The Miami Heat Could Be the Next Eastern Conference Power

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Photo Credit: Michael Reeves - Getty Images

The Miami Heat are looking like they’re up next.

Miami fans had reasons to be optimistic coming into the new NBA season. A 39-43 record last season left them two games out of the playoffs.

Management knew that they had to make some impactful roster decisions to turn things around in South Beach.

There have been a few notable improvements in this year’s version of the team.

After finishing 21st in the league in 3 point percentage last season the Heat are currently ranked 4th at 38.4%. The additional firepower from beyond the arc helped them comfortably put down the upstart Phoenix Suns and blow out the Houston Rockets earlier this month.

With a strong defensive identity already in place, the addition of the constant threat of three-pointers has turned this team into a real load on a nightly basis.

Jimmy Butler’s arrival in Miami sped up the rebuild and instantly turned the Heat into a playoff team that had a chance to make a little noise in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.

That move alone has worked. Butler is responsible for the only 30 point half by a player this season and has meshed perfectly with the Heat’s culture.

It was long known that Butler wanted to go to Miami because of his admiration for Pat Riley and the type of players he employs. You will not play for Pat Riley or Eric Spoelstra if there is a lack of effort given on both ends of the floor.

After having a rough go with his teammates in Chicago and Minnesota it appears that Butler has found a group of guys he truly enjoys playing with.

“We want it to be tough to come here and play,” Butler said after their 117-108 win against the pistons. “We don’t want people to come here and want to play the Miami Heat. We don’t want people to want to play the Miami Heat, home or away.”

It is the roster around Butler that has elevated the team from scrappy playoff hopefuls to what looks like the beginning of what could develop into the next Eastern Conference juggernaut.

Kendrick Nunn may be the first undrafted rookie to ever win Rookie of the Year even after Zion Williamson’s return. He cooled off after a hot start to the season but returned to form with a 20-point outing against Detroit last night.

Bam Adebayo was long expected to get the keys to Miami’s center position due to his strong defense and hyper-athleticism as a roll threat, yet it is his emergence as a legitimate playmaker that has added another dimension to the offense.

Adebayo is posting career highs in nearly every major stat category and has an astounding 46 assists on the season. As a frame of reference, former Heat and current Trail Blazer Hassan Whiteside has eight.

Hitting in the draft and smart trades have set the Heat up with one of the NBA’s brightest futures.

Justice Winslow (2015) continues to grow as a point-forward. Moving Whiteside and Josh Richardson landed Jimmy Butler. Adebayo was their 2017 pick. Tyler Herro (13th overall in this year’s draft) flashes Devin Booker-esque potential with the ability to score from all over the floor. Nunn was scooped from the G-League.

Big free agent signings are the icing on the cake but shrewd roster construction through the draft and trades make the difference between a bottom-feeder and a contender.

Goran Dragic is playing well and has found his stroke from three again, shooting a blistering 44% after a disappointing 34% mark last year. He is also on an expiring contract the Heat can part ways with him to make room going forward if they choose to.

Myers Leonard, Kelly Olynyk, and James Johnson also come off the books within the next two seasons. Miami is Miami. So there will be no shortage of interest for players to join the bandwagon as long as this success continues.

The success of the Brooklyn Nets with a young group netted them Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. If Miami can continue to push and Jimmy Butler remains happy they will be on the shortlist for big names that hit the market.

With brighter times ahead the Heat are still very relevant right now in the Eastern Conference and should be in the thick of things come playoff time. With wider parity in the NBA, they will be a team no one wants to see in the postseason and certainly into the future.

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