• Kyle Russell

Miami Heat 2019-2020 Team Awards

The Miami Heat had themselves quite the season, defying even the most optimistic of expectations. They quickly established themselves as one of the elite teams in the East, reaching as high as the second seed before settling down to the fourth. As with any elite team, the Heat were propelled by several great players playing key roles efficiently and effectively. While there was a little controversy in some of the awards, ultimately there were clear winners for each category. Without further ado, let’s get into the Miami Heat’s team awards for the 2019-2020 season.

Most Valuable Player: Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler came to Miami to lead them back to relevance, and lead he did. Setting the tone in the locker room and on the court, Butler was the main driving force behind Miami’s impressive season. He pushed his teammates on the practice court. He lived up to his two-way reputation on the court, leading the Heat in box-plus-minus and finishing tenth overall in the league. He put his body on the line driving in hard to the basket, finishing fourth in the league in free throw attempts per game at 9.1. Looking at free throw rate, Butler finished fourth in the league and was the only non-center in the top eight. When Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic went down to injury, Butler stepped up as the only primary ball-handler, averaging 6.1 assists per game to lead the Heat in that category. Bam Adebayo was a strong second, but he didn’t handle the load Butler did all season. Between his leadership and on the court production, Butler is easily Miami’s MVP.

Defensive Player of the Year: Bam Adebayo

At first glance, there’s an argument to be made that this should be between Butler and Adebayo. Both first made their names in the league through their defense and routinely handle the toughest assignments on a night-to-night basis. But a dive into the numbers shows Adebayo has a clear edge over Butler. Adebayo has the better defensive-box plus-minus (2.1 vs. Butler’s 1.3). Adebayo also has more stocks per game (steals plus blocks) at 2.5 vs. Butlers 2.2. The tracking data paints a clearer picture, courtesy of NBA.com/Stats. While Butler was holding opponents to less than average field goal % (FG%) overall (-3.5%), his defense was notably worse within 10 feet where opponents would shoot higher than average. Adebayo, meanwhile, was not only holding opponents to a lesser overall FG% (-3.7%), but was holding them to less than average at every area of the court. Butler has a great argument to be an All-NBA defender; Adebayo meanwhile has an argument to be on the shortlist for Defensive Player of the Year. Any way you slice it, he’s clearly Miami’s.

Sixth Man of the Year: Goran Dragic

No debate here, Dragic was Miami’s sixth man both in role and in execution. After Dwyane Wade’s retirement last season, Dragic took up the mantle as the team’s sixth man, coming off the bench as a veteran leader and offensive spark plug. He was third on the team in assists and points per game. He shot a solid 37.7% on 5.8 attempts from 3-point range, acting as a solid floor spacer for others on the court. Dragic was one of the highest usage players on the team, maximizing his time on the court to give starters like Adebayo and Butler much needed rest. At 33, Dragic’s age was starting to catch up to him, especially on the defensive end where he was a definite negative. But by shifting him to the sixth man role, Dragic was able to be a positive impact due to his offensive contributions while also extending his career by playing fewer minutes overall and less against non-starters. No other player came off the bench with as much consistent impact as Dragic, making him the easy pick for Miami’s sixth man of the year.

Rookie of the Year: Kendrick Nunn

The Miami Heat struck gold last offseason with two stellar rookies, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro. Both qualified for the rising stars game and played major roles for an elite team in the East. It’s a fair pick to go with Tyler Herro for his long-range shooting, clutch performance, and future potential. But this is about performance as a rookie, where Nunn was the better performer. He averaged more points, more minutes, more assists, a higher true shooting %, and a better box plus minus than Herro. Nunn also played a bigger role for Miami, starting 62 out of 62 games for them while Herro was primarily coming off the bench for the 47 games he was available for. Lastly, Nunn impressed by consistently pushing through rough slumps. Every time he seemed like he hit the rookie wall he found a way to push through and get back to a high level of performance. Tyler Herro may well end up having a better career, but Kendrick Nunn was the better rookie.

Most Improved Player: Bam Adebayo

Like sixth man, this is an easy pick with no controversy. Few players in the league made the leap Bam Adebayo did in his third season, let alone anyone on the Miami Heat roster. Adebayo spent most of last season as the backup center to Hassan Whiteside, before an injury to Whiteside gave him the chance to be the starting center to end the season. Clearly impressed, Miami dealt away Whiteside and made Adebayo the full time starter going into this season. Suffice to say that gamble paid off immensely. Adebayo’s stats increased across the board, averaging a double double in points (16.2) and rebounds (10.5). Most notably Adebayo bloomed as an offensive hub capable of dishing out 5.1 assists per game and assisting on 23.6% of his teammates' field goals. Only Nikola Jokic is clearly the better passing center. Adebayo became an All-star this year, giving Miami it’s second alongside Jimmy Butler. As previously mentioned, he’s Miami’s defensive player of the year with a good argument to receive votes for the league award. Like the team, Adebayo defied all expectations this season and is now a jump shot away from wrecking the league.