MIAMI — Hmm, so LeBron James has been reaching out to Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard.
And Leonard and Kevin Durant just might be sharing a few whispers during the NBA Finals.
That’s not even getting into Kyrie Irving’s sighted dinner partners in Los Angeles.
Because even with the NBA and players’ union generously moving up the start of free-agency recruiting to 6 p.m. June 30, instead of the previous midnight insomnia, recruiting among players remains the wild west of pre-agency.
It certainly already is happening in the Raptors’ locker room with Leonard.
It might be happening during this extended layoff in the Warriors’ locker room with Durant.
And it well could have happened in the Celtics’ locker room had the dysfunction with Irving not led to such a hasty playoff exit.
So continue working under the July 1/June 30 free-agency calendar if you must, but appreciate the wheels already are turning and alliances already are being brokered, as teams sit on the sidelines, as bankers, ready to spend their cash when allowed.
Whether you choose to believe the story of LeBron huddling with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to create their Heat Big Three alliance in 2010, or whether you prefer the spin that it was Wade who did Pat Riley’s bidding that offseason, the early legwork then, as now, was essential.
For the Heat, no such efforts are required at the moment. Such is the reality of having no cap space.
But what if Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic were to opt out (which they assuredly won’t)? What would be the hook for recruiting? (Crickets.)
More to the point, who would be the hook: Come play with Dion Waiters and James Johnson?
A year from now, it will be a different story, because there will be a degree of cap space, unless something dramatic alters the Heat books in the interim. In the 2021 offseason there should be even more.
The approach this offseason when it comes to NBA recruiting is two-fold.
There is the “come join me/us” model, be it to play with LeBron with the Lakers, with Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingis with the Mavericks, with the feisty young core of the Nets.
Then there is the pick-your-partner approach, the one where the players make their deals absent of player/team input until June 30/July 1, when players such as Leonard and Durant conjure up package deals, perhaps to deliver themselves into the Knicks’ dual salary slots, perhaps to make it known to the Clippers that it is time to move off of Danilo Gallinari and open two max slots.
For the Heat, there almost assuredly won’t be the ability to create two max slots a year from now and questions about the ability to do so in the 2021 offseason, to the point where even Riley backed off such rhetoric.
So, instead, next season, and perhaps the season after, could be about framing a member or members of the current mix as a potential partner(s) in greatness, similar to what Dallas developed with Doncic.
Josh Richardson seemingly was deemed untouchable when it came to a Butler deal last fall. Still, it’s not as if he is viewed in the plus-one lines of say a James Harden, who drew Chris Paul to his side.
Justise Winslow at the 2015 draft was viewed by the Celtics as the ultimate complementary piece. And, yet, not a single All-NBA or All-Defensive vote and likely not as much consideration for Most Improved Player as initially thought.
So Bam Adebayo?
The player selected at No. 13 on June 20?
The chance to be the one to throw the alley-oops to Derrick Jones Jr.?
From a geographical perspective, Miami remains attractive.
From a free-agency perspective, as Riley skews older and Erik Spoelstra moves further from championship success, the marketing of the Heat’s future could come down to a different type of development program, that of creating a presence on the current roster who can serve as the allure to the franchise’s next leading man.
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