We are half way through the 2023-24 Miami Heat season. They are 41 games in, sporting a 24-17 record, tied for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and are a half-game back of the New York Knicks for the No. 5 seed. They have the 15th-best NET Rating–including the 20th-best offense and 10th-best offense–having deployed nearly two dozen starting lineups (22) with mixed results.
Yes, I know, this isn’t transaction talk. We do more of that here, where I discuss 20 possible trade candidates 20 days ahead of the 2024 Trade Deadline. Here, let’s put on the professor cap and hand out some player grades for each of the Heat’s 14 players on standard contracts.
Let’s hop into it!
(Note: These grades combine their overall performance relative to where their expectation was/is before the season and now, respectively … I should also mention that I’m not a professor or teacher, so this grading scale may not make sense to you while it does to me.)
Skinny: Adebayo’s the quintessential embodiment of a game-wrecker for opponents. By a considerable margin, Adebayo’s been not only Miami’s best player, but its most important regular season player so far in 2023-24.
He’s become more versatile with his screen coverage, playing a lot more drop. Though he still carries the burden of defending the team’s best wing/big, switching onto and containing better guards, boxing out, screen, initiating offense and scoring 20-plus points per game. He does it all for Miami–and then some–at a very high level, and is perhaps the biggest reason they’re seven games above .500 despite all their injuries.
While he’s also missed some time with injury, he could very well be on his way to his second consecutive All-Star game (third overall) in mid-February.
Skinny: Bryant signed with Miami on a two-year minimum this offseason expected to be the Heat’s backup center and an upgrade over Dewayne Dedmon and Cody Zeller, the most recent Heat backup bigs. Bryant hasn’t necessarily been that and was booted out of Miami’s injury within the team’s first nine games. He hasn’t seen much playing time outside of injuries to the Heat frontcourt, and while Bryant’s shown flashes of positive impact on the offensive glass, it’s unfortunately been an underwhelming start to the season for the 26-year-old.
Skinny: Butler’s dealt with knee, ankle, calf and foot injuries, having played 26 of Miami’s 41 games so far. His rim attempts and rim efficiency has dipped while his off-ball defense hasn’t been as eye-popping as it typically has. It’s hard when you haven’t had much rhythm due to injury. Fortunately enough, Butler reminded us Monday what time of year it was, dazzling for 31 points, five rebounds and fou assists in a gritty 96-95 overtime win over Brooklyn. As long as Butler is healthy come April, the Heat has a chance, which is all that matters (not this grade).
Skinny: Herro was transcendent until his Nov. 8 injury against the Memphis Grizzlies, where he suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain. Since his return, he’s shooting just 42.9 percent from the floor and 39.7 percent from deep, but he’s still sporting an inefficient shot selection that can oftentimes hamper the Heat offense–though he will take the shots because nobody else will. Herro’s best improvement has been his off-ball defense–he’s hunting the passing lanes a lot more and seeing plays react in front of him before they do, which has been an encouraging development.
Skinny: Highsmith’s missed time this season due to multiple injuries, but has still been one of the Heat’s most effective wing defenders alongside Adebay0, Butler and Jaime Jaquez (more on him below) when he’s healthy. He’s averaging 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 27 games, knocking down 36.1 percent of his 3-point attempts and 38.5 percent of his spot-up 3-point attempts, which would be a career-high if the season ended today. He’s also one of the Heat’s better-rebounding wings and helps alleviate lost size when Adebayo’s switched onto the perimeter.
Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Skinny: Whew! In the words of Heat legend Dwyane Wade, Jaquez is a “baller.” The rookie is averaging 14.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals on 51.3 percent shooting and 35.3 percent from 3-point range. Though all the little things — his footwork, connectivity, acumen, motor, vision (when he’s not in transition) — are that of an eight-year veteran. He’s been the second-best player of this most recent draft class and will be a major component of this organization for the next several years.
Skinny: Jovic’s emergence hasn’t really popped until recently, starting in each of the Heat’s last eight games and nine of the last 10. Whenever he’s been on the floor, Jovic has been one of the Heat’s top facilitators–especially in transition. Though the 6-foot-10 Serbian has noticeably improved defensively–with his overall positioning, disposition, discipline and foot speed against both petite guards and bulkier wings. His outside shot has been inconsistent, but he’s still shooting 43.9 percent from beyond the arc (2.7 3PA), including 41.9 percent on spot-up attempts.
Skinny: Love has had a transcendent first full season with the Heat. He’s in the best shape of his career, and the results are paying off for the 37-year-old. Love’s averaging 10.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 45.2 percent shooting, including 34.9 percent from 3-point range on 4.8 3-point attempts. Despite a down year shooting from distance, he’s sporting a career-best true-shooting percentage (62.1) and effective field goal percentage (57.1) while the team’s most effective rebounder statistically (20.1 TRB%). But perhaps his most stark development has been his improved awareness and nimbleness within Miami’s defensive schemes, as well as his connectivity offensively. Love’s been one of the NBA’s best backup bigs, even though there still might be a need that must be addressed behind Adebayo as we approach the latter portion of the season.
Skinny: Lowry, who’s in a contract year, has not looking to consistently score, which is an issue in this current team context. But when he is, he’s been efficient: Lowry’s shooting 44.1 percent from the floor and 40.8 percent from 3-point range–sporting a career-best 57.6 effective field goal percentage and a 60.4 true-shooting percentage (second-best).
Skinny: It has not been the cleanest start to the 2023-24 season for Caleb Martin, who missed 10 of the team’s first 11 games due to knee tendinosis. His shot has come and gone, shooting 44.4 percent and 36.5 percent from 3-point range so far (50.7 eFG%) this season. His on-ball defense has been perhaps his biggest drawback, though I expect him to get back to par by the time March and April roll around (if he’s not consolidated for a better player, mind you).
Skinny: Richardson was brought back to Miami in free agency, expected to replace Gabe Vincent’s point-of-attack defense and some of Max Strus’ shooting that Miami lost. He’s done the latter more than the former, knocking down 34.1 percent of his 3-pointers with some rhythm to his in-between game. Richardson has shown he’s still capable of hunting the passing lanes, but his efficiency and effectiveness–especially defensively–hasn’t completely helped the Heat in certain contexts.
Skinny: No Heat player has progressed his game like Duncan Robinson has this year. He’s attacking closeouts and generating the rim at a much higher rate while maintaining a 41.1 3-point percentage. He’s by far Miami’s best movement shooter and leverages his gravity into effective offense–whether it’s for him or others. He’s quickly transitioned into one of the Heat’s most important players, averaging 13.9 points,, 2.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 61.9 percent true shooting. His two-man game with Adebayo is pitch-perfect.
Skinny: Orlando Robinson doesn’t have the vertical pop you’d traditionally see from a backup big, but he’s continued developing nicely in the Heat system. He’s averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds on 52.5 percent from the floor, having netted seven of his 12 3-point attempts across 17 games (seven starts).
Skinny: Smith was limited to just nine games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in late November. Smith, who earned the Heat’s 14th roster spot ahead of the 2023-24 season, averaged 4.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 14.6 minutes per game. He was perhaps Miami’s best point-of-attack defender, creating myriad deflections (6.6 per 36 minutes) whether he was spearheading Miami’s 2-2-1 press, its zone or the primary/secondary ballhandler in man. There isn’t a big enough sample to give a proper grade, but Smith himself didn’t perform poorly, relative to expectation.
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