For many years it was almost like magic. Despite the critical consensus, despite the social media doubters, the Miami Heat would overachieve, or at the very least give us something to cheer about. A year after losing LeBron the Heat forced themselves into Game 7 of the Easter Conference Finals. After losing Wade, the 2017 Miami Heat brought us a 30-11 masterclass to end the season, in 2018 the Heat would get Wade back and have us cheering for One Last Dance. 2020 brought us a Finals appearance, and 2022 brought us an ECF slugfest. As Heat fans, we’re spoiled with special. And this Heat team collectively isn’t special. But individually it is. In Wes Goldberg’s great article for The Ringer he references Bam Adebayo’s words coming into the season
“Knowing that the team is coming back the same, nobody can come back the same,” “Everybody looked at themself in the mirror and was like, ‘I have to be better at something when I come back.’”
Many players did just that, even if it hasn’t resulted in above .500 basketball. So let’s ignore the mediocre 16-16 record and instead look at the special players on Miami’s roster this season.
One of the biggest fears I have about Bam is that his elite play won’t get recognized by more than a few All-Star appearances. And that’s just upsetting, considering the fact he holds this Miami Heat team together. After mounting pressure to become “more aggressive” Bam has turned himself into a force of nature, and one of the best defenders in the league. At the same time, he’s refined his offense and is now having his best offensive season ever. Bam is averaging 20.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. His quickness is on display and his midrange-jumper, and bunny at the rim has become menaces for opposing defenses.
The crazy thing is, Bam still has loads of room to improve. He’s previewed the possibility of becoming a threat beyond the arc and is still perfecting his jumper. Add that to his ability to score in bunches and pull-down boards and we’re looking at one of the best and most versatile big men in the game.
I’d say Caleb is one of Miami’s best-kept secrets, but that’s only because the Heat rarely play Nationally televised games. After a renaissance season last year, Martin has forced himself into the starting lineup through undeniable hard-nosed athletic play, quality shooting, and starting beef with random NBA players. Martin is averaging a career-best 11.1 points, and 4.7 rebounds while shooting just under 40% from beyond the arc. He’s one of the best finishers on the team and also solid defensively as he’s often tasked with matching up with the opposition’s best player.
Martin is still finding his place on this team, and a roster shake-up could send him to the second unit - but even if that’s the case he’ll still be an essential component.
Just like that, the reigning sixth man of the year became one of the deadliest offensive players in the league. Think he’s overrated? Fine, but the man just dropped 41 points on 65% shooting a week ago. Better yet he did it with 10 threes, and nine the night before. That means he’s hit 26 threes in 4 games. Not too shabby right? Herro is also having his best season at 21.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. He’s also shooting over 40% from three for the first time in his short career. There’s a lot of dialogue that says Herro scoring so much is hurting this team, but that’s just not true. This team has suffered from scoring droughts for the last three seasons, a true secondary scorer is an absolute must. If Herro can continue this into the postseason, then he’ll truly get the haters off his back. But I know Heat faithful would just like to see it in the third quarter for the time being.
Just when you thought playoff heroics were his ceiling, Jimmy comes back to surprise you. Jimmy is quietly having his best offensive season as a member of the Miami Heat and demonstrating some noticeable improvements. After three years of shooting under 25% from beyond the arc, Jimbo has found a groove from three shooting 36.6%. Add that to his 21.9 points, 5.9 assists, 1.9 steals and 6.8 steals per game and you can see why JiMVP shirts and jerseys decorate the Heat’s house. When Jimmy is playing, he’s undeniably one of the best (if not the best) players on the floor. From defense to slashing to nearly perfect footwork there isn’t much he can’t do. Butler can take over games, and he’s already done so this season. The only issue is that for this Heat team to succeed, Jimmy can’t be the one constantly needed to take over games. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the best players in the league and the most special talent on the team.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Lowry
Like it or not Kyle is a special player. Aside from LeBron James and maybe one or two others, nobody in the league has been this effective at 36 years old - especially not anyone asked to carry the load he has. Up until recently Lowry hadn’t missed a game, and was 2nd in minutes played per game in the NBA. After a slow start, he was the steady hand for the Heat - and the pass-first point guard is playing quite well scoring an efficient 14 points per game while still dishing out 5.9 assists per game. The Greatest Raptor of All Time can still rip the twine from beyond the arc, but not as efficiently as he’s done in the past at just 35%. Still, Lowry has come up clutch often this season, and after three games of much-needed rest will be a huge part of this team if they expect to make any sort of run.
So what does it all mean?
It means these players all improved in the offseason and are continuing to get better. It also means something has to give, it’s not too far-fetched to assume last year’s #1 seed in the East can figure this out and string together some wins in the New Year, or leading up to it. But if that doesn’t happen and the Heat continues to melt away in basketball purgatory, at least we can enjoy some career-best years from the special players that make up Miami’s roster.