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The Heat have a good young core. How far can they take the team?

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Brandon Di Perno and Diego Quezada break down how Miami’s young core has changed expectations for the team.

Miami Heat v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Back in December 2018, Zach Lowe of ESPN said on a podcast, “I’m not sure any team in the league has a bleaker outlook than Miami.” Since then, the Heat traded for Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo took a leap to became an All-Star, and undrafted players Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn emerged as diamonds-in-the-rough. How did things change so quickly for Miami, and what can we expect from their young core in the playoffs?

Brandon Di Perno and Diego Quezada take a look.

Q: After last season’s 39-43 finish, did you think the Miami Heat had a bleak future?

DQ: The post-LeBron era has been tough for the Heat — Chris Bosh’s career-ending blood clots set Miami back a couple years, and signing Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson and Dion Waiters to exorbitant contracts were bad mistakes.

Last year, I thought the Heat had a nice, young trio of Bam Adebayo, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow — but I didn’t think the Heat would make noise in the playoffs until the 2021-22 season. The Jimmy Butler trade changed things on a dime, though. Richardson showed he doesn’t quite have the chops to be a go-to scorer last year, and trading Whiteside allowed Adebayo more room to grow.

BD: I didn’t, even despite that one Zach Lowe opinion. Like Diego, I really thought Miami was going to invest in the young core of Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo. Justise had shown flashes of being a point-forward, Bam was ready to start and Richardson had shown he was capable of handling the offensive workload to a point. While I didn’t expect us to compete so soon, I certainly wasn’t too worried about the future.

Obviously, the trade for Jimmy happened, Bam had a breakout year and the Heat has had a great season with even more break-out young players. So, I’m not complaining at all.

Q: We know Bam Adebayo has been great this season. But what is one area you’d like to see him improve on in the playoffs?

DQ: I’d like to see him be more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. Adebayo only attempts 11 field goals per game. That’s fifth on the Heat, behind Kendrick Nunn, Butler, Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro. Although Adebayo’s dribble hand-off game with Duncan Robinson has been superb this season, what happens when defenders load up on Robinson?

I’d like to see Adebayo go with his explosive first step to get to the rim — think Suns-era Amar’e Stoudemire. We know he can do it; he just needs to look at the basket more often instead of only looking for the pass.

BD: I’d like to see Bam develop a better jump shot. He has a soft shooting touch and can shoot pretty well from the mid-range, but to see him develop into a possible three-point threat or even just hit a consistent long two would open him up for pick and pop opportunities a la Chris Bosh. This would make Miami’s floor spacing even better, and we all know how well Bosh and Dragic played the pick-and-roll. If Adebayo can develop that Bosh/Channing Frye ability he’ll add another tool to his already deadly arsenal.

Q: Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson both appear to be growing before our eyes in the bubble. What has been most encouraging from them?

DQ: Both players have added more to their offensive game. Before the restart, it was rare for Robinson to even attempt a two-point basket. Now, he’s driving to the basket when he senses defenders playing for the 3.

And Herro doesn’t look like a rookie anymore (of course, under normal circumstances Herro would be gearing up for his second season now). He’s been remarkably better at finishing around the rim than he was prior to the restart. He’s shown the ability to make smart passes. It’s great to see this 20-year-old grow into a better player.

BD: Diego hits the nail on the head here. Duncan’s progress has been amazing. He’s obviously a three-point juggernaut, now attracting attention from multiple defenders, but it’s this new ability to slash to the rim and get creative on offense that will make him an even bigger threat in the postseason. Duncan is also starting to make plays and facilitate for his teammates when pressured. When that happens, things like this happen:

Like Diego mentioned, Herro doesn’t look like a rookie anymore. His handles are much improved, as is his ability to finish around the rim. In his one game replacing Nunn as point guard, he looked like a real threat. Initially billed as a spot-up shooter, having Herro as a mobile shooter and playmaker make him much more valuable.

Herro is also putting up ridiculous numbers finishing around the rim, showing an elevated aggressiveness and focus. I mean, just watch Couper’s Herro compilation below: