Miami Heat Early Season Assessment

The Miami Heat enter the 2022-2023 NBA season having been to the Eastern Conference Finals two out of the last three years. To any fanbase this is an amazing feat, but to Heat fans it feels as if there was more left on the table. After the Heat’s miraculous run in the 2020 Orlando Bubble, fans and NBA reporters everywhere implored the Heat on making a couple key moves to help bolster the roster for an NBA Finals run. Pat Riley and his associates thought otherwise, as they brought back the same exact team for the next season. They used the slogan, “Run it back”. The only thing that ran back were the Heat back home to Miami after being embarrassed and swept by the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks. Prior to last season, the Heat signed veteran forward PJ Tucker, which proved to be a great signing as he had a tremendous impact on the team.

They also signed six-time all-star Kyle Lowry, with the thought that pairing up a savvy and tenacious point guard who had won the Finals before would help boost the play of a young star in Bam Adebayo. Unfortunately, Lowry was dealing with personal matters throughout the season, and it might have affected his play as he had his worst season since 2012. This year the Heat again decided to “Run it back”, this time with the same team they had last season minus PJ Tucker. Many questioned this move, especially since everybody knows what happened the last time the Heat decided to run it back. After seven games this season, it seems as if history is on its way to repeat itself again.

Through seven games this season the Miami Heat find themselves at 2-5, with a couple of tough losses. There has not been much to celebrate about if you are a Heat fan. The play of budding star guard Tyler Herro is encouraging though, especially after signing him to a $130 million extension. Despite the rough start, Jimmy Butler still thinks the Heat have a chance. “We’re still going to win the championship, and I don’t care what nobody says,” Butler said. “Count us out. We’re going to win the f***ing championship. I’m telling you. I don’t give a damn that we started 2-5.” Despite the enthusiasm from Butler, the Heat and their fans have been here before. Prior to getting swept by the Bucks in 2021, Butler was quoted as saying that he was “Stupidly locked in”. Obviously, being on the wrong side of a sweep does not entail that you were “stupidly locked in”. If the Heat care about their fanbase and are serious about winning, they will realize that the team they currently have assembled is not a threat and will start making moves. This starts with the starting Power Forward position.

The Miami Heat have been searching for a power forward to pair with big man Bam Adebayo for quite some time now. The power forward position for them has been a glaring hole ever since Chris Bosh retired. PJ Tucker proved to be a great fit last season, but the 76ers plucked him away this past offseason by offering him more money than the Heat were willing to. The Heat then drafted Nikola Jovic, a 6’10 forward from Serbia. He has played roughly twenty minutes total throughout the first seven games, so there is a feeling that he might not be ready yet.

The team has decided to roll with Caleb Martin, a 6’5 forward who averages seven points over his four-year career. He is a great defender and an even better athlete, but it is obvious he will not take the leap the Heat need him to in order to become elite again. There is too much talent in the East (let alone the whole NBA) for the Heat. They do not match up well with the likes of the Bucks and Celtics, among others. Here are some moves that the Heat can make in order to turn them back into a contender.

There are two words that answer all of the questions that this Miami Heat team has. Those two words are Kevin Durant. Yes, it is extremely far-fetched and outlandish to say that the Heat should trade for Durant because of several factors. But as everyone may have forgotten about, Durant requested a trade this summer and listed the Heat as a team he wanted to be traded to, along with the Suns. The Nets super high price tag on Durant prevented any move from happening, but there was definitely discussion between Pat Riley and Sean Marks, GM of the Brooklyn Nets. This season has already not been ideal for Brooklyn, having fired coach Steve Nash seven games into the new season. With the Nets season already looking like a repeat of last years or maybe even worse, the Nets could possibly make Durant available again, though nothing is for certain.

Trading for Durant is a move that is very improbable but one that could change the trajectory of the Miami Heat forever. Words cannot describe the things Durant would do for this team. This team, in desperate need for a pure scorer and a power forward, would kill two birds with one stone in trading for Durant. He is in a league of his own. Durant is one of the best pure scorers of all time, arguably number one. He can hit and make his own jump shot from anywhere. He is a lanky seven-foot anomaly who can shoot a step back jumper over anyone in the NBA. And from 30 plus feet out too. Pairing him with Adebayo and Butler would be prime time television and great for basketball. Trading KD mid-season is not something people would expect the Nets to do or even consider. But as the league and NBA fans everywhere know, nothing is ever off the table for Pat Riley. With his track record, it is going to be hard to count him out.

Another move the Heat can do is to shuffle the lineup around. This past season Max Strus was the starting shooting guard and they were the number one seed in the East. This season they decided to roll out Tyler Herro and now find themselves at thirteenth place in the East. Herro has been just as advertised on the offensive end, maybe even better, but his defensive woes continue to be the achilles heel of this Miami Heat team. Sliding Herro back into a sixth man role would provide the spark off the bench the team has been looking for. Starting Strus would give the Heat an upgrade in shooting and a definitive upgrade on defense.

Another problem they have is that they lack the key role players that make good teams great. PJ Tucker transformed the 2021 Bucks from good to great. The Warriors dynamic of Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr helped elevate them from good to great during last season’s championship run. The Heat are lacking the elements on what would make them great. If the Heat are going to try to make a run these playoffs, it will not be with the team they currently have assembled. There are multiple players out there that can make an impact on this team that do not have as big a price tag as some of the bigger, better-known players. Jae Crowder is a name that Heat fans like to talk about when targeting a trade. Unfortunately, Jae Crowder is a below average NBA player who fooled the entire Miami Heat fanbase into thinking that he is an an above average NBA player. The Suns would have reaped the rewards in their finals run if they would have given Cam Johnson the minutes and opportunities that they gave Crowder. He has never been able to shoot the ball in his career besides the first two rounds of the Orlando Bubble. His defense is overrated. The Heat should look elsewhere to make their team better. Kelly Oubre, Will Barton, Josh Richardson, Terrance Ross, Harrison Barnes, Rui Hachimura and PJ Washington are players that are on tanking teams and are on the final year of their contract.

These players have been linked to the Heat in the past, with Richardson playing his first four seasons in South Beach. Trading for one of these players could provide the boost and spark that this Heat team needs.
The Heat have too many gaping holes right now to call themselves a contender. The power forward position has been waiting to be filled since 2016. They have desperately needed a pure scorer who can get them a basket at any given point since LeBron and Wade were teammates. They keep rolling with Tyler Herro in clutch time even though the other teams gameplan has always been to force the switch and attack him. They also paid him $130 million knowing that this would be a problem. They needed a third star to pair with Adebayo and Butler and decided an aging Kyle Lowry would be the right choice.

They resigned Dwayne Dedmon, who looks like his days as a competent NBA player came to an end six months ago. They brought back Victor Oladipo, who has played a total of twelve regular season games in three years donning a Heat uniform.

The question that arises to the mind is whether or not Pat Riley has lost his touch. People around the NBA are labeling him as “washed”. Whether or not this is true, who knows. What we do know is that the Miami Heat have one of the best organizations from top to bottom in the NBA.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has been a top coach in the league for quite some time now. Pat Riley is known to be one of the best executives the sport has ever seen. My word of advice to Heat fans is one that Sixers fans have been saying for years. Trust the process. Riley and Spoelstra are probably the two people who are most angry and frustrated with the way this Miami Heat season has begun. Their track record leaves me to believe that they will not put up with anything if the season continues as it is.

The Miami Heat are a winning franchise that will do whatever it takes to carry the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season. Prepare for them to leave no stone unturned.

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