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Heat finish could sway decisions on Dragic, Jones

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They’ve both contributed this season. And they’ll both be free agents.

New York Knicks v Miami Heat Photo by Oscar Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Shortly after news broke that Jimmy Butler would join the Miami Heat last summer, The Athletic’s Tim Cato reported that the Heat would trade Goran Dragic to the Mavericks to complete the deal. But that deal fell through, and the Mavericks instead wanted Derrick Jones Jr. and Kelly Olynyk.

Not wanting to trade the young, high-flying Jones, Pat Riley instead traded Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail-Blazers to complete the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade.

This off-season, the Heat will again have to make their decisions regarding Dragic and Jones. And Miami may not have the ability to keep them both, as they did last season. And it could come down to how much of 2021 salary cap space the Heat are willing to sacrifice.

Let’s start with the 2020 Slam Dunk Contest winner. Jones has had a great year, cementing his status as a rotation player after first joining Miami on a two-way contract during the 2017-18 season. And with the Heat trading Justise Winslow, Miami may view Jones as part of their long-term future. Ethan Skolnick and Greg Sylvander reported that just after the Feb. 6 trade deadline.

But how much would Miami be willing to spend on a multi-year deal for the 23-year-old Jones? The second year in a multi-year contract would subtract from the Heat’s 2021 cap room. Could the Heat end up offering Jones a one-year deal at a high salary? And would Jones, who has a bit of an injury history, take that one-year deal? Would continued impact from Jae Crowder alter the Heat’s views on Jones?

Then there’s Dragic. He’ll turn 34 years old in May. At this stage of his career, Dragic will probably look for a “retirement contract” — in his case, maybe a three-year deal. Back in 2016, a 34-year-old Dwyane Wade didn’t get this from the Heat. Miami then issued failed bids for Kevin Durant in 2016 and Gordon Hayward in 2017.

The Wade/Dragic comparison isn’t apples-to-apples. In Dragic’s case, he’s already accepted the sixth man role that Wade assumed once he returned to Miami in 2018. Dragic may accept a three-year deal at a modest salary, given that Dragic may not have other teams offering him three-year deals.

Or the Heat could ask Dragic to sign a one-year deal, as they could with Jones. But Dragic had an injury-plagued 2018-19 campaign and has missed 11 games this year. Would Dragic want that long-term security at his age?

It may all come down to how the Heat play the rest of the season and in the playoffs. If Jones finds himself squeezed out of the rotation in favor of Andre Iguodala and Crowder, will the Heat part ways with him? If Dragic’s defensive limitations cost the Heat in the playoffs, will Miami be dissuaded from offering him a multi-year deal?