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The Heat shouldn’t trade for Chris Paul. Here’s why.

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CP3 is not the player he once was.

Houston Rockets v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Shortly after he reported on the trade of Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul and draft picks, ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski said that Miami was a “possibility” for Paul.

On the latest episode of his podcast, Bill Simmons of The Ringer mentioned a trade scenario of the Heat trading away some one- and two-year contracts for Chris Paul — some combination of Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Dion Waiters. Such a trade would allow Miami to get “the Point God” without giving up Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo or Tyler Herro.

I still don’t think the Heat should make that trade.

First of all, it’s important to note that the Thunder have an incentive for Miami to finish poorly. Why? Oklahoma City has two future Heat first-round picks — an unprotected 2021 pick and a lottery-protected 2023 one. The Thunder’s ideal scenario would be for the Heat to flame out in 2021, miss the playoffs and give Oklahoma City a lottery pick. And I highly doubt the Thunder would give the 2021 pick back to the Heat under any circumstance.

Second, the 34-year-old Paul is on a steady decline. He hasn’t played in more than 61 games over any of the last three seasons. Last year, he averaged just 15.6 points per game on 42 percent shooting from the field. He wasn’t even much better in the playoffs, when he shot 27 percent from 3.

At this stage of his career, he can’t play more than 30 minutes a game during the regular season. That means Miami would need a very good backup for him. That worked out for the Heat in 2006 when Alonzo Mourning was an exceptional backup for Shaquille O’Neal. Who would that be in 2019?

And finally, Paul has three years left on his contract — which means that he would prevent the Heat from having cap space in 2021 to sign a max-level free agent.

Yes, the Heat executed a sign-and-trade to get Jimmy Butler without any cap space. But Miami had to give up Josh Richardson, a good player, and their 2023 first-round pick to complete the deal. The best way to get star free agents is to simply sign them outright with cap space, not trade young, promising players in complex sign-and-trade deals.

Miami is an attractive destination for free agents. And with Jimmy Butler signed for four seasons, there’s more attraction to other stars to join up and win a championship. In 2021, the two best players in the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, can become free agents. Frankly, the Heat should not give up that flexibility for a 34-year-old Chris Paul.

Riley shouldn’t jump on the opportunity to trade for any star before we’ve even reached the midpoint of July. I’d be much more interested in the Heat trading for Bradley Beal, who is 25 years old and has his contract end in 2021, even if it comes in the middle of the season.