The Miami Heat, last season’s Eastern Conference champions, are 12-17 this season with a bottom-10 offense in the league. If the season ended today, they would be tied for the last play-in games spot, not a playoff lock looking ahead to the Finals again. Injuries and being hit hard by the coronavirus are part of it, off-season roster tweaks are part of it too, but the dialed-in ensemble roster that made the Finals last season has only been seen in Miami in flashes.
Jimmy Butler — who missed 10 games after testing positive for COVID-19 himself — was on ESPN’s “The Jump” with Rachel Nichols and she asked him about the Heat season. Butler was brutally honest.
“Terrible. Just terrible. Not the way we say we want to play. Not the way we’re supposed to be playing. But it’s OK, because we will turn it around.”
Things have not turned around the past couple of weeks; the Heat are 2-3 on a tough road trip through the Western Conference (they face the Lakers in a Finals rematch Saturday night). Butler remains confident that the Heat will find their groove soon.
“We know what adversity is. We’re supposed to be better. We’re supposed to get better and bring everybody up with us. Maybe here and there we’ve forgotten that. We will get back to it, though. I promise you that.”
The Heat defense was an issue to start the season, but they have turned that end of the court around — Miami has a top-10 defense through its past seven games and they are steadily improving on that end (stats via Cleaning the Glass). Part of that is just shooting luck — teams couldn’t miss from three against them early in the season and that has normalized.
The offense is still a problem. Health is part of that — Goran Dragic and Avery Bradley are out against the Lakers, Meyers Leonard is out for the season, adding to a season of shorthanded rosters — but Miami is also turning the ball over on 15.1% of its possessions, the highest rate in the league (16.5 turnovers a game on average).
Tyler Herro, who shot 38.9% from three last season and 37.7% in the bubble, is at 34.4% from deep this season. Herro thrived in the bubble and Miami thought he would progress in his second season, however, Erik Spoelstra also asked him to take on more playmaking responsibilities and that has not worked as well (he’s been part of the turnover problem).
Miami is not the same at the four. They miss Jae Crowder (he signed in Phoenix) for both his strength on defense and his three-point shooting. Kelly Olynyk has not been able to fill those shoes. Derrick Jones Jr. went to Portland in the offseason, which robbed the Heat of some good two-way depth.
Even with all of that, the Heat should be better offensively than they are. Don’t be surprised if they try to make a deadline move to add help at the four or another playmaker to the roster.
Also, don’t be surprised if Butler is right and Miami turns it around. The Heat have work to do, but they should be better than this.