We know — next to — nothing.
Sure, we know when the NBA is planning to return: July 31st in a bubble in Orlando’s Wide World of Sports complex. And we know that they hope all players report a couple of weeks earlier for training camp.
And yes, we know that there are supposed to be eight regular season games for each of the 22 participating teams, including the Miami Heat, prior to a possible play-in for the bottom seeds and then a regular 1-to-8 4-of-7 playoff format divided by conference.
But we don’t know if it will actually…happen.
If Covid-19 concerns, or protests for social equality, or fear of injury will suspend or even cancel the resumption of the 2019-20 season.
But let’s say it goes off as planned.
Here are five reasons to like the Heat’s playoff chances…
(And why you may want to place a wager. Since the game schedule is not yet announced, odds are also not available but if you really want to get on those lines early, SBD’s NBA odds will most likely get updated pretty quickly. Keep in mind that it is automated and can only be updated once sportsbooks have released their odds.)
1. Heat’s Playoff Chances – They’re all in.
I’ve heard this consistently over the past month, and Bam Adebayo confirmed it on a recent conference call with reporters. Heat players may have particular concerns, from the constraints of the bubble to the distraction from more important issues such as social justice to injuries, as Adebayo is among those seeking a contract extension early. But the overwhelming sentiment from Heat players is that they should play, which is what you would expect from this organization. And, as I was told, “when Jimmy (Butler) tells you to get your ass somewhere, you get it there.” Since this is such a strange circumstance, desire to play and win will be an even bigger factor in results than it usually is. And the Heat want to be there, whereas some other teams may be more conflicted. This group has great team chemistry, and don’t overlook that four members of the team (Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr.) are all free agents after the season, with strongly stated desires to re-sign. They’ll give their best.
2. Heat’s Playoff Chances – They’re healthy.
Miami struggled without Herro and Leonard, especially Leonard, since they were without another big body to support Adebayo while also spacing the floor. They’ve been the two most active Heat players on social media during the break, for different reasons. More importantly, the reports on both health situations have been positive. So this would conceivably make the Heat the healthiest they’ve been all season, since Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and James Johnson were fairly useless prior to the trade, and then Herro and Leonard weren’t around much after Crowder and Andre Iguodala were acquired. After the lengthy break, not every coach will know what he has to work with, so it should help Erik Spoelstra considerably that he has such a deep bench of options.
3. The playing field’s been leveled.
Yes, the Heat were among the NBA’s top home teams, and that advantage won’t exist, even if Miami secures the fourth seed. But they were starting to struggle there some too. And the road thing? Well, that was ugly. And now everyone is on the road in Orlando. So you don’t have to worry about some of the young guns getting the road playoff yips. And least for the Heat, it’s a short trip, and they’re used to all this humidity and sunshine. Hey, every little bit helps.
4. They have a top tier coach and leader.
This will matter. A lot. They have someone who has won championships under adverse conditions, and unusual formats — Spoelstra got his first in the lockout shortened season. Which coaches in the East are you taking over him? Mike Budenholzer, Nate McMillan, Brad Stevens and Nick Nurse are all excellent, but only Nurse has won a title. And leader? We did this exercise on the Five on the Floor podcast. Look at the leaders on every team in the East. Who has a better chance to energize and terrorize his guys than Jimmy Butler? Maybe you take Giannis since the Bucks seem to fall in line behind his talent. But no one else. And Butler has newly-40 No. 40 to back him up.
5. Youth and experience.
You need a combo. The youth to get legs back into playing shape quickly. Miami has five core players who are 26 or under. But they also have Butler, who has been through long playoff battles for the Bulls. And they have Dragic, who has been dynamic in odd formats, lifting surprise Slovenia to a European championship.