The Miami Heat haven’t looked like the same championship team they were last year.
Still, league executives and scouts around the league believe the Heat will be one of the toughest teams to put away, even in the play-in tournament.
“Winner-take-all and Jimmy Butler’s playing? I like Miami’s chances,” one Eastern Conference scout said to Bleacher Report’s A. Sherrod Blakely.
The Heat are the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 35-31 record this season.
Of course, the Heat are a completely different squad when Butler is healthy and leading the charge. The five-time All-Star is collecting 21.5 points on top of a career-high 7.2 assists and 7.0 rebounds per game this season.
In his first year with the Heat, Butler led the Heat all the way to the 2020 NBA Finals. The Heat knocked off the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics before getting eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the championship round.
According to league executives, the “wild card” in the Heat’s postseason chances is coaching.
“He’s (Erik Spoelstra) seen it all, done it all,” an Eastern Conference GM said. “There really isn’t a scenario that you can create or put in front of that team that Spo either hasn’t seen or isn’t prepared to handle. If you need to absolutely win one game, just one game, Erik Spoelstra’s the guy you want.”
The Heat take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.