The 2021/22 NBA season ended in heartbreak for the Miami Heat, having come within one Jimmy Butler shot from reaching the NBA Finals to face the Golden State Warriors.
It was the second time in three seasons that the Heat had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Boston Celtics being their foe on both occasions. While it was Miami who was successful in 2020, the Celtics got their revenge in a close-fought seven-game series that came down to the last few seconds of Game 7.
The Heat responded by re-signing Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin, Victor Oladipo and Udonis Haslem, while Tyler Herro was given a four-year, $130 million extension, as well as a starting role. Nikola Jovic was taken 27th with the Heat’s first-round draft pick.
All in all, it left the team in the same, if not weaker position than they were the year prior, having lost a key part of their rotation without really replacing him. The hopes for improvement rested on 33-year-old Butler maintaining his elite level, Herro and Bam Adebayo’s natural progression and point guard Kyle Lowry returning to full health.
So far, it hasn’t been the start that Heat fans would’ve hoped for, who have seen their team go 3-5 in their first eight games. However, they will take heart from Tuesday’s 116-109 victory over the reigning champion Golden State Warriors and hope that result can kickstart their season.
Still, the Heat’s struggles haven’t gone unnoticed when it comes to the betting odds. The JazzSports Sportsbook has already moved Miami’s odds to win the NBA Championship to +2000.
If you wanted to bet on them just to win the Eastern Conference, then you can get a price of +1000. This leaves them as the fifth favorites in the East behind the Boston Celtics (+275), Milwaukee Bucks (+300), Philadelphia 76ers (+600) and Brooklyn Nets (+600), but ahead of other contenders in the Cleveland Cavaliers (+1200), Toronto Raptors (+1500) and Atlanta Hawks (+1500).
Beating The Odds
This Miami team certainly love being the underdogs and will revel in the fact that some are already having doubts about them less than a month into the new season. There will be hope internally that Oladipo, whom they signed to a two-year, $18 million deal in the summer, will be able to provide a spark when he returns from injury.
However, the concerns around 36-year-old point guard Lowry won’t have simmered in the early stages of this season. He is currently averaging just 12.5 points and 5.8 assists per game whilst having a field goal percentage of 37%.
The Heat have had some albatross contracts in recent years such as Hassan Whiteside and appear to have another on their hands, with Lowry’s performances falling well short of his $28 million salary which still has one-year, $29 million to run through next season.
Duncan Robinson’s four-year, $65 million contract is another that they could have trouble moving without attaching some significant assets alongside it, making the room for improvement in this team via a mid-season trade appear minimal on the face of it. That said, you can never rule out the godfather Riley, who will always be offensive in his efforts to make this a championship-contending team.
There have been some outside suggestions that the Heat should look to take on Russell Westbrook’s mammoth expiring $48 million deal in exchange for Lowry and Robinson to clear that money off the books and target improvement in 2023 through free agency. Other franchises may be more inclined to do so, but while ‘Heat Culture’ is around that seems unlikely, as they look to maximize Butler’s prime.
Where Does the Smart Money Lie?
The most likely outcome, we believe, is that the Heat will be creative and look to add some frontcourt depth at some stage of the season, with Jae Crowder linked with a return to South Beach.
They have never been shy of trading first-round draft picks in order to make a win-now move and still have first rounders in 2024, 2026, 2027, 2028 and 2029 that could be used.
Having given Butler a four-year, $184 million extension last summer, Miami is clearly all in on the 6x NBA All-Star, who will be under contract with the franchise until the age of 36. In his final season, he will be making $52 million.
He and the front office will therefore almost certainly be in alignment with making win-now moves over preserving for the future. We expect them to almost certainly be a Playoff team this season, but without reinforcements, it’s difficult to see them winning an extremely competitive Eastern Conference, let alone the NBA Finals.