Over the past decade, the Miami Heat’s front office has been amongst the best in the NBA. Team president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg created a winning culture that saw the franchise go on to win two championships in four years during the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh era. Even after the dispersal of the Big Three, Elisburg and Riley have found a variety of ways to not only keep the Heat competitive, but also make them serious contenders to come out of the Eastern Conference this season.
However, like all front offices in the league, not every single move that the organization has made over the last 10 years has been a huge success. Elisburg and Riley have been prone to make their share of mistakes as well — giving Hassan Whiteside a max contract and letting Dwyane Wade leave to Chicago are a couple of the blunders that come to mind. If the Heat fail to offer Bam Adebayo an extension during the offseason, it could potentially be one of the worse decisions that the franchise has made in recent years.
Recently, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the team may not be extending Adebayo after the season in order to have financial flexibility to chase free agents like current league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bradley Beal next offseason.
That does not mean that Adebayo, who just turned 23 two weeks ago, will be playing in a different jersey after the 2020-2021 season. If the Heat hold off on extending Adebayo this year they could have an extra $13-14 million dollars in cap space to pursue Antetokoumpo should he become a free agent after next season. Meanwhile, they would still be able to sign their star forward to an extension similar to the one that he would receive this year, in terms of salary.
If that is the path that the organization decides to take, they must proceed with caution or run the risk of losing Adebayo in the future. Teams with young stars typically give max-level extensions early on to demonstrate their commitment to said player. The last thing the Heat need is to have Bam feel like he is not a top priority, especially considering the type of season that he is having.
In his third year out of the University of Kentucky, the big man is having a breakout season on both ends of the floor. He is arguably the Heat’s most important player right alongside Jimmy Butler. Averaging 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals per game this season, Adebayo was invited to play in his first All-Star Game and is arguably the leading candidate for Most Improved Player. As a matter of fact, his stats this year are eerily similar to Antetokoumpo during his third season in the league.
Comparing Giannis and Bam's 3rd season— Michael Filgueira (@MikeyFilgueira) February 7, 2020
Now, I am not saying that Adebayo will go on to be as good as the Greek Freak, but it does say something about Bam’s potential and how essential he is to this franchise and its future.
But, Bam’s impact is not only limited to the basketball court. His leadership shines through on and he has maintained the incredibly high standards that Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra demand from the team.
In an interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Riley talked about Adebayo’s precociousness and how he is taking the mantle from the all-time great Heat players of the past.
“He’s the Zo,” Riley says. “He’s the UD. He’s the Dwyane. They were standard-bearers. Bam is that person. He is the real deal.”
In the end, I trust Riley and Elisburg to do whatever is in the best interest of the organization, and that includes signing Adebayo when the right time comes. However, it is imperative that they don’t get into the habit of making their elite homegrown talent take a back seat when it comes to contract negotiations or relationships can turn sour. We’ve seen it happen with Wade when he left for Chicago, it’d be a huge mistake if the same were to happen with Bam.