Miami have unfortunately been stuck in the middle since the LeBron James era. They haven’t done well enough to have any significant success and haven’t done poorly enough to restock young talent through the drafts, nor have they had the actual picks to do so even if they did tank (3 total picks over the past 4 seasons). Moreover, they haven’t been able to attract any star players through Free Agency or trades since LeBron, until this season with Jimmy Butler. But most are unconvinced that he will be the answer to their problems, and some are certainly concerned about his longevity with Miami. With Dwayne Wade retired, Miami is certainly looking to reclaim their identity as a rough and tough franchise.
To start with, Miami finally had the opportunity to get some youth in an NBA Draft since Bam Adebayo in 2017, and they did pretty well. At Pick #13 they grabbed Tyler Herro, who is regarded as one of the best shooters in the draft, and is very versatile as a 6’6” combo guard. I think he can make an immediate impact at Miami since they lack perimeter shooting and have weak floor spread, and in a few years Herro has the potential to play a Point Guard role, but will need to improve on his agility and defence.
Miami grabbed another incredibly versatile player in KZ Okpala at Pick #32, who was said to have slid a little due to his underdeveloped build, but by all accounts fits the mould of a modern big-man. He can defend at multiple positions, can be a playmaker and can shoot the 3, so with a year or two of development and patience he could bloom into quite the player.
Their last exciting young talent is Kendrick Nunn; whose impressive Summer League performances earned him a spot in it’s All 1st Team (averaged 21 points, 5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.5 steals). Having gone undrafted in 2018, Nunn seems like a tough and determined young prospect, and I think he’s definitely earned himself a spot as backup Point Guard to Dragic, something Miami needed. Nunn will definitely be a big bench contributor, and could be a roughie for an All-Rookie team nod.
By far the biggest inclusion, which came from a massive 4-team trade, is Jimmy Buckets.
Miami gave up Hassan Whiteside and his contract (probably a good move in the long-run), Josh Richardson (probably not a good move in the long-run) and a ’23 1st Round Pick, for Jimmy, Meyers Leonard, and cash, and I’m not really sure if Miami won this or not. Do I think Jimmy Butler will make Miami better? For sure. Do I think he’s the best fit? Doubtful, but I guess Miami had to make do with their non-existent cap space and get the best trade option available.
Butler fits the Miami mould though, he’s tough, loud-mouthed and plays a hard and unapologetic style of basketball. If Miami are looking toward building that identity again, Butler is certainly the way to do it, and he’ll hopefully lift the guys around him too (unlike what happened with Minnesota). Butler is a guaranteed All-Star, and will be Miami’s best player by far.
This could even be the best season he’ll ever have. But will he stay? He’s wanted/been a part of 3 trades, and Miami will be his fourth team in 4 seasons, what’s stopping him from doing it again? He wanted to win, so will Miami suffice for him?
PG: Goran Dragic Kendrick Nunn
SG: Jimmy Butler Dion Waiters Tyler Herro
SF: Justise Winslow Derrick Jones Jr. KZ Okpala
PF: James Johnson Kelly Olynyk Duncan Robinson
C: Bam Adebayo Meyers Leonard
In all the Free Agency madness and trade mayhem that has been this offseason, Miami’s team has quite a large returning cast. Dragic is returning for his 5th full season at Miami, Justise for his 5th, Waiters for his 4th, Johnson for his 4th, Adebayo for his 3rd, Olynyk for his 3rd…what I’m getting at is that chemistry isn’t an issue whatsoever for this team.
What is an issue is having Dragic, Waiters and Johnson healthy and playing to their full capacity. The three of them together have missed 111 games, which is a huge reason as to why Miami were average last season and missing the playoffs. Their health and ability to influence games is paramount if Miami are to reach the playoffs.
On top of this, Miami will need Justice and Bam to make some big improvements. Justise running the point saw an improvement in his stats and efficiency, and with potential backcourt depth issues, Miami will look to have him be more influential as Point Justise 2.0. With Whiteside gone, Bam Adebayo will get more minutes, and I think he will be a huge candidate for Most Improved Player come the end of the season. His improvement last season was impressive, and with a new major role in Miami, he will flourish even further as an offensive beast and defensive monster.
An issue that may become a real threat is the lack of good frontcourt defenders. Bam will obviously be the defensive centrepiece, but with guys like Jones Jr., Olynyk, Robinson and Leonard coming off the bench, Miami’s defence may turn into a huge liability, and teams will be able to score quite easily against them. Miami’s saving grace is Eric Spoelstra’s great defensive tactics, which took a lot of teams by surprise last season, so hopefully the system put in place by Spoelstra can help the team and especially their frontcourt. However, the aforementioned players do need to work on providing a more well rounded game rather than just being shooters, which will be important for Miami’s success. Hopefully Jimmy can pass on some advice and have his elite defence rub off on the team.
Predicted Wins: 40. Jimmy Butler’s influence and the health of Miami’s core unit are huge unknowns, which makes the team difficult to predict. So I’ve got them roughly having the same sort of success (or failure) as last season, improving by just one win.
How far Miami will go: 9th seed. I’ve got the Heat, Raptors and Magic all finishing within 1-2 wins of each other. It’s going to be very close.
Best Player: Jimmy Butler – for the first time since his last year in Chicago, Jimmy gets to be the lone superstar on his team. I genuinely think he’ll push for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year nominations. Guaranteed All-Star, All NBA and All Defensive team nods.
Golden Nugget: Justise Winslow – I’m keen to see him flourish further as Point Justise 2.0, but with Butler now on the team I’m unsure whether his influence will be diminished by Jimmy’s big ego or not. If Justise can take the majority of the reigns then I think he can have a huge influence.
Coach: Erik Spoelstra. This guy has been around Miami a LONG time. He is the 2nd longest-tenured Head Coach in the NBA (only behind Gregg Popovich), being in the position at Miami since the ‘08-‘09 season, and being involved with the franchise since the ‘97-‘98 season (22 seasons in total). So since this will be his 12th season as Head Coach, I think he might be fit for the job. My biggest questions are how he will fit Jimmy Butler into the team, and if continued mediocrity will put some pressure on his position. Only time will tell.