The Miami Heat are coming off of a rather stunning run from the Play-In to the Finals, running through the Bucks and Celtics to get there. This offseason, the expectation was for the Heat to make a massive upgrade with Damian Lillard requesting a trade and, specifically, asking to be sent to Miami.
He was instead sent to Milwaukee with Jrue Holiday eventually ending up in Boston, meaning the East’s top two teams on paper got better while the Heat seemingly took a step back with the departures of Max Strus and Gabe Vincent. Even so, Jimmy Butler has made clear that the expectations in Miami remain the same, to compete for a title, as he and Bam Adebayo still make up a formidable top duo. The concerns aren’t about the stars in Miami though, but instead about the depth on the Heat roster and whether they have enough around them. They’ll hope that Tyler Herro can take another stride forward after spending the summer in trade rumors, but they will also need some others to step up after seeing two of their recent development success stories in Vincent and Strus leave.
The good news is Miami is as good as any team in the league in getting the most out of previously unknown (to most) role players. However, there are some real questions for this roster to answer after missing out on Lillard if they’re going to get back in the mix after the upgrades in Boston and Milwaukee.
Biggest Question: Can They Get Enough At Point Guard?
Missing out on Lillard wasn’t just an issue of not adding a superstar talent, but because things dragged on all the way until camp, the Heat were unable to shift to a Plan B and bring in some much needed point guard help. Kyle Lowry is the only nominal point guard on the team after the departure of Vincent, and he’s coming off of a fairly pedestrian season, averaging 11.2 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game on 40.4 percent shooting fro the field. Erik Spoelstra is among the best in the league at adapting to his roster’s strengths and weaknesses, but not having a clear path to 48 minutes of quality ball-handling and initiating is a bit of a concern.
Adebayo and Butler are both good passers for their positions and they’ll surely be used as offensive hubs as always, while Herro will spend time on-ball as well but is not a particularly adept creator for others. Josh Richardson could spend time on the ball in a pinch, but there just aren’t a lot of great options on paper at the moment. The Heat figure to be among the teams active on the trade market (or eventually the buyout market) for a point guard, but until they make an addition they’ll have to get creative to manage a point guard deficit on this roster.
X-Factor: Nikola Jovic
Given the Heat are going to be looking for some new contributors to the main rotation, I’m fascinated to see what (if anything) Jovic can do with what should be a bigger opportunity this season after playing very sparingly in 15 appearances a year ago. The second-year forward has intriguing offensive upside and had a solid showing for Serbia in the World Cup, helping them to the silver medal by scoring 10.1 points per game. We’ll see if he can crack the regular rotation, but in terms of players with the potential to make a leap in Miami’s robust development program, the 6’10 forward certainly seems to be a top candidate.
The top five of the Heat rotation remains the same, with Butler, Lowry, Herro, Adebayo, and Caleb Martin, but their next three highest minutes eaters are gone and that should result in some experimentation, at least early in the year, from Spo. Jovic presents a skillset the Heat don’t currently have in abundance, but a lot of his utility for this team will come down to whether he can be a reliable shooter from deep. If he can, that’s a dynamic the Heat could certainly use and would ease some of the depth questions facing this Miami roster.