President Pat Riley and the Miami Heat’s future intentions are clear. From the time they failed to construct a deal with Danilo Gallinari during the trade deadline, Miami affirmed their plan on preserving cap space for a historically stacked 2021 NBA free agency.
However, times have changed, including the leagues’ substantial drop in revenue which will likely take a toll on teams’ financial flexibility.
With an anticipated cap drop of $10 million, Miami will still have the capability of bringing in a max free agent (which makes things relieving). Yet, this could damage resigning their 2020 free agents, Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr., and Meyers Leonard.
Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson gave his take on the perfect scenario that’ll keep all four players under contract:
“On the issue of re-signing its own free agents this summer, Pat Riley’s recent comment that he’s “very optimistic about moving forward in the future with these players” reinforces the likelihood that instead of using cap space this summer (potentially north of $20 million), the Heat instead likely will operate above the cap and use the Bird Rights of Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder and Meyers Leonard and possibly Derrick Jones Jr. to surpass the cap to re-sign some or all of them, with the use of a mid-level exception to add a player from outside if possible without crossing the luxury tax threshold.”
With beliefs around the league sensing that this free agency class will be full of one year contracts, Miami’s pressure on bringing back their guys is alleviated. It’s probable that Dragic, Crowder, and Leonard back for their second year, whether it be a one year deal or two year with a team option.
However, this won’t be the case for Derrick Jones Jr., who is expected to receive a multi-year contract this offseason, whether it be from Miami or another franchise.
Jones Jr., who turned 23 back in February, began to skyrocket in the 2019-20 season, averaging 8.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 51 games (all either overrule or match his career-highs).
As I’ve said in a previous article on Jones Jr., he should remain a top priority to the Heat, meaning that he’s worth more than a one year deal. Still, because of the ongoing Pandemic and the revenue drop it has brought the league, it might be risky to chase the 6-foot-7 forward if given a double-digit contract ($15-$20 million).
Especially with an almost assured drop in cap space, as it could affect Miami’s ability to sign big named free agents in 2021.
With talent all over the board in 2021, including Giannis Antetokounmpo (the ultimate goal), Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, Gordon Hayward, CJ McCollum, Paul George, and Chris Paul, the Heat will surely not switch its direction in no such manner.
Here’s Jackson’s analogy on how Miami’s cap space could playout for the 2021-22 offseason:
“If the Heat declines Andre Iguodala’s $15 million option for 2021-22 (which would be expected), Miami’s cap commitments for 2021-22 include Jimmy Butler ($36 million), Tyler Herro ($4 million), Bam Adebayo (eligible for restricted free agency that summer, but his cap hit in 2021-22 will be $15.3 million, regardless of what he’s paid that summer), Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson (each likely carrying $4.7 million cap hits regardless of what they’re paid), $4 million or so due Miami’s 2020 first-round pick, $1.4 million for both KZ Okpala and Chris Silva (non-guaranteed), Ryan Anderson’s $5.2 million hit and about $4 million in cap holds to fill out a roster.
That adds up to cap commitments of $80.7 million. If the 2021-22 cap is $115 million instead of $125 million, that would leave the Heat with $34.3 million.
And coincidentally, if there’s a $115 million cap in 2021-22, Antetokounmpo’s first-year max would be $34.5 million, essentially giving the Heat enough room to sign him. That would be the same first-year max number for Victor Oladipo and other potential 2021 free agents with fewer than 10 years of service.”
And even if Miami runs into cap space issues, they can do the same thing they did with Jimmy Butler, a sign-and-trade.
As it seems, loyalty to the team will play a factor to Dragic, Crowder, Jones Jr., and Leonard, all returning to the Heat next season. Will they be willing to lose money and risk a future contract in search of an NBA title?