2021-22 Kia Season Preview

2021-22 Season Preview: Miami Heat

Miami welcomes several new pieces, including Kyle Lowry, who figures to help make Miami's defense one of the NBA's best.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

Veteran Jimmy Butler feels the Heat can go 'the distance' this season.

After a surprise run to The Finals in 2020, the Miami Heat took a step backward last season. Their regular season wasn’t too far off from the year prior, but there was no postseason magic. The Heat were swept by the eventual-champion Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, scoring a paltry 95.4 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark for any team in any series in the last five years. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo couldn’t get to the basket, couldn’t get to the line and couldn’t make shots from the outside.

Miami remains a destination, though. The Heat won the bidding for free agent Kyle Lowry, pried P.J. Tucker from the Bucks and retained shooter Duncan Robinson. Lowry and Tucker are 35 and 36 years old, respectively, but the Heat have the personnel to be one of the best defensive teams in the league and among the top five teams in the Eastern Conference.


BIGGEST QUESTION

How do they generate offense? Butler’s effective field-goal percentage of 40.4% on shots from outside the paint last season was the fourth-worst mark among 201 players who attempted at least 200 shots from the outside. Tucker’s 4.7 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes ranked last among 468 players who played at least 100 minutes. Adebayo has slowly extended his shooting range, but he’s still not a floor-spacer. That means generating efficient offense with two or three of those guys on the floor should be the Heat’s biggest challenge. Lowry’s shooting off the dribble will also be important.


SEASON PREDICTION

The Heat have had a top-10 defense in nine of Erik Spoelstra’s 13 seasons as coach. With Lowry, Butler, Tucker and Adebayo in the fold, they should certainly make it 11 of 14 this year. They’ll be a pain to play against and they’ll figure out some things offensively as the season goes on. But they’ve lost some depth and they still may be a piece or two away from competing on the same level as the Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. Predicted finish: 48-34.


PROJECTED STARTING FIVE

Kyle Lowry: His 36.2% on pull-up 3-pointers over the last two seasons ranks 20th among 65 players with 200+ attempts.

Duncan Robinson: High volume (9.9 attempts per 36 minutes over last two seasons), high efficiency (43%) from deep.

Jimmy Butler: Makes up for the bad outside shooting by getting to the line. Racks up a ton of steals without fouling.

P.J. Tucker: If the Heat face Brooklyn in the playoffs, they have somebody (who turns 37 in May) to guard Kevin Durant.

Bam Adebayo: Offensive hub and elite defender. Just turned 24 and continues to add polish offensively.


KEY RESERVES

Tyler Herro: Finished last season strong (effective FG% of 60.5% in April/May), but was another who struggled in the playoffs.

Victor Oladipo: Played just four games after trade to Miami in March. Back on a minimum deal to revitalize his career.

Markieff Morris: In theory, he’s a big who can shoot. But was 31% from 3-point range last season, down from 39% in 2019-20.


LAST 5 SEASONS

How the Heat have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …

Season W L PCT OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2020-21 40 32 0.556 110.6 18 110.7 10 -0.1 17
2019-20 44 29 0.603 111.9 7 109.3 12 +2.7 8
2018-19 39 43 0.476 106.7 26 107.1 7 -0.4 17
2017-18 44 38 0.537 106.2 21 105.8 8 +0.4 16
2016-17 41 41 0.500 107.4 17 106.4 6 +1.0 10

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions


STAT TO KNOW

11.1 — The Heat were 11.1 points per 100 possessions better with Butler on the floor (+5.2) than they were with him off the floor (-5.9). That was the sixth biggest differential among 233 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team. Butler was one of two players — Rudy Gobert was the other — who played at least 1,000 minutes, with on-off differential of five points per 100 possessions on both ends of the floor. Miami ranked 22nd (worst among playoff teams) in aggregate bench point differential per 100 possessions (-1.4).

— John Schuhmann

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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