The Miami Heat face the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Miami earned the East’s number one seed, finishing the season 53-29. Atlanta is the East’s number eight seed after crushing the Hornets and completing a comeback win in Cleveland to win the play-in tournament. The Heat won the regular-season series over the Hawks 3-1. Let’s break down what will happen in the playoff series.
|Heat in 4 (+450)||Hawks in 4 (+4000)|
|Heat in 5 (+280)||Hawks in 5 (+2200)|
|Heat in 6 (+390)||Hawks in 6 (+700)|
|Heat in 7 (+340)||Hawks in 7 (+850)|
Trae Young dropped 38 points on 13 of 25 shooting to carry Atlanta over Cleveland and into the playoffs. Young had a phenomenal regular season. He finished top three in the NBA in points per game (28.4) and assists per game (9.7) and ranked in the league’s top seven in win shares (10.3) and VORP (value over replacement player). Young is undoubtedly one of the best young players in basketball, but he may not have enough help to keep the Hawks in this series.
Injuries will have a significant factor in this matchup. John Collins, the Hawks’ second-leading scorer, has been sidelined with a foot and a finger injury since March and still has no timetable for a return. Clint Capela, who averaged over 11 points and rebounds per game this season, injured his knee in Friday’s win over the Cavs and will undergo an MRI on Saturday. Although there is optimism that Capela has not suffered a major injury, his status remains unclear for this series.
Regardless of their injury woes, the Hawks have had significant issues on the defensive end of the floor this season. Atlanta ranked in the NBA’s bottom five in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) in 2021-22. No player on Atlanta’s roster finished the year with a positive DBPM (defensive box plus-minus), and aside from Clint Capela (who is injured), no Atlanta Hawk ranked in the league’s top 150 in defensive win shares this season.
Despite having Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo miss over 25 games each, The Heat remained atop of the East for much of the regular season. Miami finished the year top ten in the league in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) and top five in the league in defensive efficiency. They also led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage, shooting at a 37.9% clip from deep.
Miami is among the deepest and most complete teams in basketball. The Heat had seven players rank in the league’s top 115 in VORP, and nine players rank in the league’s top 110 in defensive win shares. Tyler Herro took a huge leap in year three and averaged over 20 points per game on nearly 40% shooting. He is the frontrunner for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Kyle Lowry proved to be one of the best additions of the offseason, ranking in the league’s top 45 in VORP and box plus-minus. Former all-star Victor Oladipo is back from injury and has looked solid – averaging 12.4 points and 3.5 assists in just 21.6 minutes per game over eight games played. Oladipo had 40 points, ten rebounds, and seven assists in the Heat’s final regular-season game in Orlando.
The Heat are still led by their two stars, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The duo is arguably the most elite defensive pairing of stars in the NBA. Adebayo ranked eighth in the league in DBPM this season (2.1), and Butler ranked tenth (1.9). Butler is still one of the top ten or 15 players in the league. He ranked 13th this season in VORP and tenth in win shares (9.2) despite missing some time to injury. Adebayo posted career-highs in points per game (19.1) and steals per game (1.4) and has established himself as one of the most versatile defenders in the league.
Prediction and Best Bet
I do not see this being much of a series. Miami is clearly the better, deeper team and Atlanta is dealing with some key injuries. Trae Young might go off for 45 and steal a game in this series, but I would be very surprised if this goes more than five games. Miami is elite defensively and has both the star power and the depth to crush a short-handed Hawks team that underachieved this season. I’m backing Erik Spoelstra and the Heat to take care of Atlanta in five games or less. I’ll take the plus-odds too.
Best Bet: Heat -2.5 games (+135 at DraftKings)
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