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Why the Heat should trade for Kyrie Irving

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Kyrie Irving’s surprising trade request is a rare opportunity Pat Riley should exploit.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat
Could Kyrie and LeBron flip uniforms from this picture?
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

A lot of Miami Heat fans don’t like this Heat roster.

And they have a point. The 30-11 finish last season was fun, but the Heat have no superstars, emerging or in-their-prime. The Heat won’t make a deep playoff run with the core they signed for the foreseeable future — Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and James Johnson. In Zach Lowe’s article discussing free agency winners and losers, he said that Miami should be a “solid playoff team,” but faces a clogged cap sheet that will make it difficult for them to sign a star free agent.

All of those are fair points. The counterargument is that a solid playoff team has the assets to trade for a disgruntled star. When the opportunity arises, Pat Riley will pounce. It’s what he did in 2004, trading Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant for Shaquille O’Neal after a second-round playoff run. And while the Heat don’t have assets as good as Odom and Butler were back then, Riley could fleece another team if a star is that unhappy.

Just a few weeks after the Heat re-signed James Johnson and Dion Waiters, that opportunity has arisen. Kyrie Irving has asked to be traded. And the Heat are one of his preferred destinations.

Irving is 25 years old. He’s just 13 months removed from hitting a clutch 3 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. With LeBron James off the floor, Irving has scored 23.8 points with a 52.9 effective field goal percentage since the 2014-15 season. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor called him a All-NBA First Team talent with Third Team workload. Players at his caliber, at his age demand trades rarely.

It will become even less likely now that the new collective bargaining agreement gives stars who stay with the team that drafted them a $200 million “supermax” contract. He’s willing to give that up to stop being the lil bro and be the man, according to a league source. (By the way, the whole “lil-bro, the-man” stuff reads just like the Kobe-Shaq feud from the early 2000s).

A Heat trade would probably start with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow. Winslow would be an attractive option for the Cavaliers — a young perimeter defender who can relieve LeBron James of those duties. Miami should want to keep Hassan Whiteside to have a young, complementary sidekick to welcome Irving.

The Heat don’t have a lot of valuable assets after Winslow (Miami can’t trade Bam Adebayo until Aug. 1), but this scenario is exactly the type of situation that Riley should swoop in on. Perhaps it would take the inclusion of a third team. But Riley better be working like hell to find a way to get Kyrie Irving in a Heat uniform.

In Wright Thompson’s profile of Pat Riley, the Heat President reveals that he wrote a text message saying, “I NEED ONE MORE.” Just three years after LeBron James said no to Riley, a player who decided he can’t co-exist with James could fall into the embrace of Riley. And the “lil bro” would challenge James’ reign over the Eastern Conference.

This is the opportunity that could bring the Heat back to prominence from the Big Three era. Who knows when the next opportunity will come?