NBA Rumors: Miami Heat ‘Trying To Protect’ Salary Cap Space To Chase Antetokounmpo, James & 2021 Free Agents

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks attempts to get open as LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends during the third quarter at Staples Center on March 06, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
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Despite failing to add a second superstar on their roster, the Miami Heat still managed to surpass expectations during the 2019-20 NBA season. Before the NBA suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Heat sat in the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference with a 41-24 record. However, if they fail to win the 2020 NBA championship title or at least make it to the 2020 NBA Finals, Miami could be forced to let some of their key players like Derrick Jones Jr. walk away in the upcoming free agency.

If Jones Jr. establishes an impressive performance in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes that he would likely receive a lucrative offer once he becomes an unrestricted free agent this fall. Even if the Heat want to bring him back to their roster, they will be unlikely to afford to give Jones Jr. a decent offer. This is because they are reportedly “trying to protect” salary cap space to chase the likes of Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James in the 2021 NBA free agency.

“It’s no secret that Miami is trying to protect its cap space for the summer of 2021, when Giannis Antetokounmpo is the big prize. The ’21 class could also include Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, among others. So, any offer to Jones, who made just $1.6 million in 2019-20, could lead to the Heat letting him walk — even after a breakout season where he’s averaging 8.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 24.5 minutes. Miami was one of the teams invited to Disney. Jones will have a platform in a playoff environment to boost his value even more.”

Knowing Heat President Pat Riley, it would no longer be a surprise if the Heat really joined the pursuit of Antetokounmpo and James in the 2021 NBA offseason. Riley was the architect of the Heat when they formed Miami’s “Big Three” of James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh that led them to the NBA Finals for four straight years and helped them win back-to-back NBA championship titles in 2012 and 2013.

If Riley sees that the Heat have a realistic chance of acquiring Antetokounmpo or James, he wouldn’t think twice before letting some of their incoming free agents go to maintain their salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2021. Aside from Antetokounmpo and James, some of the NBA superstars who are expected to hit the free agency market in the 2021 NBA offseason include Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Anthony Davis (Lakers), and DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs).