As the reigning champions, Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry is understandably confident going into the 2021-22 NBA season. And even though the Miami Heat completely revamped their roster in free agency, he’s not worried about Pat Riley’s newly-upgraded team posing an actual threat.
While Miami eliminated Milwaukee in the 2020 playoff bubble, the Bucks swept the Heat 4-0 during the first round of the 2021 playoffs.
Getting swept after coming within two games of winning the NBA title the year prior — it was clear that Miami needed to make some changes for next season. During free agency this summer, the Heat added Kyle Lowry, Markieff Morris, and stole P.J. Tucker, the defensive stud who helped the Bucks win the title, from Milwaukee.
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In an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Anthony Slater, Lasry threw subtle shade at the Heat, insinuating that Miami still doesn’t have what it takes to beat either the Bucks, or the team he seems to believe is their biggest threat, the Brooklyn Nets.
“They’re tough,” Lasry said of Miami. “I mean, look, I love Kyle Lowry. I mean I think he is — he’s a great player. He’s just tough. I mean, Jimmy Butler. All the guys they’ve got, they’re really good. It’s going to be tough. And PJ [Tucker] — PJ’s the best. I mean, he just plays super hard all the time. But look, ultimately at the end of the day I’d rather have our team. But still, if we’re healthy, you know we should go pretty far. But I would say the same thing (about other teams). If the Nets are healthy, they should go pretty far.”
Lasry Said the Biggest Factor In Competition Next Season Will Be Which Team Can Stay Healthy
At the end of the day, Lasry says the team with the best chance to win the conference title will be the franchise that still has all its starters in play. Between injuries and COVID-19, that’s no easy task.
“It’s who’s going to be the healthiest when you get there,” Lasry told The Athletic. “And it’s been interesting trying to figure out (that part) because I bet you there’s going to be a lot of gaming of this… You want to be the No. 1 seed, but do you want to be the No. 1 seed, or do you want to make sure you’re the healthiest going into the playoffs?”
The Bucks are Ranked Higher than the Heat in ESPN’s Power Rankings
Lasry’s predictions for next season are on par with the many NBA experts around the league.
In the most recent NBA power rankings, ESPN analysts put the Heat at No. 8 spot. Miami’s Eastern Conference rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, nabbed the top spot, and the Milwaukee Bucks earned second place.
The power rankings were curated by Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Dave McMenamin, Kevin Pelton, and Royce Young. Friedell explained that the Heat’s positioning stems from the franchise’s newest additions:
Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, and Markieff Morris joined a roster that has always prided itself on being mentally tougher and physically stronger than everybody else. The trio should fit in nicely behind Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The Heat have the kind of roster that would be tough to deal with in a playoff series. The question is whether the veteran-laden team can get to that point with the health needed to make a deep run.