SALT LAKE CITY – Pat Riley always is in search of that next “whale.” And Riley has said many times that mindset will not be any different as the Heat continue to rebuild in post Big 3 era.
When looking at next summer’s free agent class, the biggest name out there could be Golden State’s two-time MVP, guard Stephen Curry. And don’t expect the Heat to sit idle when it comes to the most exciting player and one the most dynamic scorers, in the league.
Curry, 28, will be an unrestricted free agent in July and although he has said all the right things about his desire to re-sign with the Warriors, a lot can happen between now and then, especially on a team with such high expectations and Kevin Durant now challenging Curry for Golden State’s top alpha dog.
In fact, Curry, who is making just more than $12 million this season, left that door wide open in a recent interview with Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer.
“Obviously I love it here in the Bay Area,” Curry said. “It’s all I’ve known in the league. And if the situation is right going forward, this is a place I would love to play.”
If the situation is right.
That is a big qualifier and says Curry is very willing to look around.
And that should make Heat fans (#HeatTwitter?) salivate.
Curry’s conversation with Fowler then was steered to Charlotte, where Curry grew up and watched his father, Del, play for the Hornets. He then played for Davidson.
“Obviously I had a strong tie to Charlotte and would have loved to play there,” Curry told Fowler. “I’m very comfortable in that city.
“It’s hard to say exactly what the situation will be this summer. (Free agency) is on my radar, but it’s not really on my mind as much day-to-day. I’m just trying to enjoy what this season is going to bring.”
Free agency is on my radar.
The Heat are expected to be a big player in free agency next summer, especially with the possibility of Chris Bosh’s 2017-18 salary of $25.2 million coming off the books.
With the salary cap projected to jump to $102 million, Miami could have between $40 and $50 million of cap space, depending on contracts of Wayne Ellington (team option); and Dion Waiters, Josh McRoberts and Willie Reed (all player options.)
Those alone add up to about $16 million. And that is not including freeing up more space through trades, specifically Goran Dragic, who is scheduled to make $17 million next season.
That could give Miami plenty of cash to spend, not just on one, but two max players, even with center Hassan Whiteside signing a max deal last summer that will pay him $98 million in the next four years.
Riley’s track record that says anything is possible. Remember the 2009-10 season, when speculation started swirling that LeBron James was leaving Cleveland. At this time of the season most believed James would re-sign with the Cavs. But then the season ended, free agency began and Riley pulled off the greatest free agent coup in league history landing James and Bosh.
The summer of 2017 has the potential to be just as lucrative for Miami considering the Heat are on their way to the draft lottery and could add one of the best college players to a couple of elite free agents.
Riley does not always hook that whale as last summer’s pursuit of Durant showed, but one thing is for sure, the 71-year-old will have every line and net in the water.