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Will Arison’s financial troubles affect Heat decisions?

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The Heat may think twice about re-signing Dragic, Crowder, Jones Jr. and Leonard.

2014 NBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

A couple days ago, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Micky Arison, the Miami Heat’s managing general partner, has lost $2.5 billion since March. Arison is the chair of Carnival Cruise Line, which has suffered tremendously since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States.

Windhorst said that the Heat might not offer Bam Adebayo an extension this off-season to maximize cap space in 2021. He also said that “the Heat’s spending for next year could be impacted” by Arison’s financial struggles. Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder, Meyers Leonard and Derrick Jones Jr. will all be free agents after the NBA season ends in October.

Adebayo’s extension is a separate issue from Miami’s impending free agents. And the discussion surrounding Adebayo is nothing new. Back in May, Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald said that it would behoove the Heat to ask Adebayo to wait on a contract extension.

If the Heat big man signs an extension this off-season, his salary would be on the books for the 2021-22 season. But if Miami doesn’t offer him an extension and instead allows him to enter restricted free agency in 2021, the Heat could sign outside free agents first and then sign Adebayo to a five-year extension.

We don’t know if Adebayo would push back at the Heat and demand an extension this fall. But we know that Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra highly value the player they selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Riley said, “He’s the Zo. He’s the UD. He’s the Dwyane. They were standard-bearers. Bam is that person. He’s the real deal.” If Adebayo is worried about the potential of an injury and wants the security of a contract extension now, I’d expect the Heat to give it.

Now, the question is if Arison would look askance at re-signing Dragic, Crowder, Jones Jr. and Leonard, even at one-year deals? In March, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson said that an “associate of Dragic anticipates a large one-year offer from Miami this summer” in the range of the $19 million he is making this season.

Will Arison’s financial troubles force Riley to go lower on a one-year deal, especially considering the 34-year-old won’t command that starting salary in free agency? That seems plausible.

We can’t overlook the fact that Dragic and Jimmy Butler are close. Remember that LeBron James wasn’t happy with the Heat’s decision to amnesty Mike Miller in 2013. Although the oft-injured Miller wasn’t producing at the level of his five-year, $25 million contract, the Heat shouldn’t have done anything to alienate James. It’s also worth noting here that Riley wanted to leave the 2013 championship team intact, but Arison overruled him to save on the luxury tax.

From a basketball perspective, I wouldn’t mind the Heat letting Dragic walk. He’s been the Heat’s worst defensive player, and his offensive contributions don’t offset that. I’d envision Miami slotting Tyler Herro into the starting lineup next season and moving Kendrick Nunn into the sixth man role Dragic currently takes.