The Heat are heating up

Over halfway through the regular season, the Miami Heat are in the playoff hunt.

Jack Kirk, Sports Editor

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With the All-Star break on the horizon, The Miami Heat have been playing at a high level with hopes to secure a top seed in the Eastern conference come playoff time.

The Heat currently sit at the fourth seed, with a record of 34-15. They have been one of the better home teams, boasting a 22-3 record at the AmericanAirlines Arena this season. They have won seven of their last ten games, as well as two straight against two current Eastern conference playoff teams.

Miami was not expected to be this high in the rankings this late in the season. Many people, whether it be those in the media or just fans of the sport, projecting them to be a borderline playoff team, most likely securing the seventh or eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Over the off-season, the Heat acquired four-time all-star Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, who has notched another all-star season in the Heat uniform. Butler leads the team in points with 20.7 per game, assists per game with 6.2 per gameĀ and steals with 1.8 per game.

Butler is not the only all-star player that this team has had, as the team’s third-year center Bam Adebayo got his first all-star nod this season. Adebayo was drafted in the first round in the 2017 NBA draft by the Heat, and has worked his way up to the starting position heading into this season. Adebayo leads the team in rebounds (10.4) and blocks (1.2) while also putting up 15.8 points and 4.9 assists per game.

The Heat have benefited from having a deep team, with seven players averaging over ten points per game. Veteran point guard Goran Dragic has averaged 16 points off of the bench, as well as five assists. Young guards Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson have both averaged over 12 points, while being among the better three-point shooters on the team. Undrafted rookie guard Kendrick Nunn has surprised many, averaging 15.8 points in his first official season.

As a whole, the Heat are 14th in the league in points per game (112.3), which is about league average. They are 10th in points per game allowed (107.9). They are one of only seven teams to be in the top 15 of both categories.

Many of the team’s key pieces, like Butler, Nunn, Herro, Robinson and Adebayo, are under contract going into next season, meaning that the team will be retaining many of the pieces that have helped put them into such a good spot this season. With the Heat being low on salary cap space in 2020, the fact they will be retaining so many players means they will roll out a very similar looking team next season, depending on any trades and how they draft, in which they have one first round pick in the upcoming draft.

There are 33 games left on the Heat’s schedule, and they are eight games back from the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks. Only a game and a half separates the Heat and the 2nd seeded Toronto Raptors, and they are tied with the 3rd seeded Boston Celtics. These next 33 games will determine if the Heat will possibly host a playoff series or two, barring a disastrous ending to the regular season that puts them out of the playoffs or in one of the lower seeds.