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Riley: Heat will be eyeing max free agents in 2020

Miami Heat president Pat Riley is no stranger to building a winning team in South Florida.

He did so when he first arrived in 1995, in trading for franchise stalwarts Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. In 2004, he added an in-his-prime Shaquille O’Neal to a burgeoning star in Dwyane Wade — a core that won Miami it’s first NBA title in 2006. And he engineered the 2010 “Heatles” squad of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, all of whom helped Miami to four straight NBA Finals and titles in 2012 and ’13.

In an interview with Heat broadcaster Jason Jackson, Riley says he’s targeting the summer of 2020 as perhaps his next chance to make a big splash with the roster.

“We’ve done this four times now, had a good group of players, young players, and then either through free agency or through trade brought the superstar in,” Riley said. “In 2020, we’ll have a lot of room. We’ll also have the possibility to have enough room to go after two max contracts. And we’re going to do that. So, we’re planning that 2020 will be the room year.

“We’re very fluid. We’re very on top of it. And we are a destination place, Jax. The tax, the sun, the beautiful city. It’s a very progressive city, diverse city. So, we are a destination place. And we’re going to be moving in that direction.”

In the interview, Riley praised the team’s young core players such as Justise Winslow, Derrick Jones Jr., Bam Adebayo, Hassan Whiteside and others. He knows chasing a playoff spot is likely the highest goal the team can hope to attain in Miami’s remaining 22 games. After last night’s stunning win against the Golden State Warriors, the Heat trail the Charlotte Hornets for the No. 8 seed by 1/2 game.

“We’re chasing a playoff spot when we’re young. And then we’re going to be chasing some players that can come in,” Riley said. “If we can get one or two players to come in with this group, this young group, then I think the sky’s the limit for this team in the next couple years.”

After last season’s first-round playoff exit, Riley had said the Heat would think big roster-wise if the opportunity presented itself. However, the Heat made mostly small moves last summer, chief among them re-signing Wade and fellow franchise icon Udonis Haslem. Wade is in the midst of his farewell season, one Wade termed his “one last dance” season.

While the Heat have hovered around the .500 mark all season, Riley says missing out on the playoffs in hope of a better Draft position has never been his goal.

“I have never thought of anything else other than we want to be a playoff team. We want to think about the championship,” Riley said. “You can’t ever give up on make the playoffs. … I don’t care where you are, you get the right match-up, you get the right player that breaks through, you get the right call — and you’re on to the next round. I don’t care if you’re fighting for a playoff spot — the No. 8 or 7 or 5 or 3 or the top spot or you’re fighting for a championship. You’ve got to be chasing something positive.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.