The NBA was transformed last offseason. This went down when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joined the Los Angeles Clippers; and Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined the Brooklyn Nets, shifting the landscape of the league and vaulting two teams into title contenders for the 2020-21 season.
These superstars didn’t join these teams because they’re in a big city or because they have a rich history of success: they joined their new respective teams because those teams established a good culture with promising young guys who needed a start to fully form into a bona-fide contender.
Two seasons ago, the Clippers looked frisky against the title-winning Warriors and the Brooklyn Nets solidified themselves as a fun young team who looked really good against the Sixers. NBA players notice these things, and want to join these young cultures to hopefully build a dynasty.
The NBA should be on notice this off-season, as the Miami Heat seem to be the franchise with the most chips to play with. While there won’t be a lot of stars freed out of their deals this summer, the Heat gave themselves a lot of cap space after deals made at the trade deadline.
After sending James Johnson, Justice Winslow and Dion Waiters to the Memphis Grizzlies mid-season, the Heat took on the expiring contracts of Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill, all of whom are experienced veterans who have proved that they can be key veterans to keep on the roster for a playoff run.
The best part of having those expiring contracts is that the Heat can move on from those guys in the off-season for free, as according to Early Bird Rights, they are going to be one of the league leaders in the off-season with $26.39 million in cap space.
That cap space rivals that of the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns, but out of all the teams with $20+ million in cap space, the Heat are easily the best destination for free agents.
As Bryan Toporek outlined in a piece in March, Miami will have to re-sign a lot of their current roster this off-season, but should still have a decent chunk of change to spend on new talent.
At the moment, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and KZ Okpala are the only three Miami players under contract beyond 2020-21. The Heat have a ton of financial flexibility over the next 16 months, although they’ll need to sign Adebayo to an extension and decide whether to retain Derrick Jones Jr., Duncan Robinson and/or Kendrick Nunn as part of their long-term future.
The Heat are one of the most attractive destination for incoming free agents for a number of reasons. They have a few All-Star level players in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo who can anchor the defense, along with a number of cheap young talent in Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Derrick Jones Jr. and Tyler Herro.
They are also one of the deepest teams in the league, with underrated contributors like Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard and Chris Silva, all of whom proved this season that they can provide valuable contributions off the bench. And it can never be forgotten that Miami is one of the prime party destinations in the world and would allow these incoming athletes to profit a bit more coin with no property tax on their new homes and apartments.
In the same way that the Nets and Clippers instantly improved this past off-season, expect the Heat to be the front runners to sign savvy veterans such as Danilo Gallinari and Fred Van Vleet, and may even be an dark horse candidate to land Anthony Davis if he wants to leave L.A.