Having high expectations can either be a great advantage or a grave disadvantage. It would seem that the Miami Heat are about to learn the latter.
After a surprising playoff run last spring, it could be argued that the reigning Eastern Conference should expect a slow start to the 2023–2024 campaign. Roster changes and the reality of their expectations could be a hindrance in the early part of the year.
Miami will enter the regular season with a somewhat different alignment than what they boasted during the playoffs. Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, Tyler Herro, and Kevin Love have all returned. But Max Strus and Gabe Vincent have moved on to other teams.
Losing Strus and Vincent may not seem major at first glance. But given Lowry and Love’s age and the fact that Herro remained out for the majority of last year’s playoff run, Miami will have to regain chemistry. Also key, they’ll have to do it without a pure point guard.
Completing such a task does not happen overnight, and Butler will have to adjust to the new dynamics in play while he does his typical regular season “warm-up.”
Further, with the way Miami is constructed, one injury could change the complexion of the team’s circumstances and place more onus on an individual more suited to serve as a role player. Outside of Butler and (maybe) Adebayo, the Heat do not have another “number one” scoring option who could carry an offense. They will need everyone to remain healthy if they have designs on winning the East for a second straight year.
Outside of their questionable roster construction, Miami must deal with the pressure of real expectations. They are no longer true underdogs, and while they may not have the same talent as the Bucks or the Celtics, opposing clubs will still be wary of a Heat run.
It’s been somewhat forgotten that the Heat were not a regular-season juggernaut a year ago. They posted a 44-38 record and had to get through the NBA Play-in Tournament to clinch a spot in the official dance. It’s entirely possible that the weight of expectations and an early lack of team chemistry could cause players like Butler, Herro, and Adebayo to press early in the season and try to do “too much.”
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It’s hard to bet against the Miami Heat’s long-term playoff aspirations, but it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see them sputter out of the gate.