How Far Can Jimmy Butler Take This Team?
Obviously, the biggest move of the Heat’s offseason was the addition of star guard Jimmy Butler, who will look to move the Heat up a few notches in the Eastern hierarchy. Still, it remains to be seen just how far he can take this team as the alpha dog. We have seen him carry some subpar teams before with the Bulls a couple years back, and the Heat supporting cast isn’t horrible. Still, as the team is currently constructed right now, its hard to see them beating the top dogs in the East, or even some lesser teams like the Celtics or Pacers. Without question the Heat would rather have Butler here than not, but he is on the wrong side of 30 and has a lot of mileage. Butler’s good but he can’t take you to the finals by himself. Don’t be surprised if the Heat try to make a midseason move to upgrade their roster.
The Heat are a strange mix of young talent and veterans. While their veterans are good enough to set a certain floor for this team, the young players will dictate how far they can go. Guys like Justice Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro will likely be the x-factor for this Heat squad. For Winslow, some of the shine may have worn off him but he’s still just 23 and took encouraging steps as a playmaker last season. Bam Adebayo will likely be the team’s undisputed center heading forward, now that Hassan Whiteside has been traded away. Herro, the Heat’s 13th pick, shot the lights out in summer league and will likely get his fair share of opportunities his rookie season. If even one of those guys can have a breakout year, the Heat could wind up being more formidable than expected. Without most of their draft picks going forward, these players will likely be the young pillars going forward, so their development will be key to the Heat’s success.
How Aggressive will Pat Riley be?
Pat Riley has never been afraid to take risks and has always had big ambitions. This isn’t changing anytime soon, so it’s probable the Heat will be extremely aggressive this trade deadline. The Heat have an intriguing mix of talent, but there’s a significant age gap in the roster. Guys like Butler and Dragic, who are both over 30, are trying to win now, but the team’s supporting cast isn’t ready yet. The Heat’s young players hold some promise, but they may need some more time to incubate before they’re ready to be part of a championship team. That’s not to say a breakout from one of them won’t happen, but breaking into star status is different. For that reason, expect Riley to be active in trade talks all season long, as he probably recognizes the window of contention with Butler is closing soon. Making a play for a Bradley Beal or Chris Paul type player is very much a possibility.