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The Jimmy Butler era has been up and down. Why?

In a word, complacency.

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

After climbing above .500 for the first time this season, the Miami Heat fell right back under that mark with two home losses — to the Chicago Bulls and last night to the Indiana Pacers. Fans have increasingly viewed the 2022-23 season as already lost.

Assuming the trend continues and this Heat season ends with a thud, we’ll have four seasons in the Jimmy Butler era. Each season alternated between good and bad. The impressive 2019-20 campaign featured Bam Adebayo’s breakout and a Finals run. After that, the Heat barely avoided the play-in tournament before an embarrassing sweep to the Milwaukee Bucks.

And on the heels of a true “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” season led the Heat to a No. 1 seed before Jimmy Butler took over in the playoffs, the Heat are 16-17 heading into Christmas.

The easy answer is that the Heat have a good season after they improve the roster. The Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade was brilliant — especially because it nearly fell apart — but other shrewd moves, like the draft pick of Tyler Herro, the midseason trade for Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder and having good seasons from then-unknowns Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn helped.

After the Finals run, the Heat let Crowder sign with the Phoenix Suns and signed Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless. Perhaps Miami assumed that outside improvements weren’t necessary since the young core would grow on its own. As we know, neither the free agency signings nor internal improvement panned out.

In the summer of 2021, the Heat traded Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa for Kyle Lowry. Although the 2019 NBA champion offered little in the playoffs, he led a supporting cast of unheralded players to numerous key wins when Jimmy Butler and/or Bam Adebayo were injured.

They signed P.J. Tucker, who displayed a more diverse offensive game than previously thought to offer and defended everyone from Trae Young to Joel Embiid. Max Strus and Gabe Vincent both had breakout seasons, and Caleb Martin turned out to be another diamond-in-the-rough.

This past offseason, the Heat only drafted Nikola Jovic and let Tucker walk. Trade discussions for Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell never materialized. And now here we are.

Of course, we can track this trend not just through the Butler era, but even further back.

Miami’s complacency was inexcusable this past offseason because of how the 2022 playoff run turned out. While the 2020 Bubble run featured strong performances from Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo, the 2022 run was all Butler. The Heat had no backup plan for Tucker leaving and no backup plan if Durant didn’t come to Miami.

Micky Arison’s financial troubles since the pandemic have long fueled speculation, and he sold 5 million Carnival shares Nov. 30, 2020. That was all before Miami-Dade County and the Heat entered into a 19-year contract with FTX, the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange. (The county asked a federal judge to immediately cancel the deal.)

Whatever the reason — and we can see that the Heat have had some bad off-seasons before the cruise industry suffered — the Heat need to fix this, and fast. In fairness to Pat Riley, he tried to do it at midseason in 2021. He traded for Trevor Ariza and Victor Oladipo and signed Dewayne Dedmon. But Oladipo’s season-ending injury after four games dashed any hopes of a deep playoff run.

The Heat didn’t do their job over the summer. Coming up, they’ll have a small window to make up for it before we have to write off another season.