Why The Miami Heat Losing In The Finals Could Be A Positive Thing?
As we know, the Miami Heat lost to the Denver Nuggets (4-1) in the NBA Finals last week.
While the Nuggets and their fans are on cloud nine celebrating their first championship in franchise history, Heat fans all over the world are in pain. This is the second Finals loss for the Heat in the last four seasons, and the second-straight year of heartbreak from a Jimmy Butler three in the final seconds of an elimination game.
However, I believe that this Finals loss is a blessing in disguise for the Heat. Losses like these are what brings all the flaws of a team to the light, and the Heat’s flaws were right on display in each loss during the Finals.
This loss should show the front office what it is that they exactly need to change and fix in this year’s free agency. Let’s dive deep into the flaws the Heat had, and how we would address them in the upcoming free agency if we were the general manager of the Heat.
The Heat were in dire need of a three-level scorer throughout these playoffs. As cliché as it sounds, the Heat were living and dying by the three-point line when it came to offense. The mid-range game was non-existent, unless it was Heat star Jimmy Butler going bananas like in Game Four versus the Milwaukee Bucks in the first-round.
There were plenty of times where the Nuggets were playing drop coverage on Butler, and it would end up with Butler getting a wide open mid-range jumper at the elbow. The problem is that the Heat shot extremely mediocre (38 percent) around the mid-range in the Finals.
Butler’s ankle could easily have been the reason why the mid-range was not falling, but it still doesn’t make it an excuse for the rest of the team.
That is where someone like Tyler Herro would have been a huge help, as he shot 47 percent from the free throw area during the regular season. However, Herro has not had a fully healthy playoff run since his sophomore season in 2021. Between 2022 and 2023, Herro missed 58 percent of playoff games due to injury.
Butler’s window is only going to get smaller; How much longer are the Heat going to need to wait for Herro to be completely healthy for a playoff run?
Therefore, trading Herro for a proven three-level-scorer would be a massive upgrade to maximize Butler’s championship window in Miami.
I understand that Herro trade talks are a touchy subject within the Heat fanbase, but Herro is the best trade asset the Heat have in order to get an upgrade at the point/shooting guard position.
Some players that come to mind would be Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. The main factor that these two players have is that they can score at will from any spot on the court, while staying efficient.
The difference with having Lillard or Irving as the Heat’s main offense option rather than Herro comes down to experience, skillset, IQ, and proven playoff success.
Irving has a championship under his belt, while hitting one of the clutchest shots in NBA Finals history. Lillard has a track record for upping his game come playoff time, having two series winning three-pointers throughout his career.
Meanwhile, Herro has not had a marquee game in the playoffs since his 37-point explosion inside the NBA bubble versus the Boston Celtics in game five. Also, Herro has yet to shoot over 50 percent in any playoff run for the Heat so far, and his volume of shots gets higher each playoff run.
Herro is still a young stud of a player who will get better as each year goes by, however, his timeline does not match up with Butler’s. That is why using him in a trade for a proven third star could be the answer to getting over the championship hump.
Point of Attack Defending
Who else was sick and tired of watching the Heat double Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, and then it led to a bucket every time the double occurred? I certainly was enraged.
Murray had an easy dump off pass to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic the moment Bam and Jimmy doubled off the screen.
Having a point of attack defender could make things difficult for Murray when he is coming off that high-screen from Jokic.
This has been an issue since the Justise Winslow era here in South Florida.
When your two main scorers are also your two main defenders, it makes it harder to defend in the long run as the stars will get gassed from leading on both offense and defense. That is why adding a defense-first role player could be huge for the Heat next season.
Dillon Brooks and Bruce Brown Jr. are the premier point of attack defense free agents in this year’s free agency.
With Gabe Vincent entering free agency, signing one of Brown Jr. or Brooks could be a replacement off the bench as a perimeter defender.
Brooks may not seem like an attractive pick-up in free agency because of all his drama from this previous season.
However, hear me out.
When you look past Brooks’s abysmal shooting splits of 40/32/77 from this past season, you can see how hard he works on the defensive end. He attacks with tenacity at every ball-handler and puts pressure all 94-feet long on his assignment.
That is exactly the type of role player the Heat needed during the NBA Finals.
Brooks had the fourth-highest usage percentage (22%) on the Memphis Grizzlies this past season. That would not happen on the Heat.
He had a defensive rating of 114, and I believe it could be lower with a more defensive-schemed role with the Heat.
The Heat needs a gritty defender, and Brooks needs a place to revive his career. Seems like a match made in heaven for 2024.
To be fair, this has been an issue for the Heat for as long as I can remember. The last significant big man over the height of 7 feet the Heat had under contract was Hassan Whiteside.
We all know how that ended.
As good as Adebayo is at our center position, he is only 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10 on a good day.
The Finals showed that only having one competent center on the roster will not stop the likes of Jokic. The last time a team was able to slow down Jokic while he had a fully healthy roster was the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers. They had three big centers to guard him and make him uncomfortable.
The Heat need to sign/trade for a big center or power forward in order to improve their frontcourt. Some names that come into mind are Christian Wood, Jakob Poeltl, Naz Reid, and Mason Plumlee. Wood and Reid are floor spacers as both big men shot over 35 percent in this past season. They would compliment Adebayo’s style of play immensely in a variety of ways.
They can help Bam on the boards, and most importantly, they do not clog up the paint since they can shoot from beyond the arc. That helps Bam by giving him clear lanes to the basket or an easy kick-out pass to the shooters.
On the other-hand, Plumlee and Poeltl bring a different aspect of the game that would benefit Miami nonetheless. They both are big bodies, measuring over 7 feet for the both of them. Something the Heat have needed.
One of the most intriguing aspects that both centers share is their playmaking and rebounding. Both Plumlee and Poeltl averaged nine rebounds and three assists. Either one of them could bring the same type of play style that Bam plays, but off the bench.
That would solve plenty of the height issues that have persisted with the Heat in recent history.
Plus, anything would be better than Cody Zeller, am I right?
If the Heat had these three flaws fixed before starting the Finals versus the Nuggets, I truly believe the outcome would have been completely different. Maybe Miami would be having a parade down Biscayne Boulevard.
I understand that the Heat were not 100 percent, but even if Miami had Herro playing and a Butler with a perfect ankle, the only way to beat this Nuggets team is to play offense on their level, and there is not a single NBA team that can do that on a consistent level as of right now.
The sole game Miami was able to steal in Denver, they needed to shoot almost 50 percent from three to even be in the game. Meanwhile, the Nuggets shot their normal percentage of 39.3 percent.
However, this loss should make the Heat organization open their eyes and be aggressive this off-season to fix these glaring issues within their roster construction.
If the Heat want to win a championship with Jimmy Butler leading at the helm, then they must give him the pieces necessary in order to get over that hump that the Heat keep failing to make.
Just like Butler said in the press conference after Game 6 of the Celtics series, “We’re going to get the same test until we pass it. I know we are capable of it.”
Maybe the heartbreak of losing a second Finals series in four years is enough to make the Heat’s front office realize they need to make changes in this roster in order to pass the final test.