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4 imaginary trades for Miami Heat to sign LeBron James and Paul George this summer

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Playing with the ESPN trade machine yields fantasy results to clear enough cap space for a totally revamped Heat roster.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat has a major problem: they like “whales” but don’t have the cap space necessary to sign any of them within their current payroll.

A reddit poster put together 4 imaginary trades, which would clear enough cap room to sign two elite players this summer for the next season.

His primary targets are LeBron James and Paul George, but I would aim for Damian Lillard and George instead to create a more balanced roster, which includes an elite floor general.

Here are his four fictional cap-creating trades.

Trade 1:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, 2019 1st round pick
  • Miami receives: LeBron James

Trade 2:

  • Philadelphia 76ers receive: Dion Waiters, Miami’s 2022 2nd round pick
  • Miami receives: protected 2018 2nd round pick.

Trade 3:

  • Chicago Bulls receive: Tyler Johnson, Bam Adebayo, Philadelphia’s 2nd round pick (from Trade 2)
  • Miami receives: Cash Considerations

Trade 4:

  • Sacramento Kings receive: Goran Dragic, Miami Heat 2023 1st round pick
  • Miami receives: Skal Labissiere, Cash Considerations

The author gives several reasons why these swaps won’t happen in real life, but his logic shows the possibilities of creating enough cap space for Miami to get a couple of proven All-NBA players this summer, providing other teams are as desperate as some Heat fans to sign big-name players.

His final roster would have:

  • LeBron James ~$35,000,000
  • Paul George ~$28,000,000
  • James Johnson $14,651,700
  • Kelly Olynyk $11,137,527
  • Josh Richardson $9,300,000
  • Wayne Ellington $5,292,000
  • Brook Lopez ~$5,000,000
  • Luc Mbah A Moute $2,373,466
  • Michael Beasley $2,373,466
  • Jeff Green $2,373,466
  • Dwyane Wade $2,373,466
  • Udonis Haslem $2,373,466
  • Rodney McGruder $1,533,951
  • Skal Labissiere $1,312,611

TOTAL SALARY ~$123,095,119

I would make a few changes to his proposed fantasy lineup:

Instead of LeBron James, go for Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers swept in first round), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors already replaced coach), John Wall (Washington Wizards perennial also-rans), or Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics fans seem to love home-grown Jayson Tatum) to possess a championship backcourt for today’s NBA.

Both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets have TWO All-NBA-caliber guards, while the proposed roster overhaul above has zero top-20 level guards.

Besides Paul George, Whiteside’s former teammate DeMarcus Cousins may be available for the frontcourt: for some reason Sacramento Kings seem to draft malcontents and head cases.

Kawhi Leonard could be thrown into mix, if all sense of reality is suspended for the time being.

Forget about Brook Lopez and sign Mario Chalmers to reunite the Heat’s version of the Blues Brothers.

An alternative version of the original imaginary trade scenarios would start a hybrid small-ball lineup, because Olynyk’s skills feature handling the ball, rather than pounding the boards.

  1. Kyrie Irving
  2. Josh Richardson
  3. Paul George
  4. James Johnson
  5. Kelly Olynyk

The bench would consist of

  1. Mario Chalmers
  2. Dwyane Wade
  3. Wayne Ellington
  4. Michael Beasley
  5. Skal Labissiere

The reddit post goes into detail on why these trades wouldn’t pass any real-world tests, but does provide an illustration of how to create a contending team by gaming the off-season trade machine.

The players would also need a medical staff skilled enough to miraculously bring some of players back to top shape from their injuries, that is, refer to the failed Danny Granger and Greg Oden experiments.


The new CBA made sign-and-trade deals less likely than when James first signed with the Heat according to HoopHype.

“Under the old CBA, a sign-and-trade deal allowed a player to sign for the true max – in terms of total years and annual raises – even though he wasn’t remaining with his previous team. That’s no longer the case.”

Using Kyle Lowry as an example, the Base Year Compensation (BYC) rule makes salary matching more difficult.

“Let’s use Lowry as an example one more time, and assume he signs a full max deal with a starting salary of about $35MM. Since he would fit the BYC criteria, Lowry would count for $35MM for salary-matching purposes for his new team in a sign-and-trade, but would only count for $17.5MM from the Raptors’ perspective.

“That would make it very difficult for the two teams to meet the salary-matching rules in a trade — if Lowry’s new team is above the cap, that team would have to send out about $28MM in salary to make a deal work from its end, which is much more salary than Lowry’s outgoing $17.5MM cap figure would allow Toronto to take on.”