Miami Heat: Ranking each season of the Jimmy Butler era

Is the 2021-22 Miami Heat team the best in the Jimmy Butler era? (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Since joining the organization ahead of the 2019-20 season, Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler has created several unforgettable moments.

Yes, there are plenty of discussions about his future because of his contract. But we’re not here to talk about that today! Instead, let’s reminisce about the Heat teams in the Butler era, since he’s been with the organization for five years.

Which one was the best? And, conversely, which was the worst? Let’s rank them from worst to first!

5. 2020-21

Record: 40-32 (72-game regular season due to COVID)

Skinny: A couple of the underlying metrics don’t consider this Heat team to be the worst team, but I still think this was the worst season in the Butler era. There’s a distinction there.

Miami was coming off the second-shortest offseason in NBA History–the shortest being the then-defending champion Lakers, who beat Miami in the 2020 NBA Finals, who had one day fewer rest–and made a couple of inconsequential offseason additions in Avery Bradley and Mo Harkless. Bradley only played 10 games before getting hurt while Harkless only played 11 before getting shipped off to Sacramento for Nemanja Bjelica, who also flamed out despite getting MVP chants in the playoffs.

Miami was 7-14 through 21 games and was never five games above .500 until May 2, two weeks before the regular season’s conclusion. The Milwaukee Bucks’ four-game sweep of Miami was arguably the worst in Heat history. Their point margin for that series was minus-82 (after losing Game 1 in OT by two), the only time in franchise history it’s reached -80 or worse for a single series.

Rookie Precious Achiuwa, drafted No. 20 overall, had moments, but wasn’t very impactful as a whole; Victor Oladipo, who the Heat acquired at the deadline, only played four games before blowing out his right quad. Let’s not forget the inconsistent regular seasons from Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic, who was coming off a plantar fascia injury in the Finals.

At least we have Dewayne Dedmon’s electrifying 16 games to look back on … and the Udonis Haslem-Dwight Howard scuffle!


4. 2023-24

Record: 46-36

Skinny: Ah, yes, the most recent Miami Heat regular season–mired by inconsistency and injury.

The Heat may have won 46 games (their Vegas O/U was 44.5), but they courted a franchise-most 35 starting lineups. Only four players–Jaime Jaquez Jr. (75 games), Bam Adebayo (71), Duncan Robinson (68) and Haywood Highsmith (66)–met the 65-game minimum for awards; only one other Heat player played in at least 75 percent of the team’s available regular season games (Caleb Martin — 64).

Herro, who got off to a roaring start, missed nearly half the season with a grade 2 ankle sprain combined with a foot injury; Josh Richardson was limited to 43 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury; Duncan Robinson dealt with left facet syndrome (which can’t be fully cured) for the final month and was really only available by name in the postseason due to being physically compromised; Terry Rozier, Miami’s midseason acquisition, played 31 games with the team, but missed the final nine combined with a neck injury that put him in a neck brace.

Butler played in 60 games, but his disposition throughout the whole season looked as bad as it’s ever been since arriving. He eventually suffered a sprained MCL in their inaugural play-in game against the Philadelphia 76ers, his old team.

The Heat were a bottom-third offense for the second consecutive season, couldn’t figure out how to run a fastbreak and lost nearly every important game down the stretch it needed to win to avoid the play-in … again.

It wasn’t a good season, despite finishing 10 games above .500. It was filled with “what if…?” and will have plenty of offseason questions it must answer, beginning with Butler’s extension.

The injection of youth from Nikola Jovic, who could very well be Bam Adebayo’s long-term running mate in the frontcourt, and Jaime Jaquez Jr. was sensational, though.

3. 2022-23

Record: 44-38

Skinny: The biggest benefit of the doubt I’m giving this team over the 2023-24 team was the deep postseason run.

Miami sported the sixth-worst offense, 10th-worst NET Rating and was the fourth-worst 3-point shooting team, knocking down only 34.4 percent of its triples after it was a league-best from downtown in 2021-22. It played a league-most 54 clutch games where every game felt like a sweat and couldn’t quite get off the ground, suffering a setback every time it built momentum.

Miami didn’t make any meaningful deadline acquisitions and needed to attach a second-round pick to flip Dedmon ahead of the deadline, who heaved a Theragun onto the hardwood during a regular-season game.

Kevin Love turned out to be a very impactful buyout acquisition after an uneven regular season, even though Cody Zeller was everything but down the stretch.

