Heat Could Pass on Dame & Add $228 Million Superstar in 2024 Instead

Damian Lillard

Getty The Miami Heat have had little traction when it comes to adding Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Miami Heat have been connected to a possible trade for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard since the 2023 season concluded, but what if the Heat were to pass on Dame and wait on Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo instead?

In an August 24 interview with Tania Ganguli of The New York Times, the two-time MVP sent rumors of a potential future trade into hyperdrive.

“Next summer it would make more sense for both parties,” Antetokounmpo told Ganguli about signing another extension with the Bucks, before adding: “Even then, I don’t know. I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing.”

Clearly, the Bucks superstar, who is heading into Year 3 of the five-year, $228.2 million extension he signed in December of 2020, left the door wide open when it comes taking his talents elsewhere. Could that be South Beach?

Heat Insider Points Out Reasons Heat Might Wait for Giannis

A virtual double-double machine, Antetokounmpo averaged a career-high 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 63 games for Milwaukee last year, hitting 55.3% of his shots from the field and 27.5% from beyond the arc (stats via Basketball Reference). The seven-time All-Star is one of the most dominant bigs in the game, and there’s no question he would have a huge market if he chose not to re-sign with the Bucks.

While Lillard is 33, Giannis is younger — he turns 29 in December 2023 — and Antetokounmpo is a proven champion, leading the Bucks to a championship in 2021. Miami was also interested in signing Giannis before he inked his extension with Milwaukee in 2020, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Heat insider Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel noted on August 26 that the Heat were “a team that not only tried to slow play their salary-cap approach the last time Antetokounmpo potentially was nearing free agency, but long has taken a long view with such potential gambits, from … uniting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the 2010 offseason, to slow playing negotiations with Wade when there was the chance of adding Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason.”

There’s also the idea Miami could send trade chip Tyler Herro, a native Wisconsinite, back to America’s Dairyland as part of a Giannis trade.

“Make the move for Lillard, and it could mean moving off Tyler Herro, who just happens to be a native of the Milwaukee area and potentially could be put into play for a potential trade for Antetokounmpo (yes, a lot of ‘potentially’ in there). A deal for Lillard also likely would cost the Heat potential future first-round picks and prospects that could be put into an alternate (Antetokounmpo?) deal,” Winderman noted.

The Giannis Trade Talk Isn’t Going to Quiet Down

It’s all talk at this point, of course, but Antetokounmpo knew what he was doing when he spoke to a national media outlet about the questions he has about his future with the Bucks. If Giannis wants to quiet the noise, all he has to do is sign an extension in September, but he made it clear in the Times interview he’s not doing that.

“You can be certain, if nothing else, that The Giannis Watch is back on and, like it or not, will thrust his future back to the forefront of the NBA discourse after just three seasons of relative quiet that must have elapsed awfully quickly for Bucks fans,” NBA insider Marc Stein wrote in his Substack column on August 28.

There’s no doubt uniting Giannis and Jimmy Butler in Miami in 2024 would make the Heat even more formidable, but at what cost? In order to acquire the services of a player like Giannis,  Miami would have to surrender 26-year-old All-Star center Bam Adebayo in addition to Herro and loads of future draft picks.

The Heat has been unwilling to move Adebayo in any discussions involving Lillard, and it’s unclear whether the team would be willing to do so for Giannis. If Miami manages to add Lillard, it’s all moot, of course, but if the Dame doesn’t happen? The talk about the possibility of trading for Giannis could grow louder by the day.

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