The Miami Heat are just over 40 percent of the way through its truncated 72-game regular season, currently at 12-17. If the season were to end today, the Heat would be tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 10 seed — three games behind the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics, who are both tied for the No. 4 seed.
After dropping three consecutive games to the blistering-hot Utah Jazz — who won 20 of their last 23 — the Los Angeles Clippers (without four of its starters) and an overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors without Draymond Green, the Heat picked up a 118-110 win over the Sacramento Kings Thursday evening. It is five games through of a seven-game road trip, which is tied for the longest in franchise history.
We are nearly a month away from the March 25 trade deadline. It is no secret that Miami could be looking to add pieces after an underwhelming start. Five Reasons Sports Network reported Thursday that people around the league believe one, or multiple Heat deals are coming.
Spoke today to several people around NBA who have regular interactions with Heat.— Five Reasons Sports Network (@5ReasonsSports) February 18, 2021
Consensus: A deal or 2 is coming, but not a panic deal.
They seem to have more confidence in front office to do the smart thing than many fans currently do.
Will discuss on streams tonight.
With that in mind, let’s look at nine potential trade targets that I compiled, plus two additional buyout candidates!
The nine trade candidates:
Thaddeus Young, Bulls
The swingman is averaging a career-most 4.3 assists, along with 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game. He is due $13.5M this year and $14.2M ($6M guaranteed) next year. Arguably the Heat’s biggest need to address at the deadline is the four-spot next to stalwart Bam Adebayo, and Young definitely fits the mold. The impact the 32-year-old has provided for a young Bulls team shouldn’t go unnoticed. Per Cleaning the Glass, when Young’s on the floor, the Bulls are outscoring teams by seven points per 100 possessions; they are getting outscored by 8.3 points per 100 possessions when he isn’t. Among players that have logged at least 500 minutes, his plus-15.3 on-off efficiency differential ranks 8th-best in the Association. Considering his fit, the lone question mark remains to be his shooting range (shooting below 25 percent on long 2s and 3-pointers this year, per Cleaning the Glass). But his adept ability to create shots for others, in addition to his defensive and positional versatility should bode well with Miami.
Victor Oladipo, Rockets
Despite getting traded to Houston in the Jan. 18 blockbuster deal surrounding James Harden heading to the Brooklyn Nets, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported that Oladipo still “hopes to find himself in Miami.” Oladipo, three years removed from a third-team All-NBA appearance, played in just 19 games last year after rupturing his quadriceps tendon and didn’t quite look fully healthy after returning in the NBA bubble. In 20 combined games with Indiana and Houston, the two-way guard is averaging 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game on 32.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc. After forward Christian Wood suffered an ankle injury, the Rockets have spiraled on a seven-game losing streak after winning in seven of their previous eight games. They are a half game ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 12-seed in the Western Conference at 11-17 — so they could be looking to sell. Oladipo is on an expiring deal, though it could make more sense to add him in the offseason without parting with assets. His situation is one to monitor as the deadline approaches.
Rudy Gay, Spurs
Gay has tallied 11.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 26 games off the bench for San Antonio this season, adding 41.9 percent shooting and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc. He has been excellent defensively — posting a team-best 98.7 defensive rating. Like Young, Gay has provided a resounding impact while he’s been on the floor. The Spurs are plus-11.2 points per 100 possessions when Gay is on the floor compared to minus-6.7 points per 100 when he’s not — translating to a remarkable 17.9-point efficiency differential. That ranks above Young for the fourth-best mark in the league. Gay, 34, could provide quality two-way minutes next to Adebayo as a floor spacer and a switchable defender. He is on an expiring $14M deal, so it might not take much to pry him away from San Antonio.
Harrison Barnes, Kings
There is a question to whether Barnes is even available on the trade market. The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported (subscription required) that some teams believe that the Kings have “no interest in moving Barnes.” He’s been a steady presence in the frontcourt, averaging 15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game — shooting 48.0 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from beyond the arc. Like Gay, Barnes can be a 3-point threat and provide quality defense next to Adebayo. The one qualm, or benefit (depending on how you look at it) could be his contract. The contract is organization-friendly in terms of it being frontloaded; the 28-year-old is owed $22.2M this year, $20.3M next year and $18.3M in 2022-23. The Heat have the salary fillers to match it if he is available. Barnes has cooled off since his hot start to the season, but is still an under-the-radar name to keep an eye on come March.
Nemanja Bjelica, Kings
Bjelica, the second Sacramento player to crack this list, has played in just 14 games due to back spasms coupled with the frontcourt logjam of Barnes, Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes and Hassan Whiteside. He played Thursday in Holmes’ absence and had his best game of the season in front of Miami’s eyes, tallying a season-high 25 points with eight rebounds on 11-of-21 shooting. Though the 6-foot-9 stretch four has still experienced a down season. Bjelica is averaging 8.2 points and shooting 46.6 percent with a career-low 25.7 percent from 3-point range; he averaged 11.5 points on 48.1 percent shooting and 41.9 percent from distance last season. Bjelica’s $7.15M contract fits into Miami’s $7.5M trade exception, so that’s a bonus. He could add rebounding plus floor spacing, but will not be viewed as much of an upgrade over Kelly Olynyk.
John Collins, Hawks
You can argue that this Collins isn’t as realistic of an option compared to the aforementioned forwards above, given Collins plays in the same conference as Miami and will come at a much steeper cost due to his age, contractual situation and overall production. However, the fit next to Adebayo is impeccable. Though Collins’ raw numbers are down from a year ago, he is still averaging 17.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and one block per game on 53.6 percent shooting from the floor, 39.8 percent shooting from deep and 87.1 percent from the free-throw line. Collins is on an expiring $4.1M deal and rejected the Hawks’ $90M extension offer in the offseason. Heat fans over social media had an enjoyable time last week when Amick reported that Atlanta would be willing to listen to trade offers.
