The Miami Heat are bound to face team-changing decisions as the NBA offseason approaches. With Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr., Meyers Leonard, Solomon Hill, and Udonis Haslem set to be free agents after the season, questions ponder on whether or not Heat president Pat Riley intends to keep all of these guys under contract.
With nearly half of the time set to be unrestricted free agents, Miami will have the chance to hold roughly $27 million in cap room, presuming that the NBA’s salary cap doesn’t reduce from the $115 million the league was projected to have in January.
Nonetheless, Pat Riley feels “optimistic” that the Heat will bring back all 6 guys for the 2020-21 season.
“For all intents and purposes, I’m so happy that we turned a lot of things around and we found the right players, the right mix of pick-and-roll players, guys that can post up, and really a couple of guys that can shoot the ball, really shoot the ball,” said Riley in an interview released by the Heat. last week. “And, so, we’re happy for that. And we are very optimistic about moving forward in the future with these players,” Riley said.
Riley also noted that they will be playing the patient game when it comes to free agency. It’s worthy to note that Danilo Gallinari is expected to be a target for the Heat. Gallinari was nearly traded to Miami in the trade deadline but both sides couldn’t agree on a contract extension in time.
“As far as free agency, that’s up in the air,” said Riley. “We don’t even know when that’s going to happen. Right now, we know it’s July 1. Andy [Elisburg] and I are probably doing more machinations on the probabilities. You have to remember we have six or seven free agents ourselves, but we also have nine other players that are under contract and guys that we really like, so we’ll continue to sort of just create possibilities, what can possibly happen.
“We don’t know what the cap number really is going to be, but we feel confident that the cupboard is full, and what I mean by full is that we do have a lot of very good young players that have proven that they can play at a real high level in this game and they’re fearless, and, yes, we’re very concerned about our pending free agents. We like all of our players and so when we get to that time we’ll know what direction we want to go in.”
The biggest problem with Miami’s contract negotiations will be how it affects their chances of landing one or two big name superstars in a loaded 2021 free agency class.
Goran Dragic, who averaged 16.1 points and 5.1 assists per game this season, is expected to be marked by teams as a guy worth bidding for in free agency.
Riley and the Heat will be forced to either pay him an expensive contract or test is loyalty and bet that he would like to remain in South Florida for a cheaper deal.
Dragic, who has spent six seasons with Miami after being shipped in 2015, has been one of the better players in recent Heat history. His veteran leadership can’t be replaced which will likely force Riley to keep the Slovenian under contract.
Jae Crowder, who played just 13 games with the Heat after being shipped in February, will be another question mark option worth noting.
Averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds, Crowder served as an essential forward off the bench and even notched up his 3-point shooting, hitting 39.3% from beyond the arc. The veteran has expressed his desire of staying with the Heat, meaning he will be congenial in contract negotiations.
Crowder, who earned $7.8 million this season, could likely welcome another similar deal or potentially even cheaper.
The 23-year-old Derrick Jones Jr. is expected to be the top priority to resign for Riley and the Heat. Jones Jr. displayed great flashes this season, developing his three-point shot and defensive presence alongside his freakish athleticism.
Jones Jr. averaged 8.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assist this season, continuing to improve and get comfortable with the pace of the game. He is someone the Heat will definitely love to continue to develop and transform him into a prominent NBA starter.
Meyers Leonard has quickly became a fan favorite at AmericanAirlines Arena. Averaging 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds this season, his intensity and hard-work helped Leonard remain the starting center in all 49 games that he played.
Leonard will likely be picked up for a nit to expensive deal, considering that an ankle injury kept him off the floor for the last 16 games of the season, keeping him out of the radar.
Solomon Hill was part of a six-player trade that sent him, Andre Iguodala, and Jae Crowder to Miami. Hill served as a rotational player, not playing as much until injuries arose for the Heat.
At this point in his career, Solomon Hill isn’t necessarily on a team because of his ability to play, but for his leadership.
In fact, his leadership and positive influence on the Memphis Grizzlies’ young players is what secured him the final roster spot. If Miami looks to add or keep guidance for their young guys, keeping Solomon Hill could be a well-noted option.
Lastly, Udonis Haslem. Being honest, Haslem will have his contract renewed for as long as he wants.
Despite rarely getting on the court, Haslem plays his role by coaching up players like Bam Adebayo, and Chris Silva, guys who are undersized and have to take on the tallest guy on the opposing team every night, similar to what Haslem has done throughout his career.
As the recommencement of the 2019-20 season remains unlikely, it’s time the Miami Heat consider who they should retain and who they should let walk in the offseason.