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Monday, February 26, 2024
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Heat Clinch Eastern Conference With Smart Spending On Defense

  • Executive Pat Riley’s decision to spend the money constructing a defensive powerhouse has paid off perfectly. 
  • Their $140.8 million payroll is just the eighth-highest in the NBA, yet they top several defensive categories.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Two years removed from a Finals appearance, the Heat quietly clinched the first seed in the East for the first time since 2012-13 — when they last won a title.

But unlike that “Heatles” superteam — boasting the offensive prowess of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — this is a more well-rounded edition predicated on defense

Tyler Herro’s 20.8 PPG lead the Heat in scoring — but rank only 25th in the NBA. Meanwhile, Miami leads the league in OPP FGM (37.4), OPP 3PT FG (33.9%), and OPP RPG (41.6) while allowing the second-fewest PPG (105.3). 

Miami’s $140.8 million payroll is just the eighth-highest in the NBA — and executive Pat Riley’s decision to spend the money constructing a defensive powerhouse has paid off perfectly. 

  • Bam Adebayo signed for five years, $163M— Miami’s biggest contract ever by total value. Opponents are shooting 32.7% against him.
  • Gritty on-ball defender P.J. Tucker joined from the champion Bucks on a two-year, $15M deal. 
  • Five-time All-Defensive star Jimmy Butler signed a four-year, $184M extension.

This rock-solid foundation is overseen by Erik Spoelstra, who is the winningest coach in franchise history (659) and has the second-best odds to win his first Coach of the Year award (+700). 

Miami is still a long shot to win it all (+1200) — but this season, in a league obsessed with threes and analytics, the Heat are out to prove that defense still wins championships.

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