The Miami Heat have been red hot to start this season. After many doubts about potential roster fits, the Heat are playing great basketball. As of right now, with a win away from home against the Chicago Bulls, the Heat are standing at 13-7. The squad is firing on all cylinders and sneaking into the role of a possible surprise in the East. However, one could also go a step further with their appraisal of Miami's standing alongside other conference powers.
Here are three reasons why the Miami Heat will be playing in the 2022 NBA Finals.
Out of all the favorites for the title, the Heat probably have the best coach. Erik Spoelstra is a rarity in this age of the NBA. He has been the coach of the Heat since April of 2008, which is incredible to think about. Most coaches in the NBA last two to three seasons, with some exceptions here and there. However, Spoelstra has kept his job for well over a decade, deserving every single moment on that bench.
His late-game adjustments and out-of-bounds plays are iconic. Spoelstra always has a few tricks up his sleeve for every situation. This season, the Heat, especially on the defensive end, try to mix things up at every possible opportunity. As was evident in his team's hard-fought win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, Spoelstra does not shy away from the zone, a defensive tactic mostly used as a temporary changeup in the NBA.
Spoelstra is there for a reason and if he was ever fired from the Heat, he would likely have his pick of available job opportunities. The amount of trust a basketball genius like Pat Riley puts in Spoelstra is possibly the greatest evidence that he is really, truly that good. None of the other teams, with respect to their coaches, have leadership from the bench like Miami's.
Balance of power
A lot of other contenders for the title rely on one or two players for their team to run. The Brooklyn Nets live and die by Kevin Durant, while the Milwaukee Bucks are the same with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Of course, they have good rosters around these stars, but the main motor of the squad is a singular superstar. Jimmy Butler, of course, is Miami's biggest star by name, but it's really not that simple in South Beach.
This is an amazingly balanced team. First of all, there are five players that average double-digits for points. Other than the aforementioned Butler, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson all do their fair share of scoring. All the other parts of the roster also contribute in other ways, filling key roles relevant to the cohesion of the squad.
PJ Tucker is playing amazing defense, as always. Guys like Markieff Morris and Dewayne Dedmon bring stability and veteran leadership. Max Strus came up huge in a few games where he took the minutes (and shots) of some missing players. This team clearly has the next-man-up mentality and it shows. The Heat seek to utilize every possible angle of their roster, an all-for-one approach that should serve them well in the postseason.
Preseason consensus was that the Nets or Bucks would represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. However, early struggles for both teams have allowed for the possibility of others wrecking those expectations. While the Bulls' amazing start has made them a popular Finals pick, the Heat's case as legitimate title contenders is even stronger.
Now, Miami's record in games against Western Conference foes is not the concern of this segment. The Heat, however, steamrolled most of the other contenders coming out of the East. In the first game of the season, they blew out the reigning-champion Bucks by 42 points. A couple days later, they visited Barclays Center and beat the Nets by 13. As stated above, they beat the Bulls by three at United Center.
One-game sample sizes are only so telling, but can certainly be a positive indicator of team quality nonetheless. Many believed Miami would be solid in the regular season and a tough out in the playoffs, but not much else. However, the Heat already surprised the world in 2020 by winning the East and advancing to the Finals. This team is very similar to that team and the competition, once again, doesn't seem as steep as it did before 2021-22 tipped off.
The path to the Finals will be arduous, but Erik Spoelstra and the Heat have already shown they're capable of navigating it.