The Miami Heat begin the 2021-’22 NBA regular season on Thursday night when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks in Miami for their home opener. The Heat have improved since last year’s NBA playoff matchup and look to start the season on the right note.
Here are three questions to ask as the Heat gear up for another run to the NBA Finals.
How will Kyle Lowry fit in the Miami Heat’s system?
The Heat brought in one of the best free agents on the market during the free agency process last offseason. Miami signed Kyle Lowry, 35, to a three-year, $90 million contract to pair with its lethal duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
The organization has been interested in Lowry dating back to the trade deadline and they finally landed a true point guard, which has been lacking in previous years. Lowry’s fit on the outside looks good, but what makes it look that way?
Well, the 35-year-old guard averaged 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists while shooting 43.6% from the field in 46 games for the Toronto Raptors last year. For a point guard at the age of 35, that stat-line shows promise in a player who can fill up the box score.
Lowry is also a tenacious defender who has experience guarding bigger players when needed. When looking at the other players the Miami Heat signed last offseason, you can see what they are striving for moving forward.
Along with Lowry, the Heat brought in P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris from the Bucks and Lakers, respectively. All three are scrappy players who won’t back down to a fight and bring defensive energy whenever they step on the floor.
The Heat could have a lineup of Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Jimmy Butler, P.J. Tucker, and Bam Adebayo later in the year, which would be an incredible defensive group. The vision is very clear with this new Heat team.
They have been lacking perimeter defense from their guards in previous years and Lowry will certainly help tighten that up. There should be no concern when it comes to Lowry’s fit, but concern about him staying on the floor could be slightly elevated.
Will the young players take the next step in their development?
Arguably, this is the most important factor when it comes to how successful the Miami Heat can be this season. It will come down to the young players, such as Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Max Strus.
Adebayo, 24, was able to work on his craft at the Summer Olympics while earning a gold medal with Team USA. It was a very productive trip for him in terms of basketball and the relationships that he was able to build with other star players.
However, there is only one crucial question to ask about Adebayo’s development. Will Adebayo become more aggressive on offense and have the freedom to be a scorer?
Pat Riley gave us that answer at his press conference on Tuesday afternoon. When asked about Adebayo’s development, Riley said he is “extraordinarily better” compared to his play at the end of last season.
Riley also mentioned how we could see Adebayo become a “flat out scorer” this season, which would be the huge step in his development that we have been waiting to see happen.
The 24-year-old forward will certainly garner Defensive Player of the Year votes, but if he can have as much aggression on offense as defense, there’s a real possibility he could jump to a top-10 or top-15 player in the NBA.
Herro and Strus will also be key pieces in the rotation this year. Herro has been working on his game this summer and the fruits of his labor were showing this preseason when he averaged 22.6 points per game.
The 21-year-old guard is poised for a breakout season as the Heat’s sixth man. If Herro can become an 18-to-20 point bench scorer every night, the ceiling of Miami will go through the roof in terms of contending.
Strus is another key rotational piece poised for a breakout year. He only averaged 6.1 points last season, but you could set expectations that he could rise to around 10-to-12 points per game.
The 25-year-old guard’s development has been noticeable and he’ll get the opportunity on a nightly basis to show off his game.
The Heat’s lineup might be on the older side, but the contributors coming off their bench are young and looking to prove the doubters wrong.
What should we expect from the Miami Heat this season?
The Heat are a far better team than the last time we saw them and expectations are on the rise. There are many factors that go into these expectations, such as the Kyrie Irving situation in Brooklyn.
Miami built the best team it could without trying to beat one team, like the Brooklyn Nets or Milwaukee Bucks. It’s the ideal way to do it because injuries and crazy situations happen in the NBA that lead to new favorites.
This is why the goal for this season is to make it back to the NBA Finals and come out on top this time. The Heat are arguably the third-best team in the Eastern Conference behind the Nets and Bucks.
However, the Bucks can be beaten and the Nets will always have injury concerns when it comes to their team. The Heat can sneak their way into the top echelon of contenders if they stay healthy and the young players make a big jump.
The regular season should go much better this time around. Last year, the Heat dealt with COVID-19 issues, injury concerns, and fatigue that plagued them due to the NBA Finals run in 2020.
Overall, expect big things from the Miami Heat this season. The combination of Lowry and improved young players could make this team very lethal as we go down the stretch.
Either way, they will make life difficult for every team on a nightly basis with their defense and that’s a championship formula they will build around the entire season.