After a disappointing 2020-21 season, the Miami Heat made some serious splashes in the offseason.
Miami hasn’t won an NBA title since 2013, and it’s clear that the organization wants to end that drought.
The Eastern Conference is loaded with quality teams, but the Heat can’t be dismissed as contenders. If the dominoes fall the right way, Miami could find itself in the NBA Finals for the second time in three seasons.
Heat fans have plenty to be optimistic about as the 2021-22 campaign nears. Here are a few things in particular that are worth getting excited over.
5. Tyler Herro’s Breakout Season
It was a busy offseason for Tyler Herro, who welcomed his newborn baby girl into the world.
He also spent a lot of time in the gym and gained a substantial amount of muscle. That’s really good news for the Heat, who will be the beneficiaries of Herro’s body transformation.
“He has totally dedicated himself to the weight room,” said the team’s former strength and conditioning coach. “His body is transformed. He will be a much better athlete.”
The former first-round pick will likely have a much easier time defending, getting to the rim and fighting through screens as a result of his muscle gain.
Herro’s dedication is seemingly there, and that’s a great sign. The youngster is entering his third year at the NBA level, and he has a lot to prove.
After the University of Kentucky product had a strong rookie season and put on a show in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, he had an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign. Perhaps expectations were too lofty for him going into the year, but still, he didn’t make the leap many fans were hoping for.
He averaged 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game last season while shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 36.0 percent from deep.
The 21-year-old surely heard a lot of the outside noise throughout the year, and for that reason, Heat fans should prepare to watch a motivated Herro in the upcoming campaign.
4. Victor Oladipo’s Return
Heat fans got an abbreviated look at Victor Oladipo in the 2020-21 season, but it was just a four-game sample. An injury ended his season before he was able to get acclimated with the team.
Fortunately, Miami was able to ink the two-time All-Star to a deal over the summer to bring him back for the 2021-22 season.
Once the 29-year-old is cleared to play, he’ll bring a lot to the table for the Heat.
He has career averages of 17.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. He’s a 43.8 percent shooter from the field and 34.7 percent shooter from deep.
Clearly, he’s a nice offensive weapon. But in addition to that, he’s a great defensive piece.
The former first-round pick is a terrific on-ball defender, and he has some accolades to show for it. Most notably, in the 2017-18 season, he was named to the All-Defensive First Team. That same season, he led the league in steals per game with 2.4.
Oladipo should fit right in alongside a handful of great defenders that the Heat boast.
3. Continued Ascension of Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo is widely regarded as one of the best young players in the NBA, and he deserves that distinction.
At just 24 years old, he’s already one of the best two-way players in basketball. He still has plenty of room to grow, however.
He went into the offseason looking to improve upon two key areas of his game: his jump shot and post play.
He gained a lot of muscle after spending much of the summer in the weight room, and that’ll likely do wonders for his ability to finish in the paint. It should help him on the defensive end as well.
As for his jump shot, it remains to be seen how he will perform in that department.
However, here’s something that’s known: Adebayo will likely share the floor with two outstanding playmakers in Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry for a good portion of every Heat game. If Adebayo embraces the role of being an aggressive scorer, he could easily find himself averaging the most points per game of his career in the 2021-22 season.
2. Superstar Point Guard
Of course, the biggest splash the Heat made over the offseason was the addition of Lowry.
Miami’s move for Lowry has been praised by countless folks around the league, and many executives feel that it was the best acquisition of the NBA offseason.
Although he’s 35 years old, Lowry brings plenty to the table for the Heat.
The veteran isn’t a score-first player, but he’s capable of lighting it up from beyond the arc. He shot 39.6 percent from deep in the 2020-21 season.
Of course, Lowry’s best skill is his ability to distribute the basketball. He averaged 7.3 assists per game last season, 7.5 assists per game in the 2019-20 season and 8.7 assists per game in the 2018-19 season.
Many folks feel that Lowry has been the missing link for the Heat in recent years. Time will tell if that’s proven true.
1. A Team With a Chip on Its Shoulder
When the Heat cracked the 2020 Finals, many individuals chalked it up as a fluke. Given the circumstances surrounding the 2019-20 season, plenty of people didn’t put a lot of stock into the way things unfolded in the Orlando, Fla. bubble.
Miami had a chance to prove that narrative wrong in the 2020-21 season, but instead, the team struggled to find its footing all year long. Rather than putting the notion to rest, Miami gave its critics given even more of a reason to believe that the Heat caught lightning in a bottle in the bubble.
For players like Butler, Adebayo, Herro, Duncan Robinson and other members of the 2019-20 Heat, motivation levels are presumably running very high after a failed 2020-21 campaign.
The 2021-22 season serves as another opportunity for the team to prove that it deserves some respect.