With no Heat players participating in the weekend's midseason event, now is as good of a time as any to assess how things have gone during the first half of the year. You know what that means: hacky sports report-card time! It's time to hand out some grades.
With half of the campaign in the books, here's how we would grade various aspects of the Miami Heat's 2020-21 season.
The Miami Heat's response to COVID: A. There can be a debate about whether Heat fans ought to be able to attend games at all, but seeing as this is Florida and they are, we'd say the organization has done a pretty good job. The Heat made national news recently when it announced it would have COVID-sniffing dogs at home games. That alone deserves some points.
From all accounts by fans and media, the Heat is strict about facial coverings inside the arena and has kept capacity under 3,000 for now. Players have also commented on how the Heat's COVID protocols are much stricter than other teams'. All in all, a good job here.
The new guys: D. What a dumpster fire the Miami Heat's new additions have been. Filed under "new guys" on the Miami Heat would be Max Strus, Avery Bradley, Moe Harkless, and Precious Achiuwa. The contribution from this large chunk of the roster has been putrid, only saved by the rookie, Achiuwa, and a few minor moments from Strus, who, now that the Heat has become a healthier team, almost never plays.
Bradley and Harkless were expected to be big contributors this season. They've appeared in ten games apiece and made zero impact. That brings their grade all the way down to almost failing.
The sophomores: C. Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Gabe Vincent, and KZ Okpala can all pretty much be considered second-year players. So far, season two has been extremely rocky for them as a group.
Herro has played well when he's on the court, but he's missed a fair amount of time with injuries. Nunn has played better or at least on par with how he started off last season, which has been a huge revelation for Miami. And Okpala and Vincent have just sort of been there, with Vincent providing some fair performances in desperate situations. Overall, very choppy stuff from Miami's sophomore squad.
The leftovers: C. We've covered the new guys and the second-year guys, so now it's time to assess the veterans who have been here a minute — namely, Kelly Olynyk and Andre Iguodala. The middle of the roster, if you will. Olynyk has been the man starting next to Bam Adebayo in the front court for the last month or so and is averaging ten points and five rebounds a game. Iguodala, at this point in his career, is nothing but a spot player off the bench.
It's hard to be too tough on Olynyk and Iguodala. They've both been healthy, which is more than a lot of the players on the Miami Heat roster can say. They're just not enough.
Injuries: F. They say the best ability in sports is availability. Because the Miami Heat has had some of the worst injury/COVID luck in the NBA this year, it's getting an F in the availability category.
Stop the hate. It wasn’t a fluke that they made the nba finals last year they’ve just been plagued with injuries this season pic.twitter.com/8YghYERNOU— ? (@BolWrld) February 26, 2021
Between Jimmy Butler missing half the season because of COVID and Goran Dragic missing nearly all of February following an ankle injury, the Heat just hasn't been itself. Add on Tyler Herro missing a large chunk of games and Meyers Leonard playing all of ten minutes this season before sustaining a season-ending injury. It's been rough.
Coaching: A. Most people wouldn't give high praise to the coaching staff of a team that entered the All-Star break winning just about as many games as it's lost, but Erik Spoelstra deserves all the accolades for once again keeping a ship afloat that other coaches would have long ago parked next to the Titanic. To have the Heat in contention for home court in the playoffs is truly an accomplishment.
Spoelstra was forced to roll out a new starting lineup in just about every single one of the first 18 games. It wasn't pretty, but the Heat survived and came out of it OK. Just like it always does under Spoelstra.
Year 2 of Jimmy Butler: A. Yep — having Jimmy Butler on the Miami Heat remains. Despite COVID and injury, his leadership has never been more important. Butler is averaging 20 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Those are LeBron numbers. This is going well.
No matter what happens this season, the Jimmy Butler signing is clearly more than a one-year boon for the Miami Heat.
Bam Adebayo's ascent to superstardom: B. At this point, there isn't much Bam Adebayo can't do. If last season's Finals run was Bam's coming-out party, this season has been marking his rise to the top 30 players in the NBA in ink, not pencil.
Bam is on his way to being a 20-8-4 guy this year. If there's one area to nitpick, it's the fact that if the game is on the line, Bam can't be the focus of Miami's offense, especially if Jimmy Butler is out. That will come with time, though.
Pat Riley's whale hunting: F. The Heat has made it blatantly obvious that it's been keeping its 2021 options open in the pursuit of a superstar "whale" to add to the roster. Well, the team struck out on Giannis Antetokounmpo this offseason when he re-signed with the Milwaukee Bucks and struck out again when it missed a chance to trade for James Harden.
The rumor now is that the Heat may go after Houston Rockets guard Victor Oladipo, either via trade or when he's a free agent this offseason. Talk about a bronze medal. Not re-signing Jae Crowder and bringing back Meyers Leonard looks worse by the day. The Heat gets an F for "failure" here. Not many players will be around this offseason as a consolation prize.
Miami Heat fans: C. The thing about being a successful franchise is that it spoils a lot of people. Early in the season when the Heat was without its best players for long stretches, a lot of fans lost patience and wanted heads to roll. On the flip side, others kept their cool. There was a definite "true colors" moment when times got tough.
As this season progresses, perhaps some Heat fans learn a lesson they should have learned long ago: No matter how bad it seems, the Heat will figure it out. Every season might not end with a championship, but the team will end things in a better place than its worst point of the year. This season has already proven that true once again.