Well, that really was way less exciting than we all thought it would be, huh? Last year in the Bubble, “Heat Culture” took its ultimate form behind provocateur, coffee-shop owner, and BDE cover-boy Jimmy Butler. The Heat effectively cruised through the East before flaming out against LeBron and AD. But hey, a Title shot was a Title shot!
On the coattails of that high, hopes were still lofty for this season, but uncertain. Was it a fluke of a season, or were the Heat actually a legitimate repeat Title contender for this shortened season? The argument for them making it back to the Finals was based heavily on the improvement of their young core like Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, and a Jack Harlow single (no, not What’s Poppin’, try again!).
Their year was tumultuous, between the short turn-around time from the season before, Meyers Leonard exiting the team after bone-headed racism while playing Call Of Duty (arguably the most MadLib-y headline of the year), and the team leaking that they were worried about Tyler Herro becoming too big for his britches, Miami had quite a bit of outside noise on their way to the Playoffs.
But once they were in the Playoffs, Miami became this “sneaky” Heat team. It became such a common dark-horse, it was no longer a hot-take to say, “Watch out for the Heat! They might be dangerous again!”. Everyone remembered the way they blew the wheels off Milwaukee and their MVP Giannis last year. Maybe they could stun the Bucks again this year?!
Oops, did I say they might stun the Bucks? I actually meant they would be absolutely demolished and swept by the Bucks, losing the series by 82-points, and seemingly not putting up any fight at all. Yea, that’s my bad!
So where do we go from here? It’s human nature to overreact, but that’s not always the same thing to do. A cool-headed person might say, “Look, they were literally in the Finals last year. This was a short season, the Bucks look like they actually might contend for the Title. Cool your jets.”
A more anarchist fan might recommend shipping off all their young talent now, before the market sours on it. BLOW THE TEAM UP!
I think a healthy medium here is useful, as with most things in life, like finding the right amount of Netflix to watch between some light-binging and hating yourself for wasting a whole weekend just to realize that Season 2 of Twin Peaks was bullshit!… Too personal and specific? Right on, I haven’t written in a while so I’m a bit rusty.
For Miami, it comes down to two questions:
- Do we think we can contend for a Title next year as currently constructed?
- Do we WANT to contend for a Title next year?
Let’s talk about the second point first, because I think it needs clarity before I lose people. Of course, every team wants to contend for the Title every year, but there’s something to be said for seeing the forest from the trees. If you try to contend every year and push in all your chips, it can hurt your chances to take a year sabbatical, re-tool, then have a better shot in the future. For context, think about what will happen if the Nets lose early or if the Clippers lose early? They pushed SO far in that a failure sets their franchises back for at least a few years, minimum.
This ties back to the first point. Taking an honest look, is Miami even a top-tier team talent-wise in the Eastern Conference right now? Well, they aren’t more talented than Brooklyn or Philly, I don’t think. We just saw they are obviously not more talented than Milwaukee, by a long shot. The Heat are in that next tier with Boston, Atlanta, and maybe a healthy Pacers team. They’re all very talented, but probably not enough to get over the hump.
So in weighing the advantages of another year of chemistry, another year of growth for your young budding stars, another year of Heat culture and maybe adding a Kyle-Lowry type player in the off-season, are you a Title team? This is versus the disadvantages of if you do keep the same group together and don’t compete for a Title, like how Jimmy will now a year older, the trade-value on some of your assets may/will dip, and you may have missed a window to win a Title.
As someone who has watched about ten Miami games this regular season and watched their entire sweep spread sideways on my couch with pretzels in hand, let me offer you my expert opinion: Miami should make a move. For me, Tyler Herro makes a lot of sense to ship out. He’s young, he still has some residual “Holy shit, remember how good he was in the Bubble?!” dust on him, and next year Miami already picked up his $4 million contract option — which surely will not be the low number you’ll be resigning him at after next year.
I think at this point, you “stock market” this man: buy low, sell high. You NEED Jimmy, he’s the life-blood of this team, you probably want to keep Bam too, although I think Miami should be listening to any potential Godfather offers they can’t refuse. Like, another All-Star and some solid picks? Potentially disgruntled guys like Jaylen Brown, Domantas Sabonis, and De’Aaron Fox should at least make your ears perk. A bigger disgruntled star like a Damian Lillard (I obviously have no sources on this) should make your head spin off like a cartoon character that just ate a sour candy.
Whether it’s Adebayo or Herro, or a collection of smaller moves, I don’t think you’re doing your job well by running this exact team back. If you want to capitalize on the prime of Jimmy Butler, you cannot get swept by the Bucks, who might not even be the first or second-best team in your Conference. This off-season will have Miami making some tough choices, but it’s better to have a few good options than none at all, right? At least there are still some moves that CAN be made and Miami is and always will be a free-agent destination.
Maybe we’ll see Miami back in the picture in a big way next year, or maybe Jimmy will be showing up to practice playing in a Rolex, tea-bagging Duncan Robinson after blocking him, and telling Rachel Nichols that, “There is no Heat culture, there’s only Jimmy culture” on his way to the Clippers.
Either way, it’s better that the Heat died this year the way they did, rather than making this a series. Tough decisions are a lot easier when they beat you over the head, you know?