This Miami Heat team feels V E R Y different

Well this has just gotten off to a ridiculous start hasn’t it? The Miami Heat early in this season have probably been the best story in the NBA. The team had an off-season with substantial turnover for the first time in quite a few seasons and it resulted in the injection of a lot of changes happening very quickly. The most impressive change they’ve made, in my opinion, is this:

Heat Pace (League Rank)

2019-20: 106.6 possessions per 48 min (6th) – fun aside – Hawks led the league in Pace at 104.6 last season! The league is running wild.

2018-19: 98.7 possessions per 48 min (23rd)

Heat Offensive Rating (League Rank)

2019-20: 108.4 points per 100 possessions (9th)

2018-19: 106.7 points per 100 possessions (26th)

The Heat increasing their offensive pace by 8% over last season with the team increasing their efficiency on top of that is recipe for massive success. The returns are already historic in the context of the franchise’s history, as the Heat have now started the season with 6 straight games scoring at least 106 points. According to Team Streak Search, this is the 3rd longest streak of games where the Heat scores 106 points in the franchise’s entire history. It’ll be interesting to see if this combination of pace and success is going to be sustainable.

We obviously need to discuss the biggest change to this team: transitioning from the leadership of Dwyane Wade to his close personal friend and off-season trade acquisition, Jimmy Buckets. Butler come over in the series of transactions this off-season that resulted in Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside going out and Jimmy and Meyers Leonard coming back to the Heat.

He’s had a bit of a bumpy road in the NBA the past few years as the Heat are his 4th team in the past 3 seasons, with concerns voiced surrounding him across the national media that he always seemed to find problems where he’d been. Based on the first action we’ve seen, it seems like he’s been waiting to be a Heat all along.

Here are some of the things he’s been doing in his first three games in a Heat uniform:

  • 3 Heat Wins
  • He’s averaging 15-points, 7-rebounds, 7-assists, 4-steals, 1-block per game which is just an absolute abundance of culture
  • He currently leads in the league in Defensive Rating and he’s 2nd in both total steals and total plus-minus in the NBA, despite having missed half the season
  • Helped create one of the most historic gifs in Heat Twitter history


Butler’s mentality and the Heat’s organization approach seem to be blending well together and it’s paying dividends across the entire team. Meyers Leonard post game after a Heat’s Sunday night win against the Rockets said to Fox Sports’ Jason Jackson that the team’s mentality has come from Jimmy Butler because he’s completely unselfish. He doesn’t care about scoring and he plays hard on both ends of the floor.

That kind of mentality, especially when executed with the tenacity that Jimmy brings, is infectious.

The Heat are currently 4th in the NBA in Defensive Rating allowing 98.2 points per 100 possessions, which is great to see that they’re maintaining elite level defense with this increase in pace they’ve taken on.

Synergy Sports currently has Jimmy in the 81st percentile defensively, holding opponents to 0.74 points per possession and causing them to turn the ball over 31% of the time. He is a nightmare defensively to go along with fellow nightmares Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow that will create a real problem for NBA teams that don’t have quite a few scoring options on the court.

Jimmy Buckets is doing all the right things early on.

Small Sample Size Theater

  • Kendrick Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, Bam Adebayo, and Meyers Leonard currently is the second best lineup in the league in terms of plus-mins, as the Heat have outscored opponents by 38 points in the 25 minutes this lineup has been on the court. This lineup is dominating in almost every facet of the game:
    • 53% FG
    • 46% 3P
    • 88% FT
    • 23 assists on their 27 field goals
    • 8 steals and 9 blocks in a little more than half a game of basketball
  • Kendrick Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard, and Bam Adebayo currently have the highest plus-mins in the NBA at +61 among 4-man lineups
  • The 4 best 3-man lineups in the NBA in terms of plus-minus are just a mix of the same 4 guys above this. They have all really stood out early on for Miami.
  • The Miami Heat have actually had a better defensive rating with Meyers Leonard on the court than off through the first 6 games, which was the main concern with him coming in.
  • Not a single player on the roster that has played at least 20 minutes has a negative plus-minus. Heat are winning with everyone.
  • The Heat currently have FOUR shooters that are in the 90th percentile or better in Synergy Sports Spot Up shooting rankings:
    • Robinson – 1.57 PPP (98th percentile)
    • Herro – 1.41 PPP (93rd percentile)
    • Nunn – 1.43 PPP (94th percentile)
    • Leonard – 1.39 PPP (90th percentile)

The Heat will have a definite test coming up, as they embark on a West Coast trip where they will be facing the Nuggets, Suns, and Lakers (combined 13-5 records) in a matter of 4 days. If they can maintain this level of play through a stretch that difficult, we might really have to start reevaluating how good this team can really be.

In summation:

*unless otherwise credited, all statistics came from*

2 replies
  1. Pdrag1
    Pdrag1 says:

    I haven’t been excited about this team for Quite few seasons. I remember watching every game in the Lebron-Heat era. Now I want to do the same again. Great Article. Love the stuff you guys are writing. Fivereasonssports has definitely filled a deadspin size hole in my Internet time.

    • Shiva
      Shiva says:

      Agreed man. I think they are bringing a different insight to the team by bringing a rotational perspective and really showing what lineups are working and which aren’t. I’m excited to see the progression of this team because it feels so much more cohesive than the last few years we have had to endure with


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