Let’s get those John Collins Miami Heat jersey swaps ready pic.twitter.com/q7uXcPvqNl— The Sixth Men (@thesixthmen_) February 12, 2021
If he’s made available, Miami should pounce to acquire the budding 23-year-old power forward. You’d be hard-pressed to find a younger, better compliment to Adebayo within this year’s trade market — who could also sign long-term and fulfill Miami’s max slot this upcoming offseason.
George Hill, Thunder
Hill has not played since Jan. 24 after suffering a thumb injury on his shooting hand. He underwent thumb surgery Feb. 2 and was expected to miss at least a month. Hill, who has been limited to just 14 games this season, is averaging 11.8 points and 3.1 assists on 50.6 percent shooting and 38.6 percent from outside. The savvy 34-year-old veteran could be a stabilizer in Miami’s offense paired with serviceable defense at the point-of-attack, which has been an issue for Miami this year (especially without Avery Bradley). Hill is making just $9.6M this year and is due to make $10.04M next year with only $1.25M guaranteed. Given Hill’s limited season sample with his age, the price could be Oklahoma City unprotecting Miami’s lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick (this could be a hurdle considering Sam Presti’s on the other end) plus a couple mid- to lower-tier assets.
Bradley Beal, Wizards
Shams Charania and Fred Katz of The Athletic (subscription required) reported earlier in the month that Bradley Beal, the league’s most sought after trade target, does not want to get moved from the Washington Wizards. If he did get moved, one could assume it would require a near-Harden asking price. He’s averaging a league-leading 32.8 points, along with 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. The 27-year-old would fit perfectly in Miami’s equal opportunity system with Butler and Adebayo. His defense would likely improve under Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. Beal could allocate more focus on the defensive end because he would not have to shoulder the entire offensive load like he was forced to in Washington. Landing Beal would be Miami’s best case scenario.
Malik Beasley, Wolves
Beasley is in the first year of a four-year, $60M deal, so this trade possibility isn’t as likely as the other aforementioned players. But behind Karl-Anthony Towns, Beasley has been Minnesota’s second-best player this year. He is averaging career-bests in points (20.7 ppg), rebounding (4.9 rpg), assists (2.5 apg), field goals (7.6) and 3-point makes (3.4) per game. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is knocking down 45.1 percent of his shots and 39.6 percent from outside. In the month of February, Beasley is averaging 22.4 points and is second to only Golden State’s Stephen Curry (62) in made 3-pointers (47). Especially after agreeing to an extension in the offseason, Beasley is my biggest wild card amongst this list. I don’t expect him to get moved come March 25, but the Timberwolves — who boast a league-worst 7-23 record — could look to recoup assets after gifting the Warriors a 2021 top-3 protected first round pick in last year’s Andrew Wiggins deadline deal.
Other names I considered: Lonzo Ball, Pelicans; Nikola Vučević, Magic; PJ Tucker, Rockets; LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs; Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Potential buyout candidates?
I listed two names for potential buyout candidates: Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. The two big men were recently notified by their organizations that they would not be playing for the foreseeable future until a trade takes place. Technically, they aren’t on the buyout market yet, but could eclipse the market if a trade is unable to transpire.
Blake Griffin, Pistons
Although it’s been proven again and again that zero contracts are untradeable, Griffin would be an unlikely trade piece of his contract: he’s making $36.8M this year with a $39.0M player option next year. Aside from his 2019-20 season — where he appeared in only 18 games after undergoing season-ending left knee surgery — Griffin is having the worst season of his career. He is averaging just 12.3 points per contest on a measly 36.5 percent shooting. Per Stathead, his 45.3 effective field goal percentage is the seventh-worst among the 152 players who have attempted at least 200 shots. Griffin is hauling in 5.2 rebounds while dishing out 3.9 assists per game, but has seen a considerable dip in performance since his All-NBA Third Team campaign in the 2018-19 season. The question remains: Could he regenerate some of his flare with a better organization? If he get bought out, Miami should at least consider the former first-overall pick an option — especially if the price isn’t high. Check out Matt Pineda’s piece Monday on why Griffin would be a feasible candidate for Miami.
Andre Drummond, Cavs
It was reported by Sam Amico of fortyeightminutes.com that the Heat should be considered “a definite dark horse” to land Drummond. The 27-year-old is averaging 17.6 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per contest this season. Drummond is shooting just 47.4 percent — four percentage points fewer than his previous career low (2014-15 - 51.4 percent). He has not made a shot outside the paint in 17 attempts, thus making his fit next to Adebayo and Jimmy Butler questionable. Drummond would help patch up Miami’s rebounding struggles — the team ranks in the bottom-10 in rebounding percentage (48.9 percent) with the third-worst offensive rebounding percentage (23.0 percent) in the Association.
The impact of the play-in game:
The toughest part about gathering potential trade targets is: Determining who’s actually available.
With the addition of the play-in game, teams in the 9-13 seeds have much more of a puncher’s chance of making the playoffs, as opposed to without one. But those teams — especially more than a month away from the deadline — are going to be more inclined to hold out on a trade for longer; they will be more hesitant, thus potentially driving up an asking price for any given player on those teams.
The price could also be driven up because Miami, whose season has been torpedoed with injuries, absences due to COVID-19 and poor performances, could be seen as more willing to make a trade compared to other organizations fighting for a playoff spot. Organizations will take that into account when Pat Riley picks up the phone.
The Heat could very well acquire anyone who didn’t make this list, but the one given is that Miami is likely going to make a trade between now and the deadline.
Who do you think the Heat should acquire, and why? Leave your comments below.