Is the Giannis Antetokounmpo Chase Still Realistic?
In an alternate universe in which NBA play wasn’t suspended, the Heat would have been one of the more fascinating teams to watch down the stretch. Exactly how much could the acquisitions of Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala have moved the needle for a team that had cooled off considerably in the second half of the season? Could Iguodala have made a significant difference during the postseason? And how much would Pat Riley regret—if at all—not trading for Danilo Gallinari at the deadline?
The Gallinari pursuit was illustrative of the Heat’s desires. Miami wasn’t willing to extend Gallo’s contract into the 2021 offseason, when Giannis Antetokounmpo could become a free agent, derailing talks with the Thunder. With this current season potentially (and perhaps likely) lost, the Heat won’t really find out how much of a difference Gallinari would have made on the current roster. But will their decision to keep the 2021 books clean matter in the long run?
It’s almost impossible to predict the long-term consequences this suspension will have on team building for the foreseeable future. How will a potentially static salary cap situation affect the decisions of potential free agents? Will the new situation make Giannis more likely to stay in Milwaukee? Or could he somehow end up making the same amount of money by signing short-term somewhere else and re-upping his deal? There’s going to be all sorts of logistics to figure out in the fallout of this unprecedented stoppage, and it’s going to severely affect the plans of teams who’d hoped to make a splash in 2021.
Which brings us back to the Heat. Should the front office still proceed as if it needs to find a whale to pair with Jimmy Butler? Some food for thought: Butler—who has plenty of minutes on his body—will be 31 by the start of next season, and he’s playing alongside a budding star in Bam Adebayo. Would it make more sense to commit to the current iteration of this team as opposed to chasing a Giannis-type? Miami will be far from the only front office thrown by the pandemic. But if the resulting landscape pushes the Heat toward going all in as opposed to leaving the door open in 2021, that doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end for the Heat’s hopes to contend.