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Report: Heat have ‘registered interest’ in D’Angelo Russell

Russell will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season.

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NBA: Miami Heat at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

In the latest to make noise within the Miami Heat trade rumor mill, it was reported by Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer on Friday that the Heat have “registered interest” in Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell.

Russell, on an expiring deal, is currently making $31.4 million and could look to be moved ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Hypothetically speaking, the deal would likely have to include Kyle Lowry, who has an extra year attached to his contract ($29.7M) in addition to his $28.3 million for this season.

Though Fisher notes the exact swap wouldn’t be that likely, citing that it would “hard to imagine” the Wolves’ brain trust being eager to extend Lowry, who’s extension-eligible at the end of the season:

“The Heat have in fact registered interest in Russell, source told Yahoo Sports, but a direct deal for Lowry would appear unlikely,” he wrote. “Lowry is just a few months away from entering the final season of his own contract worth roughly $30 million in average annual salary, and it’s hard to imagine Wolves officials being eager to extend the aging guard another exorbitant payday when he becomes extension eligible this summer — putting Minnesota in the exact situation it faced with Russell last July.”

This isn’t the first time that the idea of swapping Lowry-Russell has been surfaced amongst reporters.

Earlier this month, ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst proposed a hypothetical idea of swapping the two guards on the Hoop Collective podcast to former NBA executive and current NBA insider Bobby Marks.

“Could [the Wolves] call Miami and get Kyle Lowry,” Windhorst asked. “Because he’s the type of veteran guy who I think would really help them. And I think that the Heat might be interested in getting out from that contract. This is a hypothetical.

“But that would be adding a whole bunch of money to [the Wolves’] books. I don’t know if they’re in position to do that with where their salaries are at, [Bobby Marks]. But I’m also not sure they’re going to re-sign Russell unless he takes a significant paycut — and that was going to be a challenge before this year, even if everything was going well.”

Marks noted that the Wolves, if they chose to, could be willing to eat Lowry’s $29.7 million next year since they only have $119.8 million on the books for next season (for 10 players). Any Anthony Edwards extension, which he’s eligible for this offseason, would not kick in until the 2024-25 offseason, when Lowry will be a free agent (if not extended for any additional seasons).

Either team could also poach an impending free agent for value/salary purposes as sweeteners. The Heat could — hypothetically — look at nabbing Naz Reid (backup big) or Jaylen Nowell (extra shooting), while Minnesota could look at Gabe Vincent or Max Strus — who are all also on expiring deals.

USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt reported Friday that those around the league believe Miami would be willing to shed Lowry’s salary in a potential trade. He linked Lowry to Wolves for Russell, as well as the Los Angeles Lakers, who were candidates to trade for Lowry during the 2020-21 trade deadline.

“The Heat are notoriously tight-lipped about their plans,” he said. “But around the league, it’s believed the Heat are willing to shed Kyle Lowry’s contract, which pays him $29.6 million in 2023-24.

“The Heat, who reached the Finals in 2020 and the conference finals last season, are 21-20 and in eighth place. Lowry is another player who has been linked to a potential deal with the Lakers, and Minnesota sending D’Angelo Russell to Miami for Lowry would net the Heat an expiring contract.”

Miami’s 36-year-old guard has seen a scoring and efficiency drop since they completed a sign-and-trade for him from the Toronto Raptors last offseason. Russell, meanwhile, is shooting a career-best 58.9 percent true-shooting with Minnesota, but is doing so on lower volume and hasn’t always jelled with the core of Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. He’s averaging 17.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 32.8 minutes across 39 games this season.

In all likelihood, if Pat Riley and the Heat brain trust had any interest at moving Lowry at the deadline, they might have to attach an asset — like Strus, Vincent, Omer Yurtseven, Nikola Jovic or a draft pick (Minnesota might need/want a few of those). It’s more than possible the Heat hang onto Lowry until the offseason, when he will garner more interest.

Miami’s currently three games above .500 for the first time all season at 23-20, a half-game behind the No. 6-seed and four out of the No. 4-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers (27-16). Miami’s got the hardest remaining schedule — but notoriously play-up to competition, so it might not be all that bad for them.

Nevertheless, the Heat might not be looking to shed Lowry’s salary anyways. As Zillgitt prefaced — the Heat are a tight-lipped organization, no matter how many players they’re perceived to have (some) interest in. We’ll learn a lot about the Heat over the next four weeks and where they stand as we enter the final stretch of the season.

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