The Miami Heat Are Off to a Slow Start

Jack Meyer, Online Editor-in-Chief

After a year where the Miami Heat completely defied expectations across the league and made it to the National Basketball Association Finals for the first time in six years, it appears that the magic that sparked that run has worn off. Riddled by injuries, COVID-19 concerns and offensive struggles, the Heat now sits at 7-13, putting them at 13th place in the Eastern Conference and giving them the fourth worst record in the NBA.

A big reason for the Heat’s slow start has been the absence of team leader and All-Star Jimmy Butler. Butler’s arrival in Miami sparked the team’s success last season as he managed to keep up with Lakers superstar LeBron James. The series saw the underdog Heat take the heavily favored Lakers to six games before eventually being eliminated. As a result, many expected to see a “revenge season” from Butler. 

However, Butler has not had many opportunities to see the floor in 2021. After just two games, Butler missed back-to-back games against the Milwaukee Bucks due to an ankle injury. He eventually returned and began to regain his footing, but he soon had to step away again due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Heat organization. Although it remains unclear if Butler tested positive for COVID-19 himself, he went on to miss the Heat’s next ten games and reportedly lost 12 pounds while away from the team

Whether caused by Butler’s absence or a regression in play by the entire roster, it has not been a pretty season for Miami. The Heat currently score 106.9 points per game, the fifth fewest in the NBA. One may attribute part of these offensive struggles to struggles holding onto the ball. The Heat are currently averaging 16.2 turnovers per game, which puts them at second in the league, only behind the Chicago Bulls. 

One positive for the Heat this season has been the continued growth of young stars Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. One year after making his first NBA All-Star game appearance, Adebayo currently averages 20.1 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game; he has also maintained a sturdy defensive presence for Miami. Meanwhile, Herro has put up 17.0 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and 4.2 assists per game in his sophomore season. 

Unfortunately, Adebayo and Herro have had to deal with absences of their own as well. Adebayo has missed seven games this season for various reasons, while Herro has dealt with a recurring neck injury for the majority of the season that kept him out of seven games as well. Other notable players who have missed significant time include Goran Dragic (five games), Meyers Leonard (17 games) and Avery Bradley (11 games). 

Although there remains plenty of time for the Heat to turn their season around, many fans and analysts have grown impatient. There are growing calls for the Heat to trade for Washington Wizards superstar Bradley Beal, while NBA player-turned-analyst Paul Pierce predicted that Miami would miss the postseason entirely in 2021. The clock continues to tick for Miami, but as evidenced by their success last season, it is never wise to count the Heat out.