Basketball executives across the NBA have continuously stated, behind closed doors, that the Miami Heat’s run to the 2020 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Disney bubble was a fluke. Had it been a season without widespread change, Miami would have got nowhere near the championship game. Although Heat fans scoffed at these statements and claimed them to be made out of pure envy, it seems as if the executives may have had a point. Erik Spoelstra’s men are off to a rough 6-10 start and have lacked consistency throughout the early stages of the season. Moreover, their inability to finish off close games may be a result of the team letting the critics get to their heads. So, are the reigning Eastern Conference Champions in trouble? This week, Evan Rodriguez and Sebastian Garay-Ortega debate this question.
Evan: For Miami, this season they’ve been dealing with many injuries. Many of the problems they’ve been having in recent games have been due to the absence of star player Jimmy Butler and sophomore guard Tyler Herro. There have been games such as the Dec. 12 and 14 matchups versus Philadelphia where Miami played with only eight players on the floor and were demanding players like Duncan Robinson to play up to 45 minutes with little to no rest in these games. Even with these injuries, Bam Adebayo has continued to look like an all-star, carrying this team that has looked lost in recent games. His play has allowed Miami to continue to compete and barely lose to super teams like the Brooklyn Nets by a mere four points. With Butler, Herro and even defensive guard Avery Bradley slated to return soon, I expect them to come back and play like the reigning Eastern Conference champions. Butler will continue to provide the leadership that the team has been looking for down the stretch in the fourth quarter where they’ve been known to give up leads, Tyler Herro will provide a dependable scoring opportunity for the team and Avery Bradley will play the tough defense that Miami needs against high-scoring teams. This team is most certainly not in trouble.
Sebastian: The main concern that arises with the Miami Heat is their inability to get defensive rebounds. Any basketball fan would agree that watching one’s team continuously get out-rebounded in the same possession is something that irks them to no end. Most importantly, it gives the opposition second and third chance opportunities that they will inevitably cash in on. Although this has been happening game after game, head coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff still do not have an answer to what is becoming a legitimate concern. Furthermore, the “Wade-County” faithful have to come to realize their depth on the roster is simply not good enough. The only legitimate offensive threat off the bench is Kendrick Nunn, who led the team in points (22) and assists (5) in their Jan. 22 loss to the Toronto Raptors. In the team’s back-to-back against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 23 and 25, Nunn finished with a combined total of 29 points, the most points scored by anyone off the bench, and the only bench player to score double digit points, despite Gabe Vincent and Andre Iguodala participating in the contest for 15 or more minutes in both games.
Evan: Miami certainly does need some help rebounding the ball, but they have definitely been putting in an effort to correct that side of their weaknesses. The additions of Precious Achiuwa and Maurice Harkless help bring more height to a smaller Miami team that struggled to rebound against teams like the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Miami’s bench is not bad at all, but with recent injuries, it has been looking weak. When Miami had implemented Goran Dragic off the bench and had switched between Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro, their bench looked very strong. Dragic had averaged a solid 16.2 points and Herro averaged 17.6 points with this strategy enacted by head coach Erik Spoelstra. With a healthy starting lineup that includes Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, Miami will be back to a regular scoring output that features a strong starting lineup and bench.
Sebastian: There is no question that Bam Adebayo is developing into a superstar and is doing something that most athletes fail to do: live up to his contract (at least for now). Nonetheless, he seems to be the actual number two option on the team. Of course, Jimmy Butler is the main protagonist, but Adebayo’s ability to lead the team in points in their previous two matchups against the Nets is actually more concerning than it is promising. Of course, Tyler Herro has not participated in the previous six matchups due to injury, but one of the Heat’s most “promising” youngsters fails to perform at a high level consistently; he currently has a three-point percentage of 30.2, which — for NBA standards — is considered abysmal. Sure, Herro can make things happen, but he can also miss open shots or fail to take advantage of clear cut opportunities. So, my concern lies in the fact that Adebayo cannot be the lead scorer every game, and the reality is that it’s highly unlikely his mid-range game will become elite; sure, he did shoot well against the Nets, but can he be consistent? I don’t think so. All in all, my point is this: If Herro fails to be that “guy” every night, and Robinson continues to be hit-or-miss from the perimeter, how much depth do the Heat really have? We already know Butler is a very poor three-point shooter, and although Avery Bradley is exceptional defensively, his offensive contributions are simply not enough to get this team over the edge.