Stop me if you’ve ever heard these or anything close to these: “The Heat are in the market for Donovan Mitchell and Bradley Beal.” “The Heat need to absolutely trade for Beal/Mitchell or else they won’t win a tit—....” okay I’ll stop.
The discourse of trading for either Beal or Mitchell has ignited yet again. And it will likely be an ongoing discussion this offseason as a result of the Heat’s lack of half-court shot creation in their crushing Eastern Conference Finals series loss to the Boston Celtics.
A Donovan Mitchell trade between the Knicks and Jazz is highly unlikely, per @JakeLFischer— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 31, 2022
League sources believe the Heat are one team that could offer a better package around Tyler Herro and multiple first-round picks pic.twitter.com/W2ojhDK1Lf
Bleacher Report predicts the Miami Heat landing Bradley Beal in free agency— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCom) May 27, 2022
“The Heat are no strangers to swinging big. Don't be surprised if they connect on this one.” pic.twitter.com/BvA7glHgD5
“If scoring guards like Bradley Beal or Donovan Mitchell become available, expect to at least hear about the Heat getting into the mix.”— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCom) May 30, 2022
- Hoops Hype’s Yossi Gozlan pic.twitter.com/fjBOdrBik6
Both are acclaimed scorers that are making at $30 million heading into next season, so navigating the money-matching aspect of a potential trade could be challenging for Miami if it doesn’t want to part with certain assets.
Miami will have five guaranteed contracts next season, one player option (PJ Tucker) as well as four more that aren’t guaranteed. Here’s how its contract situation looks for 2022-23 and beyond:
Mitchell and Beal are both very good players; They’re both 25-plus point-per-game scorers, and we both know that they don’t become readily available most offseasons. It’s fair to argue if either — let alone both — are available now.
Mitchell tallied 25.9 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 44.8 percent shooting, including 35.5 percent from 3-point range and 85.3 percent from the free-throw line. In five NBA seasons, he’s posted 23.9 points, 4.2 boards and 4.5 assists on 44.1/36.1/83.3 shooting — a 55.5 true-shooting percentage — with three All-Star appearances.
Beal is coming off a down season due to injuring his wrist; a season removed from tallying a career-high 31.3 points on 59.3 percent true shooting, Beal averaged 23.9 points on 53.9 percent true shooting, in addition to his 4.7 rebounds and career-most 6.6 assists in 40 contests.
Should Miami try to acquire either one of them, or another highly-touted shot creator? Yes. Would they help aid the half-court offense? Yes. But how realistic is it, assuming a third team doesn’t get involved? My apologies for what I’m about to say, Heat fans — not very realistic, in my view.
Here’s my reasons why for each below:
Danny Ainge and the Utah Jazz brain trust will ultimately have a decision to make: Whether to choose between Mitchell or center Rudy Gobert.
Let’s say they choose Gobert. That would mean Utah’s indicated they’re prioritizing improving their defense and building around Gobert (assuming he doesn’t get traded) over their 25-year-old star, a suboptimal defender, right?
To acquire Mitchell, who’s set to make $30.4 million next season, the Heat would likely start trade talks with Duncan Robinson — Miami’s only player who’s in the $10-20 million salary-filler range ($16.9 million) — and Tyler Herro ($5.7 million), their most desirable asset not named Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler (more on them in a bit).
What has been Utah’s bugaboo on that end over the last couple of seasons? Porous perimeter defense at the point-of-attack that augments additional strain on the back-line.
Opponents have been able to go five-out and blow by Utah’s guards and get to the cup. And when Gobert makes the rotation? A barrage of (open) 3s. He’ll get played off the floor with certain lineups in certain situations — but contrary to popular belief, it’s not always his fault.
Acquiring Herro and Robinson doesn’t offset that problem. While both have improved defensively since entering the NBA, acquiring both upholds that problem, not mitigating it. That’s a one-sided benefit if that’s the choice Utah ultimately makes.
Robinson and Herro wouldn’t be the only assets involved in that trade. Miami could deal at least one of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent or Omer Yurtseven, who are all on non-guaranteed deals under $2 million, though they’re all expected to be picked up for 2022-23. It also has three first-round picks (2022, 2023, 2028) and two first-round pick swaps (2024, 2027) to work with, too.
Now, you might be asking: Can the Heat deal its 2022 and 2023 first-round picks together because of the Stepien Rule?
In short, yes they can! Miami could hypothetically make a selection — they have the No. 27 overall selection in the 2022 draft — on Utah’s behalf before officially completing the trade with the 2023, 2028 first-rounders and/or the pick swaps attached.
That’s if Miami’s willing — and desperate enough — to dispense up to five first-rounders. One could assume the first-rounders in 2023 and 2028 are late first-round selections, so they might not be as valuable to Ainge and Co. compared to a first-rounder in the top-20 or higher. Miami could also run into a scenario in 2024 and/or 2027 when the first-round swaps don’t convert, leaving Miami with its original pick anyways.
You can’t predict what happens next year, let alone four or five years from now — but Utah has to ponder, should Miami offer that package in a potential trade.
The Heat could also offer Tucker to make the money match — but I half-jokingly believe Pat Riley wouldn’t even trade Tucker for multiple first-round picks, let alone as a salary filler in for a Donovan Mitchell trade.
Robinson will be making an average of $18 million per year over the next four years and was out of the rotation by season’s end, in-part because of his propensity to foul. He also had the worst shooting year of his three-year career. Herro won sixth man of the year, but the 22-year-old is in-line for a big extension this offseason and has had injury concerns over the first few seasons of his career.
Would Utah hypothetically commit to that? I’m not sure.
