Earlier today, the Miami Heat signed their young star, Bam Adebayo, to a five-year, $163 million maximum contract extension. The deal sent shockwaves throughout the NBA, not because Bam was undeserving of the contract, but because the deal sacrifices Miami’s salary cap flexibility for next summer, and greatly impedes their ability to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the Heat being pegged as one of the premier landing spots for Giannis if he chooses to leave Milwaukee, Adebayo’s extension left many fans around the NBA puzzled.
Prior to Adebayo’s deal being signed, the Heat were projected to have just over $60M on their books (assuming they declined the team options on Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, Avery Bradley, and Andre Iguodala, while picking up the team option on Tyler Herro) next summer. This would have given them enough cap flexibility to sign Giannis to a maximum contract, and then go over the soft cap and re-sign Adebayo to a max deal, worth the exact amount as the one he just signed, by using his bird rights. The remainder of Miami’s roster would have to be filled out using the team’s tax exceptions, and getting free agents to sign for the minimum, but with a squad led by Giannis, Adebayo, Herro, and Jimmy Butler, the players surrounding them are of little concern.
Fundamentally, there was no benefit to the Heat for extending Adebayo now as opposed to waiting until next summer, other than making the relationship between Adebayo and Miami’s front office more comfortable for the upcoming season.
Alternative realities aside, with Adebayo’s extension being signed today, which is expected to kick in at approximately $28.1 million for the 2020-2021 season, that greatly hampers Miami’s ability to sign Giannis next summer. Assuming that the Heat make the same decisions regarding their team options next summer as they would otherwise (decline Dragic, Leonard, Bradley, and Iguodala’s options, while picking up Herro’s), they would be left with just over $27 million in cap room, based on current salary cap projections. Even if they were to find a trade partner to take on the likes of Herro and KZ Okpala for future draft compensation, Miami would find themselves just short of creating a maximum level slot to sign Giannis.
On the flip side however, Miami’s long-term financial commitment to Adebayo, which from the outside appears to be making a union between Giannis and the Heat more difficult, led some to believe that Miami was simply giving up on their chances of landing Antetokounmpo next summer. Giannis has until December 21st of this year to decide whether or not he will sign the five-year, $257 million extension that the Bucks are offering him, which would make him recipient of the most valuable contract in NBA history. If he accepts it, then any team hoping to have Giannis join their squad would see their dreams crushed seven months before Giannis was even scheduled to hit the open market. Could the Heat have some early intel on Giannis’ intentions to stay?
Probably not. It’s unlikely that Giannis even knows whether he will sign the supermax yet, and similarly to how there was no benefit in the Heat extending Adebayo one year early, there is no benefit for Giannis to sign his contract now as opposed to next summer. It’s also important to note that Pat Riley and the Miami Heat have been the gold standard over the past couple years in terms of finagling their way into creating cap room.
Last summer, when Butler wanted to sign with the Heat, they didn’t have enough cap space to bring him in, but after a series of salary tinkering and roster fringing moves that created a maximum slot, Jimmy landed in South Beach. Ultimately, if Giannis decided that he wanted to play for the Heat, they would find a way to create room for him by taking advantage of whatever loopholes exist in the CBA. It’s Giannis Antetokounmpo at the end of the day. If he wants to play for you, he’s going to play for you.
The Toronto Raptors will face similar decisions as the Heat in the next few days. OG Anunoby is also eligible for a rookie extension this offseason, and last week Sportsnet’s Michael Grange reported that the Raptors do intend to extend their fourth-year defensive stud. While Anunoby certainly would not command a deal as large as Adebayo’s, anything around the expected five-year, $100 million mark for him would make it harder for the Raptors to sign Giannis. Currently, Toronto projects to have nearly $50 million in cap room next summer. After an Anunoby extension (assuming he gets paid approximately $20 million per season), that figure would be cut down to $30 million.
While the Raptors ability to manipulate their way into creating a maximum slot is much easier (all that they would have to do is dump Norman Powell’s contract), it still would not make a ton of sense for them to spend money irresponsibly just yet. The Raptors took a step back this offseason by letting Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka walk in favour of preserving their 2021 financial flexibility. There is no reason for them to give that up now by extending Anunoby, when they could likely sign him to a similar contract next offseason, and even go over the soft cap by using his bird rights.
Ultimately, Miami signing Adebayo to his contract extension does not mean that Giannis will stay in Milwaukee. As aforementioned, the Heat are certainly still in the running for the two-time MVP, and if he decides that he wants to make South Beach his new home, then Pat Riley will find a way to make it happen. By the same token, the Raptors hopes of landing the Greek Freak are just as solid. Five days have gone by since Giannis was presented with his offer sheet, and the fact that nothing has been signed yet is a good indication that Antetokounmpo remains uncertain about his future as a Buck. If the Raptors do extend Anunoby, it won’t be the end of the world either. It may ascertain a Norman Powell departure, but if that means getting Giannis, Raptors fans will be happy to move on. Today’s news is far from the bombshell that Twitter made it seem. It was simply another star player getting paid.