With the 2022-2023 Miami Heat season now firmly in the rearview mirror and the sting of the NBA Finals loss dulled by the passage of time, I wanted to begin putting together grades for every player to have suited up for the Heat this past year. Considering how wildly different the regular season and postseason went for the team, each player will receive a regular season grade, a playoff grade, and a composite.
Regular Season Grade: B-
Playoff Grade: Inc
Overall Grade: B-
Tyler Herro might be the most difficult Heat player I’ve ever had to evaluate over these four years.
As the 13th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, he stands as a home run — one of the top-five greatest draft choices in team history. He has demonstrated that he is a bona fide 20-point scorer that defenses always have to account for, and he’s already on the short list of greatest shooters in franchise history.
Yet, his fourth NBA season was very much a mixed bag. Coming off a Sixth Man of the Year award and a contract extension, Herro stated plainly that he hoped he would have the chance to be a full-time starter with the team. That wish was granted, with Herro playing and starting in 67 games. Yet, his scoring average and long-range shooting dipped slightly (20.7 PPG to 20.1 PPG; 39.9% from 3 to 37.8% from 3) while his other stats remained just about level. There were flashes of pure brilliance — namely Herro’s performance in the month of December (15 games, 24-6-5 on 47-43-94 splits) — as well as a continued penchant for supreme clutch shooting, but there were many warts as well.
Herro continued to be a target on defense for opposing wings and though his effort and attention improved, his physical limitations remained. Additionally, Herro led the team with 16.6 shot attempts a game, but had a free throw rate of just 16.4%, the lowest rate since his rookie season (a true shame, as Herro quietly had the best free throw accuracy season in all of Heat history). Of course, there also remains the critique, one not without some merit, that Herro relies on screens to get much of his own offense.
The playoffs were to be a proving ground. Herro struggled mightily in the prior postseason (admittedly to some degree due to injury), so this was a chance for him to right some wrongs. Alas, after a hot start in Game 1 against Milwaukee (12 points on 5-8 shooting through 1.5 quarters), Herro broke his hand diving for a loose ball, and the lasting memory of his abbreviated postseason is fighting through excruciating pain to take and airball a corner 3 with a mangled hand (why did Gabe Vincent pass him the ball?)
It’s difficult to square the fact that Herro’s exit more or less coincided with the most improbable Finals run in franchise history (and maybe NBA history?) Suddenly, the Heat had a starting lineup with no obviously huntable defenders and the on-ball usage was better distributed, with the catch-and-shoot specialists Max Strus and Duncan Robinson getting most of Herro’s minutes. Yet Herro was clearly missed against Denver in the Finals. Miami’s offense went limp and his pull up jump shooting and pick-and-roll chemistry with Bam Adebayo would’ve remedied some of Miami’s scoring woes.
I can’t predict whether Herro is on the roster next year based on the myriad trade rumors that propagate around this time, but assuming he is, he will be penciled in as the starter once more. It is clear that Herro is a very good player. But whether he is the third piece to elevate this core to the mountaintop is still a mystery.
Regular Season Grade: D+
Playoff Grade: B
Overall Grade: B-
An early-season knee injury coupled with a season-long shooting slump (33.4% from 3 after shooting 36.8% the year prior) meant this was very much a down regular season for Gabe Vincent. He, like many others on the team, did not have the clearest role on the team as injuries forced a roulette of starting lineups (Vincent started 34 games, and came off the bench for 34 others). His on-ball defense and screen navigation from the point guard position remained above average, and often a necessity on this team, but it wasn’t quite enough in the face of the poor shooting and extremely limited playmaking (4.7 assists per 100 possessions, down from 6.6 the year prior).
Then, in the face of injuries to Herro and Victor Oladipo, Vincent emerged as Miami’s best pull-up shooting threat. The regular season slump was in the rearview as Vincent canned 37.8% of his 3s while firing over six a game in the postseason, and he sunk numerous big shots for a Heat team that needed someone with the audacity to take them.
But it wasn’t the pristine playoff run for Vincent that some of the framing makes it out to be. Vincent has very much established himself as the Mario Chalmers of the Jimmy Butler era, and that means plenty of infuriating performances in lockstep with the great ones. Vincent had five postseason games of 20 points or better but also had six games of six points or fewer, including a putrid close to his NBA Finals, shooting 6 of 29 in his last three games (1 of 14 from 3).
It appears the Heat will try to retain the free agent Vincent as his two-way play and timely shooting was, in the aggregate, strong enough to warrant a reunion. But Miami should have no illusions about Vincent’s role. He is not a high-level starting point guard, but instead a very useful, important rotation piece capable of closing out games for the club.
