What happened to the Heat, who went from No. 1 in three-point shooting last season to No. 3 in three-point shooting this season?
A year after finishing atop the Eastern Conference and leading the NBA in three-point field goal percentage (37.9 percent) last season, the Heat have plummeted in three-point field goal percentage (33.7 percent), ranking 27th in the NBA as they try to avoid the play-offs. All this is happening despite Butler having an efficient season and Adebayor having a career year.
The Heat’s defense remains as tough as ever, ranking fifth in defensive efficiency. But offensively, the Heat ranked 26th in points allowed per 100 possessions, higher than only the four teams that tanked. The Heat’s biggest problem this season has been shooting. Almost everyone on this list is responsible. Tyler Heroo, Lowry, Struth, Vincent, Oladipo and Duncan Robinson all saw their 3-point shooting drop.
The result is that a team with three leading scorers averaging over 20 points per game (Butler, Adebayor, Shiro) can’t really open up offensively. Butler is shooting the best percentage of his career and getting to the free throw line at will. Adebayor has made huge strides in creating his own offense and developing an offensive weapon for the paint jumper. Heroo has lost some of his efficiency, but he is by far the team’s best goalscorer.
However, the reality is that the Heat didn’t score high enough to be taken seriously as a contender. The Heat have fallen behind, and the rest of the Eastern Conference has made significant upgrades since last summer. The Bucks put their biggest depth around Antetokounmpo ever. Malcolm Brogdon is a potential sixth man candidate for the Celtics. The Cavaliers acquired Donovan Mitchell, and the Knicks signed Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart at the trade deadline. The Sixers took Tucker. Even the Nets, who traded for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, look active.
The solution isn’t simple for the Heat this offseason. Heroo is in the first year of a $120 million contract extension. Lowry, who has been either ineffective or injured for most of the year, will be paid nearly $30 million next season. Robinson is largely out of the rotation and has three years left on his big contract. Both Struth and Vincent will be free agents this offseason. The Heat are fortunate to have Adebayor and Butler, but rebuilding around them will be a complicated job given the team’s relative lack of attractive players and the owner’s continued reluctance to pay the luxury tax. The Heat are neither leading the way in acquiring another star nor making a big move in free agency.
At this point, the Heat’s offensive problems won’t be solved overnight, the playoffs are getting closer, and the seventh seed in the East isn’t a good position to be in. Do you think the Heat will make the playoffs this season, and if so, how far do you think they will go?