The Miami Heat are coming off one of the most surprising NBA Finals runs in recent history. After taking down the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat went to their first NBA Finals since LeBron James bolted for Cleveland in 2014. They ended their season with a brutal performance in Game 6 to finish as the league’s runner-up.
The 2020-2021 season will be a crucial season for the development of their young players with the allure of a third star coming soon. The Heat are committed to providing Jimmy Butler the best possible chance of winning an NBA Finals. Rumors of a potential James Harden trade and their pursuit of Giannis Antetokounmpo will give players a chip on their shoulder to prove their worth this upcoming season.
The departures of Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. will hurt them defensively, but the Heat hope their new additions make them the favorite in the Eastern Conference. Who did the Miami Heat land in the NBA Draft and Free Agency?
Miami Heat NBA Draft: Team nabs high-upside player
The Miami Heat began their offseason by drafting Memphis forward Precious Achiuwa with the 20th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Achiuwa averaged 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 31 games as a freshman last season.
The 21-year-old was projected to be drafted in the lottery in many mock drafts going into the NBA Draft. Many view Achiuwa as a “Bam Adebayo clone” and Adebayo himself thinks he is more talented than he was going into his rookie season.
Miami Heat NBA free agency: Some solid moves
The Miami Heat retained both Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard on the first day of free agency on two-year deals with team options. They lost Jae Crowder to the Suns due to the years he wanted for his contract. To replace his spot in the rotation, they signed Maurice Harkless to a one-year deal. Harkless averaged 5.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 62 games between the Clippers and Knicks.
The Heat’s biggest free-agent addition was former All-NBA Defensive Team guard Avery Bradley. They signed Bradley to a two-year deal using part of their mid-level exception. Bradley averaged 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 49 games prior to the NBA’s shutdown due to COVID-19. While the statistics may not show much, Bradley is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and gives the Heat a great defensive guard on their roster.
Miami signed undrafted free-agents Breein Tyree, Paul Eboua, Max Strus, and BJ Johnson to round out their roster. Out of the four players, Breein Tyree looks to have the best potential at a future spot in the rotation depending on how trades and other signings work. Tyree averaged 19.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 42.7% shooting from the floor in his senior season at Ole Miss.
Miami Heat depth chart
Starters: PG: Tyler Herro, SG: Duncan Robinson, SF: Jimmy Butler, PF: Maurice Harkless, C: Bam Adebayo
Bench: G Goran Dragic, G Avery Bradley, F Andre Iguodala, F/C Kelly Olynyk, F Precious Achiuwa, G Kendrick Nunn, C Meyers Leonard, F KZ Okpala
Miami Heat roster overview: Who will take a leap during the 2020-2021 season?
Tyler Herro looks to take a massive jump from his impressive rookie season, much like Bam Adebayo did last season. Herro averaged 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 42.8% shooting from the field. This jumped to 16.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists during the NBA Playoffs. Herro has been rumored in a potential trade for Houston Rockets guard James Harden, however, the 20-year-old product from Kentucky could be in for a much bigger role.
Related: James Harden trade scenarios
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was noncommittal when asked about starting Herro in his sophomore season, however, a leap to starting point guard could take his game to the next level. Herro was better during the regular season in the eight games he started, but fell short of reaching his averages in the five games he started in the playoffs. Perhaps, a secured starting role would do the same to Herro as it did to Adebayo with consistency.
Another player to keep an eye on is KZ Okpala, who only played five games for the Heat last season. Okpala is a 21-year-old forward from Stanford who may not be known to those outside Miami. Okpala has compared himself to Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Miami coaches have also given Okpala film to study from Kawhi Leonard, Scottie Pippen, and Shawn Marion. The Miami Heat know they may have something special in Okpala, as they may have another second-round steal.
Miami Heat prediction for 2020-21 NBA season
Anything short of another NBA Finals run for the Miami Heat will be a disappointment after last season. With teams such as the Brooklyn Nets improving their roster, defending the East will be harder for the Jimmy Butler-led Heat team. The Heat will most likely start Tyler Herro at some point during the season, if not right away. Herro will win the NBA Most Improved Player Award with a stat line of 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game during the season.
Bam Adebayo will take the spot as Miami’s best player, if he’s not already, with Jimmy Butler giving Adebayo the keys to the offense. Precious Achiuwa will have a role in the rotation and provide a bigger impact than Bam Adebayo in his rookie season. Achiuwa will hopefully show his ability to stretch the floor, just like the player he’s modeling his game after in Kawhi Leonard. However, we should be patient with the 21-year-old forward like Adebayo.
If Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo can improve their games even further, the Heat have to be the favorites to repeat in the Eastern Conference. The addition of Avery Bradley will also be important as they will finally have a quality defender to defend the guard position. The Heat should have trouble with the Brooklyn Nets, but they will pull out and secure a rematch in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Prediction: 48-24 record, birth in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers