The Miami Heat finished second in the Southeast Division with a record of 39-43 in 2018-19 and came within three games of winning the division—not that this would have done them any good had they not been in the top eight in the East, but that only further underscores how bad 39-43 is when you get a division full of scrubs and can’t post a winning record.
But that Heat team might as well be a completely different franchise compared to this year’s edition.
Hassan Whiteside is gone. Jimmy Butler is in. Dwyane Wade and his brutal .061 WS/48 and 0.7 VORP in his final season have gone into retirement, D-Wade’s pursuit of one last glory no longer able to hurt the team in the standings.
Incredibly, Udonis Haslem is still on the team. He signed a one-year veteran minimum contract after a season in which he played 10 games, 74 minutes, and posted a minus-0.2 VORP and minus-10.1 offensive BPM. Death, taxes, Haslem in a Heat uniform.
So are they good enough to beat their over/under? Let’s take a look.
2018-19 record: 39-43
2019-20 over/under: 43.5
The Butler Did It?
Let’s take a look at the “all other things being equal” part of this. We’ve established on this here site that one VORP is worth 2.07 wins. 4.5 wins, therefore, suggests a 2.17 increase in that stat in aggregate. Let’s round it up to 2.2 so they get the 44th win and consider:
Butler: 2.9 VORP
D-Wade: 0.7 VORP
Well then. Confirmed? And just for kicks…
Leonard: 0.8 VORP (in 878 minutes)
Whiteside: 1.2 VORP (in 1,674 minutes)
So it seems like all other things being equal, the Heat are, considering minute-weighting on Leonard and Whiteside, five wins better.
But let’s consider some other things.
The Ever-Improving Youth
Justise Winslow is 23 and entering his fifth season. Last year, he topped his career-best VORP and continued his run as an above-average defender.
Bam Adebayo, entering his third year at age 22, posted an excellent 2.4 VORP last year.
Josh Richardson is gone to Memphis, but with Winslow and Adebayo getting better and Butler in the lineup now, that’s going to be less of an issue.
High Floor, Low Ceiling
The thing about trying to project Miami as a contender is the fact that it requires Adebayo to emerge as a superstar big man on Joel Embiid‘s level, which may be a bit beyond him. It requires Butler not to cause any chemistry problems, by no means guaranteed.
But then again, Miami had chemistry problems last year with the perpetually-discontented Whiteside.
It’s hard to see an improvement of much more than five wins…but it’s real hard to see them not getting at least five more wins. This seems like a team that will win…well, 44 games, but plus or minus only two or three. Anything over 47 wins will be a stunning result. But anything less than 41 wins seems unthinkable after they improved the roster.
So is Miami good? It’s plausible, if you consider 41-47 wins to be a range defining “good” rather than “easy first-round playoff out.” Their ceiling is the 5 seed. Their floor is the 8 seed. But 44, the median, is over 43.5, so let’s bet on the over. It’s all Plausible.
NEXT: Orlando Magic.