Miami Heat season preview
This preview originally appeared in our 2023-24 VSiN NBA Betting Guide, which was released on Thursday, October 5. To become a VSiN Pro subscriber and get all of our NBA coverage throughout the season, click here.
Heat Betting Odds
NBA Finals: +2800
Win Total: 46.5
Playoffs: Yes (-600)
For almost the entirety of the NBA offseason, everybody on the planet was under the impression that Damian Lillard would be traded to the Heat. However, the Portland Trail Blazers ended up sending the star guard to the Milwaukee Bucks right before the start of training camp.
Without Lillard, it’s hard to view the Heat as a championship contender. I know Miami made it all the way to the NBA Finals last year, but a lot broke right for the Heat along the way. For starters, the Heat shot a league-best 38.0% from three throughout the postseason, despite shooting just 34.4% (27th in NBA) from deep in the regular season. They were unsustainably hot in the first few rounds, and they ended up cooling down considerably against the Denver Nuggets. On top of that, Miami had a lot of injury luck along the way. I know Tyler Herro broke his hand and missed almost the entire playoffs for the Heat, but Miami’s opponents were a bit worse off than that.
The Heat do deserve credit for beating the opponents in front of them, and there’s no denying that they’re built better for the playoffs than they are for the regular season. But Miami only went 44-38 during the regular season last year, and the team didn’t do much to add talent in the offseason. With that in mind, I don’t see the Heat flirting with 50 wins in 2023-24. And I actually think they’ll once again be battling just to avoid the Play-In Tournament.
The good news for Miami is that Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are still on the team. Butler is coming off a remarkable season, as he averaged 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game in 33.4 minutes per game. The 34-year-old also shot a career-high 53.9% from the floor, and he took things to a whole other level in the playoffs. In 22 postseason games, Butler averaged 26.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game, and he made a strong case for being a top-10 player in the league. Adebayo also had a career year for the Heat, averaging a career-high 20.4 points per game. He continues to make strides offensively, but it’s his defense that makes him so special. He’s one of the best two-way bigs in basketball, and it’s the tenacity that he and Butler bring to both ends of the floor that makes this such an attractive situation for stars.
The presence of Butler and Adebayo also makes it easy to buy into Miami being top 10 in defensive rating again in 2023-24. The Heat were ninth in that category in the regular season last year, and they were a bit better defensively in the playoffs. So, that should be the strength of Miami again this season. Although the team will be hoping to crack the top 15 in offensive rating. If they don’t end up in that range, it’s hard to see them winning at least 47 games this season.
Perhaps Herro will make another leap this season. He was genuinely very good last year, averaging 20.1 points per game. However, he became a bit of a punchline this summer because he didn’t quite stack up as a centerpiece in a superstar trade. The Heat will also be hoping that Nikola Jovic can be a bigger part of the team. There’s a lot of Danilo Gallinari in Jovic’s game, as he’s a smooth forward that can hit the three and score creatively for a slower player. Jovic played well for Serbia in the FIBA World Cup this summer, so perhaps he’s ready to contribute more. And rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. might be a Day 1 rotation player. Jaquez played four years of college at UCLA, where he was one of the most versatile offensive players in the nation. As a senior, he averaged 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game for the Bruins. Generally, guys like him can play immediately. And I think Miami can use his ability to impact games offensively.
Miami also did a nice job in scooping Josh Richardon and Thomas Bryant for cheap this summer. Richardson should help ease the pain of losing Gabe Vincent and Max Strus in free agency. He played his best basketball as a member of the Heat, and he actually averaged 16.6 points per game for Miami back in 2018-19. That was the best season of his career and he knows exactly what Erik Spoelstra wants from him. And Bryant is a stretch big that just might be able to catch on in the Heat rotation. This is a team that was giving minutes to Cody Zeller last year, so there’s definitely an opening if Bryant can just play a bit better defensively — and learn to accept a small role on offense.
It’ll also be interesting to see what happens with Caleb Martin this year. After a good regular season, Martin was fantastic in the playoffs. He averaged 12.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in the postseason, and he shot 52.9% from the floor and 42.3% from deep in those 23 games. Was that a fluke or a sign of things to come? If it’s the latter, maybe I’ll be wrong about Miami.
Win Total Analysis
I’m just not seeing much upside with the Heat this season, and I think they got a little worse while others in the Eastern Conference got better. Even weaker teams in the East will be more competitive this season, with the Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets all expected to play better basketball in 2023-24. What that means is that there won’t be many easy wins out there for the Heat.
Miami could also struggle a bit to start the year, as the top players on this team put a lot of wear and tear on their bodies playing big minutes in an NBA Finals run. And it’s going to take some time for Miami to get used to playing without guys like Vincent and Strus, who were massive contributors offensively last season.
The Heat will also have to find a way to manage Kyle Lowry this season. He’s only getting worse as he continues to age, and keeping him fresh will likely come at the expense of some regular season wins. The same can also be said for Kevin Love.
There’s just a lot working against the Heat heading into this season, so I’m not sure how they’ll hit the Over on their win total. This number was up at 49.5 when it looked like they were going to get Lillard and I was considering playing the Under on it. I think Miami would be happy with just sneaking into the playoffs again. From there, the Heat will try and bully their way to another run. But I don’t see them making one.
Win Total Recommendation: UNDER 46.5