The NBA is currently in its All-Star break, but that doesn’t mean the league’s decision makers are taking a vacation. This week, they made their picks for this year’s Eastern Conference sleeper and it was no surprise to see who came out on top.
The eastern conference nba is the Eastern Conference in the NBA. This year, it has been predicted that there will be an increased amount of teams in contention for a spot in the playoffs.
The Milwaukee Bucks are the reigning champs, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is still on the roster. With Kevin Durant, James Harden, and (possibly?) Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets are the betting favorites to win the NBA championship. The Miami Heat, though, is a club that general managers think everyone is overlooking.
Jimmy Butler and his teammates took a step back last year after defeating Milwaukee and progressing to the 2020 NBA Finals. They were routed in the first round of the playoffs by the Bucks.
However, due to Pat Riley’s astute moves, front-office executives around the league think the Heat are an undervalued Eastern Conference contender.
Last season, Miami took a step backwards.
The Miami Heat’s head coach, Erik Spoelstra, speaks with his players during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. | Getty Images/Michael Reaves
The Heat completed 44-29 in the 2019-20 season. Even though they were just the fifth seed in the East, the squad showed indications of improvement near the conclusion of the season. Miami’s overall record wasn’t great, but in the closing stretch of the regular season, it defeated Milwaukee, the Boston Celtics, and the Indiana Pacers.
The Heat then defeated all three of those teams in back-to-back playoff series to get to the finals, where they were defeated by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The team’s regular-season record was not much worse last year, at 40-32, but Miami failed the eye test. Since his arrival in South Beach, Jimmy Butler has been the franchise’s spark, but he got plenty of assistance the year the Heat reached the finals.
Tyler Herro averaged 16.0 points per game in the 2019-20 playoffs as a 19-year-old rookie, shooting 37.5 percent from three. Duncan Robinson averaged almost 12 points per game and hit 39.7% of his three-point attempts. The remainder of Miami’s offense was unleashed as a result of their shooting.
Butler’s supporting cast, on the other hand, was not the same as last year. He only appeared in 52 games, although Herro only appeared in 54, and Jimmy Buckets’ running back Bam Adebayo was out for 18 games. The squad was never able to get back on track.
Miami is expected to resurge, according to general managers around the league.
Every year, a number of websites publish a preseason general manager survey. Decision-makers from all across the league will have the opportunity to vote anonymously on MVP and Rookie of the Year contenders, championship favorites, top players at each position, and more.
The Heat ranked first in two categories in this year’s NBA.com poll: first in the “Which team made the best overall moves this offseason?” question, with nearly half of the vote; and first in the “Which one player acquisition will have the biggest impact?” question, with point guard Kyle Lowry joining the team.
Lowry adds a layer of toughness to the squad and will blend in seamlessly with the Heat’s culture. He and Butler, as well as Adebayo, are tenacious two-way players capable of making game-winning plays in the closing minutes.
Butler also received votes for best defensive player, best perimeter defender, and most versatile defender in the top five or also-receiving-votes categories.
However, Miami’s sleeper status can be summed up in one single category: the Heat were projected to finish third in the Eastern Conference, behind only Milwaukee and Brooklyn, by the league’s general managers.
The Heat have all of the necessary components to make another long playoff run.
The five-time all-star shooting guard from Miami was also voted one of the NBA’s greatest leaders. In the locker room, Lowry wields a comparable amount of clout. When Adebayo was healthy, he grew for the third season in a row.
The health of head coach Erik Spoelstra’s squad will play a significant role in what they can accomplish this season. (He was named the best head coach in the league.) That’s true for any team, but the Heat’s greatest problem last year was the toll injuries had on them.
Butler shown that he is still capable of playing at a high level. Lowry’s career is winding down, but he’s been effective in Toronto and is only three years away from helping the Raptors win a title. Herro and Robinson, for example, will be key role players.
Miami has all of the elements to make another run to the finals. According to the accolades the club received in this year’s GM poll, influential individuals across the league agree.
Basketball Reference provided all statistics.
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