Just two years removed from their run to the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat have reemerged as one of the best teams in the East.
Still, even with their 32-20 record, there is some doubt that they are ready to compete for a title. According to former Heat superstar Shaquille O'Neal, the best they can hope for is an early exit in the playoffs.
Shaq played for the Heat between 2004 and 2008, and alongside Wade, helped the franchise win the NBA Championship in 2006. However, he doesn’t see Miami bringing home the title in 2022, or even making it to the Finals.
“Make the NBA finals? That’s a tough one,” Shaq told Heavy. “I think the Heat will make the playoffs and have a good little run but this isn’t their year. They’re due for one… It’ll come.”
With Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, and more, the Heat have a core that is easily one of the most talented in the league. They have young legs and veterans mixed into a proud, winning culture. On the court, they are top 10 in both offense and defense while also holding the NBA's sixth-best record.
Still, Miami's place among the Eastern elites is questionable and O'Neal is hardly the first one to doubt their status.
“Year 7,” Antetokounmpo said as he reflected on his career. “Ended with Miami. I don’t make excuses as an athlete, but it wasn’t a satisfying year for me because I felt like if it was a normal situation, it wouldn’t end up like that. But at the end of the day, I felt like Miami was built to be an NBA bubble team, you know?”
This season, the East is more wide open than we've ever seen it. The Nets are a mess and can't get healthy, the Sixers are missing a star, the Bulls are inexperienced, the Cavaliers are young, and the Bucks don't look like the same team they were when they raised the trophy last summer.
The truth is, predicting how this will all end is an impossible task. But if the Heat want to prove they're contenders (and not pretenders), they're going to have to show up when it counts the most and make amends for their embarrassing failure a year ago.
We will see soon enough if they're up for the task.