
Serves as the floor-stretching big the Heat need to balance the floor.
Bam Adebayo | 8.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.2 apg
Last season may have been appetizer for a big 2019-20 from the big man.
Justise Winslow | 12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.3 apg
Versatile player can backup to both Dragic and Butler, depending on the need.
James Johnson | 7.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.5 apg
Provides versatility, toughness and skill that will be critical to the Heat’s depth.
Meyers Leonard | 5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.2 apg
Shot a career-best 45% on 3-pointers last season with Blazers.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Heat have the talent and star power to rise to the top of the division and get back into the playoff mix if Butler performs the way he has at every other stop. Dragic staying healthy no doubt makes a huge difference as well. How deep the Heat play into the postseason, though, will hinge on just how quickly the supporting cast comes together and what kind of chemistry develops throughout the course of the season.
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