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Report: Heat prioritizing frontcourt help over Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley in the buyout market

Kevin Love and Serge Ibaka looked to be viewed as more viable options.

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Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Three Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After making no new acquisitions at this most recent NBA Trade Deadline, it was no secret that the Miami Heat were going to be active at this impending buyout market.

The organization has two open roster spots and has five days to add a 14th man to its 15-man roster — which could also mean they’re waiting to convert center Orlando Robinson, currently on a two-way contract, to a standard contract.

Miami’s been rumored — yes, rumors: Nothing super substantial or conclusive yet — to be in on multiple players, as expected. That shortlist includes Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and, most recently, Kevin Love.

Though Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Thursday that Miami could be looking to add frontcourt help over Westbrook and Patrick Beverley, citing Love and Ibaka as specific “priorities.”

It’s not surprising, considering there’s arguably a bigger hole to fill next to, and behind Bam Adebayo compared to in the backcourt.

Miami’s over-taxed Caleb Martin as its starting power forward, and the Heat currently roster one playable big behind Adebayo: Robinson, who’s a rookie and not playoff eligible because he’s on the two-way contract. Omer Yurtseven could be returning after the All-Star break after suffering a preseason ankle injury that required surgery, but it’s unknown how the 24-year-old 7-footer will look; substantial ankle injuries are tricky, especially for 7-footers!

All that said, the Heat backcourt hasn’t been the most reliable unit, either.

Tyler Herro (14 games), Gabe Vincent (14), Jimmy Butler (15) and Kyle Lowry (15) have missed 58 combined games due to various injuries. That’s not even factoring in Victor Oladipo, who’s missed 33 games — including the season’s first 24 games with a knee issue plus the last seven with an ankle injury that won’t be re-evaluated until after the All-Star break.

Regardless, the Heat could use some extra juice, for better or worse.

Beverley and Ibaka — who got traded to the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers, respectively — are the only two players mentioned who have received buyouts so far. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Wednesday that Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the midst of finalizing a buyout while ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that Russell Westbrook’s “communicated” with four different teams as possible buyout destinations, despite still being apart of the Utah Jazz.

Love, 34, is averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 20.0 minutes, shooting 35.4 percent from 3-point range (4.8 attempts) and 88.9 percent from the charity stripe. He’s been out of the rotation lately and has recorded nine straight DNP-CD’s. Ibaka’s health has been crushed by back injuries over the last two seasons; he averaged 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 16 games with the Milwaukee Bucks this season.

According to the CBA, the Heat — who traded away Dedmon on Feb. 7 — have two weeks until it’s required to have 14 players rostered on standard contracts.

With approximately $4.8 million in luxury tax space, Miami could opt to use either of its bi-annual (~$4.11 million) or mid-level (~$4.01M left) exceptions to acquire a buyout player without exceeding the tax threshold.

Though the most common way to sign a buyout player is with a minimum contract, since they’re typically only signed for the remainder of that respective season. For everyone mentioned above, their minimum 2022-23 cap-hits — assuming they’re signed by Feb. 21 — would be between ~$496K-549K, depending on when a deal becomes finalized.

Thus, Miami has the luxury of signing a veteran to a minimum, using its MLE or BAE — prorating to be cheaper than $3.3M for ‘22-23 — and still remain below the tax.

Ideally, with it being the All-Star break, it’s better to have their buyout acquisition(s) in the building sooner rather than later so they could be better acclimated to the #HEATCulture™ before the final 23 games tip-off next Friday. But that’s neither here nor there — all we know is that this group needs 1.) spots to be filled 2.) bodies and 3.) A JOLT!

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.