ASK IRA: Will the Heat’s uneven play keep it stuck in the middle?

Q: Ella, are we stuck in the middle? – Wes.

A: Possibly, given the 15 teams in each division and the Heat’s advantage, at least it seems to be in the 6-9 range for now. There’s no indication that the Heat are capable of competing with the Celtics or Bucks in terms of record (yes, they’re still capable of beating either side overall, but the Heat aren’t showing the type of wins needed to sustain a top conference ability seeds). And, right now, the trajectories of the Cavaliers, Sixers and Nets do seem to matter a lot more than the Heat. So that would mean a fight with the Knicks, Hawks and possibly others for the No. 6 seed, the last seed to avoid the play-in round. A four-game winning streak against the Pacers, Thunder, Rockets and Spurs is all well and good, but the main show is the ability to beat the bottom of the West. If the Heat are going to make a move in the East, they have to target the team they’re chasing. After the calendar rotation and the upcoming five-game Western Conference, there will be plenty of those opportunities for the Heat’s final trip to the West this season.

Q: Never in NBA history has a team won a championship with more than half of its players undrafted, and that’s exactly what the Miami Heat have been trying to do for the past few seasons. We’ve seen some talent from Duncan Robinson, Max Struth, Gabe Vincent and this year’s Heywood Highsmith, but not enough on a solid footing to take us to the next level. – Greg, Jacksonville.

A: This is a league defined by leading men. That means Jimmy Butler has to have more minutes available and, frankly, Kyle Lowry has to get better, like he did on Monday night. In many ways, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro have kept the Heat at this stage. But unless it becomes more of a four-man, I agree with the limited upside, with due respect to the likes of Caleb Martin, Max Strus, Haywood Highsmith and even Victor Oladipo. The Heat’s complementary players have largely complemented each other.

Q: Everyone is bullish on Orlando Robinson right now. We should be. He reminds me of what Heywood Highsmith did late last year, of being in the right place at the right time. That’s very important for us around the basket. – Roland, Borrego Springs, California.

A: Orlando Robinson deservedly performed well against the Timberwolves on Monday night. But, as mentioned above, there must also be vision. What’s interesting about Orlando is that there now seems to be another viable backup option behind Bam Adebayo if the Heat need to use Dwayne Dedmon’s salary in a trade.