When Jimmy Butler signed with the Heat in the summer of 2019, nobody knew what it really meant. The previous season, Miami finished 10th in the East, behind Orlando, Detroit, and Charlotte. So, coming into the 2019-20 campaign, nobody was expecting very much, even with Butler on the team.
However, after months of regular-season play, a COVID-19 pandemic, and nation-wide social protests, the Miami Heat are still exceeding our expectations. They are 7-1 in these playoffs and just a win away from making the Eastern Conference Finals.
The franchise has taken the league by storm this season and, regardless of what transpires in the next few weeks, it could be enough for them to lure in one of the NBA’s most lucrative, high-profile players: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With just one season to go until he is eligible to become a free agent, the “Greek Freak” has control of his destiny and could force his way out of Milwaukee in as soon as a few months. The team’s failure to win has drawn serious questions about his loyalty to the franchise and many believe it’s only a matter of time before he either demands a trade or just straight-up leaves in free agency. Before Game 4 of the Eastern Semis, with the Bucks on the verge of elimination, ESPN’s Jay Williams explained why Miami could be next in line to profit from his services.
“We’re about to see Giannis play with a Miami Heat uniform on next year,” Williams predicted. “I mean when you watch him play, it’s almost like, Jimmy Butler is the soul of the Miami Heat, and you wonder where the soul of the Milwaukee Bucks are, that’s with Giannis to a degree, but they’re not playing with that same sense of urgency.
“Just watching the way Miami closes out, watching the way they sky, the sense of urgency with which they play. Now, granted, last game was all over the place even though Miami, you definitely felt you were going to be up 3-0 anyway. It just doesn’t seem like Milwaukee, No. 1 seed, has that soul that they’re pouring out, leaving on the floor. It just feels like it’s Giannis, it’s not really coming from anyone else.”
“We’re about to see Giannis play with a Miami Heat uniform on next year.”
– Jay Williams pic.twitter.com/3mFcPgcpYI
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) September 6, 2020
The situation in South Beach now is compatible to where the Clippers were last year. Despite being perceived as “underdogs” in the West, a culmination of talent, passion, and togetherness fueled them to the postseason, where they were shockingly able to win two games against the Curry-led Warriors.
Months later, the Clips welcomed Kawhi and Paul George to town.
The Heat are obviously better than that L.A. team was and one could make the case that they don’t even really need Giannis to compete for a title. But with the ultra-loaded Warriors set to return next year and so many questions regarding how things will play out in the offseason, Giannis is exactly the type of player Miami needs to stay competitive in the midst of an ever-changing landscape and they have made themselves quite appealing in the eyes of stars around the league.
As for Giannis, this Heat team may be exactly what he needs to finally break that Championship barrier. Having a partner like Butler, who is an emotional leader, and role-player who can consistently hit shots from the perimeter is something he has sorely lacked during his time with the Bucks.
At a glance, it certainly appears to be a match made in heaven and only time will reveal if Giannis and the Heat feel the same way.