The Miami Heat have already struck out once in the 2021 free agency class, failing to prevent Giannis Antetokounmpo from signing an extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. This move will probably lead to Miami focusing on a different big name 2021 free agent, Kawhi Leonard.
Miami has made it known that they are on the hunt for another star to join Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. They’ve reportedly shown interest in Pacer Victor Oladipo, in addition to Giannis. However, they may be able to snag someone even better than the two-time Indiana All-Star, Kawhi Leonard.
It is not that strange if you think about it. According to the New York Times’ Marc Stein, back in 2019 before the offseason, Kawhi Leonard tried to recruit Jimmy Butler to join him in Los Angeles as a Clipper even during his historic championship run with the Toronto Raptors (at 0:19 into the video below).
" target="_blank" rel="noopener">July 8, 2019
The Klaw obviously wanted to play with Butler back then and since, Butler has only cemented his play, leading the Miami Heat to an NBA Finals appearance. While LA is where Leonard was raised, South Beach has been an attractive destination for free agents, most notably Lebron James and Chris Bosh.
The Clippers organization caught a lot of the basketball world’s attention in their 2019 first-round series against the Golden State Warriors, winning two games. What was notable was that they managed to do it without a superstar, their front office earning praise for their trades and scouting. The Brooklyn Nets had a similar season, surpassing expectations and making the playoffs with the reinvention of D’Angelo Russell (who Jimmy Butler and the 76ers eliminated in the first round). That summer Brooklyn signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, LA signed Leonard and traded for Paul George.
This is to point out that good, smart organizations are an attractive free agency destination for players and Leonard in particular. The Miami Heat’s run to the NBA Finals is almost more impressive. With Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, several young promising players, and good veterans, Miami carved out a name for themselves in the playoffs. They showed if you are a smart enough organization, big names aren’t the only thing you need to win.
The respect that the Heat front office has gained from their NBA Finals appearance might be enough to draw attention from free agents. Demonstrating a desire to make big moves and to have a player who Leonard has explicitly wanted to play with makes the Miami Heat a serious option for Kawhi in 2021 free agency.
" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jimmy Butler Responds To Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Max Extension With The Bucks: “I Like It. I Actually Get Excited For It. I Want To Go Up Against The Best.”