Post-2014 NBA All-Star Break Predictions for Miami Heat
The next few months promise to be incredibly exciting for the Miami Heat.
The answers to those questions, among others, are in our sights.
But we're impatient here, so we're going to predict what's going to happen throughout this crucial time for the Heat franchise.
Let's get started.
Note: All stats from Basketball-Reference
Caron Butler Will Join the Team
The trade deadline is going to come and go on Feb. 20 without a deal from the back-to-back champions.
The Heat lack financial flexibility and trade chips (excluding Miami's key players, whom they're not going to move). Also, it's not as if the Heat have a lot of holes they need to address.
There will soon be a change to the Heat's roster, though. Caron Butler, who's making $8 million in the final year of his contract, will find his way to Miami after a post-deadline buyout with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Butler is shaping up to be one of the best buyout candidates out there (he's unhappy about his role on the Bucks, according to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), and B/R's Ethan Skolnick reported there's mutual interest between him and Miami.
Butler's not having a great season (10.8 PPG on 38.6 FG%), but he'd be a better injury fill-in for Dwyane Wade than Toney Douglas and Roger Mason Jr.
If Butler becomes available, he's a no-brainer signing for the Heat.
Dwyane Wade Will Continue to Miss Time
The Heat were extremely cautious with Dwyane Wade and his health in the first half of the season, instituting a maintenance plan that resulted in Wade missing 15 of Miami's first 52 games.
Don't expect much to change in the final months of the season.
Getting Dwyane and his knees to the playoffs healthy is a must for Miami. The Heat were able to win a championship last season with a hobbled Wade; they likely wouldn't be as fortunate this season, given how strong the top teams in the NBA are.
So, even though the Heat would have a good shot of catching the Indiana Pacers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference (2.5 games behind) if Wade went full-throttle the rest of the way, Dwyane's going to continue to sit back-to-backs or whenever rest is needed.
LeBron James Won't Win MVP
LeBron James would join some elite company if he were to win his fifth MVP this season. Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only players in NBA history to take home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy that many times.
But unfortunately for LeBron, Kevin Durant appears likely to stand in his way.
Durant is putting together one of the most impressive offensive seasons in recent history, averaging 31.5 points on 51.0 percent shooting from the field and 41.0 percent shooting from three with a 30.99 PER.
Team success plays a big factor in voting, and right now Durant has his Thunder in first place in the Western Conference, despite Russell Westbrook being absent for much of the year.
Lastly, Durant is new blood. Voters are likely tired of choosing James for MVP every year and, in turn, will be swayed to KD.
LeBron's obviously having a remarkable season himself (26.8-7.1-6.5 averages), and the race is far from over, but this appears to be Durant's year.
The Heat Will Enter the Playoffs as the No. 2 Seed
As we mentioned when discussing Dwyane Wade's health earlier, the top seed for the Eastern Conference is up for grabs. But the Heat don't want it nearly as badly as the Pacers do.
Frank Vogel recently spoke about Indiana's desire to earn the No. 1 seed to Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:
“We’ve got a goal that we’re hanging onto right now that’s kind of driving us each night, and that’s to earn home-court advantage,” Vogel said.
We feel like every single night could be the difference between having home-court advantage and not having it. So our guys are really keeping that laser focus.”
After playing 297 games combined the past three seasons, the Heat seem more interested in making it to May and June energized and healthy than having home-court advantage.
Miami has been coasting through the regular season, playing precious little defense relative to their capabilities (they rank 15th in points per possession allowed) and losing to teams that have no business beating them (10 losses to teams with sub-.500 records).
The Heat are going to have to win on the road in the inevitable Pacers-Heat Eastern Conference Finals. Considering Indiana's 26-3 record at home this year, that's no easy task.
The Heat Will Get the Three-Peat
While Durant and the Pacers might be the "winners" of the regular season with the MVP and No. 1 seed, respectively, LeBron and the Heat are going to get the last laugh when it's all said and done.
Though the road to another title will be extremely difficult, Miami's A-game is still better than every team in the league's. And as we've gone over, this is a team that's using the regular season as a means to put themselves in a position to be in peak form for the postseason.
In fitting fashion, LeBron and Durant will square off in the NBA Finals with LBJ besting KD as he did in 2012 and proving he remains the league's top dog.