NBA

Butler proves worth, Miami surprise and rookies star – Heat season review in Stats Perform data

By Sports Desk November 01, 2020

Not many expected the Miami Heat to make a run to the NBA Finals in 2019-20 but that is exactly what they did.

The Heat missed the playoffs in two of the three previous seasons heading into the campaign, while their last Finals appearance was in 2014.

But the arrival of Jimmy Butler and Miami's unity ignited the Heat before and after the coronavirus-enforced break.

The Heat were locked-in at Walt Disney World Resort, where Erik Spoelstra's side made it all the way to the showpiece.

While the Heat fell short 4-2 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the best-of-seven series, there was plenty of upside in Miami.

As the Heat look to build on a stellar season, we review the team's 2019-20 campaign using Stats Perform data.

 

Heat defy odds

Miami had their work cut out in a stacked Eastern Conference, headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the high-flying Milwaukee Bucks, defending champions the Toronto Raptors, the Boston Celtics and the championship-chasing Philadelphia 76ers.

The hard-playing Heat ended the regular season with a 44-29 record – ahead of the 76ers and good enough for the fifth seed.

Miami became the fourth team in history seeded fifth or worse to reach the NBA Finals, following the Houston Rockets (sixth seeds in 1995 and 1981) and New York Knicks (eighth seeds in 1999).

Before going into the Orlando bubble, the Heat were a far better team at home than on the road.

The Heat boasted a 27-5 home record, compared to 14-19 away from Miami (42.0 per cent differential) – only the 76ers (29-2 at home and 10-24 on the road) had a greater differential of 64.1 per cent.

 

Butler silences critics

The maligned five-time All-Star landed in Miami after brief stints in Philadelphia and Minnesota.

After falling out in Minnesota, Butler departed the Timberwolves for the 76ers in 2018. He almost led Philadelphia to the NBA Finals, but Kawhi Leonard's buzzer-beating shot in Game 7 lifted the Raptors to a stunning win in the second round.

Plagued by question marks over his attitude, Butler opted to leave the 76ers for the Heat in a sign and trade, and the 31-year-old finally looks at home in Miami.

Featuring in his first NBA Finals, Butler led the Heat in scoring (26.2 points per game), rebounding (8.3 rebounds per game) and assists (9.8 assists per game). That included a 40-point, 11-rebound, 13-assist effort in Miami's Game 3 win, just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history (and the only one in a win).

Butler almost singlehandedly carried the injury-hit Heat – who were without stars Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic for large parts of the series – past the Lakers, playing 258 minutes in six games, more than LeBron James, Anthony Davis and any other player.

 

Rookies fire Heat

The Heat received big contributions from first-year players Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, who averaged 15.3 and 13.5 points per game respectively.

They were the first NBA team to have multiple rookies average at least 13.0 ppg since the 2001-02 Memphis Grizzlies (Pau Gasol and Shane Battier; minimum 40 games played). The only other such Heat rookie duo was Sherman Douglas (14.3 ppg) and Glen Rice (13.6 ppg) in 1989-90.

Nunn's 15.3 points per game were the most by an undrafted rookie in 70 years – Frankie Brian averaged 17.8 per game with the 1949-50 Anderson Packers.

As for Duncan Robinson, he took a huge step forward in 2019-20, after struggling for game time as a rookie in 2018-19.

Robinson went from averaging 3.3 points per game to 13.5ppg this term (plus-10.2) – only Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young (+10.5) and the Charlotte Hornets' Devonte' Graham (+13.5) enjoyed larger improvements.

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