Miami Heat a viable contender after Riley’s roster tweaking

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The Miami Heat’s new big three (from left to right): Bam Adabayo, Kyle Lowry, and Jimmy Butler.

After a surprising Finals run in the bubble in 2019-20, the Miami Heat were one of the laughing-stocks of the NBA in 2020-21, being swept by the eventual champions Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. But following the acquisition of star point-guard Kyle Lowry, there is a new big-three in Miami ready to do some damage: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adabayo.

And the Heat got their 2021-22 season off to a great start by getting revenge on Milwaukee, trouncing the Bucks 137-95 in their season opener. In that game, Butler scored 21 points, and Adabayo put up 20 while adding 13 rebounds. 

“Jimmy Butler wasn’t happy with losing and getting swept and being embarrassed,” Miami Heat executive Pat Riley claimed in his preseason press conference,  “[The Bucks] had a great game plan for him. He’s a student of the game. He knows what he can do. He’ll look at that and hopefully he’ll respond.”

The Heat had one of its busiest off-seasons in recent years. Pat Riley knew changes had to be made in order to put the Heat back in contention. The Eastern Conference is stacked with talent and beating teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks or Brooklyn Nets won’t be easy, but Riley, along with the rest of the Heat front office, has given the team a real chance to compete.

Acquisitions such as P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris give the Heat some real toughness on the court. Bringing back shooting-guard Victor Oladipo on a one-year deal could also help put the Heat over the edge come playoff time. The cherry on top was the sign-and-trade of Lowry from Toronto in exchange for Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa.

Kyle Lowry’s six all-star appearances is a team-high, and he is looking to add another alongside his new teammates. The new trio of Lowry, Butler, and Adabayo are set to be one of the best “big-threes” in the league, and are looking to break some records, with all three being known for their illustrious defense.

“I’m excited to see Lowry in Miami. He’s a great player who can bring it all to the Heat,” stated Olympic Heights junior Andrew Goodman, “There’s no way they get swept again this year, and I really think they can make a good run in the playoffs.” 

The three, alongside players such as Tucker and Oladipo bring much- needed defense help to Miami. In the four games Miami lost to Milwaukee this past post-season, the Heat gave up an average of 118.5 points per game, which is 6.4 points higher than the average NBA team’s points per game last season.

Besides the recently formed big three, Miami also brought back its shooters. The three-point specialist Duncan Robinson re-signed with Miami, and is looking to do some damage behind the arch alongside third year man Tyler Herro. Herro has a lot of pressure on his back coming from a down season that followed his phenomenal rookie season. Herro was the Heat’s preseason top scorer, and coming off the bench gives the 21-year-old a real chance at winning the Sixth Man of the Year award.

The rest of Miami’s supporting cast is formed by many underdog stories. The Heat have eight undrafted players, tied for the most undrafted players league wide, with players such as Duncan Robinson, Max Struss, Gabe Vincent, and more who are all going to be a key part of Miami’s rotation.

As far as the season goes, Miami is ready to compete once again for the top of the Eastern Conference. That being said, below are The Torch’s predictions for the Miami Heat 2021-22 statistical leaders, and for the NBA Season.

Points per game: Jimmy Butler

Assists per game: Kyle Lowry

Rebounds per game: Bam Adebayo

Steals per game: Jimmy Butler

Blocks per game: Bam Adebayo

Team MVP: Jimmy Butler

Overall record: 51-31 (3rd in the East)

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