The Miami Heat are 20 games into their season, which equates to roughly 25% of the regular season schedule. So that means it’s time to take a look at their progress so far. In what has been a grueling start to the regular season, the Heat have gotten off to a decent start while playing 13 of their first 20 games on the road.
Erik Spoelstra said, “We are where we are.” And Jimmy Butler added that they can get better. While Miami has shown some glimpses of great things, they have also dabbled with some troubling issues.
This is our first-quarter progress report where we look at where things are and think about where they are headed. Let’s take a look...
2nd in the Eastern Conference (1st in Southeast)
PPG: 108.7 (12th in NBA)
RPG: 46.2 (10th in NBA)
APG: 24.0 (8th in NBA)
OPP PPG: 102.5 (2nd in NBA)
Points: Jimmy Butler (23.6 PPG)
Rebounds: Bam Adebayo (10.0 RPG)
Assists: Kyle Lowry (7.4 APG)
Steals: Jimmy Butler (2.1 SPG)
Blocks: Caleb Martin (0.5 BPG)
Significant Injuries and Absences:
Victor Oladipo: has yet to play this season
Markieff Morris: missed 10 consecutive games since Nikola Jokic caused a neck injury with a vicious blindside shot
Showing their worth
The Heat gave both Max Strus and Gabe Vincent standard contracts this season after they were both two-way players last season. And to this point, they have both showed their worth to the Heat. Strus has been a regular in the Heat rotation to the start the season. He’s averaging 20 MPG and 7.0 PPG in the 13 games he has played. Strus is an added element to the Heat’s spacing and long-ball threat. Vincent hasn’t gotten the same type of minutes as Strus but has played in 17 games and just showed some great promise with a 20 point game including 16 fourth-quarter points in Chicago. These two are willing to do whatever is asked of them and have been good additions to the standard roster.
Tyler taking the Leap
So far, Tyler Herro has appeared to have taken a leap in his game, which is exactly what the Miami Heat needed to see from him. Herro is second on the team with 21.8 PPG and he’s doing it off the bench. He’s the clear favorite for 6th Man of the Year right now, and it’s not even close — because it’s not only that he is scoring, but he is so important to what Miami is doing. Herro is doing it efficiently as well. Once he can learn to get to the free-throw line consistently, he will take the next step. Herro’s growth has been a major upside for Miami this year, and at age 21 the Heat have promise for the future as well.
The impact of Kyle Lowry
Not everyone believed that a 35-year-old point guard was going to make such a drastic difference for this team, but that is exactly what Lowry has done for Miami. Although Goran Dragic was great, Lowry has fit like a glove. His defensive DNA is just a bonus to what he brings as a shot-maker and as a creator for others. The begin the season, he taught Miami the pitch ahead pass that gave plenty of easy baskets to Bam and Jimmy. Although Lowry has not been efficient as an offensive player, his impact on the game and the way the Heat play has been undeniable. He’s made them better, much better.
The biggest problem the Heat have faced is that the major contract they handed out to keep Duncan Robinson in a Heat uniform hasn’t paid the dividends they need it to, yet. Robinson is shooting a measly 33.9% from three (He has 40% and 44% in the last two years). He’s also shooting 62% from the free-throw line. He’s struggling. But he’s still ignitable and he’s still connecting, but just not as efficient. If he gets back on track, the Heat become much much better. The problem with his struggle is that when he is on the floor, he’s also being picked on by opposing defenses, so it’s a double-whammy. Duncan does more than just make shots, he’s a floor spacer and grabs a lot of defensive attention, so he still has value to the Heat, but they need the shots to fall.
Miami is putting the most difficult part of their schedule behind them. But honestly, this team and schedule will be built for the final push. The Heat still plays 11 of their next 20 on the road. March is the month they will be home nearly every night. The Heat should look to maintain their health and build good habits. In the NBA, you can lose any night — but the habits you build in that process are important.
Oh, and at some point, they will add Victor Oladipo to the mix.
Grading the first half of the season: B+
It’s easy to look at the second-best record in the East and be satisfied. But the reality is that Miami has let several games slip away that they should not have (LA, LA, WAS, MIN). They’ve done some good things for 13-7 and they have room to improve. Either way, it’s been a fun team to watch and a good season so far.
What has stood out to you about the first quarter of the season?
What grade do you give the Heat?