Heat

Miami’s 2021 Fate Sealed in 2020 Offseason

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“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

This is just a quote, but it ended up being reality for the Miami Heat. How did Miami seal their first-round exit fate before their season even began?

Before we start, let’s make this clear. The players deserve some of the blame, but this isn’t their fault. Yes, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo didn’t show up to play, but this is nobody’s fault except for the front office. They failed to improve, thinking that they could get by with (mostly) running it back.

Therefore, the Heat’s front office deserved this reality check.

Lackluster Offseason Sets the Tone

Say what you want about Jae Crowder, but the Heat missed him all year. Letting him walk was the first mistake.

I get it. Three years and $30 million isn’t great when you have aspirations of getting the next superstar that hits free agency, but that contract is easily tradable. Instead, Pat Riley gave Meyers Leonard the contract with the intent to trade him, signing him to two-year, $20 million deal with a second-year team option. He also signed Goran Dragic to a two-year, $37.4 million deal, also with a second-year team option.

The most puzzling thing is that if the Heat planned to trade Leonard at the deadline, why not re-sign a serviceable player like Crowder and let him play until then? He would surely have more trade value than a player like Leonard who is, quite literally, a cheerleader.

Subtractions

  • F Jae Crowder: Signed three-year, $30M deal with the Phoenix Suns
  • F Derrick Jones Jr.: Signed two-year, $19M deal with the Portland Trail Blazers
  • F Solomon Hill: Signed one-year, $2.2M deal with the Atlanta Hawks

In my eyes, Crowder was the heart and soul of the Heat’s playoff run in the bubble last season. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Crowder averaged 12.8 points on 40% from beyond the arc.

He was also Miami’s defensive anchor. Based on NBA.com’s matchup database, Crowder spent at least 15 minutes of game time guarding Anthony Davis, Jaylen Brown, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton and Victor Oladipo. These players shot a combined 41% on him (59/143). While 41% doesn’t sound great, those are stars and superstars that he defended. The physicality that he brought was severely missed.

Additionally, Crowder’s Suns eliminated the defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. He held LeBron to an astounding 35.7% (10/28) from the field in 21 minutes.

The Heat would’ve been an entirely different team had he returned.

DJJ wasn’t too useful last season, but he would’ve served a great role this season. The high-flying wing has taken huge leaps in his defensive skillset, and given the team a reliable four. The Heat struggled all year to find a four that could play next to Bam, and the familiarity with Jones Jr. could’ve helped the team win a few games. While he may not have had a significant role, his presence would’ve helped the transition from Crowder to the next four. For the Blazers, he averaged 6.8 points, 0.6 steals and 0.9 blocks per game.

Additions

The additions weren’t great either– they didn’t invest money in talent. It seems like these signings were meant to be trade pieces later in time (maybe besides Achiuwa). None of these players had much of an impact on the Heat’s season.

Bradley played just 10 of a possible 45 games for the Heat, later to be included in the trade package for Victor Oladipo. Harkless appeared in 11 games and was shipped out to Sacramento for Nemanja Bjelica. Strus was easily the best of the offseason additions, averaging 6.1 points in 39 games.

Achiuwa was borderline unplayable, and the Heat may have lost out on a chance to flip him for value early on. He averaged 5.0 points in 61 appearances.

Instead of adding players that could contribute to the team, the Heat added and retained players they intended to trade later on.

Competition Around the League

While almost every contender in the NBA got better, the Heat added role players that wouldn’t even end up cracking the rotation. While a team like Philly didn’t add a star, they added three guards that could help spread the floor. Let’s take a look at each team’s notable additions from the offseason and trade market.

On the scale of the rest of the contenders’ additions, only Oladipo truly held his own as a notable addition for the Heat, though he suffered a season-ending injury shortly into his Heat career. Dedmon ended up becoming a steal, but on paper, it was a low signing that paid off more than it should have. Ariza was a poor attempt at trying to replace Crowder. Bjelica showed promise in replacing Olynyk, but his defense was too poor to play meaningful basketball.

“Running it Back”

Running it back isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it should only be done where you clearly have a team with no holes, or maybe you have key players returning from injury, etc. The Heat aren’t “bubble flukes”, but they weren’t the most talented team in the Eastern Conference.

The front office should’ve known this.

Players outperforming expectations, great coaching and scheming and durability separated the Heat from other teams– not talent.

To follow up a Finals appearance where you came up short, let a starter walk and then sign bench pieces? From this mindset, it was clear that the Heat weren’t taking this year serious. Other teams went all in and rounded out their teams with the hope of making a championship run.

It just felt like this year was a waste. The front office set the team up to fail by bringing back an inferior team.

Follow us on Twitter @HeatLead for the latest Heat news and insight. 

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