Assessing Miami’s trade deadline options

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, it’s time to take a look at what Miami’s options are, if any, for changing the roster.

On Valentine's Day of last season, the Heat defeated the Thunder 110 to 100 to improve their record to 36-14.  This was Miami's 7th straight victory en route to what would eventually develop in to a 27-game winning streak.

Fast forward one year, and the Heat sit in a very similar position.  Their record currently sits at 37-14, which is eerily similar to last season.  The team struggled with their defense in the first half of the season (like last season), but last year's team turned things around in the second half and ultimately went on to win the NBA title.

This year's team feels a bit different.  For one thing, Dwyane Wade missed 13 games all of last season and has already missed 15 during this campaign.  The Heat had Mike Miller to fill in for Wade during that time last year, but after amnestying him this past summer, that is no longer the case.  Miami has tried to find somebody to fill that role, but they've really had no luck thus far - and with Ray Allen looking older by the day, it seems unlikely that Spo continues to play him heavy minutes in Wade's absence.

While the Heat have some newfound depth in their frontcourt by the name of Greg Oden, their lack of depth on the wing could be troubling down the road.  James Jones, for whatever reason, has been off the bench in just 12 games this season, and now hasn't played in nearly a month.  The Heat experimented with Toney Douglas against the Suns on Tuesday night, and while it's still early, I'm going to go ahead and call that experiment a failure.  Roger Mason Jr. saw some time earlier in the season, but the move to Douglas on Tuesday night signals to me that his time might be running out.

With all that said, it seems likely that the Heat would be interested in making a move, but it remains to be seen how they would go about doing that.

In terms of assets right now, the Heat are pretty strapped.  There are a few things that NBA teams value when dealing legitimate pieces that will help you win games:

Draft Picks

The Heat do currently own their 2014 first round draft pick.  That's a good thing.  Unfortunately, NBA rules prevent the Heat from trading that pick.  The Heat currently owe their 2015 draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers (part of the sign and trade deal that brought that LeBron guy to Miami), and NBA rules prevent teams from trading their first round pick in consecutive drafts until after the draft takes place.  So like it or not, the Heat will be picking in this June's draft.

What about future picks?

Since the Heat already owe that 2015 pick, and since you can't trade picks in consecutive drafts, the 2016 first round pick is also off limits.  The next available first round pick that the Heat could trade is in the 2017 draft.  How much value does that pick have?  Probably not much, and thus, it seems unlikely that the Heat will be able to attract a quality piece using a draft pick.

Rookie Contracts

Norris Cole is the only Heat player still on a rookie contract who might be attractive to other NBA teams.  If the Heat were to move Cole, however, that would create a brand new issue ... Who's the backup point guard?  Answer: Toney Douglas.  Yep.

Plus, the Heat seem to value Cole, and as I wrote earlier this month, he's made great strides since first entering the league and continues to progress.  Miami seems unlikely to move one of their only long-term assets to make a run at the title this year.

Expiring Contracts

The good news for the Heat is that they have NINE contracts that will expire after this season, not counting the Big 3.  The bad news is that the Heat seem unlikely to move any of them, and the Heat don't want to take on any long term money that might prevent them from resigning Wade, LeBron or Bosh this summer.

The most tradable pieces are ones that the Heat still value - Battier and Allen both expire this offseason, but are both integral parts to this team, and thus, won't be moved.  Same with Oden and Chalmers.  Udonis Haslem has a player option for next season that he may not pick up to help the Heat pursue free agents, but if he is traded, he will almost certainly pick up the option, as he won't make $4.3 million on the open market.

Michael Beasley has recently fallen out of the rotation, but he has so much baggage at this point that he probably doesn't have much value around the league.  Plus, he makes so little with the vet's minimum that it would be difficult to find a valuable piece to exchange him for.

So where does that leave us?

Trades will happen at the deadline, but it doesn't seem like the Heat will be involved in any.

Zach Lowe of Grantland speculates that the Heat might be interested in Emeka Okafor or Caron Butler, should they become available via buyout after the trade deadline.  Lowe adds that the Heat are prepared to waive either Douglas or Mason Jr., should somebody valuable become available to them.

Butler seems like he could potentially be a good fit in Miami should he be waived by the Bucks.  He has history with the Heat organization, since he played his first two years in the league in Miami.  While his production has dropped off substantially since his prime, he's still a competent floor spacer (35% from deep this season, 39% last season) and wouldn't require shots.  According to 82games.com, he's held opposing small forwards to a PER of 11.9 (league average PER is 15.0).  Butler makes $8.0 million this season, and his contract expires at year's end.  The Heat can't take on Butler's contract via trade unless they match his salary, which would be nearly impossible to do, and thus, their only means of acquiring him are via free agency.

Outside of Butler, Miami's options remain unclear.  While there are a variety of wings available, the Heat just don't have the assets right now to make the trade necessary to acquire one.  They will do their due diligence on all available free agents, such as Mickael Pietrus, but there's little point in speculating on any of those players without having anything concrete to go by.

While their depth on the wing might seem like an issue right now, keep in mind that the Heat will go to an 8 or 9-man rotation in the playoffs, just like the rest of the league.  Dwyane Wade will play 30+ minutes a night, just like he did last postseason.  Additional depth isn't a necessity for the Heat, it would simply be a nice insurance policy and thus, I would expect the Heat to stay quiet between now and February 20th.

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