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How can Heat continue to contend in Jimmy Butler’s window?

Victor Oladipo and Kyle Lowry could both improve this season.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

August is coming to a close. Kevin Durant will remain with the Brooklyn Nets. Now, we’ll see if the Miami Heat can meet the demands of the Utah Jazz to trade for Donovan Mitchell. But for a moment, let’s assume the Heat go into the season without trading for Mitchell. How, in that case, can the Heat continue to contend during Jimmy Butler’s window?

Many pundits put the Heat below the contenders in the Eastern Conference — the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and, now with the news of Durant, the Nets. Now, in a September 2021 podcast episode, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said that Miami would be a worse regular-season team than projected. He said the depth worried him, but Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus all exceeded expectations.

The Heat could again surprise folks, as they did last year. Victor Oladipo will play for the entire season, and he remains a wild card. He and Tyler Herro could compete for the starting two guard role. Regardless of whether Oladipo comes off the bench or starts, his potential as a dynamic player on both ends of the court could raise the ceiling of this team. He had some great defensive moments in the 2022 playoffs.

Aside from Oladipo, Kyle Lowry is another player who could have a bounce-back season. He had a personal issue that in his words “kind of derailed my season” and then a hamstring injury in the playoffs. Pat Riley challenged him to get in world-class shape. The Heat traded for Lowry last summer to be the third cog next to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Hopefully, he’ll prove the doubters wrong and show that he still has plenty left in the tank.

The Heat are going into the season without a replacement for P.J. Tucker. They need to find an upgrade by the trade deadline. But Oladipo and Lowry can help them stay competitive in the Eastern Conference.