ASK IRA: Are the Heat more than their record indicates?

·3 min read

Q: Taking out the 7-14 start (short offseason, major COVID losses, etc.) we are on pace for 52 wins in a usual 82 game season, and have more wins than losses against teams over .500. And that’s even with numerous moving parts during that span. Though these aren’t stellar records, and their overall play may not pass the eye test sometimes, especially when they play down to their competition, I still believe this team is built for the playoffs, and this season has not been disappointing by any stretch of the imagination. Do you agree with the optimism? — Marc, Houston.

A: But you can’t remove what is in place. And there are no guarantees that those shorthanded games would have produced victories. To me, the most significant statistic is the 18 games without Jimmy Butler. This Heat roster simply does not have a 1B on the wing to compensate when Jimmy is out (Goran Dragic only recently has come around; Tyler Herro has been up and down). And the Heat’s current .537 winning percentage would have them on pace for 44 wins in a typical 82-game season. But, yes, I believe this is very much a roster that could find a way in the playoffs, particularly if it can rise to the No. 4-No. 5 opening-round series. Erik Spoelstra has shown what he can accomplish given time. And by finishing No. 6 or higher, he will have at least five days to put together a game plan for the opening round. So I do not believe your optimism is misplaced. And, at the moment, the Heat are not in a bad place. But get back to me after Tuesday night, and then we’ll see which way the pendulum is swinging, in what has been, perhaps, the ultimate up-and-down season.

Q: What happens when Victor Oladipo comes back? — Arnie.

A: Guess this is a day for nothing but glass-half-full lines of questioning. So far, nothing has offered an indication of such a return, including not taking flight with the team on Saturday. But I’ll play along. At least for the regular season, it would mean slicing some minutes from Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro in order to provide some court time, and then judge from there what comes next. It also is another reason how avoiding the play-in round could help, with the Heat possibly to get an internal look, during a pre-playoff camp, to see where Victor Oladipo stands with that knee. But, again, at the moment, it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Q: Playoff Goran, baby! — Tim.

A: Not a question. But Goran Dragic well could be providing needed answers for the Heat during his recent stretch. In many ways, it was Goran who fueled the Heat’s run to last season’s NBA Finals. If he continues to rekindle those memories, then good things could potentially again be on the way.

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