DimeMag

Miami Heat 2021-22 Season Preview: A Return To Contention In The East

No team took greater advantage of the Orlando Bubble in 2020 than the Heat, and perhaps as a result, no team suffered a greater hangover in 2021 than Miami. Coming off a first-round sweep at the hands of the champion Bucks, the Heat reimagined their roster once again and head into the upcoming season with their sights on another Finals berth.

Roster:

Bam Adebayo
Jimmy Butler
Dewayne Dedmon
Marcus Garrett (two-way)
Udonis Haslem
Tyler Herro
Kyle Lowry
Caleb Martin
Markieff Morris
KZ Okpala
Victor Oladipo
Duncan Robinson
Max Strus
P.J. Tucker
Gabe Vinent
Omer Yursteven

Projected Vegas Win Total: 48.5 at DraftKings

Biggest Addition: Kyle Lowry

This is a no-brainer. After flirting with a trade for Lowry before last year’s trade deadline, the Heat instead nabbed Oladipo and now come away with Lowry anyway. Though they had to give away fan favorite point guard Goran Dragic and promising young big Precious Achiuwa, Miami likely believes Lowry will be the difference between a mid-seed playoff team and a bona fide contender in the East.

DARKO projects Lowry to continue a late-career downturn at age 35, while FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR metrics predict more of a bounce-back campaign for Lowry in Miami. Perhaps most importantly, Lowry enters a defensive infrastructure and more veteran-laden squad than he had in Toronto, where the hope is Lowry can do less and help more.

Biggest Loss: Kendrick Nunn

One could easily make the case for Dragic or Achiuwa here as well, though getting Lowry in return (and keeping Dedmon) lessens that blow. Instead, the value Nunn provided on the court will be harder to replace. He was third among regular Heat players in Box Plus-Minus and posted a near-60.0 true shooting percentage along with a 21 percent usage rate, combining efficiency with responsibility.

At 26, Nunn was also one of the better candidates on Miami’s roster to keep improving, but now that growth will happen next to LeBron James and Co. in Los Angeles. In Nunn’s place, the Heat will look to the unproven Gabe Vincent and Max Strus (as well as perhaps more Oladipo or Herro at point guard) to back up Lowry.

Biggest Question: Can Miami score enough?

A few big things stand out that help explain why the Heat’s offense fell from eighth in the NBA in 2020 and a unit that could compete with LeBron and Anthony Davis all the way to 19th.

First, Butler missed 20 games and wasn’t himself until the last couple months of the year, while Dragic was injured and inconsistent. Second, their transition offense fell from eighth to 19th and scored more than a point fewer per 100 opportunities. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, they went from one of the best deep shooting squads in the league to the bottom half of the league. Lowry should help with shooting, but a return to form for Herro and Robinson would be the bigger missing ingredient.

What Makes This Season A Success: Cracking the top tier in the East alongside Brooklyn, Milwaukee and (maybe) Philadelphia.

The Heat will not be many folks’ pick in a conference that features the reigning champs as well as the betting favorite. But Miami solidifying homecourt advantage during the regular season and then using their cohesion and veteran starpower to make a run at a Finals appearance come playoff time would be a welcome sight for a core that was two games from a title less than a year ago.

What Makes This Season A Failure: Another first-round exit

No team with Butler, Adebayo and Lowry should be suffer a first-round exit in the postseason. Staying healthy will be a key ingredient here as well, which puts even more stress on the depth pieces to step up.

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