Heat

No Awards in Miami Makes No Sense

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Typically, teams who have the top in their respective conference get recognized when it comes to award season.

Awards like the All-NBA teams, Most Valuable Player (MVP), Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) and Coach of the Year (COY) are the most prestigious come April. For the Heat, the hope is they would be recognized for DPOY and COY, but those awards are seemingly out of reach.

Out in Phoenix, that’s not the case; the recognition is there. According to current award projections, Monty Williams is the Coach of the Year with Devin Booker on the All-NBA 1st Team and Chris Paul on the All-NBA 3rd Team. Additionally, Mikal Bridges is 2nd in the DPOY race, and Cameron Johnson is 3rd in the 6th Man of the Year race. 

Compare that to the Heat. While having Tyler Herro as the clear Sixth Man of the Year favorite, they have Erik Spoelstra 3rd in COTY race, Bam Adebayo 4th in the DPOY race, and Jimmy Butler not even on an All-NBA team.

When considering the Heat’s injury bug this season, it doesn’t entirely make sense how they finished as the one seed. Adebayo missed 26 games, Butler missed 25, Kyle Lowry 19 and Herro 16. Vegas set the win line at 48.5 and had the Heat finishing fourth in the East, and the Heat comfortably surpassed that despite the combined 86 games missed by their top-four players.

There are two clear pathways when it comes to making conclusions about the Heat’s awards. Either, when out there, the top players played so great that they were able to give the Heat a major boost or Coach Spoelstra has been so incredible that he has been able to keep the team afloat despite the adversity. Sure, it can be argued that it was actually both, but there’s no way that it was neither.

Make it make sense.

Heat Award #1: Jimmy Butler’s All-NBA Case

Butler currently has the ninth-most projected votes as a forward, and that’s ridiculous. Criteria for these teams fluctuate too often, but something that has always been a staple of theirs is awarding players on winning teams to a degree. This is especially true for players who are on the one seed of their conference. The only time in the past 20 years that the No. 1 seed in a conference didn’t have an All-NBA player was the Hawks in 2015.

But guess what? The Hawks made it make sense; the Coach of the Year was awarded to Mike Budenholzer.

It appears that the Heat could have neither, breaking the long-set precedent that actually made sense.

The only argument against Butler as an All-NBA level player is his games played. The forwards locked into All-NBA spots are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan, while LeBron James is extremely likely to take that fifth spot. This leaves the debate for the last forward spot to presumably Butler or Pascal Siakam. It would be robbery to grant this to Siakam, truly.

Box-score statistics show Siakam has the edge over Butler, but that’s largely due to the fact that Siakam led the league in minutes this year. Their stats per 75 possessions show that Butler has the clear edge.

  • Butler: 23.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 59.2 TS% (48/23/87 splits)
  • Siakam: 22.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 56.5 TS% (49/34/75 splits)

Additionally, advanced metrics clearly exemplify Butler as the superior player this season. 

  • EPM – Butler:  +4.5 (15th), Siakam +2.3 (61st)
  • LEBRON – Butler +3.40 (12th), Siakam +2.19 (35th)
  • RAPTOR – Butler +4.2 (18th), Siakam +1.2 (96th)
  • DRIP – Butler +3.4 (12th), Siakam +1.8 (46th)

Living and dying by advanced metrics certainly isn’t something anybody should do. Siakam as — at best — the 35th best player in the league is rather absurd, but Butler’s consistent lead over Siakam certainly says something about who had a larger impact on their team this year. Lastly, Butler is on the top seed with Siakam on the fifth. Despite his missed time, Butler undoubtedly deserves that last forward spot on the All-NBA teams this season.

Heat Award #2: Bam Adebayo’s DPOY Case

Currently, Adebayo is fourth in the DPOY race behind Marcus Smart (1st), Mikal Bridges (2nd) and Rudy Gobert (3rd) with both Jaren Jackson Jr. trailing Adebayo at 5th and Giannis at 6th.

Adebayo has made his case for himself being the DPOY multiple times in press conferences this year, but perhaps the best case that he gave was during his appearance on JJ Redick’s podcast, The Old Man & The Three.

“I legit guard one through five. Like, at any point in time in the game on the defensive end, I could guard all five players, every last one of them and will not bat an eye,” Adebayo said. “Coach [Spoelstra] has thrown me in the fire a couple times. I take pride in defense. I take pride in getting stops. That makes me feel great. I feel like I make my teammates better on the defensive end also.”

