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“Running it back” resulting in a familiar trend for this year’s Miami Heat

Everyone was skeptical of not making any off-season additions, and for good reason.

NBA: Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat came into the 2022-2023 season making no free agent or trade acquisitions. Yes, Pat Riley and co. found another potential “hidden gem” in Nikola Jovic late in the first round of the draft, but it’s simply just not enough right now. In defense of the Miami front office, there were plenty of reasons to assume “running it back” wasn’t necessarily a bad move. With an offseason healthy to work on his game, Victor Oladipo was projected to have a big year and even slate in as the new Sixth Man. It looked like Kyle Lowry got in significantly better shape. Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo were primed to take another leap.

Along with more improvements in role players like Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and Omer Yurtseven. Man, even Duncan Robinson was primed to have a bounce back year. All that sounds promising, but the truth is, none of those scenarios have panned out. Oladipo and Yurtseven have yet to even touch the floor this year, with Yurtseven getting ankle surgery sidelining him until at least March. The Oladipo situation has been very vague in itself as well, but it looks like he isn’t close to making his season debut either.

Duncan Robinson, who had a couple solid performances, still has proved to be extremely streaky and not reliable. This has even led to some reports that the sharpshooter won’t be on the team much longer.

Although Oladipo has been traveling with the team as of this recent road trip, there has not been a single rumor of him being close to a return or even practicing. All the role players like Strus, Vincent, and Martin look like pretty much the same players as last year. They are supporting guys who look like they are just being forced into taking more responsibility. Lowry, although having a few standout games including his magnificent triple double performance in the OT loss to Washington last week, has looked a bit inconsistent.

That could be because of cohesion with all these different starting lineups that Erik Spoelstra has been having no choice but to use. It definitely makes it harder as the point guard to have to create chemistry with different groups every night. Which leads into the next problem; Herro, Adebayo, and even Jimmy Butler not being available. Herro has been sidelined for quite a while now, and it seems like Miami fans get the same update every single night with him.

Adebayo and Butler have missed their fair share of games too, as Butler hasn’t even been with the team since last week’s game in Toronto. The injury bug has hit the Heat extremely hard. It got as bad as having only seven players available to play in the Washington game, something that has only been done a few times in Heat history.

However, injuries is not anything new for Miami. They dealt with the same problems last year, most notably people dealing with Covid. It’s just that this year, it doesn’t look like the depth is a strength for this team anymore. Could this problem really be stemming from just the loss of PJ Tucker? Although an older veteran player, Tucker provided something that this year’s Heat desperately lacks; a strong starting PF.

This is not a knock on Caleb Martin… he has been a professional and great teammate to accept this new role that was brought to him. The issue is that the starting PF position has brought him outside his comfort zone. He flourished in Miami’s system last year as an undrafted player off the bench, where he was utilized as a SG or SF, positions that are more common for a 6’5 player. His length was huge for Miami on the defensive end, and he looked more free on offense too.

There has been a pattern with this team for years now. Every time Pat Riley sees a glimpse of success, he settles in bringing the same exact core back, making little to no changes. In 2016-2017, the Heat finish the season 30-11 in the second half. They run it back the following year, only to be mediocre. The Heat make the finals in 2019-2020, only to run it back and be mediocre the following year. Last season, they make it to a game 7 of the ECF, to run it back this year and be mediocre.

More recently, it’s noticeable that in the Jimmy Butler era, the team’s were successful based off that PF position. Jimmy’s first year included Jae Crowder, who was part of a Finals run, left the following year and the team struggled. Then came PJ Tucker, who helped Miami secure a 1-seed in a loaded East and come one shot away from the NBA Finals. Now he’s gone the next year and it’s right back to the drawing board.

It has been painful to witness, and especially question the great Pat Riley. Maybe he has something up his sleeve for the trade deadline or even sooner, via a free agent pick up or in the trade market.

Maybe he’s waiting to see this Heat team at absolute full strength? It’s tough to tell. Jimmy’s prime gets smaller and smaller as each year passes at now 33 years old; the time to contend is now.

This team doesn’t have anytime to wait. The Eastern Conference has gotten stronger while Miami sat back and did nothing to improve.

Whether the team gets their players back healthy at some point and they find a way to gel, if they find a way to acquire an impact player, or possibly neither, has all of Heat Nation wondering, “what now?”