The Miami Heat are about to begin their seeding games this weekend. So a few of us got together to chat about three questions ahead of the seeding games.
Here’s what we are thinking.
QUESTION 1: What is your expectation for how the Heat will perform in the eight regular season games?
Brandon DiPerno: I think the Heat are going to take these games to get ready for playoffs. That’s not to say that Miami won’t be competitive, but let’s face it they didn’t have their whole team together until the last scrimmage game. With that, I’m sure the coaching staff wants to experiment a little bit with the rotations (especially with Kelly playing so well). The Heat will always play to win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop a couple of games in preparation for the postseason.
Matt Pineda: I expect the Heat to perform well. I know the scrimmage against the Grizzlies showed some rough spots, but I think they will be ready. Fully healthy, I like the Heat in most matchups (although a back-to-back is tough). I want to see Miami go 5-3 or 6-2, but I also think their “position” in the playoffs is solidified enough that they are more concerned about health and continuity rather than playing their guys 40+ minutes to ensure a win.
Surya Fernandez: If it was an easier schedule and given the shaky defense we’ve seen in the scrimmages, I expect them to always play hard to win but the Heat could be .500 if they’re not careful. As long as their playoff seeding turns unfavorable and he is forced to play his main guys more minutes, I can see Spoelstra mixing and matching his rotation a bit not solely just to match up better with opponents but to finally see what his fully healthy roster looks like on the floor.
Tristan Tucker: After seeing the Heat’s record stacked up with how it was expected to perform this season, it is easy to shoot high and say the Heat will make a serious run over these next seeding games and into the playoffs. And while the Heat have been great this season and do have a legitimate chance to contend, the 3 scrimmage games emphasized glaring questions about the team.
Because only playoff contending teams were invited to Orlando, each of the Heat’s games will be difficult tests for them to overcome. I think some rust will show early on, and they might lose 3 of their first 4 games. The Celtics have given the Heat trouble all season, and I don’t know how likely it is that Miami is able to overcome the Bucks for a third time in the regular season. I believe that 4-4 or 5-3 is a realistic mark for the Heat, and the games against the Raptors, Celtics, Pacers and Bucks will be the most important for the team, so it can prepare for any potential playoff matchups and adapt as necessary.
QUESTION 2: What is the one thing you want to see from the Heat?
Brandon: I want to see an improved defense. Miami has legitimate defensive superstars in Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala and Bam Adebayo. While we’ve seen impressive individual performances from them all season, Miami’s team defense has been surprisingly disappointing. If the Heat is to compete into the later rounds of the playoffs this has to be fixed. Miami’s offense is already sound, an improved defense is the one thing that I really believe can make them into a true contender.
Matt: I want to see Jimmy Butler feel confident with his shot. All season, Butler has been subpar with his shot. He isa great driver, and gets to the free throw line. We made plenty of excuses for it and even excused it because the Heat were winning. But if Miami wants any shot at winning multiple playoff games, they will need Butler to be confident to take shots and not drive all the time.
Jimmy has to take over more in this moment because deferring to Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn can only last so long before the veteran will need to be the man.
Surya: Limiting stretches of time where the ball movement gets stagnant and the offense gets predictable. When they race out to those early leads they look unstoppable. I’d like to see them play like that regardless of who’s in.
Tristan: I want to see consistency, because even though this team has been excellent thus far, it can tend to be a little streaky in parts. One may recall the Western Conference road trip from earlier in the season and how defeated the Heat looked the entire way along. In order to avoid that kind of deflation, the Heat need to hit a groove early if it wants to surprise anyone.
It would also be nice to see Andre Iguodala and Solomon Hill find their roles on the team, as neither has particularly stood out since arriving to the team at the trade deadline. Iguodala was a welcome addition that brings championship experience, but he has not brought anything to the Heat offense yet, and posting a -3 net rating.
On top of this, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have been excellent this season, but have been inconsistent at times and could each stand to improve on defense.
QUESTION 3: What’s the biggest question mark for the Heat heading into the restart?
Brandon: I think it is rust. Two very important players (Bam and Kendrick Nunn) missed Miami’s training camp 2.0, and are working overtime to get back into the groove. They’ve looked good in the scrimmages, but the season pause was a long layoff. Rust doesn’t just affect them, it affects the whole team. So really it could be a blessing for the Heat, especially if their team chemistry remained intact as this affects all of the teams in the bubble. But in my opinion, it is definitely the biggest question mark.
Surya: Which Heat team are we getting? The one from earlier in the season or the one that struggled in February? Miami bounced back by winning five of the last seven games before the season was suspended, but before that they had only managed to beat the lowly Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers during a stretch of nine games. Yes the team was a bit banged up but now with everyone back will we see this team focused and prepared to put in consistent effort regardless of the admittedly strange playing environment? Without the advantage of playing for home court advantage at the AmericanAirlines Arena, where they enjoyed a dominant 27-5 record, I wonder how playing in the bubble will affect their performance.
Matt: How much can they rely on Andre Iguodala? They didn’t make that trade for fun. They traded away talent and bodies for Iguodala and extended because they think he is a difference maker. He’s got great hands and has shown how he can help at moments, but does he provide enough of a boost to take away serious time from Herro, Robinson, or another wing to play him down the stretch.
That’s really what I need to know...how much of a role does he play for Miami.
Tristan: The most glaring issue for this team without a doubt is the defense and effort on that side of the floor. This is relatively uncharted territory for a team that has always prided itself on pushing out strong defenders that can elevate the team culture.
Outside of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, it’s hard to find more quality defenders on the roster. Jae Crowder, Iguodala and Hill were supposed to help with that, but none have made a strong impact on how the team has been performing on defense thus far. Derrick Jones Jr. has made a pretty solid impact on defense, but the team has seemed out of whack all season in this area, a potentially devastating issue if not addressed sooner rather than later.