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Heat campaign for Bam to win Defensive Player of Year — despite cap ramifications

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If Adebayo wins the award, his contract will increase.

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Earlier this season, with Jimmy Butler carrying the Miami Heat, the team launched a social media campaign to ramp up consideration for Butler to win the Most Valuable Player award. It’s something the team has continued to do.

And now the team has started another campaign — one that has a higher possibility of becoming reality. While Miami’s middling record will hurt Butler’s chances to win MVP, Bam Adebayo has a realistic chance of being named the Defensive Player of the Year.

NBA.com’s latest Defensive Player Ladder ranked Adebayo third behind only Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons. Before Adebayo’s buzzer-beater over the Brooklyn Nets last Sunday, the Heat center switched onto Kyrie Irving multiple times and locked him up.

This all matters to the Heat’s future salary cap flexibility because of how Miami structured Adebayo’s max contract extension last year. The five-year contract, which will start during the 2021-22 season, will rise from 25 percent of the salary cap to 27.5 percent if he wins Defensive Player of the Year this season. The contract’s value will increase even more if Adebayo is named to the All-NBA First Team or wins MVP this year.

At the time, I said Defensive Player of the Year would be the accolade Adebayo has the best chance of winning. And we’ve seen that bear out. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid will finish ahead of Adebayo in the All-NBA vote.

As for the 2021 off-season ramifications, Victor Oladipo’s injury complicates the Heat’s plans. General regression from Goran Dragic and an off 3-point shooting year from Tyler Herro have worsened Miami’s offense. If Oladipo returns and can help Miami win two playoff series — an optimistic outlook considering the Heat’s inconsistent season — the Heat could sign Oladipo to an extension.

And if not? Could the Heat circle back to Kyle Lowry, as Kevin O’Connor suggested last month? Would Lowry still sign with Miami, even if Adebayo winning Defensive Player of the Year forces the Heat to make a lower offer than another team?

The Heat’s social media campaign indicates that the team isn’t worried about the ramifications. And we shouldn’t be, either.