While the Miami Heat received top accolades from analysts across the league after acquiring Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors this summer, regular-season expectations for the restructured team remains low, at least according to ESPN‘s Zach Lowe.
It’s not so much due to the lack of starting talent on their roster, as Lowe refers to the trio that is Lowry, Bam Adebayo, and Jimmy Butler as “straight-up mean, a human triangle chokehold that laughs in your face while squeezing the air out of you.”
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The Heat’s biggest issue is two-fold, their lack of depth on their bench and the level of competition in the Eastern Conference. There’s no questioning that the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks are going to be tough teams to beat, but their high expectations, as with any team, are dependent on their starters remaining healthy.
While Lowe credits Miami’s defense as “hellacious” with P.J. Tucker in the mix, “their bench beyond Tyler Herro and Dewayne Demon is a mess of shaky veterans (and) unproven young guys,” he wrote.
“I expect Gabe Vincent to get a real shot at backup point guard, and Max Strus can do some things,” Lowe continued, but he’s “bullish on a big Herro bounce back,” despite the 21-year-old scoring 26 points in 26 minutes during the Heat’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Hawks.
“That’s a lot of uncertainty, and minimal buffer against injury to Kyle Lowry, Butler, or Adebayo,” Lowe said, which is why he predicts that Miami will struggle during the regular season without legit backups coming off the bench. “It would not surprise me at all if the hyped-up Heat are at play-in risk in the last week of the season.”
Lowe Says Victor Oladipo’s Return Could Be a Game-Changer
It’s easy to forget about Victor Oladipo, considering the 29-year-old guard only appeared in four games before suffering a season-ending injury last season, but his return to full health could absolutely shake up the projected starting lineup.
The Heat took a gamble resigning Oladipo, who requires ample time to rehab his second quadriceps injury before he’s back on the court. Despite not being expected to play until 2022, Miami signed the guard to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, per Sports Illustrated.
On August 20, however, Dr. Jonathon Glashow, who performed Oladipo’s season-ending surgery, revealed Miami’s gamble on the two-time All-Star was not in vain and that Oladipo is expected to be back in action before the new year.
Lowe agrees that “one potential game-changer” for the Heat’s upcoming season is the return of Oladipo, who was seen getting practice shots up during breaks in the team’s scrimmage on October 1. However, the two-time All-Star said on media day that there is no definitive timetable for his return yet.
Predictions for the Heat’s Starting Lineup for the 2021-22 NBA Season
While head coach Erik Spoelstra won’t likely reveal the team’s official starting five until 30 minutes before tip-off on October 21, it’s largely predicted the following mix of veteran stars and new player additions will make up the Heat’s starting five: Butler, Adebayo, Lowry, Tucker, and Duncan Robinson.
On October 1, Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman asked Spoelstra who will be starters when the season officially starts. “Spoelstra says he is still evaluating lineups,” Winderman tweeted, a response that will keep everyone on their toes during the preseason tilts.
“There are some things that I want to look at lineup-wise, and different combinations,” Spoelstra continued. “We have a couple more weeks to look at some things.”