Jimmy Butler is playing at an MVP level, with Bam Adebayo dominating in the paint. Kyle Lowry is already altering the complexion of the team’s defense while giving the Heat a primary playmaker, and Tyler Herro is doing his best to live up to the insane expectations he set for himself before the season began.
Speaking of expectations, they’re probably growing by the day in South Beach, especially with the Heat off to their best start since the “Big 3” teams of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
The Heat improved to 6-1 with Tuesday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks
Miami unleashed on the Mavs with a 46-point second quarter, then maintained control throughout the second half in coasting to a 125-110 victory. Herro continued his strong start, leading all Heat scorers with 25 points. Lowry is showing more signs of breaking out of his early shooting slump, going 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra’s team shared the ball well, recording 25 assists. The sound distribution resulted in four Heat players scoring at least 22 points. According to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, it’s the first time in franchise history that four different players tallied at least 22 points in the same game.
The numbers overwhelmingly point to the Heat’s dominance thus far. Miami’s strength of schedule thus far is the 13th-toughest in the NBA, but the Heat still have the largest average margin of victory (16.71) and rank first in net rating (+16.6).
As if the numbers didn’t provide enough evidence of Miami’s contender status, the Heat’s 6-1 start matches the best in franchise history and harkens back to the franchise’s glory days.
Miami’s 6-1 start is its best since the “Big 3” of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh in 2011-12
The last time the Heat started a season 6-1, they were the most villainous franchise in the NBA.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh became public enemy No. 1 when they formed a “Big 3” in South Beach in the summer of 2010. Their debut season ended with a disappointing loss to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks in the NBA Finals. However, the Heat responded like champions.
Miami opened the 2011-12 season at 8-1. The lockout which delayed the season did not impact the Heat, as they went 46-20 and survived a grueling Eastern Conference Finals series with the Boston Celtics en route to their first championship since 2006.
James, very much at his peak, dominated with his all-around excellence. Wade provided the secondary scoring and playmaking, and Bosh provided scoring in the paint and a solid pick-and-pop option. Miami also had floor-spacers like Mike Miller and James Jones off the bench. The Heat were very sound defensively, ranking fourth in defensive rating.
The 2021-22 Heat somewhat resemble the “Big 3” teams. Can they navigate a crowded Eastern Conference?
The Heat are built to get back to the NBA Finals
Time to draw parallels.
Jimmy Butler’s ability to get downhill and finish at the basket or get to the free-throw line consistently draws extra defenders, allowing him to capitalize on Miami’s spacing and make plays for his teammates. Sounds a bit like LeBron, does it not?
Just as James had a sidekick, Butler has his in Lowry. The veteran point guard’s defensive effort allows Butler to be more of a free safety, while Lowry’s playmaking and shooting give Jimmy Buckets more room to focus more on scoring.
Adebayo is like Bosh before he expanded his game to the perimeter. Only Bam runs the floor in transition and can handle the rock in open space. He’s also a terrific rebounder and massive deterrent at the rim. Meanwhile, Duncan Robinson gives the Heat an elite-level shooter (though he’s just 34.5% from deep thus far), and P.J. Tucker can also space the floor while providing Udonis Haslem-like toughness in the frontcourt.
Then there’s the bench. Herro is an asset as a combo guard, particularly if he keeps playing at this level. Max Strus is looking more and more like a significant contributor as an excellent shooter who can guard multiple positions. Dewayne Dedmon’s rebounding and rim-running presence make him a key frontcourt piece.
The 2021-22 Heat have matched the “Big 3,” but they’ll probably be more concerned with matching what James, Wade, and Bosh accomplished at the end of that 2011-12 season. Accolades only mean so much without a ring.
Miami will likely be hungry to avenge its 2020 Finals loss and finally climb the mountain this season. The Heat will have to maintain momentum in a reloaded Eastern Conference to reach the summit.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.