It’s disingenuous to act like my appropriation of player value is equivalent to (far) smarter, more involved basketball evaluators in the sport. But I think it’s safe to assume the aforementioned pair don’t carry as much value as one might perceive — at least not enough to net Donovan Mitchell, whose trade value might also be lower than it was a year or two ago, with picks tied to another player or two.
The last, yet most unrealistic avenue, is including one of Adebayo, Butler or Lowry in the trade. I know a section of the fanbase has voiced their displeasure with Adebayo’s passiveness with his contract, but I’m sorry to inform (a very small chunk of) you: Miami’s not trading him. I can say that with greater than 99% certainty. Same with Butler, who was one of the best players this postseason and willed them to within one game of making an NBA Finals after making one in 2019-20. There’s just no way, in my opinion.
And unless Utah has plans of moving off 34-year-old Mike Conley — who has two years left on his deal for at least $37 million guaranteed ($47 million total) — they shouldn’t acquire 36-year-old Kyle Lowry with two years and $57 million guaranteed remaining. Though I don’t think Miami would move on from him anyways.
Both sides have to agree to a deal. People oftentimes forget that when generating these proposals to benefit their own team. You can’t fire up the trade machine and trade players you want to trade and expect it to be realistic most of the time. You have to trade good value to acquire even better value.
The same aforementioned concerns regarding the trade value concern Beal, too. And Miami would have to include more salary because Beal makes roughly six million more than Mitchell, too.
In-part because of the personal connection between Bam Adebayo and Beal, the three-time All-Star has been linked to Miami for several seasons now. That said: Beal hasn’t made any indications he wants to leave Washington. Zero. Nada. Nothing.
He could opt out of his $36.4 million player option this summer and sign a five-year max extension for about $250 million with the Wizards, in what would be the biggest contract in NBA history. And according to The Washington Post’s Ava Wallace, Beal — who is in the midst of recovering from wrist surgery — is “leaning toward” signing the extension:
“Beal said he is still leaning toward signing a multiyear deal with Washington worth roughly $250 million in July, and in the meantime he’s focused on rehab after having his cast removed in late April following season-ending wrist surgery in February.”
If Beal were to sign that extension, he couldn’t be traded for at least another six months anyways. If the 28-year-old wanted out, he would’ve probably said so already — but he hasn’t.
Barring a (drastic) change of heart, one that could potentially net him a ring, the three-time All-Star will be with the Wizards for the foreseeable future. Good for him, too — he deserves the bag!
A trade after a record-setting deal would also be unprecedented. Only two players with top-30 contracts have been traded within the midst of their current contract: Ben Simmons and Kristaps Porzingis. The former’s end in Philly was an unmitigated disaster — to put it lightly — while the latter was traded at the deadline because 1.) He didn’t fit with Luka Doncic and 2.) Dallas needed at least one additional ball-handler, and Spencer Dinwiddie provided that.
Again, unless Beal opts-out and refuses to sign the extension, I don’t see him ending up in the 305 at the start of 2022-23.
If not them, then who?
That’s an excellent question; I’m not sure I currently have the most concrete answer.
The most obvious answer is Zach LaVine, who’s an unrestricted free-agent this summer. Here’s what ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on The Hoop Collective Podcast, “I don’t think Zach LaVine wants to leave. That’s not my read.” Chicago owns LaVine’s bird rights, too.
"I don't think Zach LaVine wants to leave, that's not my read."— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) June 2, 2022
- @WindhorstESPN on the Chicago Bulls
(Via The Hoop Collective Podcast)
Miami could also attempt to acquire Kyrie Irving and James Harden, two players they’ve been linked to, to some degree, in the past. Both players own player options and will likely try to re-up with their respective ballclubs (though Irving’s situation is a little more shaky), so I don’t anticipate Miami would either one of them.
Other options include Collin Sexton (RFA) and TJ Warren (He and Butler make amends, yet?), but the market is relatively thin in that department. Other trade options will become available, too.
So I’ll pose the same question: Who, and for what cost?
It takes two to tango.
Pat Riley likes hunting the big fish.
He also hasn’t been shy of maneuvering the roster ten-fold before. In a recent piece from HHH’s own Diego Quezada, regarding the Spoelstra’s exit-interview quote about keeping the team together (please check it out!), he brought up a franchise-altering 2005 trade Riley made — the biggest in NBA History at the time.
“Erik Spoelstra spoke to reporters Tuesday, just two days after the Miami Heat fell to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. And he said he’d like to keep the team together for next season.
The Heat coach said that, ‘Anytime we’re close and have banged on the door, even if it ended in a disappointing loss, our history has shown that we usually bring the majority of the group back, the core back, and we take another shot at it.’
Now, that claim struck me as odd. The last time the Heat lost at home in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals — in 2005 — Pat Riley overhauled the supporting cast around Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. He traded for Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and James Posey. He signed Gary Payton to be the backup point guard. Damon Jones, Eddie Jones and Keyon Dooling were all gone.”
As dismal and distraught as Miami’s half-court offense looked in the postseason at times, it wouldn’t surprise me if other organizations looked at Riley and the Heat brain trust as potentially “desperate” in seeking a prominent shot-creator, like Mitchell or Beal. Thus, giving other front offices more leverage than Riley in potential trade talks.
The most optimal way to acquire both without giving up a whole lot is if either Beal or Mitchell asks out for the deal to become possible. If a third or fourth team doesn’t get involved — either asking out might be the only way too.
Whatever it is, the Heat urgently need one. And people within the organization likely know that.
If Riley goes big fish hunting once again — I’m just serious to see who he reels in — whether it’s Beal, Mitchell or someone else, and with what bait?