The Miami Heat have definitely turned some heads this season. When the season stopped, the Heat had mustered up a 41-24 record that was good enough for the 4th seed in the East. Yet, before the season had even started, analysts were doubtful that the Heat could even make the playoffs; what happened?
For starters, Jimmy Butler was a terrific addition to the Heat’s roster in the offseason. Not only did the move to bring Butler add star power in South Beach, but it called for the end of a mediocre spell of basketball headlined by Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside was not a team first guy in Miami, but rather was more interested in packing his own stats. Although the Heat had to get rid of Josh Richardson to bring in Butler, the cost was well worth it. Unlike Whiteside, Butler is the essence of Heat Culture.
Butler is gritty, willing to play great defense, and works hard for his team’s success. Butler’s mentality is what started the Heat’s great run of play. Additionally the emergence of Bam Adebayo, as well as the development of some first time difference makers is what added the finishing touches to the Heat’s success.
Starting with Bam, he absolutely exploded both on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor. Adebayo showed off his stellar passing, ball handling, as well as strong defensive abilities in route to a season where he registered 16.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG, and 5.1 APG.
Also, the emergence of Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson really helped the Heat push on the gas pedal. Nunn established himself as one of the NBA's best rookies, while becoming Miami’s go to starting point guard. His ability to get to the rim as well as to shoot the three pointer really helped the Heat’s offense explode this season. Although he cooled off after the first few months of the season, his production mixed with the fact that the Heat brought him in as an undrafted free agent made Nunn nothing less than a bargain.
Furthermore, first round pick Tyler Herro didn’t disappoint either. Herro, while coming off the bench, immediately proved to be a reliable and exceptionally clutch three point specialist who had the ability to get to the rim and play great defense. Herro constantly found himself on the floor late in games for Miami, as his uncanny ability to hit crucial three pointers came in handy. Herro made three clutch three pointers against the Bulls in overtime, as well as his three pointer against the 76ers in Miami with under 15 seconds left in the game ended up allowing Miami to win that game.
But perhaps the most important breakout player for the Heat was three point specialist Duncan Robinson. Robinson established himself as one of the game’s best shooters, shooting around 45 percent from downtown. When Miami’s offense was not firing, you could still count on Robinson to deliver the three ball with deadly accuracy.
Plus, guys like Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, Andre Igoudala, and Jae Crowder provided Miami with some veteran experience that helped the Heat’s offense and defense produce as well as mentor Miami’s younger players. Dragic was crucial off the bench, adding 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG, to the Heat’s offense. Dragic was also normally part of Coach Spoelstra’s closing lineup, as his basketball IQ made him a good fit to pair with guys like Butler and Bam in late game scenarios. Also, Meyers Leonard was a force from outside the arc, shooting nearly 43 percent from downturn, and his ability inside the paint was a useful addition to the Heat’s lineup.
Iguodala and Crowder, both of whom came in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies were both valuable to the Heat in the limited time that they played in Miami. Igoudala looked shaky after being away from basketball for a while, but his playoff experience and ability to perk up in the playoffs defensively as well as on the offensive side of the ball will help the Heat’s young roster succeed when the NBA restarts. Crowder on the other hand, was an instant impact player off the bench. Not only did he play strong blue chip defense, but his ability to hit the three and be a reliable scorer took stress off of the Heat’s starters to score.
Additionally, Derrick Jones Jr. was a high riser (excuse the pun) this season in Miami. Not only was he exceptional at going into airplane mode and making spectacular dunks, but pairing him next to Jimmy Butler at the top of Miami’s 2-3 zone defense was one of Coach Spolestra’s better decisions. Jones Jr’s lanky arms and superb defensive abilities made the Heat’s defense incredibly difficult to do anything against.
Scheme wise though, the Heat combined their playmakers’ abilities together to constantly defeat opponents. Miami was one of the NBA’s offenses that really relied on the three ball for scoring. Maybe not as much as the Rockets, but if the three ball was not working for the Heat on a nightly basis, Miami definitely struggled to get the win. Additionally, any of the Heat’s players could be Miami’s leading scorer on any given night. One night it could be Bam, the next Butler, and two days later it could be Dragic’s hot hand off the bench. Miami feasted off sharing the ball, making it difficult for opposing defenses to lock up the Heat’s offense by shutting down one player.
Defensively, Jimmy Butler led a Miami team that was good at closing out to shooters, making it difficult for teams to pass the ball around, and constantly using active hands and feet to get in front of talented offensive players. Their highly electric offense paired with their fiery defense, allowed for the Heat to have one of the NBA’s best home records, as well as be able to constantly win against good teams on the road including a win in Milwaukee, Toronto, and Philadelphia. Plus, their ability to play better as games progressed allowed for the Heat to go an impressive 8-1 in overtime games.
However, one of the few weaknesses the Heat had in 2020 was winning on the road. They lost to the Pelicans, Cavaliers, and Hawks shortly before the season was stopped, and only managed to win 14 out of 33 games on the road compared to their 27-5 record at home. The energy that they seemed to feed off from the crowd in Miami won’t be there when play resumes, meaning the Heat may falter in this season’s playoffs. However, Miami’s strong defense as well as their ability for anyone to score the basketball on any given night, give Miami the ability to win a playoff series against any team in the NBA. Hopefully, the Heat can keep up their ability to win big games with good defense and great shooting when the season restarts, as Jimmy Butler and Erik Spoelstra try to guide Miami back to the NBA Finals for the first time in over five years.