The Miami Heat plan to be big players in free agency in 2021, as they are reportedly targeting two of the biggest names that could hit the open market.
During an appearance on Complex's Load Management podcast this week, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium said the Heat have "made it known" they intend to pursue both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo in free agency.
If the Bucks are unable to sign Giannis to an extension, he will be arguably the most sought-after free agent in NBA history. Oladipo comes with far greater risk, though, as the Indiana Pacers guard missed over one year of NBA action with a knee injury before returning in January.
The 25-year-old Giannis has displayed marked improvement in each of his first seven seasons, but it wasn't until last year that he became perhaps the NBA's best player. The Greek Freak was named MVP as he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game while leading the Bucks to the NBA's best record at 60-22.
Antetokounmpo has been even better this year with averages of 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. He is also making a career-high 1.5 three-pointers per contest after previously shying away from shooting the long ball.
When the 2019-20 season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic in March, Giannis had the Bucks atop the NBA again with a 53-12 record. The season is scheduled to resume in July with each of the 22 remaining teams playing eight games before the playoffs, and Antetokounmpo is the front-runner to win MVP once again.
If the Heat are unable to land him, then Oladipo could be a good consolation prize, albeit one with some long-term question marks. The 28-year-old two-time All-Star is just two years removed from a career year that saw him put up 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and an NBA-leading 2.4 steals per game.
Oladipo appeared to be on the verge of superstardom, but a knee injury limited him to just 36 games last season. He then needed significant time to get ready to return this season and has appeared in just 13 contests.
The Pacers were cautious with Oladipo before the season was suspended, as he was averaging a career-low 25.9 minutes per game. He put up decent numbers (13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists) but shot poorly from the floor (39.1 percent) and three (30.4 percent).
It's possible Oladipo will re-sign with the Pacers, but if he does test the open market, teams will have to decide whether the risk is worth the reward of a player with massive potential when healthy.
The Heat are already among the best teams in the Eastern Conference, as they were the No. 4 seed at 41-24 when play was halted this season. The arrival of Jimmy Butler, the improvement of Bam Adebayo into an All-Star and surprisingly good showings from rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro all contributed to Miami's success.
Miami doesn't quite seem to be on the level of championship contender yet, but that could change soon if the Heat are able to add another star.
The superstar trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh brought two championships to Miami previously, so it comes as little surprise that Heat president Pat Riley is reportedly trying to piece together another superteam.