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Miami Heat 2024 NBA offseason preview: Don’t expect major changes

Miami Heat 2024 NBA offseason preview: Don't expect major changes

2023-24 season: 46-36

Highlight of the season: A one-month stretch from November to December, when rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. averaged 15.9 points — with just one game under double-digits — solidified Miami’s 2023 draft selection as a major steal.

With a trip to the infirmary. The Heat were absolutely riddled by injuries late in the season, which spilled into the postseason. Jimmy Butler went down against the Philadelphia 76ers in the team’s first play-in game and didn’t play the rest of the way. Terry Rozier, the team’s midseason acquisition, missed all postseason action, and later in the Heat's first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics, Jaquez missed time with a hip injury.

It was an unfortunate turn of events, given Miami’s competitiveness as an underdog in recent years. Not only did the Heat add a necessary youthful element in Jaquez, they also added more offensive splash with Rozier, providing head coach Erik Spoelstra with firepower he’s lacked in previous years.

Flying under the radar all season was the defense of Bam Adebayo. The 26-year-old is rarely a stat monster, averaging just two stocks (steals + blocks) per game this season, but his reading of angles, ability to hedge and recover, and his patience when guarding the rim was nothing short of exceptional this season.

If there’s a takeaway for this season, it’s that Adebayo appears to be leveling up. The center slowly started to incorporate the 3-point shot into his game, which helped stretch out opposing defenses. He’s not Brook Lopez quite yet, but his willingness to take those shots could see him turn into a vastly different offensive player moving forward.

While Heat fans are assuredly disappointed in how this season ended, the franchise does seem to be on the right track, with their heightened focus on offensive development. We shouldn’t expect major changes, and that is probably the right move.

Jimmy Butler’s health is a major concern for the Heat. (D.A. Varela/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

A little more youth. Jaquez last year and Nikola Jović the year before signaled a necessary pivot from a franchise that’s mostly fallen in love with established veterans to embracing the addition of young players with a high understanding of the game. This trend needs to continue.

Butler will be 35 when next season begins, and his knee injury this postseason cost the Heat a chance at an upset of the Celtics. Still, he’s effective when he plays, but he would be much better with a co-headliner. With two years left on his contract at max money (approximately $50 million per), it would be wise to capitalize on his remaining prime. Effective drafting has netted Jaquez and Jović, who are either a part of Miami’s future or valuable trade pieces in the hopes of landing another star. The Heat didn’t go all in for Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard, and it might’ve been for the best given how things played out. But at some point, being a play-in team can’t be the standard for Spoelstra (who just signed a contract extension that puts his salary in Gregg Popovich and Monty Williams territory) — especially in an Eastern Conference that always appears for the taking.

Adebayo is a mainstay entering his peak and continues to grow. But what to do with Tyler Herro, especially if Rozier is under contract until 2025-26? They’re close to second-apron territory, and never want to be caught without options. Organizationally, the Heat are as consistent as ever, and given the state of flux plenty of teams appear to be in, the Heat could be ready to strike and get back to the land of the living in the East. — Vincent Goodwill

Spoelstra said he values older, experienced college players over one-and-done talent and got the steal of the draft last year with Jaquez from UCLA. The Heat could be targeting another older player who can be plugged in right away like 6-foot-6 guard Dalton Knecht from Tennessee or 6-6 lefty guard Terrence Shannon Jr. from Illinois. — Krysten Peek

Projected draft picks (pre-lottery): Nos. 15 and 43

The Heat are an expensive team, currently projected to be above the first apron. They won’t have money to spend on the open market, but aren’t necessarily looking to make major additions. They made their pseudo free-agency signing by trading the expiring contract of Kyle Lowry for Rozier, adding two more years of salary to their books.

Miami could gamble and shop both Jović and Jaquez, but that doesn’t seem prudent given that they are in need of players who can develop within their system.

Key free agent

Haywood Highsmith (RFA)

Come back healthy and make sure the starting lineup jells. Rozier, before he went down, was up-and-down in his performance, which is natural given how long he spent in Charlotte. A full training camp and the experience of half a season with his new team should allow him to stick the landing in 2024-25.

Heat Culture suffered a setback after last season's Finals appearance. Herro missed 34 games this season, plus Rozier (neck) and Butler (knee) weren't available in the postseason.

Since Rozier, Butler, Adebayo and Herro take up most of the team's cap space, it'll be hard to make any needle-worthy moves that don't include at least one of them. Trading Herro and Duncan Robinson's $19M per-year-contract makes sense financially, but it will also open up more opportunities for Jaquez.

Another late-round sleeper to watch for is Jović. Post All-Star break, he started 24 games and averaged 14.7 points with 8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.7 threes and 1 steals per 75 possessions. If he can inch closer to 30 minutes a night, that's a decent fantasy profile worth investing in. — Dan Titus

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