The 2019-20 NBA season was a memorable one for the Heat as they were able to advance all the way to the Finals as a consistent underdog. They ultimately fell short of their main goal of winning a championship, however, and thus could undergo some changes in the name of improvement over the offseason. Like most teams, Miami enters the offseason facing some important decisions regarding player personnel.
Two key contributors during the Heat's playoff run -- Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder -- will be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Dragic was Miami's second-leading scorer throughout the postseason and Crowder provided the team with reliable defense and floor spacing while starting in all 21 of the Heat's playoff games. Derrick Jones Jr. and Meyers Leonard will also be unrestricted free agents. Additionally, center Bam Adebayo is eligible for a maximum rookie extension this offseason.
What the Heat decide to do regarding Dragic, Crowder and Adebayo could shape the foundation of the franchise for the foreseeable future. With all of these decisions looming, Heat president Pat Riley said the Heat plan to "stay the course" and will aim to take care of their current players while also trying to maintain financial flexibility moving forward.
"I think this year, with what happened with our team, it really doesn't change my thought process about, 'OK, let's go for it now, again.' I think we'll stay the course with our picks, stay the course with our young players," said Riley, who spoke to the media Friday via Zoom. "We have decisions to make, obviously, with player contracts and free agents, and really do a deep dive into this season, myself and Spo [Erik Spoelstra] and Andy [Elisburg] about how good we really are right now … flexibility with draft picks, free agency is coming next … and my thinking really hasn't changed. But when I say next thing, if there's a next thing that presents itself that can really take us to maybe another level talent-wise, then I'm open to it.
"From a practical standpoint, regardless of what the numbers are, we know what our priorities are," Riley added. "And it is to take care of the players that we have that we have to make decisions on almost immediately with our young guys …it's going to be a little bit dicey for us because of wanting that flexibility, but if things can happen prior to that, I think, we have to take care of our own as much as we can, but we don't want to surrender that opportunity if it's there."
What the Heat decide to do with Adebayo, specifically, will be worth keeping an eye on. Adebayo is coming off his best season in the NBA, as he was named to his first All-Star team and his first All-Defensive team and had a true coming-out party during their postseason run. Since being selected by Miami in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, Adebayo has blossomed into one of the best young big men in the entire league.
Normally, offering an extension to a player of Adebayo's caliber would be a no-brainer. However, the Heat are in a unique situation as they are reportedly intent on saving cap space in order to pursue reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in free agency in 2021. Waiting to extend Adebayo would give them added space to do so. However, by waiting they also run the risk of irritating Adebayo, and there's no guarantee that they'll be able to land Antetokounmpo in the first place. Do they want to run the risk of potentially damaging their relationship with one of their young building blocks for uncertain odds at landing another star? It's a legitimate question, and one that Riley wasn't interested in addressing.
"I really don't want to get into any kind of discussions at this point about [an Adebayo] extension," Riley said. "I think all the hypotheticals out there about what people think is going to happen, that's what they are. You all know our numbers. You know what the situation is, the free agents in '20 and '21. So when it comes to our players, we want to take care of them, and especially the ones that we really value.
"We value Bam Adebayo. He's an All-Star. And he's young. And he's great. And we're going to do what's in his best interest. That is what I think we have to do."
The Heat had a great run in Orlando, but if they want to run it back with the same squad next season they'll have to spend some money over the offseason. If maintaining financial flexibility to try adding Antetokounmpo or another superstar is the priority, they might be forced to part with some key contributors. Despite all of the looming decisions, Riley is optimistic about the outlook of the organization.
"We have six first-round picks in the next eight years. We have three second-round picks, one that is owed to us by another team," Riley said. "So, we have a lot of assets, we have a lot of very good young players, we have great veteran leadership and talent. And I'm very optimistic about what's ahead of us."