It wasn’t the ideal plan that fans were hoping for during the Miami Heat’s 2023 offseason. There’s no Damian Lillard or Jrue Holiday for this team. What’s even worse is where they did end up going; two Eastern Conference rivals that are fighting for the same spot that Miami was just in: the NBA Finals. The big difference is that both teams are looking to do what the Heat couldn’t: win it all.
Yet, the problem is bigger than losing the Lillard sweepstakes or cashing in on a talented two-way guard with Holiday. This team already lost two massive pieces of their guard depth in Max Strus and Gabe Vincent to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers respectively. That was all early in the offseason and the team didn’t do much at all to fill those holes. While the Heat gets back a healthy Tyler Herro and signed a familiar face in Josh Richardson, both Strus and Vincent were massive pieces in the team’s run to the finals last season. There’s no doubt in my mind that Herro has the talent to replace some of that missing scoring, but it’s going to take more than just him for this team to compete in a tougher Eastern Conference.
You also need to keep in mind that Vincent and Strus were both mainstays in Miami’s starting lineup throughout the playoffs last season. While it was without a healthy Herro, you can’t deny the impact of both players with this team. More importantly, Strus being a starter has allowed players like Herro to operate off the bench and energize that unit tremendously. It was enough in 2022 to see him win the league’s sixth man of the year, but he’ll most likely start alongside my next concern for the team.
That leads me to the starting point guard position, most likely to be held by Raptors legend Kyle Lowry. The problem? At the age of 37, the former Villanova Wildcat is certainly not going to get any better and while he’s not a horrific option for this lineup, it’s not a great sign when there’s terrific talent like Lillard, Holiday and Jalen Brunson now in the conference at the point guard position. He may still be able to crack double-digit scoring, but his priority should be his playmaking. Last season was a down year for Lowry in terms of his assists with about 5.1 per game and considering that the former all-star was averaging 7.5 dimes a game just two seasons ago, he’ll need to strive to get back to that level. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be a tall task for the former NBA champion.
Even if Lowry does regain that playmaking touch this season, there’s even bigger problems with this roster and that starts with the frontcourt. The Heat was one of the worst rebounding teams in the entire league last season with 40.6 per game and they didn’t get much better in terms of personnel. Thomas Bryant is not a bad addition, but it’s not going to be the monumental addition that turns this team into at least a top-15 rebounding unit in the NBA. Other than an impressive 9.2 boards per game by Bam Adebayo, this team needs to see some improvement in that area, especially if they want to compete against teams like Milwaukee, who are a top three rebounding unit in the entire league.
However, enough of the negatives with this roster. You can never count out the Heat when Jimmy Butler is at his best and he’s consistently proven how deadly he can be, especially in the playoffs. The duo of Adebayo and Butler is not only one of the best in the Eastern Conference, but also the entire league with an elite two-way competition that is huge in keeping the team competitive, even when Miami may be doubted in games. They’re going to give teams a huge run for their money and will always put up a fight, but it’s tough to envision another run like the Heat had last season.
At the same time, the issues are certainly clear with this roster and with an elite NBA mind like Erik Spoelstra coaching the roster and a legendary basketball mind like Pat Riley, this organization could definitely make some moves to elevate their lineup later in the season if things are looking bleak. However, the team should certainly wait to do so as the organization sees how younger players like Jaime Jaquez Jr. and even Nikola Jović fare next season. Jaquez in particular shows a lot of promise and could be another incredible find by this organization through the draft.
But at the end of the day, this team has certainly shown that they can outperform the wildest expectations of their doubters. They may not be a top three seed when the final regular season buzzer ends, but things change when the playoffs arrive. There’s most likely going to be even more surprises this season, but the 2023-24 season will certainly be one of the hardest challenges in the Butler era. How this team meets those challenges remains to be seen.