First half summary: Given the way that last season ended, the Miami Heat had one of the league’s most disappointing first halves of 2020-21. The team that represented the Eastern Conference in the 2020 Finals sits in sixth place in the All-Star break at 18-18. They’ve been affected by both injuries and COVID-19-related absences, but also just haven’t played at the level we saw from them in the bubble. That’s been especially true on offense, where they Heat rank 25th, having scored 4.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season. Only the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder have seen bigger drop-offs. Even in winning seven of their last eight games before the All-Star break, the Heat were a below-average 3-point shooting team.
The Heat do have a top-10 defense and they won 11 of their last 15 before the break to get back into the mix for one of the top six spots in the East. Bam Adebayo, 23, continues to blossom into one of the best two-way big men in the league. But they will need to be much better offensively in the second half of the season if they’re going to compete with the three best teams in the Eastern Conference, against whom they’re currently 1-5.
Biggest question going into the second half: Is there a trade to be made? Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has shown on multiple occasions that he can get the most out of however much talent he’s been given. And we should expect this team, should it remain as is, to play better as the season goes on. But team president Pat Riley could be on the hunt for another star to play alongside Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, and he probably has the right combination of young talent and tradeable contracts to get a deal done if a star were to become available.
Playoffs or lottery?: If the Heat stay relatively healthy and continue to play the way they have over the last month, they’re one of the six best teams in the Eastern Conference. But more absences or an inability to find their offense could keep them in the play-in group and put them at risk of continuing a pattern where they’ve missed the playoffs every other year since LeBron James left Miami in 2014.
A healthy Butler could be all that the Heat need. They’re 14-8 when he’s been in the lineup (with much better numbers on both ends of the floor) and 4-10 without him. Best bet is that they’re fighting for the No. 4 and 5 spots in the East with a couple of other teams — the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors — that have thus far had disappointing seasons after trips deep into the playoffs six months ago.
— John Schuhmann