Last week, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald said that the Miami Heat would be open to a trade for Jae Crowder, who left Miami to sign with the Phoenix Suns during the condensed 2020 off-season. Jackson also noted that the interest in a reunion appears to be mutual — he liked a tweet from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman mentioning him as a P.J. Tucker replacement.
That marked the second time Jackson has linked the Heat and Crowder this summer. In July, he said that the Heat could trade for Crowder or Harrison Barnes if no trade for Kevin Durant materialized.
Crowder was a pleasant surprise after his trade to Miami in Feb. 2020. He could guard up and defend opposing power forwards like Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was a willing and efficient 3-point shooter — at least until his percentages fell in the Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals. And of course, he oozed Heat culture.
Jae Crowder is like the Heat Culture Hulk. Oozes through his veins!— Brendan Tobin (@Brendan_Tobin) September 18, 2020
Miami let him walk to the Suns, unwilling to match their offer. And two years later, the Heat were unwilling to give Tucker the three-year deal for the full mid-level exception he received from the Philadelphia 76ers. (Of course, the situations are distinct. Tucker is 37, and Crowder was 30 during the 2020 off-season.)
The Heat didn’t find their Crowder replacement until they signed Tucker. Moe Harkless was a disaster. KZ Okpala proved to be an NBA Draft mistake. Trevor Ariza was the best they could find, but the 35-year-old version of him wasn’t good enough.
Now, as we approach the 2022-23 season, Miami could go into training camp without a replacement for Tucker. We don’t know what anyone can offer aside from Caleb Martin, who has said he’ll bulk up this summer. Haywood Highsmith could be a revelation, like Max Strus or Gabe Vincent last year. Or he could look lost like Okpala did.
Darius Days, who will be one of the Heat’s two-way players this season, said that he models his game after Tucker. He may exceed expectations, like Martin did a year ago, and force the Heat to convert his contract into a standard one. Or maybe he won’t. Rookie Nikola Jovic might prove to be a dynamic offensive partner to Bam Adebayo. Or maybe he won’t.
Early in the 2020-21 season, Miami’s hole at the power forward was evident. If the Heat look lacking there once again to start this season, they shouldn’t wait to trade for Crowder.