What Are the Miami Heat’s Realistic Chances of Winning a Championship This Season?

7 Min Read

The Miami Heat are surprising many teams this season, winning game after game en route to owning the Eastern Conference’s third-best record.

Despite adding only one All-Star in Jimmy Butler during the offseason, the Heat look like championship contenders one season removed from missing the playoffs.

Though they have shown an ability to beat some of the top contenders in the league, the question still remains whether they are legitimate title threats or not.

Big Wins vs. Big Teams

Kendrick Nunn and Russell Westbrook

Owners of one of the top three records in the league (31-14 as of this writing), the Heat have shown the ability to compete against the league’s best teams.

They have impressive victories against the Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, and two wins each versus the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers. The Heat are a dangerous team and come playoff time, they are the team that no one wants to face.

Miami is on pace to win between 55 and 58 games this season.

Interestingly, a 55-win season would beat out the 2013-14 team’s record of 54-28. That Heat squad boasted three All-Stars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

There is concern, however, as they are currently outside of the top 10 in the league in net rating at 3.3 (No. 11 overall), which is right behind the second tier of title contenders such as the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.

They are only 10th in offensive rating (111.1) and 13th in defensive rating (107.8). To contend for a championship, the Heat have to improve on both ends of the court significantly.

Championship Coaching

One thing that the 2013-14 team and present-day Heat team have in common is head coach Erik Spoelstra, who has earned his stripes by guiding the franchise to four straight Finals appearances and winning two championships in the process.

Spoelstra is proving this season that the team’s success from 2010 to 2014 was as much a product of his coaching as it was the result of having three superstars.

Balanced Roster

Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Kendrick Nunn

The starting five of Butler, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Meyers Leonard, and Bam Adebayo doesn’t exactly strike fear in opponents’ hearts, but it should.

The Heat have the highest offensive rating in the NBA (121.1) in the first quarter, a sign that this lineup is taking care of business at the start of games. However, their performance tends to taper off later in games.

That’s likely because they rely heavily on a bunch of young players that have never played together beyond this season.

Butler’s status as the lead performer on a playoff contender was questionable in the offseason when the Heat acquired him.

But as the 2019-20 season has progressed, the doubts have mostly disappeared.

The nine-year veteran is averaging career-highs in rebounds (7.0) and assists (6.4) to go along with 20.2 points per game.

Adebayo is playing like an All-Star and could very well end up being one next month. His ability to switch and close out, and play both off the ball and on the ball make him one of the league’s most skilled big men.

Nunn and Herro, rookies who have been thrust into major roles for a playoff contender, are playing like seasoned veterans.

The bench is led by former All-Star Goran Dragic, who averages 15.6 points per game, fourth-best on the team. Dragic, Justise Winslow (after he returns and if he comes off the bench at first), Tyler Herro, Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Chris Silva form a solid second unit.

Winslow, the talented young forward from Duke University, is the X-factor regarding the Heat’s chances at being potential title contenders. But his back injury has derailed his development and it is unclear how good he will be upon his return.

The Heat will be competitive in the postseason with this lineup, but most pundits believe they are at least one more All-Star away from being legitimate title contenders.

If the Heat somehow pull off a midseason trade for someone like Chris Paul, D’Angelo Russell, Bradley Beal, Danilo Gallinari or Kevin Love, they could be considered serious threats to win it all in June.

But trading for a star now in the hopes of winning a championship this season will leave them cash-strapped this summer, something that Heat president Pat Riley might not be too happy about.

How Far Will Miami Go?

Jimmy Butler Miami Heat

Inasmuch as Miami is a dark horse pick to win the East, getting past Milwaukee in a seven-game series seems like a stretch. Even if they get past the Bucks, winning a championship against whoever comes out of the West may well be beyond their reach.

The Lakers and Clippers are more than equipped to emerge victorious against the Heat in a Finals matchup.

That’s because Spoelstra’s big men will have trouble handling the Lakers’ talented and oversized frontcourt; and Miami’s offense, which is dependent to some degree on a couple of rookies and young players, will bog down against the Clippers’ stingy defense.

The most realistic, best-case scenario for this Heat team is that they make it to the conference finals before bowing out of the playoffs. They are a player or two away from being serious contenders for the championship.

As good as Butler has been this season, he has yet to prove that he can dominate a playoff series like the game’s premier superstars such as James, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant to name a few.

Until he shows that he can be the alpha dog on a team that goes deep in the playoffs, an opportunity that he has with the Heat this year, it’s hard to imagine Butler carrying a team of overachievers to the mountaintop.

Share This Article
Omar is a freelance writer who has followed the NBA for more than 30 years. Prior to the Internet, he devoured every reading material he could find on the game from newspaper articles to books and magazines. He became a Heat fan the moment they acquired Tim Hardaway and his killer crossover, and lamented not seeing him and Alonzo Mourning win a championship. Seeing Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh play in Miami was a surreal moment for him and more so after they validated the Decision with back-to-back championships. He is ecstatic to cover Miami basketball for Heat Nation.