SZNAP CHAT – JUNE 1
By Adam Sznapstajler
A SHIFT OF FOCUS
Last week I wrote about the highs and lows of the playoffs in sports and how I was living them concurrently with the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers playing their first round matchups. I also predicted that given my fandom history there was a good potential that one of the seasons was going to end in playoff heartbreak. Unfortunately I can report that both team’s seasons have ended somewhat, or rightfully, prematurely. However, the eternal optimist in me has found it easy to shift my focus to the offseason. Here are my hopes for each team.
The Miami Heat got outclassed by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite declaring that he was “stupidly locked in” Jimmy Butler went on to have the worst playoff series in his career averaging 14.5 points a game and shooting a calamitous 29.7%. Don’t get me wrong, it was not just Jimmy. The entire Heat team offered up a dismal performance by almost everyone except Dewayne Dedmon. Additionally upsetting was that the coaching staff seemed to get out-coached by a lesser Milwaukee staff.
But not all hope is lost. Although “bringing it back” is not an option this offseason there are some moves to make to add to your core two of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo (or should I say three, Mr. Dedmon). These are my hopes:
- Upgrade at point guard. My top two choices here would be Lonzo Ball or Kyle Lowry. Both can be primary ball handlers that can run the offense when Jimmy or Bam are not on the floor, as well as being good shooters for when the ball is in their hand. I do think Kyle Lowry is the better scorer of the two and fits the win-now mode more, but Lonzo fits well with Bam’s timeline while also being a quality offensive option now.
- Beef up in the paint. One of the surprises of the season is that Brook Lopez decided to be a big man again. Unfortunately that is now an issue for the Heat in the upper tier of the Eastern Conference. With Lopez and more importantly Joel Embiid, there are some good centers in the East that can help neutralize a smaller Adebayo in the paint. This offseason the Heat need to add either a stretch four or center than can play on the court with Bam when the game gets big. Ideally this would be a stretch four like Taurean Prince or Jeff Green who can also shoot, but also help Bam in the paint.
- Reset your attitude. After the bubble last season, the Heat got high on their own supply and truly believed that if they ran the team back they would be able to repeat bubble magic. Despite losing a key piece in Jae Crowder, and not even running it back, the Heat rode a late season high into the playoffs. This led to an overlooking of their matchup and eventual dismantling. This offseason just do not get complacent with a team that isn’t enough.
As I wrote last week the Panthers were getting ready to play Game 6 in Tampa Bay, hoping to extend the series one more night to Game 7 in Sunrise. Unfortunately this was not the case, as the clearly better Tampa Bay Lightning took the game and the series. Unlike the Heat my recommendations for the Panthers are a little shorter:
RUN. IT. BACK.
This team was good enough to make the conference finals (and 10000% past the first round) in a normal structured playoffs. This combined with the hopeful return of the team’s best defender Aaron Ekblad make for a very promising future for this squad. I think the first move of this offseason is to resign franchise great Jonathan Huberdeau, his offense is essential to the team and his time in Florida has been one of the most stable runs of the franchise. I would also add some extra physical defenders, as the Tampa Bay Lightning did a couple years ago after getting ran out of the first round. Lastly I would run a two goalie rotation with Spencer Knight at the lead spot. He is the real deal.
Although Inter Miami was not in the playoffs this past week like the other two teams, I feel like the team fits well into this column. I had the opportunity to see the team this past week at their 3-0 loss to DC United. What I saw was a team that was having trouble connecting with each other. This led to defensive lapses that led directly to goals and missed opportunities on goal for Miami as well. I also felt that the team was thrown off by the physicality of the match and what the referee let go. I had the opportunity to ask Midfielder Lewis Morgan about this and he expounded to some external distraction for the team as well.
Luckily, there is a three week break coming up for the squad and it’s a perfect time for the team to spend some time together and hopefully work on their connection issues.
Check out my weekly column every Tuesday. Until then, sayanora from South Florida!