Regular Season Grade: C
Playoff Grade: Inc
Overall Grade: C
There was hope that Victor Oladipo would be prepped for a big bounceback season after playing in only nine regular season games the year prior. Yet, Oladipo did not make his season debut until December due to nagging injuries and careful maintenance. He, like many others on the team, didn’t have the clearest role, sometimes playing huge minutes and other times being relegated to garbage time (42 games played).
Most alarmingly, Oladipo took over half of his overall field goal attempts from beyond the arc despite being a historically below-average marksman (a trend that has steadily progressed since 2019). He converted on only 33% of his attempts, and that number is juiced by his final two regular season games where Miami sat all their regular players. Oladipo made 12 of 24 3s in those games. Before that, he was at 30.9% on the year, frequently taking poor shots opposing defenses wanted him to take.
The former All-Star, dunk contest participant, and known slasher was forcing way too many jumpers and at times, it was evident Oladipo did not have faith in his ability to convert at the rim. Still, there were flashes of his old self, and when Oladipo was able to mix jumpers and drives, he was a huge asset to a team that lacked much rim pressure from the rest of the roster. His ability to wreak havoc on defense by playing passing lanes and hounding opposing ball handlers was also appreciated, though Oladipo’s penchant for freelancing sometimes hurt the club.
Unfortunately, Oladipo suffered a non-contact injury in Game 3 of the first round series against Milwaukee that was revealed to be torn patellar tendon, another in a long line of devastating injuries going back to the 2018-2019 season. Though not quite as brutal as the quadriceps tear he previously suffered, it brings into some question if Oladipo’s body can mechanically withstand the rigors of an NBA season anymore.
As it stands, Oladipo has opted into the second year of his contract and if he is not dealt in the offseason, he will likely again play a reduced role off the bench if/when he returns from this latest injury setback. The other option is that Miami can waive and stretch him, incurring a $3.1 million dead cap hit in each of the next three seasons to do so.
Regular Season Grade: C-
Playoff Grade: B
Overall Grade: C+
The likely future Hall-of-Fame point guard Kyle Lowry saw his numbers go down across the board in his 17th season. Through the first third of the year, Lowry was playing huge minutes for a Heat team that cycled perimeter players in and out of the lineup, and this seemed to take a huge toll on the veteran. This culminated in a horrid month-long stretch of basketball from Dec. 30 to Feb. 2 where Lowry averaged just 6.9 points on 34% shooting and 26% from 3.
Taking time away to recover from injuries, it seemed that the relationship between Lowry and the franchise was in less than stellar shape. Yet, after the All-Star Break, fences were mended to the extent that Lowry returned in March and accepted coming off the bench. Though his counting stats were modest, his shooting efficiency rose (47% from the field and 44% from 3 over his last 10 games) and allowing Lowry to orchestrate bench units that had previously floundered without a conductor appeared a winning move.
After a 33 point explosion in the play-in game loss to Atlanta, it all carried over to a somewhat redemptive playoff run. Lowry did not start a single playoff game, but played in all 23 matchups and though 9.2 points and 4.4 assists don’t jump off the page, Lowry’s myriad intangibles (charges drawn, loose balls secured, opposing tempers ignited) were apparent as was continued reliable shooting from 3 (37.5% for the playoffs). In the NBA Finals, Lowry was arguably Miami’s third-best player and looked every bit the seasoned, battle tested point guard Miami was hoping for. There were still inconsistencies (a prolonged slump against Boston in particular), but this was a far cry from the nightmare of the 2022 playoffs.
The dilemma for Miami moving forward is that they have what appear to be two very good backup point guards in Lowry and Vincent, but one of them must start and neither seem equipped for that sort of role full-time. At this stage, Lowry’s production hinges on whether he has his outside jumper falling or not, as the paint attacks are now few and far between. But his guile would be extremely welcome in another postseason run should he stick around.
Even If Vincent is re-signed and Lowry is retained, this group is not the area of strength for the Heat compared to the forwards (though one could nitpick positional designations and how they’ve been presented here). Assuming this group is all back to start the year, another mini-leap from Herro would be extremely welcome, but more importantly, the Heat need to find the right backcourt combinations to ensure a smoother offensive fit. Lowry and Herro did not mesh well as a starting backcourt this past year, hence why Lowry running second units alongside Caleb Martin and others seemed to work so well.
The Heat have long needed a lead guard to take some of the creation burden off of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, especially in the postseason. Whether that player is on the current roster or is brought from elsewhere ultimately remains to be seen.