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The Heat bet on internal growth. It failed.

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Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro didn’t take leaps this year.

New Orleans Pelicans v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

As I’ve mentioned, the Miami Heat’s 2019-20 season was a great story of player development. Bam Adebayo finished second in Most Improved Player voting. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn both made the All-Rookie team. Duncan Robinson spent his rookie year on a two-way contract with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. In his second year, he grew into a player every opposing team needed to plan for.

Coming off a season that blew past any fan’s realistic expectations — a trip to the NBA Finals — Miami bet on themselves and doubled down. The Heat made some small free agency moves — they split the mid-level exception between Moe Harkless and Avery Bradley. Aside from letting Jae Crowder leave for the Phoenix Suns, Miami kept their core intact.

An embarrassing first-round sweep wasn’t how anyone in this organization expected it to go. What went wrong?

An alternative universe in which the Heat replicated another season of internal growth would have looked like this: Now as a starter, Tyler Herro takes another leap from what he showed in the bubble. Adebayo becomes an elite second option next to Jimmy Butler, in addition to his superb defense. Robinson follows up his sophomore year of shooting 44.6 percent from 3 with another otherworldly shooting season. (And KZ Okpala becomes a solid rotation 3-and-D wing and Precious Achiuwa a good backup big.)

Instead, Herro lost his starting job by early February. He never was a natural point guard. The second-year guard also suffered from injuries throughout the year that prevented him from finding the rhythm that defined his rookie season.

By contrast, Adebayo at times looked like he was taking another leap this past year. In January, he scored 41 points on just 20 field goal attempts at the Brooklyn Nets, a game that led Erik Spoelstra to call him a superstar. With Jimmy Butler sidelined in COVID protocols, Adebayo looked for his shot more often.

But later in the season, that aggression came and went. In a March 2 game against the Atlanta Hawks, without Butler, Adebayo attempted only eight shots. The Heat lost. When Miami badly needed a win at the Minnesota Timberwolves after two straight blowout losses to the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets, Adebayo shot just eight times. Miami lost that game, too.

And in the playoffs, Brook Lopez sunk all the way into the paint whenever Adebayo had the ball far from the basket. Adebayo never shot the jumper with confidence and struggled to finish at the rim against Lopez. He didn’t get to the foul line much, either.

As for Duncan Robinson, his 3-point percentage dipped from 44.6 to 40.8. To his credit, that’s still a fine mark. And he made strides on both sides of the court. Some Heat fans don’t believe Robinson is worth the contract he’ll get this off-season. And his shaky playoff performance aside from Game 1 doesn’t inspire confidence. But I would keep him.

Of course, the short off-season didn’t allow Miami players to have as much time to refine their games. If the Heat keep Herro and Robinson, they could look much better with several months to rest and then head back to the gym.

And yes, the Heat’s counter to the Bucks’ trade for Jrue Holiday was Victor Oladipo, who suffered a season-ending injury four games into his Heat tenure. But on some level, Adebayo, Herro and Robinson all fell short of where they needed to be for the Heat to make another deep playoff run.