Would getting Lillard automatically make the Heat the favorites in the East?
Escarpio: A team that’s fresh off an Eastern Conference finals victory and NBA title loss would certainly be the favorites in the East. They’re adding one of the top scorers in the league to a team that was just a couple of games away from calling themselves world champions.
Sims: The Heat have a puncher’s chance to reach the Finals again without Lillard so, yes, they’d be the favorites if they land him. Lillard is the type of No. 1 scoring option Miami needs to get over the hump. His range, playmaking chops and gravity paired with Jimmy, Bam, and Coach Spo would be a nightmare for Eastern foes.
Masood: I don’t have Miami as an overwhelming favorite in the Eastern Conference the way they were in the heyday of the Big 3, but a one-seed and/or conference championship would certainly be in reach. I would group them in the contenders category alongside Boston and Milwaukee. Miami has had both of those teams’ numbers in the past, but I would have mild concerns about their available depth should they have to gut the non-Jimmy/Bam roster for Lillard. They tend to do well in the margins though, with developmental pieces like Haywood Highsmith and Orlando Robinson possibly primed for larger roles next year should they remain.
Coelho: Honestly, it sucked to see the Celtics making an upgrade by trading Smart for Porzingis. Their roster is just stacked right now. However, there are still questions about Joe Mazzula as a coach, and he’s not close to Spoelstra’s level. That can be a difference-maker. As for the Bucks, they are dealing with their own concerns with an aging roster around Giannis. With Dame, the Heat aren’t head-over-heels the best in the East, but no one else is, either.