Contenders and Pretenders in the Eastern Conference: Are the Miami Heat for real?

With their recent surge in the standings, the Miami Heat look like they are still contenders.

Miami Heat v New Orleans Pelicans
Miami Heat v New Orleans Pelicans / Sean Gardner/GettyImages
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Contender: Miami Heat

The Miami Heat are rolling at the most perfect time of the year. They are winners of five straight games and six straight road games. They have also won nine of their last 11 and 7 of their last 8. Over the seasons, it has been clear the way Jimmy Butler operates. Butler coasts for the first half of the season, although still an All-Star caliber player during those times, but then turns it up. This team can go as far as Butler leads them both on and off the court.

The current timeline of the NBA is right when Butler locks in, and the Heat’s recent success shows that. The team has had guys in and out of the lineup all season, but their no-excuses, ‘we have enough’ mentality has been working for years now. This Miami squad is as deep as they have ever been in recent years. They have the experience and hungriness to finally get over that hump.

Especially by the fact that the Heat have the same core intact compared to last season where they reached the NBA Finals, but with some improvements added to it. Terry Rozier gives them a new dynamic at that PG position. Jaime Jaquez Jr and Nikola Jovic have been high-impact players along with new role-player additions in Josh Richardson and Delon Wright.

So are the Miami Heat for real? It would be criminal to not include a team that has reached the NBA Finals twice in four years and a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals as a contender. It seems like the Heat ‘surprise’ a lot of people every single season.

Real Heat fans and the organization expect this level of elite status each year. Pat Riley doesn’t refer to Miami as the “hardest working, best conditioned, most professional, unselfish, toughest, meanest, nastiest team in the NBA” for nothing. Their track record of playoff success speaks for itself. Whether people want to admit it or not, there are a lot of opposing teams who fear seeing Miami in a seven-game playoff series.

The Heat have been involved in deep runs over the years as a top seed, middle seed and even as an eighth seed. They have repeatedly gotten the job done no matter what in this Jimmy Butler era since the start of the 2019 season. Fans have had mixed feelings about running it back, but it's worked.

The chemistry and “power of friendship” is the best part of running the core back all these years. Some minor retooling with the supporting cast has taken place over the years along with the continued development of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson paired with "Playoff Jimmy" has kept Miami in the thick of the contenders pack. 

Although much of the national media still doesn't want to take the Heat seriously, it doesn't matter because the Heat like it that way.