Pat Riley’s famous phrase, no rebounds no rings, was wise counsel when he first said it in the 80s and it is wise counsel now. However, the Heat didn’t follow Riles prescription in 2020-21 as they were at the bottom of the league in rebounding. While in some circles Tyler Herro is the scapegoat for what happened to the Heat, it was the rebounding that ruined Miami. 30th in total rebounding. 29th in offensive rebounding. 22nd in defensive rebounding. Absolutely atrocious.
Last year the Heat were 11th in defensive rebounding and 17th in total rebounding.
So what happened?
The Good. Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro improved their defensive numbers.
The Ugly. Bam’s rebounding numbers dropped like a cat on a hot tin roof. The Heat lost Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones and then mid-season lost Kelly Olynyk a solid 6.1 rebounds a game. Trevor Ariza made up for the slack but the Heat had 250 less rebounds from a year ago.
2021 Free Agents: Victor Oladipo, Trevor Ariza, Udonis Haslem, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Dewayne Dedmon, Goran Dragic (Team Option), Andre Iguodala (Team Option)
2021-22 Salary on the books: $113,790,496
2020-21 Strengths: 2-pt% (7th), Points-Defense (7th), Field Goal % Defense (8th), Defensive Rating (7th), Assists (9th), Steals (9th)
2020-21 Weaknesses: Field Goal Attempts (30th), Blocks (30th), Offensive Rebounds (29th), Total Rebounds (30th), Pace (29th), Points-Offense (25th),
Possible Free Agent Gets: Kyle Lowry (PG), DeMar DeRozan (SG), Lonzo Ball (PG), Dennis Schroder (PG), Richaun Holmes (C), Evan Fournier (SG), Kelly Oubre (SG), Tim Hardaway Jr (G/F), Derrick Rose (G), Lou Williams (G), Montrezl Harrell (F/C)
Without rebounding talent, the Heat were always going to drown. They couldn’t compete with loaded offensive teams in their own conference like the Bucks, Sixers, and Nets if they were not shooting the ball well and because Bam doesn’t stretch the offense, lacking a three-point weapon, the Heat were often hustling from behind. Their records against the Bucks, Sixers, and Nets were 3-6, a predictor of what would happen in the playoffs. All three of those teams have bigs who can launch threes. The Heat do not. Plus. No rebounds. No rings.
More offensive issues: Tyler Herro’s three-point game dropping off. He underperformed against Chicago (0.0%), Cleveland (0.0%), Dallas (25.0%), Denver (20%), Detroit (20%), Indiana (16.7%), Milwaukee (26.3%), OKC (20.0%), Phoenix (11.1%), Utah (25.0%). Rumors about his off-the-court behavior coupled with weaknesses on defense caused a lot of people to lose patience. Pat Riley has made public comments about Tyler Herro, saying he is part of the core group of players he wants to keep. Riley is shrewd. Does he really mean it or is he setting the price for Herro to use as a chip to get more stretch shooting?
Kendrick Nunn was the opposite. Improvements in fg%, 3-pt%, ft%, total rebounds, offensive rating, and PER. Nunn is an unrestricted free agent the Heat can’t afford to lose because he’s an athletic shooting threat and will be an attractive point guard on the open market.
The Heat need to address their lack of explosiveness and rim protection, as well as rebounding. They are loathed to admit it but they miss Hassan Whiteside who is a free agent this off-season. With Whiteside, they were a top-10 team in rebounding and blocks. Without him, they are at the bottom.
Apologists want to blame the quick turnaround for why the Heat underperformed this season and while that is significant, there are bigger elephants in the room. The Heat have issues with their bigs spacing the floor now that Kelly Olynyk is gone. Bam didn’t meet expectations. The Victor Oladipo trade was a disaster.
Charles Barkley has another way of looking at what happened to Miami. He blames their underperformance on the bubble, liking them to frauds because they thrived in arenas without fans. The bubble was an artificial environment the Heat used to their advantage, Barkley believes. But other professions- doctors for one- did the same exact thing because of the circumstance. Where Barkley is right is that the Heat have not arrived. It’s not 2012 all over again.