Adebayo genuinely guards one through five like none other. He switched more ball screens than any other player in the league this season; on these possessions, the Heat allow merely 88 points per 100 possessions, an absolutely incredible number. Additionally, Adebayo defended 206 isolations and allowed a stout 0.80 points per possession this season.

If versatility is becoming more and more valued, why isn’t Adebayo first in the race? He can play every single pick-and-roll coverage. Drop? Switch? Hedge? Blitz? He can do it all.

While Adebayo’s 0.8 blocks seem underwhelming for a big, his impact goes well beyond the stat sheet. Part of why this number is lower is because of his switching, which — as stated previously — is remarkably effective. In the same boat, his role isn’t to be an absolute rim protector for this team; he isn’t somebody who is always roaming the paint with the ability to rack up big-time blocks. His role is to stop players from even reaching the paint.

Impact and advanced metrics also back up Adebayo’s case against his fellow top candidates.

  • D-EPM – Gobert +3.2 (5th), Adebayo: +2.9 (7th), Smart +2.6 (13th), Jackson Jr. +2.5 (16th), Antetokounmpo +1.2 (74th), Bridges +0.4 (144th)
  • D-LEBRON – Gobert +3.75 (1st), Jackson Jr. +2.65 (6th), Antetokounmpo +2.17 (13th), Adebayo +2.13 (15th), Smart +1.12 (64th), Bridges +0.84 (94th)
  • D-RAPTOR – Gobert +7.2 (1st), Adebayo +4 (8th), Antetokounmpo +2.1 (33rd), Smart +2.1 (33rd), Jackson Jr. +2.0 (36th), Bridges +0.9 (76th)
  • D-DRIP – Gobert +2.5 (1st), Adebayo +1.6 (9th), Jackson Jr. +1.6 (9th), Antetokounmpo +1.4 (15th), Smart +0.3 (103rd), Bridges 0.0 (150th)

Of course, take these numbers with a grain of salt. In no world does Bridges or Smart have that minuscule of an impact. However, these numbers do an incredible job at demonstrating Adebayo’s undoubted dominance as a defender. When further contextualizing the metrics with his play from the eye test this season, he is the DPOY.

As Adebayo said in his March 15th press conference, DPOY out. Or at least deserving DPOY out.

Heat Award #3: Erik Spoelstra’s COTY Case

Earlier this season, Spoelstra was named as one of the NBA’s top-15 coaches in history as part of its 75th Anniversary celebration.

But he has never won the Coach of the Year award.

This includes not taking the award in the 2012-13 season, where he led the Heat to a franchise-record 66 wins. It went to George Karl, who led the Nuggets to 57 wins — the No. 3 seed out West.

This year grants Spoelstra yet another opportunity to take home the award, but it seems like at the end of the season, he still won’t have one.

As mentioned prior, 48.5 was the Heat’s total win line. That line was made with the inability to predict any injuries to the team. If Vegas was told that Butler, Adebayo, Herro and Lowry would miss a combined 86 games, there is no doubt they would drop this line significantly.

Nope. Spoelstra led this team through the smoke to exceed that total. No one predicted Gabe Vincent to start 27 games and for Max Strus to start 16. They were seen as end-of-rotation players entering the season, but as Spoelstra and company tend to do, they get the best out of their players always. Case in point with Caleb Martin as well.

None of this makes sense for the Heat to be here except for Spoelstra holding it together. The Heat, according to the media, don’t have an All-NBA talent, and — depending on position relegations — might not have Adebayo on the All-Defensive 1st Team. Is Tyler Herro that good so that he justifies Spoelstra not winning Coach of the Year? Does any Sixth Man in NBA history even exceed that bar?

The current front-runner for the award, Monty Williams, has award talent all across the board. He has players on the All-NBA 1st Team, All-NBA 3rd Team, and All-Defensive 1st Team. Spoelstra has the Sixth Man of the Year and one All-Defensive Team player (team depends on positions, could very well be 2nd Team). Sure, the Suns have 11 more wins, but reflect on 2013; a nine-win difference lost Spoelstra an award that should have been his.

This difference isn’t too drastic to make the case for Williams that much stronger.

Make it make sense.

About Charlie Spungin

Twitter: @CharlieS3_

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