Heat Rumors: Latest Buzz on Giannis Antetokounmpo, Derrick Jones Jr. ContractMay 19, 2020
The Miami Heat may not be viewed as a legitimate title contender this season, but they currently hold a 41-24 record and would likely be a playoff threat. Miami appears headed in the right direction and could be viewed in the same tier as the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers with another key acquisition.
The Lakers and Clippers are apt comparisons for Miami because the Heat may need to pair a true superstar with the likes of Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro to reach the upper echelon of NBA squads—a superstar like Giannis Antetokounmpo, perhaps?
Antetokounmpo does appear to be Miami's No. 1 target in the not-too-distant future. Miami appears to be gearing up for a 2021 free-agent class that could include Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
According to Michael Shapiro of SI.com, making a run at Antetokounmpo isn't only possible but quite realistic:
"Pat Riley pulled off perhaps the greatest acquisition this century when he lured LeBron James from Cleveland, and he'll presumably be in strong position for an encore in July 2021. The Heat could have Jimmy Butler's contract as their only max deal on the roster after 2020-21, and even if Bam Adebayo inks a extension before July 2021, Miami could still have room to add Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is certainly at the top of the Heat's list."
To acquire Antetokounmpo, though, the Milwaukee Bucks star would have to actually reach free agency or wind up on the trading block. Milwaukee won't be motivated to trade its biggest star, so the Heat may need Antetokounmpo to want out.
According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Antetokounmpo's desire to remain in Milwaukee will hinge almost entirely on the team's ability to remain a title contender.
"Antetokounmpo seems to want to stay in Milwaukee when he becomes a 2021 free agent, but only if the Bucks stand as a title contender," Berman wrote. "Sources indicate the pandemic has changed things so drastically, it's hard to pinpoint Antetokounmpo's future plans."
This notion makes things doubly difficult for Miami. The Bucks currently hold a league-best 53-12 record, and it seems unlikely that they're going to stumble into mediocrity over the next year. The Heat, meanwhile, will need to show they can be title contenders to even hope to lure Antetokounmpo.
This puts a lot of pressure on Miami to retain key role players such as Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr. and Goran Dragic. This could prove difficult if the Heat are hoping to have enough cap space in 2021 to add a player like Antetokounmpo—specifically in the case of Jones.
"The expectation—before this pandemic—was that Jones would seek a multiyear deal, and it's becoming increasingly clear that the financial impact of the pandemic has left the Heat in no position to offer one, unless the second year is at the Heat's option," Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently wrote.
The Athletic's John Hollinger also believes that a potential future pursuit of Antetokounmpo could prevent Miami from retaining Jones.
"The Heat may get squeamish about paying him past next summer, when they're trying to keep their cap space powder dry for a run at an elite free agent (*cough* Giannis *cough*)," Hollinger wrote. "That could provide an opportunity for another team to swoop in and grab Jones."
Presumably, Miami's plan to go hard in 2021 free agency will also prevent the team from adding notable external free agents this offseason. There could be some intriguing options on the market—like Gordon Hayward and Mike Conley—but would any of them want to be a one-year rental? Probably not.
The reality is that the Heat, while firmly in win-now mode, may not truly act like it this offseason. The biggest moves are likely a year away. The question is which players will be available when it's time to make them.