Miami Heat 2023-24 season exit survey: Was another Finals run ever in the cards?

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Five
Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Five / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

The Miami Heat's 2023-24 season is over much earlier than anticipated, but injuries and bad luck didn't help their chances, and now the front office faces major questions about the roster's future. The All U Can Heat staff got together to reflect on the season and analyze what should happen next.

1. Could a healthy Heat team (with Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier and Jaime Jaquez Jr.) have pushed the Celtics or even won the series?

Noah Decker: Yes. In Game 1 and Game 4, the Heat went on some big runs, but they didn’t have enough offense to get back in the game. With the ability to create their own shots, Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier would have helped with the offensive struggles. Games 3 and 5 seemed like lost causes. When Boston’s offense is at its best, there is no team that can stop them. A healthy Heat team could have pushed the series to six or seven games, but it is still hard to imagine the Heat winning the series.

Max Marshall: Yes, even though the final score said otherwise, Miami played good enough defense to keep up with Boston if Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier were healthy. Miami had a hard time scoring running offense having two more ballhandlers definitely would’ve helped Miami get into a rhythm offensively and with Butler and Rozier shot-making ability life would just be easier with both of them healthy. Definitely would of gone six or seven games. 

Alex Villasis: In 3 straight games, Miami's defense held Boston to under 110 points. But once the Celtics decided to pressure the Heat on the perimeter after their historic three-point performance in Game 2, Miami did not have many players that could score, and Rozier and Butler would have definitely helped in that department with Jaquez being a good rotation player off the bench. With the Celtics’ roster improvements, I won't say that the Heat would have won the series, but I agree with Max and Noah that it would have gone six or seven games with a chance to pull off an upset.

2. If you could use a lyric to describe how you feel about the Miami Heat’s season, what would it be?

Decker: “I know you still think about the times we had.” – Drake, ‘Marvins Room’

Marshall: “It’s too late to apologize.” – Timberland ft. OneRepublic.

Villasis: “When S*** hit the fan, is you still a fan?” – Kendrick Lamar

3. What was the most disappointing thing about this season?

Decker: It feels like the Heat could have avoided the situation they put themselves in. They went on a seven-game losing streak and had inexcusable losses against teams such as the Washington Wizards. Winning any of these games could have taken them out of the play-in spot, where they would have avoided Boston in the first round and could have had a healthy Jimmy Butler for the playoffs. The Heat are correct to put their focus on the postseason, but they have to take the regular season a little more seriously.

Marshall: watching the team play with joy this past season the easy answer is obviously Miami not being healthy this year, but it seems like the joy was gone from game one and Miami losing to teams that they should have beaten, resulting in them having to make the playoffs via the play-in tournament. If Miami took care of business and beat the teams it should’ve beaten, Miami probably at worse is the six seed. 

Villasis: The most disappointing thing about this season is that the Heat ended up in the same spot as last season, which is in the play-in tournament. Miami is taking an approach where as long as they're not out of the playoff picture, it does not matter what seeding they are. After the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks on April 11, Erik Spoelstra stated that he did not care about the standings

The result of thinking that it's fine to just make it into the playoffs regardless of where you finish led to having to play two extra games to face the best team in the NBA with Jimmy Butler getting hurt in the first play-in game. This should be a valuable lesson for the Heat to take pride in getting a top 6 seed to give them a better matchup and more rest entering the postseason.

4. Did Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Nikola Jovic do enough to prove that they should be long-term, core pieces?

Decker: Yes. Aside from Bam Adebayo, Jaime Jaquez Jr. was the most consistent player for the Heat in the playoffs. He was reliable all season and was asked to do a lot of things as a rookie. Jaquez looked very comfortable on the court. A high-IQ basketball player is a key championship piece. As for Nikola Jovic, I was shocked at how quickly he developed into a starter for the Heat. At the beginning of the season, I thought that Jovic did not have a role to fill on that team and that he should be traded. Now, I am excited to see what he is capable of! Jovic is becoming a good shooter who would pair well with Adebayo in the frontcourt long-term. 

Marshall: Yes, both guys showed that they can play in this league and have a bright future in it. I wouldn’t want to give them up in a trade just to make a trade if the right trade presents itself. Miami will have to have a long conversation about which one they want to part ways with, but if Miami were to keep both of them, the future is bright. Miami had two young guys step up, which helps them now and in the long term. 

Villasis: I believe the only untouchable players on the roster are Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. With that being said, Jovic and Jaquez proved that it would have to take a high-level player to become available for the Heat to consider moving them. 

With Jovic, it seemed as if it was going to be another season where Jovic would only receive spot minutes. However, Jovic was inserted into the starting lineup as the season progressed and was trusted to close games. Jovic showed that he can produce positive offensive results. Still, one area that shocked Heat fans was Jovic's moments on defense as he held his own on switches when defending players such as Dejounte Murray and Kristaps Porzingis.

Jaquez came out of the gates looking like a seasoned player, scoring in the mid-range and post in a variety of ways. He hit a wall as the season progressed but finished the season strong in April.

5. What’s Miami’s biggest offseason priority?

Decker: I’ve said it the past two offseasons, and I will say it again: GET ANOTHER STAR! Jimmy Butler will turn 35 years old next year. This feels like the last chance of a championship run in the Jimmy Butler era. Miami needs to swing for the fences and go after a big star. If Kevin Durant or LeBron James becomes available, the Heat should do whatever it takes to get one of them. The Heat have been unsuccessful in trading for stars the past two offseasons, but it is only a matter of time before they strike gold.

Marshall: Pick a direction. Either try to make a win now or trade Jimmy Butler. Miami needs to figure out what path they want to take going forward. Either way, the Jimmy Butler era is coming to an end. It’s up to Miami to decide whether to give it another crack or go in a different direction. 

Alex Villasis: A major shakeup to the Jimmy Butler-Bam Adebayo-Tyler Herro core. It's been five seasons that those three have been together, and the Heat have tried to put new pieces around those three. Looking at the top East teams in the Bucks, Celtics, and Knicks, each of them moved off their third-best player to improve. Out of those three players mentioned, Tyler Herro has the greatest chance of being moved, and the Heat will alter their approach of changing their role players and follow suit in trading their third-best player if the deal presents itself to improve the roster.