Last week, I wrote that Miami Heat fans shouldn’t give up on the season because of the leap Bam Adebayo was taking. Miami was 6-10, but had just played two competitive games with the Brooklyn Nets and was close to getting Jimmy Butler back.
The Heat are now 7-13. Butler has played in two games since missing 10 games due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Goran Dragic and Avery Bradley returned in the Heat’s most recent game last night. Miami squeaked by the Sacramento Kings before squandering a late 10-point lead to the Charlotte Hornets to lose in overtime, 127-121.
These performances don’t inspire confidence — even if the Heat had eked out a win over the Hornets. Miami needed to run the table during this stretch of games to get back in the playoff picture — the Heat’s next four games are against the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks.
We’re 21 games into the season. It’s time to acknowledge that the Heat are in danger of having one of their most embarrassing seasons — missing the playoffs after making the Finals. And this time, we don’t have LeBron James’ departure and Chris Bosh’s blood clots as excuses.
Some Heat fans said that Jimmy Butler’s return would answer many of the Heat’s issues. And Butler has played well, especially considering the report from Ethan J. Skolnick that he lost 12 pounds in a week during his absence. But Miami has played like its middling versions from 2014 to 2019 even with Butler in the lineup.
When Butler first joined Miami, the Liberty Ballers blog published a post titled, “‘Why I’m retiring to Florida’ by Jimmy Butler.” A Sixers TV analyst predicted Butler would not make the playoffs with the Heat — and that if he did, it would be a first-round exit.
We laughed at those Sixers fans. The Heat came out of the gate last season playing above expectations, and they clicked in the playoffs to defeat the No. 1 overall seed Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals for just the sixth time in franchise history.
We also said last season’s team would be the worst version of this core. Adebayo, Herro and Robinson would all improve, and Miami’s surprising trip to the Finals was the best pitch to future free agents.
The Heat brought every core piece back from last year aside from Jae Crowder. Miami signed Avery Bradley and drafted Precious Achiuwa to fill needs. And yet, the Heat are a much worse team than last year. Last week, Paul Pierce blasted the Heat, saying last year’s team “was built on toughness and hard work, and I haven’t seen that this year.” He’s right.
Miami brought back the core that went 30-11 in 2017 and saw that team revert to fighting for one of the bottom seeds in the East. The Heat brought back the 2006 championship team and went 44-38 the next year.
When the Heat traded for Jimmy Butler in the 2019 off-season, they committed to a win-now mode. There’s no reason to tank this year — Miami’s unprotected 2021 draft pick now belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the 2015 trade for Dragic.
The Heat need to make a big move to avoid throwing away a season of Butler’s prime. My preference would be a trade with the Houston Rockets for Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker — though that can’t happen until March. But I’ve seen enough. The Miami Heat need a major shake-up.