Lost in the hoopla of Miami's surprising run to the NBA Finals is that competing for a championship this quickly was never the Heat's plan. After missing the 2019 postseason, the Heat added Jimmy Butler in the first step of what appeared to be a bigger plan involving multiple superstars. Even with Butler in tow, they refused to commit money to other players into the summer of 2021, when Giannis Antetokounmpo, among others, will become a free agent. The goal this season was to impress Giannis. Making the Finals happened to be a bonus.
And even if that Finals berth doesn't yield a championship, the broader plan is still very much in place. According to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, the Heat "have become the league's top destination for the next star with a wandering eye" in the minds of NBA executives. On paper, it's not hard to see why.
The Heat are positioned to acquire virtually any superstar they choose to target. If they so choose, they could create max cap space as soon as this offseason by renouncing their rights to incumbent free agents like Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder. More realistically, their plan is to create max space in 2021. Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Paul George, Jrue Holiday and Rudy Gobert will highlight that class.
But if a superstar asks for a trade, the Heat have more than enough ammunition to pursue that route. Assuming Bam Adebayo is untouchable, they still have Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn as young trade pieces almost any team would be interested in. Their draft capital is limited, but their 2025 first-round pick remains tradeable, and once the 2020 NBA Draft passes, their 2027 pick unlocks for trading purposes as well.
Losing that depth and shooting would be a blow, but it's worth noting that Robinson and Nunn were undrafted. The Heat have arguably the best developmental infrastructure in basketball. With Butler and Adebayo already in place, a third star would know that he has enough high-end talent to win with, but also, an organization capable of finding diamonds in the rough for them to play with. Throw in the Miami market, and the Heat are almost inarguably the most desirable team for an unsatisfied superstar right now.
Pat Riley got Butler with no cap space and little young talent in his cupboard. Now he has one of the best and most flexible rosters in basketball. The Heat should be contenders for a long, long time.