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Miami Heat

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Can Jimmy Butler lead the Miami Heat back to the playoffs?

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Miami Heat.

2018-19 season record

39-43 (9th in the Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

45-37 (6th in the Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Jimmy Butler (sign-and-trade)

Tyler Herro (draft)

Meyers Leonard (trade)

Kendrick Nunn (free agency)

KZ Okpala (draft)

Notable departures

Josh Richardson (sign-and-trade)

Dwyane Wade (retired)

Hassan Whiteside (trade)

Depth chart

Starter 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Goran Dragic Kendrick Nunn Jeremiah Martin
SG Dion Waiters Tyler Herro Duncan Robinson
SF Jimmy Butler Derrick Jones Jr. KZ Okpala
PF Justise Winslow Kelly Olynyk James Johnson Udonis Haslem
C Bam Adebayo Meyers Leonard

3 key storylines

Go-to guy Jimmy Butler

Last season with the Philadelphia 76ers, we saw Jimmy Butler compromise his role as a scorer behind Joel Embiid, taking a similar number of shots per game as Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick and Ben Simmons.

The result was still a solid season in which he averaged 18.2 points and 4.0 assists per game, but it was a different style of play than we had seen in his previous four All-Star seasons with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Butler may have taken a back seat during the regular season in Philly, but once the playoffs rolled around we saw him take over as a ball dominant scorer and playmaker - something that is closer to the role he'll be playing with his new Heat squad.

In the postseason with the 76ers, his numbers jumped to 19.4 points and 5.2 assists per game, with the offence running through his hands far more than it did during the regular season. According to NBA.com Stats, his 6.2 pick-and-roll possessions per game during the playoffs were the most on the team and his touches per game took a slight jump from the regular season as well.

We know Butler is more than capable of being the go-to guy - he averaged 21.7 points and 4.6 assists per game over his final three seasons in Chicago, earning three All-Star bids while taking the Bulls to the playoffs in two out of those three seasons. In his one full season in Minnesota, he posted 22.2 points and 4.9 assists per game on his way to another All-Star nod and another playoff appearance.

Can Butler be the guy in Miami and get the Heat back to the playoffs?

Bam's breakout season

Last season, many predicted second-year centre Bam Adebayo to have a breakout season, but being parked behind Hassan Whiteside on the depth chart limited his minutes and production.

Adebayo still made a solid leap last season from his rookie campaign, averaging 8.9 points and 7.3 rebounds over 23.3 minutes per game while also improving as a defender, passer and shooter.

This year, with Whiteside gone and Adebayo ready to take over as the team's full-time starting centre, Bam is once again a strong breakout candidate. His per 36 numbers last season are probably much closer to what you can expect from the 22-year old in his third year in the league - 13.7 points and 11.2 points per game.

Adebayo fits the mold of exactly what this team wants to do on the offensive end in being surrounded by guys like Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, who like to run the floor and push the pace. He's incredibly athletic and a great lob target for those three playmakers when they're slashing to the rim and drawing help defenders.

Adebayo doesn't have too much of a workload on his shoulders either, as the Heat still have Kelly Olynyk and acquired centre Meyers Leonard in the trade for Whiteside.

Everything is shaping up for this to be a big season for the Kentucky product.

Getting back to the playoffs

The Heat aren't on a crazy playoff drought, but they have missed the postseason in three of the last five seasons. That's the worst five-season stretch since they joined the league in 1988, when they missed the playoffs in four of their first five seasons in the NBA.

They're partially still dealing with the hangover left behind from LeBron James' departure in 2014. From 2010-14, they made four consecutive NBA Finals appearances but have only made it out of the first round once since then.

Last season ended in a bit of disappointment, as they missed the playoffs by two games in Dwyane Wade's farewell tour season. But headlined by Butler, this year's team is reloaded with young pieces around the four-time All-Star with a roster that is poised to return to the postseason.

Can the Heat live up to those expectations and get back to the playoffs?

5 games to watch

Oct. 30 vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are the young, up-and-coming team in the Eastern Conference in general, but especially in the Southeast Division. The Heat are going to want to put them in their place early and assert their dominance as the division's best team.

Nov. 24 at Philadelphia 76ers

This is Butler's first game back in Philly since being traded this offseason. It's also Josh Richardson's first game against his former team. Butler is going to want to send a message to the 76ers - one of the best teams in the East and the NBA - playing in front of a raucous Philadelphia crowd.

Dec. 14 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

After leading the Heat to four straight NBA Finals and earning two NBA titles, any time that LeBron James returns to American Airlines Arena is noteworthy. This will be a good test for Butler and the Heat going up against one of the top teams in the league.

Jan. 4 at Orlando Magic

The Magic shocked many last season when they emerged as the winners of the Southeast Division. Orlando has brought back the majority of their roster from last season, as well as a few key additions. Oddly enough, these teams don't face off for the first time until this date. That means the Heat and Magic will play four times after the new year in what could be a battle to take the division.

Jan. 6 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

The Heat traded their veteran centre Hassan Whiteside to the Trail Blazers this offseason in return for Meyers Leonard, who was coming off of a breakout Western Conference Finals showcase. This is the first matchup between the two teams that swapped big men this offseason.

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