The Miami Heat are used to out-performing projections at this point, and they will have to do it again to get another shot at the NBA Finals this season.
According to ESPN, the Heat are expected to win 42.7 games this season. This, after the Heat finished with 44 wins last season before making a dramatic postseason run to the Finals, where they lost to the Denver Nuggets in five games.
Miami’s surprising run is part of the reason why ESPN included postseason performance in this year’s calculations, but even that did not help the Heat’s win projection. ESPN has Miami’s most likely result finishing in seventh place, behind the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Here’s what Kevin Pelton wrote about the Heat:
"Only in the context of the Heat’s stunning march through the Eastern Conference playoffs should a projection in this range be surprising. Miami finished seventh in the East with 44 wins a year ago and actually had a negative point differential. Adding playoff results to my player projections for the first time helps the Heat, but only to a point after the loss of Strus and Gabe Vincent — two key postseason contributors."
It could be easy to dismiss this projection as another example of the national media counting out the Heat, but keep in mind that since Jimmy Butler has arrived in Miami the Heat have won about 58% of their regular-season games — just over .500. This isn’t exactly a regular-season juggernaut.
There are real questions about this roster, but coach Erik Spoelstra believes this team is deeper than last season’s and is still firmly in the group of the NBA’s contenders. The projections can only capture so much and, even if they do finish only slightly better than .500 again, the Heat have also proven they can’t be counted out in the playoffs.