Community Shootaround: Heat Outlook

With the dog days of summer upon us, the NBA’s offseason news cycle has slowed to a halt. Most of the major free agents have signed new contracts, summer league has passed, and many executives are just returning from post-summer league vacations. Contending teams across the league — particularly in the Eastern Conference — have seemingly improved.

The Celtics added Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari to provide depth behind their elite starting lineup, the Sixers signed P.J. Tucker to add toughness and versatility, and the Bulls bolstered their bench with veterans Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond. The Bucks did their part by standing pat and retaining all their key pieces. The Hawks added Dejounte Murray, and the Raptors shouldn’t be counted out. For as long as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant play, neither should the Nets.

Among the missing teams, of course, is the Heat. Miami finished first in the East last season with a 53-29 record. The team made the conference finals and took the Celtics to seven games despite dealing with several injuries. Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, Jimmy Butler, P.J. Tucker, Tyler Herro and Gabe Vincent – six of the top seven in Erik Spoelstra‘s playoff rotation – were all battling health issues during the series.

Miami showed it should be taken seriously. However, with Philadelphia prying Tucker away, a hole remains in the team’s starting group. Veteran forward Markieff Morris is still a free agent. As it stands, Butler will most likely be the team’s starting power forward. With the Sixers getting bigger, Milwaukee sporting a lengthy lineup that features Giannis Antetokounmpo at the four and the Nets potentially going big, trouble may await the Heat if they stand pat.

Many Eastern contenders have the flexibility to play bigger, as well. For example, the Bucks ended their first-round series against the Bulls by playing Antetokoummpo, Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez together, overwhelming Chicago with their size. The team similarly made Miami (and Butler) struggle in the 2021 playoffs due to its length.

The Heat did re-sign Caleb Martin, but at 6’7″, he remains an undersized power forward. Third-string forward Haywood Highsmith is still in the process of proving himself. Miami still has time to trade for a power forward, or it could re-sign a player like Morris, but as it stands, the team is one of the smallest in the league. Unless it commits to playing in transition and blitzing more defensively, it’s hard to foresee another first-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

We want to know what you think. How do you view the Heat’s current outlook? If the season started today, who should they start at power forward? Since the team has two open roster spots (one if Udonis Haslem re-signs), which players would you target to help replace Tucker? If the Heat can’t acquire a superstar like Durant, where should they turn to instead? Take to the comments section below and voice your opinions!

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