The coronavirus pandemic halted the NBA season four months ago, the equivalent of an entire offseason. It is easy to forget where everyone left off, let alone what has changed since we last saw them play basketball. In order to get you up to speed before the July 30 season re-opening slate at Walt Disney World in Orlando, we will be reviewing and previewing each of the 22 teams scheduled to participate.
[More NBA restart previews: Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Houston Rockets • Indiana Pacers • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Milwaukee Bucks • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Toronto Raptors • Utah Jazz • Washington Wizards]
Where were the Miami Heat?
Place: Fourth in the East
The Miami Heat were 14 games into employing a retooled rotation, having swapped the injured and seldom-used Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and James Johnson for veterans Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill at the trade deadline. The move was made to bolster the Heat’s defensive versatility on the wing, where Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson were primarily working as shooters.
The Heat were average in every way after the trade, posting a 7-7 record and ranking 14th in both offensive and defensive rating. However, All-Star forward Jimmy Butler missed a handful of those games with minor shoulder and toe injuries, and Iguodala was rusty from sitting out the first four months of the season. The small sample size makes a Miami team that had largely overachieved all season that much more fascinating with an additional training camp to incorporate three relatively new rotational players.
Who’s in and who’s out?
Derrick Jones Jr. and two unnamed members of the Heat tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the team’s arrival in Orlando. Fellow starters Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn had also yet to join the team on Friday, but all three are expected to play out the season with their teammates once cleared. Provided the coronavirus does not infiltrate the bubble, Miami anticipates having a full roster entering the playoffs.
Over/under wins in the bubble: 4.5
NBA Finals odds: +900
Championship odds: +2500
Still one of the most underrated players in the NBA, despite debuting as an All-Star this season, Adebayo is the ultimate X factor. The 23-year-old can do everything but shoot outside the elbows. Adebayo ranks among the league’s best passing big men (5.1 assists per game), pick-setters (5.2 screen assists per game) and finishers (71.9 FG% at the rim), ensuring coach Erik Spoelstra’s motion offense runs on time.
An incredibly versatile defender for his size, capable of protecting the rim and disrupting in space, Adebayo will draw some of the East’s toughest assignments if the Heat hope to advance in the playoffs. Everyone from Giannis Antetokounmpo to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons could fall under his purview in the first two rounds, matchup depending. With Adebayo as their anchor, lineups including Butler and Iguodala have the ability to be downright dangerous defensively, keeping Miami afloat in most games.
Aug. 1: Denver Nuggets, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Aug. 3: Toronto Raptors, 1:30 p.m. (NBATV)
Aug. 4: Boston Celtics, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Aug. 6: Milwaukee Bucks, 4 p.m. (TNT)
Aug. 8: Phoenix Suns, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 10: Indiana Pacers, 8 p.m.
Aug. 12: Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 p.m.
Aug. 14: Indiana Pacers, TBD
The Heat are fairly well-positioned to remain fourth in the East, barring a truly awful showing in the eight-game seeding schedule. They trail the third-place Boston Celtics by 2 1/2 games and lead both the fifth-place Indiana Pacers and sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers by two games in the standings. The Pacers are the preferable matchup, largely because Victor Oladipo either will not play or will not be 100 percent.
That would set Miami up for a favorable first-round matchup and a potential second-round meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks, whom the Heat have beaten in both their meetings. While Miami is a sexy sleeper pick to come out of the East, I am not sure the Heat can keep pace with the Bucks’ offense in a seven-game series, unless all that time off allowed Iguodala to find an elite two-way game again. How often Spoelstra can field three shooters around Butler and Adebayo is largely dependent on Iguodala’s ability to join a group of marksmen that includes Robinson, Herro, Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic. Otherwise, Miami’s best offensive lineups have defensive holes, and their best defensive units have offensive holes.
A more likely first-round meeting with the Sixers would be highly entertaining, if only because Butler has thrown shade at his former teammates, and the Heat own a 3-1 record against Philadelphia this season. Two of those games came down to the final possession, and Butler — who served as the Sixers’ closer in last year’s playoffs — was the difference again late in both. Yet, Philadelphia’s size remains an issue for a Miami team that counts Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk as its only true big men beyond Adebayo.
Yahoo Sports NBA prediction
Place: Fourth in the East
Finish: First-round loss
Check out the NBA Disney World bubble in augmented reality:
More from our NBA restart series:
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