It’s time to admit.
The Miami Heat are really good.
Coming into their first season post-Dwyane Wade era, expectations were mild for this Miami Heat squad that would be headlined by their new star, Jimmy Butler. Through the first 20 games of the season, however, the Heat have not only been a pleasant surprise, but have also far outplayed all expectations with a 15-5 record.
First of all, let’s credit Erik Spoelstra and the entire Heat organization; Pat Riley and his team have done a fabulous job finding “diamonds in the rough” like Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, two players who were previously overlooked. At the same time, Spoelstra has done a fantastic job of continuing to put players in positions where they could best succeed, leading to a positive product every night out on the court.
On the offensive end, Spoelstra has created a beautiful flow within their offensive schemes that has the Heat moving the ball often. The numbers show for it, as the Heat are 7th in the league in assist percentage (63.5%) and have seven players averaging double figures. Their star addition, Jimmy Butler, only averages 18 points per game as a result of the frequent ball movement that finds the open man:
The Heat also rank 9th in offensive rating (109.5) and 8th in points per possession (0.999), as they are great in both the half-court as well as transition offense. In addition, the team leads the NBA with a 59% true shooting percentage, and 55.2% effective field goal percentage, which is good for second in the league.
The key here is that none of those aforementioned numbers are a fluke. The Heat have a well-balanced roster surrounded by great shooters; Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kelly Olynyk, and Meyers Leonard all shoot above the league average from deep this season (35.5%), with three of those players in the starting lineup and the other three off the bench. Miami’s bench play has also been crucial to their success so far, with guys like Justise Winslow, Olynyk, Dragic — who could all easily be starters on other teams — and Herro, their rookie sensation, all combining to average 45.2 points per game off the bench, which ranks 4th in the league.
A final note on the Heat’s offense is that the team seems to be flourishing on offense when the offense is run through Bam Adebayo. No doubt an interesting wrinkle, Spoelstra has seemingly transformed Bam into a Draymond-esque force in this offense, often putting him at the top of the key to run dribble handoffs, be the secondary playmaker off the pick-and-roll, or even hit wing players on backdoor cuts:
Aside from putting the ball in the basket, the Heat have tightened up on the defensive end as well. They rank 6th in both defensive rating (103.3) and opponent points per possession (0.934) and are also top 10 in the league in defensive rebounding (36.1), which is often times key for elite teams that limit second chance opportunities.
Speaking of second chance opportunities, the Heat rank in the top 10 in opponent second chance points per game (12.9). The Heat also do a great job at limiting points in the paint, only giving up 45.2 points in the paint per game to their opponents; once again, Bam has been an integral part of that, limiting opponents to 32.9% shooting as the primary defender. He has also become a key cog to Miami’s switch-heavy defense, which is effective because Bam can consistently switch onto and defend some of the league’s premier guards with his quick feet and elite defensive instincts.
On the court, this Miami squad has certainly taken on the hard-nosed, tough persona of its leader, Jimmy Butler. They are feisty on the defensive end and get their hands in the passing lanes, ranking 4th in the entire NBA in steals per game (8.7). Of course, it helps to have one of the league’s best defenders to disrupt any potential offensive flow initiated by the opponent. Watch how ridiculous this steal is and how much ground Butler covers on this play:
Though this Miami Heat team has far surpassed expectations placed upon them coming into the season, it’s not a team that looks like it will fold anytime soon. They’ve beaten some great teams, starting with a five-point win over the Bucks in Milwaukee, a 29-point beatdown of the Rockets at home, a 16-point win over the Suns in Phoenix, and an 11-point win over the Raptors in Toronto — their most recent victory.
Through their 15-5 start, this current Heat squad has proved over and over again that it could perform on both sides of the ball, as well as in the clutch. While it may take a second for us as fans to see how all the pieces fit, Erik Spoelstra has developed the young players while maximizing performances from the veterans, and most importantly, has the team playing hard and together as one unit every night.
It’s time we take this team seriously, because they’re certainly bringing the heat.