They will be tested right from the start. Miami’s first 19 games — basically the first half of the season’s first half — shape up as potentially brutal, with 15 of them against clubs that went to last season’s playoffs.
The Heat face two-time reigning MVP in Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks twice, play at Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Toronto (in Tampa) all twice, plus see Boston twice and visit Dallas on New Year’s Day. And if that wasn’t enough, February brings a 12-day, seven-game trip to Houston, Utah, both Los Angeles teams, Golden State, Sacramento and Oklahoma City.
From the Sportsnaut:
Anything short of another NBA Finals run for the Miami Heat will be a disappointment after last season. With teams such as the Brooklyn Nets improving their roster, defending the East will be harder for the Jimmy Butler-led Heat team. The Heat will most likely start Tyler Herro at some point during the season, if not right away. Herro will win the NBA Most Improved Player Award with a stat line of 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game during the season.
Bam Adebayo will take the spot as Miami’s best player, if he’s not already, with Jimmy Butler giving Adebayo the keys to the offense. Precious Achiuwa will have a role in the rotation and provide a bigger impact than Bam Adebayo in his rookie season. Achiuwa will hopefully show his ability to stretch the floor, just like the player he’s modeling his game after in Kawhi Leonard. However, we should be patient with the 21-year-old forward like Adebayo.
If Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo can improve their games even further, the Heat have to be the favorites to repeat in the Eastern Conference. The addition of Avery Bradley will also be important as they will finally have a quality defender to defend the guard position. The Heat should have trouble with the Brooklyn Nets, but they will pull out and secure a rematch in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Prediction: 48-24 record, birth in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers
The Heat learned more about themselves in the bubble than perhaps any other team. They bought into Butler’s tough talk and saw their new star live up to it as well. The abbreviated offseason makes it easy for the Heat to pick up where they left off in the bubble, earning league-wide respect for their Finals showing. Spoelstra is criminally underrated, a championship coach whose name rarely gets tossed around in conversations about the NBA’s best coaches. That narrative, and others, will fuel the culture cocoon Riley has created. With all of the pieces they have in place now, the spot at the top of the Eastern Conference mountain there for Miami’s taking.
Predicted finish: 46-26.
|Los Angeles Lakers||+275||7/4|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+550||11/2|
|Golden State Warriors||+3000||30/1|
|Portland Trail Blazers||+5000||50/1|
|New Orleans Pelicans||+7000||70/1|
|San Antonio Spurs||+15000||150/1|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+20000||200/1|
|New York Knicks||+40000||400/1|