Miami is turning up the heat, and the rest of the basketball world should be scared.
Small forward Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat just did the unthinkable, sending the Milwaukee Bucks home in just 5 games on Sep. 8. To basketball fans, this sounds like something out of a fairy tale. Yet, the Miami Heat just keep pushing for their happily ever after. Miami has done the unthinkable. The only people who could have predicted their victory, are the Heat diehards who would not have taken anything else for an answer. The Heat are built to win because they have the best team chemistry the league has seen in years. This all seems to start with the face of the Miami Heat, Jimmy Butler. If you were to look in a dictionary and find the word “underdog,” odds are there would be a picture of Butler sitting right beneath it. Even his story to reach the National Basketball Association (NBA) is truly remarkable.
Butler went from being fatherless and homeless at 13 to ranked the 73rd best player at his position in the state of Texas. He began with no division 1 colleges knowing his name, to then becoming a first-round pick in the NBA. Now, he is a former most improved player, a 5-time all-star, a 4-time all-defensive player of the year and a 2-time all-NBA recipient. And if that was not enough, he now has a $140 million contract. Butler is the perfect face for this Miami Heat team that embodies what it means to be a dark horse.
Besides Butler, the Heat is packed with a strong supporting cast consisting of well-respected veterans, fiery young rookies and everything in between. First-year players Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have both been pleasant surprises, both averaging nearly 15 points per game (ppg).
Widely respected veteran point guard Goran Dragic is also thriving in the NBA’s new Orlando bubble, averaging a career-high 21 ppg. Back these players up with defensive stalwart and 3-time NBA champion Andre Iguodala, shooting wizard Duncan Robinson, reliable forward Jae Crowder and dunking extraordinaire Derrick Jones Jr.; now, you have got yourself a contender.
However, it was not the same story just six months ago. The Heat acquired Iguodala just before the NBA’s trade deadline, and Dragic only recently found his stride offensively. You could say that the Heat got hot at just the right time.
It is evident the team is deep, and no one ever doubted how good they were; however, good and eliminating the NBA’s best team without breaking a sweat are two different things. I mean, just how good were the Bucks before facing Miami?
The short answer is: the best. The Bucks boasted the NBA’s best record at 56 wins and 17 losses and looked unstoppable before the league and the world. Much of their success was credited to one man, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the “Greek Freak.”
Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s reigning most valuable player was finding ways to somehow top himself from the years prior. He had what was arguably the greatest single regular season of all time. Averaging nearly 30 points and 14 rebounds a game on only 30 minutes played were numbers unheard of. Yet, the Freak made it happen.
Moreover, Antetokounmpo is on pace to become only the third player in NBA history to win defensive player of the year and MVP in the same season. The only other two players to accomplish this feat are Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan. Being put in the same category as these two players just shows how dominant he has been. Yet, the freaks talent was still not enough to help his team handle the Heat.
This raises the question: just how far can the Miami Heat go? If one of the best players in NBA history can’t stop them, who can? Their roster is deep, their star power is there and they have the best chemistry in the league. It seems like nothing is preventing them from making a finals run. Though, if there is one thing that the NBA bubble has taught us so far, it is to get accustomed to surprises. Without a doubt, the next few weeks of NBA basketball are sure to be packed with just that.