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Offseason Review: Miami Heat

Can ‘Heat Culture’ still carry the day in South Beach?

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat - Game Five Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Amid the most dormant part of an NBA cycle, we at Liberty Ballers will be sizing up the Philadelphia 76ers’ 14 Eastern Conference foes. Next up are the Miami Heat.

Previously on our offseason review series: Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, and Boston Celtics.

Ever since Jimmy Butler exited Philadelphia for Miami during the 2019 offseason, the Heat have been a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. The coffee mogul Butler led his team to the NBA Finals in the 2020 Orlando bubble, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games. Miami experienced a serious road bump the following postseason, getting swept by the Bucks with the Milwaukee defense limiting Butler to 14.5 points per game on 29.7 percent shooting. However, Heat Culture was back in full force this past summer, as Miami dispatched the Hawks in five games, then took advantage of Joel Embiid’s injuries to bully Philadelphia in a six-game series win, before finally falling in a hotly contested seven-game Eastern Conference Finals against Boston.

Reaching at least Game 7 of the Conference Finals in two of the past three seasons is a good place to be as a franchise. That being said, while many teams in the East improved this offseason, a neutral party would probably admit that the Heat took a small step backwards. As usual, thanks in part to the presence of South Beach and absence of state income taxes in the state of Florida, the Heat were in the conversation for all the available stars on the market. But Kevin Durant seems to have settled for an awkward reunion with the Nets after no one met Brooklyn’s steep asking price, and Donovan Mitchell is now heading to Cleveland. Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro is likely happy about the recent turn of events:

Looking at this offseason, the only major addition is 27th overall pick Nikola Jovic, not traditionally a spot where players are ready to contribute in Year 1. Miami did bring back a handful of rotation pieces in Victor Oladipo, Dewayne Dedmon, and Caleb Martin. Oh, and of course, Udonis Haslem had his own version of The Decision.

On the flip side, though, Miami lost starter P.J. Tucker, who will be bringing that dawg mentality to the Sixers for the next few seasons. Tucker was instrumental in the Heat’s second-round series against Philadelphia in the spring, tracking down loose balls and rebounds, defending a variety of positions, and bringing the toughness that caused Joel Embiid to call him out by name in a press conference as someone the Sixers front office should target.

So what’s a glass half-full case for Miami this season? Obviously, Butler and skilled big man and defensive ace Bam Adebayo create a high floor for the Heat. They would also hope Kyle Lowry is healthier down the stretch than he was last postseason, but that’s tough to count on at age 36. A full season of Oladipo will undoubtedly be helpful after he missed nearly a year due to a torn quad tendon. The biggest potential leap would probably come from Tyler Herro, if he can continue improving from a sixth man, microwave scorer type to more of a borderline All-Star. I’d be bearish on enough defensive improvement from him, though.

Will those things be enough to make up for the loss of Tucker? Maybe. But it’s hard to make the case for them being better than last season, and with nearly everyone else making meaningful additions, the Heat appear to have lost ground in the East. Still, would the Sixers want to play them as a 2-vs-7, 3-vs-6, or 4-vs-5 matchup in the playoffs? Absolutely not. Playoff Jimmy, the adult in the room, remains something to avoid at all costs.