When Bam Adebayo signed his five-year max-extension with the Miami Heat in November, the chances of Giannis Antetokounmpo signing with the organization came into clear focus. Any deal for Antetokounmpo would have required a sign-and-trade with a massive amount of salary going out. Now, the Heat don’t have to worry about that.
Antetokounmpo announced Tuesday afternoon that he will re-sign with the Milwaukee Bucks on a super-max extension that will pay him $228M over the next five years. Miami now has to pivot its movement toward acquiring another star player. There are still free agents available next offseason such as Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo, and Jrue Holiday. However, none outside of Oladipo seem to be likely fits as of now.
The appeal of a third star has been what Pat Riley has been setting up the 2021 offseason to be; acquiring a third star alongside the likes of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. However, that dream became harder Tuesday afternoon. Where do the Heat turn their attention to now?
Do the Miami Heat wait it out for the 2021 offseason?
The game plan for Miami Heat president Pat Riley has been waiting for the 2021 offseason to land another “whale.” It started with Giannis, Paul George, and many young stars before dwindling down to Kawhi Leonard as the big prize. The Heat showed interest in Leonard when the Spurs were shopping him. However, they didn’t have a package strong enough to entice San Antonio to make a deal.
To sign a max-deal player next offseason, Miami would need to trade players away to fit the newly acquired superstar underneath its salary cap. The options available next offseason may not be worth it, considering there is only one franchise-altering cornerstone in the class now.
This option is not as attractive as it once was, and it seems likely that the Heat will be forced into looking at other alternatives to land a true third star. While the appeal of Leonard is certainly something the Heat would look into, Paul George signing his new four-year deal could be enough to keep Leonard there, especially if they win a championship.
Expect the Miami Heat to be active on the trade market
The best option for the Miami Heat will be exploring the trade market. In fact, the Heat have already been looking into this for months now. They love Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, but the Wizards have been reluctant to involve him in any deal. Now that they traded for Russell Westbrook, it makes a trade for Beal even more unlikely than before.
Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge has also been on Miami’s radar. Pat Riley expressed interest in Aldridge when he was free agent and tried to convince him to take a one-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs and then sign with the Heat the next offseason. The Heat certainly can afford to trade for Aldridge, and could explore this at the trade deadline. San Antonio could stand to get younger and gain some of Miami’s young assets in return.
The biggest star available for the Heat is Houston Rockets guard James Harden. The former MVP added the Heat to his preferred list of trade destinations last week and has expressed his desire to be traded away. The Rockets will be forced into trading Harden away eventually as the star player will always win against the team.
Even before the Giannis Antetokounmpo extension, Harden’s fit with the Miami Heat was better than anything the two-time MVP could bring to the team. Harden’s ability to stretch the floor and create separation is something the Heat desperately need. The Heat should go all-in on Harden, and now they can better hone in on The Beard as their main target since the Greek Freak is staying with the Bucks.
The bottom line: Miami Heat, Pat Riley will get something done
Pat Riley has always done what it takes to bring star players to the Miami Heat. He performed a four-team sign-and-trade to bring star forward Jimmy Butler to the Heat during the 2019 offseason with no cap space. He also traded Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and more for Shaquille O’Neal in 2004, which resulted in Miami’s first championship.
Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t the whale that Riley was looking for, he was the whole sea. The long-term fit of Giannis and Bam Adebayo would’ve been scary, but now that dream has passed. James Harden as a consolation prize wouldn’t be a bad thing for Miami. In fact, it may be a blessing in disguise if Riley and the front office can pull off a deal for the 31-year-old guard.
Whatever Riley and Andy Elisburg are thinking of doing next, fans should trust them and believe in what they are doing. They know this is the team’s first legitimate window at a championship since 2014, and letting that fade away is not something the organization will let happen. Pat Riley will conjure up some supreme deal for a superstar, because that’s simply what he’s known for.