The 2022 NBA Free Agency moratorium lifted Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. ET, allowing teams to make their respective free agency signings and trades official. It also allowed restricted free-agents to sign offer sheets with their previous or new teams, though the latter prompts a 48-hour window for their previous team to match.
Roughly 30 minutes after the moratorium was lifted, the Miami Heat inked restricted free-agent Caleb Martin to a three-year, $20.5 million deal. It used its taxpayer mid-level exception — beginning at $6.5 million in 2022-23 — to complete the deal to avoid triggering the hard-cap.
But the Heat still reside in a precarious position at power forward, however.
Martin and rookie Nikola Jovic are the only two 4s on the roster; P.J. Tucker signed with the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the offseason while Markieff Morris is still without a team in unrestricted free agency. Jovic doesn’t have much experience at 4, either.
With trade rumors surrounding Kevin Durant and, to a lesser extent, Donovan Mitchell and Kyrie Irving — the free agent market has all but frozen, as teams await the results of where they end up.
It’s likely Pat Riley makes another move for a power forward — via free agency or the trade market — to slot Martin as a spark plug off the bench. But the market isn’t big, now that the TPMLE has been used.
The most optimal route to round out its starting five has always been through the trade market — but for who, and at what cost? We ultimately won’t know until dominoes begin falling, which could be a while.
Thus, Martin is Miami’s de-facto starting 4. But assuming he won’t be that player come Oct. — who is, or will be, then? With free agency nearly a week old, let’s dive into some candidates!
Here’s a few candidates currently on the roster — even though there’s not many!
Skinny: Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It’s an option — but it’s likely one of Miami’s last resorts. I highly doubt they’d throw a rookie into the starting lineup unless the market went completely against them. Head coach Erik Spoelstra would (likely) start Martin before Jovic, so rule this out as an option.
Skinny: See Jovic. I’m listing it because it’s an option because he’s on the roster; it’s not a realistic one, though.
Skinny: Could Butler start at the 4 with three other shooters/floor spacing guards surrounding he and Adebayo? It was effective last season — Miami sported a plus-7.6 NET rating (89th percentile) in the regular season, scoring 119.7 points per 100 possessions with a 55.0 effective-field goal percentage, per Cleaning The Glass. In the postseason, it was a plus-4.1 in 537 possessions. The lineup’s success will be contingent on who surrounds the Butler-Adebayo frontcourt, though I don’t expect this to be the first resort in the regular season with Miami’s lack of point-of-attack defender and, more importantly, Butler’s age and stature.
Skinny: Whether it’s next to Omer Yurtseven or Dewayne Dedmon, Adebayo could start at the 4 next to a bigger body. I don’t think that’s the route Miami goes unless if it’s for an above-the-break floor spacer who’s good on the back-line. That could be, say, Myles Turner — but, again, that includes a trade. And Adebayo at the 4 next to Yurtseven or Dedmon hasn’t fashioned good results. I’ve been open to Miami getting bigger, so it’s a thought! I just don’t think it’s likely.
Possible Free Agents:
If Miami wants to sign free agents, it would likely only be for the minimum to avoid the hard-cap. It’s important to take that into consideration. Who are some options?
Skinny: Miami’s had interest in Aldridge at multiple points of his career, but haven’t landed him yet. Could they circle back for Aldridge yet again?
Skinny: Melo to Miami? Is that a real possibility? He’s started more than five games just once over the last four seasons and I doubt that he bucks that trend in Miami. Though Anthony could provide a fascinating scoring punch off the bench; the only concern for the 38-year-old is his defense. And rightfully so.
Skinny: Could Morris return to Miami? It’s not out of the realm of the possibility, especially at the minimum. He averaged 7.6 points, 2.6 rebounds on 47.4 percent shooting last season; his season was limited to 17 games due to the Nikola Jokic incident and never really got much of a chance to etch his imprint in the rotation. He’s my favorite option among this list.
Skinny: He’s the only free agent I have on here from the original list of Tucker replacements. Here’s what I said before:
Paschall is the clear wild card on this list. He only played 58 games for the Utah Jazz a year ago, averaging 5.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. His counting stats have taken a dip because of his diminishing role, but has posted a career-best 61.2 true-shooting efficiency a year ago and was a good rotation player for Golden State from 2019-21.
Paschall is also close with Donovan Mitchell — could they re-unite in the 305 if the situation presents itself? **Shrug** We’ll see what happens.
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
Skinny: Here’s what I wrote originally about Collins:
Collins has been on the trade block for what’s felt like multiple years now, and Miami would be a good fit for the 24-year-old. He’s expanded his game from year-to-year and has improved as a defender, averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks on 52.6/36.4/79.3 shooting splits. Collins has four years and $102 million left on his deal, so it would like take Duncan Robinson, picks and maybe another asset to nab Collins. But he would be a good fit next to Adebayo long-term.
Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings
Skinny: Another candidate previously on the list. Here’s what I wrote originally about Barnes:
Barnes might be the best PJ Tucker replacement. Sacramento drafted Keegan Murray No. 4 overall and Barnes, 30, will be in the final year of his contract at $18.4 million — all but signifying his time in Sacramento might be coming to a close. Barnes is an efficient shooter and floor spacer, but can also take opposing guards/wings off the dribble and is an underrated playmaker. His defense has taken a slight dip, but it’s still tenable.
Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns
Skinny: The Crowder-to-Miami reunion rumors have waxed and waned over the last several days. Durant aside — he’s the biggest of big fish — he’s likely the best option behind both Collins or Barnes, though I won’t be surprised if he ultimately ends up in South Beach. While not as appealing, he’s a good fit and is only on the books for $10 million this year on an expiring.
MY prediction based on nothing at all whatsoever: Collins or Barnes