Though after being three minutes away from getting bounced at home in the play-in to the Chicago Bulls, Miami went on a historic postseason run. Jimmy Butler dominated Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in five games, which was complemented by red-hot shooting from the Heat’s ancillary rotation players; it bested the New York Knicks across six grueling affairs and fought off the Boston Celtics in seven–spearheaded by Caleb Martin.

Unfortunately, the road came to an end against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. But the final month-and-a-half postseason journey trumped the six-month regular season.

Thus, it earns the benefit of the doubt relative to this last season.

2. 2019-20

Record: 44-29 (72-game regular season due to COVID)

Skinny: This is almost a 1a.) and 1b.) situation for me. You could talk me into either of these next two for the top spot.

The 2019-20 Heat team had a refreshed offense with a newly-arrived Jimmy Butler. It also marked Bam Adebayo’s first full season as a starter after spending three seasons behind Hassan Whiteside, who was included in the four-team Butler swap.

Tyler Herro, the No. 13 pick in the 2019 draft, broke onto the scene as one of the league’s most impactful rookies, as was Kendrick Nunn, who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. This season was also arguably Andy Elisburg and Pat Riley’s best job making in-season acquisitions, swinging deals to acquire revered veterans Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder, both of whom provided a transcendent impact in the bubble despite the team not jelling right away post-deadline.

Speaking of the bubble, Butler made his first notable postseason stamp inside Walt Disney World alongside Dragic and Adebayo, who were both very impactful up until their unfortunate (and ill-timed) injuries in the NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Butler engineered multiple comebacks down the stretch against Milwaukee and posted 40- and 35-point triple-doubles against the Lakers in Games 3 and 5, respectively.

This was a very memorable season for a number of reasons, but the top spot goes to…

1.) 2021-22

Record: 53-29

Skinny: There was no Heat team in the Butler era that was more connected than the 2021-22 team.

It sported a 4.5 NET Rating; no other Butler-led Heat squad had one above 3.0. Their adjusted NET Rating–which accounts for strength-of-schedule–was 4.1; the second-best was 2.5, per Dunks and Threes. It marked the only time in the Butler era where it fielded a top-11 offense and defense.

Even though Kyle Lowry’s three-year deal was, retrospectively, viewed as a bad deal, he was still the lead guard that Miami needed in his inaugural season. P.J. Tucker, in his age-36 season, had arguably the most impactful season of his career; Caleb Martin, who was waived by Charlotte in Aug. of 2021, burst onto the scene on a two-way contract.

The infusion of both Max Strus and Gabe Vincent were massive boosts, too. Miami dealt with plenty of COVID absences and injuries–leading the team to sign several players to hardship contracts that winter, including Kyle Guy and Nik Stauskas–but the team still won a Butler-era-best 53 games and was the No. 1 seed in the East.

The end result wasn’t ideal–ugh, what if Butler made that shot?!?!?–but it was still, in my estimation, the best season in the Jimmy Butler era.

How would a few metrics rank each Butler team?

Stathead’s NET Rating:

  1. 2021-22: 4.6
  2. 2019-20: 3.0
  3. 2023-24: 1.8
  4. 2020-21: 0.0
  5. 2022-23: -0.3

Stathead’s Simple Rating System:

  1. 2021-22: 4.23
  2. 2019-20: 2.59
  3. 2023-24: 1.10
  4. 2020-21: -0.06
  5. 2022-23: -0.13

Dunks & Threes Adjusted NET Rating:

  1. 2021-22: 4.1
  2. 2019-20: 2.5
  3. 2023-24: 1.3
  4. 2020-21: -0.1
  5. 2022-23: -0.2

I had to split hairs plenty here. Which would you say were the best seasons? Let us know in the comments!


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I think the order in the article is spot on. The finals runs were incredible, but getting bounced 4-1 in each, is that really any more meaningful than getting bounced in game 7 of the ECF?

All in all the regular season misery of this season and off the bubble run, made those seasons less than stellar. Last year would obviously be included in this as well, except you know “playoff Jimmy” “playoff Caleb”.


I would qualify those 4-1 losses. I think they would have had a very real chance to beat the Lakers If Bam and Goran don’t get hurt. Definitely a better chance than against the Nuggets.


Agree. Some forget how much Goran meant to that team. And Bam was playing very well in the earlier rounds. We may not have won, but it would have been very close.


A lot of joy in those years. And a lot of pain too.


Oooh I love this. My top 2
1. 2022-23 bec of miracle playoffs run
2. 2021-22 as you’ve said they’re so connected
Still feel bad for not winning a chip at least even one out of those finals stint in the Butler era.


Injuries are the reason we didn’t win any finals with Jimmy, especially in the bubble.

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