By Gabe Windon
The Miami Heat were stuck in what some have referred to as “No mans land” for a few seasons, which is when a team is not good enough to be serious contenders, but not bad enough to attain high draft picks. Last Summer, they acquired Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler in Free Agency. The Miami Heat are currently 3rd in the East with a record of 26-10. They are basically a lock to make the playoffs, and have surpassed expectations only 36 games into the season. Most have attributed this to be because of Butler, and while his presence has been a massive boost, there are a lot of key factors that have lead to success in the 305.
Jimmy Butler: There is no doubt Jimmy Butler has helped the Heat reach their full potential. The 30 year old All Star is averaging 20/7/6 splits while shooting 42.9% from the field and 27% from behind the arc. While most of his numbers are down a little from last year, his assists per game (6.6) is the highest of his career by a wide margin, and is significantly better than his career average of 3.6 assists per game.
He has taken on more of a facilitating role this season, allowing the younger players to get their touches in and build an offense that is versatile and not focused on one player.
The Young Guys: Bam Adebayo has been a great asset for the Miami Heat this season. The 22 year old Center is averaging 15.6 points and 10.6 rebounds while also showing the ability to pass as a big man, with a respectable average of 4.5 assists per contest. He has started all 36 games this season, and has taken full advantage of the opportunity given.
Duncan Robinson has been a great role player for the Heat in only his second season in the league. The 6’7 sharpshooter is averaging 11.8 points and shooting a phenomenal 44% from 3 point range. Duncan struggled last season, averaging 3.3 points per game, and shooting a paltry 28% from the field. This season he has been a key contributor and his value as a 3 point sniper cannot be understated.
Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn have shown why they belong in the rotation, each bringing value to this team. Tyler Herro has been vital to the Heats bench, averaging 13/4/2 while shooting 41.6% from the field and 37.8% from three. He has been relatively consistent for a rookie and has put up such averages in 28 minutes per game being a primary option for the second unit. The biggest surprise for Miami has been Kendrick Nunn, the 6″2 shooting guard capable of putting up points on any given night. The 24-year old has put up 15/2/3, and while he isn’t extremely good at anything besides scoring, he is crucial to Erik Spoelstra’s Starting Five as a scorer.
Bench Depth: The Miami Heat have the 4th ranked bench unit in the NBA, beating out the Nuggets, Rockets, Clippers and Jazz, which are all teams with depth. The second unit is averaging 41.8 PPG (8th in the league) and shooting 45% from the field and 38% on 3 pointers. Goran Dragic has been exceptional as a scorer off the bench, while providing veteran leadership and solid play-making.
Averaging roughly 16 Points, 3 Rebounds, and 5 assists while shooting a career best 41% from downtown, Goran has been what the team needs out of a Backup Point Guard and more. As mentioned earlier, Tyler Herro has been a good scorer for this Heat team at only 19 years of age. Kelly Olynyk can space the floor – shooting 41% from 3 on nearly 4 attempts a game – and is a solid backup Power Forward. With the recent return of James Johnson, he may be able to provide Miami a solid reserve who can bring experience to a young team.
Conclusion: Pat Riley has built himself a squad here, with All-Star Jimmy Butler leading the way. This isn’t a team loaded full of superstars, but what it lacks in big names it makes up for in Versatility, Depth, and Star role players. The Future is promising for this young team, and with Erik Spoelstra at the helm, it is possible we will be seeing this team as a contender in the 2020’s.