Too often in this world, we cannot call a spade, a spade. That is especially true of ourselves. In the infamous yet wildly offensive words of Terrell Owens, “if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat.” Well, it’s time to come clean about my own vermin-like tendencies: I am an unrelenting, shameless homer for my Miami Heat.
For my other fandoms, I feel like I can be reasonable and pragmatic in my assessments. The Heat side of my brain is a completely different story. Pat Riley could kick an iguana 15 feet down Biscayne Boulevard and I’ll just smile and mutter under my breath, “Heat Culture, baby.” When discussing the Heat, I use the word “culture” in more random places in a conversation than Questlove getting interviewed in a docuseries about the Boogie Down Bronx. If an Indiana Pacer chases down a loose ball, I won’t pay it any mind, but if Jimmy Butler does the same two possessions later, I will say out loud to no one in particular, “that’s just Heat Culture right there, man.”
So with that said, I have decided to add a new series to our website called, “A Heat Homer Looks at ______” taking a page out of my man Jimmy Buffett’s playbook from the incomparable ballad A Pirate Looks at Forty. Now, before anyone gives me grief about a Miami Heat segment on a website called www.sjbatlanta.com, let me give a quick qualifier about my fandom. I was born in South Florida, became a Heat fan, and never wavered. My dad took me down to the arena as a boy where I frantically yelled to Dan Majerle that he was my favorite player and got a wave back. I did not become a Heat fan in the summer of 2010, though I did read the news of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh then Lebron James’ decisions from a Dublin, Ireland hotel desktop computer and drunkenly posted on Facebook that we were coming for everybody. I didn’t just deal with the 90s Knicks and No. 2 pick Michael Beasley so I could get called a bandwagoner, buddy.
So now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the task at hand. The first half of the Heat’s season saw Miami go 18-18, failing to get above .500 until a win Thursday night, the first game of the second half. It was a stretch marred by contract tracing, injuries, and various other absences. In fat, only Duncan Robinson has played in all 37 games to this point. Butler and Goran Dragic have each missed 14 games, Tyler Herro has missed 11, and and Bam Adebayo has missed four. Erik Spoelstra has been piecing together more random parts than a plastic surgeon near The Real Housewives. This has led to vicious spewing from others around the league that 2020’s Eastern Conference title was no more than a fluke.
With all but Adebayo (dealing with knee tendonitis) now healthy — my apologies to Avery Bradley and Meyers Leonard — the Heat are pardon the overused pun, red hot. They are winners of eight of nine and find themselves in a tie with Boston for the fourth-best record in the East.
However, due to a jumbled mess in the conference, the Heat are closer to the 11-seed Chicago Bulls (plus-2.0 games) than they are to the three-seeded Milwaukee Bucks (four games back). The Philadelphia 76ers currently hold the top seed, meaning if the standings hold, the Celtics and Heat will play for the likely second round meeting with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. That would likely be a better matchup for Miami than playing a Monstarz-esque Brooklyn Nets team seeing as how most teams lose and lose and then get over the hump, yet the 76ers just seem to be on a playoff rinse-and-repeat of the first two steps.
The Heat are currently the fifth-best defensive team in the NBA, allowing 108.2 points per game. Unfortunately, they are also the fifth-worst offensive team in the NBA, 0.3 points behind the Detroit Pistons and 1.1 points behind the Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite noted shooters like Robinson and Herro, Miami is actually 22nd in three-point field goal percentage. They are also fourth-to-last in rebounding, and dead last in offensive rebounding.
This presents an opportunity for the trade deadline which is two weeks from yesterday. Spoelstra has shown a resistance to getting a true big, according to various reports, so we can probably put the kibosh on Cavaliers center Andre Drummond. That means the Heat, if they do make a move for a big, will look at a more versatile option. Some that have been thrown around as potentially attainable on the market are Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis, Magic center Nikola Vucevic, Hawks forward John Collins, Thunder center Al Horford, and Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge. While Porzingis’ true availability appears to be convoluted at best and Vucevic would require a sizable haul given that he leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, and three-point field goals made, it appears both can be taken off the viability list. Horford, while still productive, is owed two more years after this one, so he does not fit with Riley’s philosophy of having flexibility. Collins likely falls into Vucevic territory despite being more dispensable given the Hawks’ roster. That makes Aldridge the lone player left who seems realistic to join Miami this month. He met with Heat officials prior to signing with the Spurs, who plan on giving him some say in his destination reportedly, though it remains to be seen what the expected comp would be for him.
Miami badly misses Jae Crowder’s microwave offense that was instrumental in last season’s playoff run. Getting Herro into a rhythm could mitigate that internally, but the rest of the roster from Max Strus to Maurice Harkless don’t appear to be reliable on a consistent basis at this point to provide that spark. Kendrick Nunn is on an absolute tear as of late, so he may be either the heir-apparent to that role or increasing his trade value for the Heat to include as part of a package.
If Miami looks externally for shooting help, the two options that make the most sense both come from the Crescent City: JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe. Redick is on an expiring deal and the Pelicans have a backcourt packed tighter than yours truly in college trying to squeeze a muffintop into medium swim trunks. Bledsoe is under contract for next year, as well, but at a reasonable rate, and if the contracts can match up, either can seemingly be had for less than a King’s ransom.
The second half continues tonight with the back-end of a back-to-back as Miami travels to Chicago to take on a Bulls team that as I mentioned, is not out of the picture. The immediate schedule is relatively manageable as the Heat’s next six games are all against teams out of the top eight seeds in their conference: Chicago, Orlando, Cleveland, Memphis, and two against Indiana. As long as they can stay healthy, quit using derogatory ethnic language, and shoot well enough, the Heat should keep on rolling.