When it comes to winning games and championships, only the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers have done more of it than the Miami Heat since Pat Riley left the New York Knicks for South Beach in Sept. 1995.
Few would argue no leading front office executive has pulled in more talent during his span than Riley, who has done it mostly through franchise-altering trades (Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal, Eddie Jones, Goran Dragic), a handful of sign-and-trades (LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Brian Grant), a few outright free agent signings (Lamar Odom, Ray Allen, Hassan Whiteside), and a couple of draft picks (Dwyane Wade, Caron Butler).
With the NBA trade deadline set for 3 p.m. Thursday, Riley, 71, and the Heat (25-32) are not in a great position to pull off another one of those seismic moves. But that doesn’t necessairly preclude the Heat’s president from eventually making one this summer when Chris Bosh’s $25 million cap hit for next season will be recouped and the franchise is put in a btter position to strengthen itself through free agency, the draft or a trade.
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In fact, most of Riley’s best moves, history shows, have not come at the deadline. Most happen over the summer.
Here’s a look back at what the Heat and Riley have done at the trade deadline over the past 22 years and other pivotal off-season moments:
▪ 2016: The Heat's season-long quest to get under the luxury tax and provide itself with more financial flexibility finally came to fruition when Riley made a pair of trades at the deadline: he sent guard Brian Roberts and a 2021 second round pick to Portland for player trade exception and cash and forward Jarnell Stokes and cash to New Orleans for a heavilty protected 2018 second round pick.
Two days prior to the deadline, the Heat traded Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen, a conditional 2017 second round pick, a conditional 2019 second round pick for Roberts. But the process began in earnest in November when Miami traded Mario Chalmers and James Ennis for Stokes, Beno Udrih and player trade exception.
After the deadline, the Heat signed former All-Star guard Joe Johnson after his contract was bought out by the Brooklyn Nets. The Heat then placed Udrih on waivers after he was hurt and lost to a season-ending injury. The move helped keep the Heat under the luxury tax.
▪ 2015: With the Heat eight games under .500 at 22-30 but still seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff race at the deadline, Riley traded Norris Cole, Danny Granger, Justin Hamilton, Shawne Williams and a pair of first round picks and cash to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic.
The move was made with the intention of having Dragic join forces with Bosh, Wade, Luol Deng and Whiteside for a playoff push and to build toward a new future. But as soon as Dragic arrived, Bosh's battle with blood clots began. The Heat missed the playoffs.
▪ 2014: With the Heat at 38-14 and seeded second in the East, Riley made one move at the deadline to create a roster spot to try and add a wing player. He sent Roger Mason and cash to the Sacramento Kings for a heavily protected 2015 second round pick (which Miami never got it) and a player trade exception.
The Heat ended up signing DeAndre Liggins to a couple of 10-day contracts shortly after.
A month earlier, in a move clearly designed to help some shed luxury tax money and provide some financial flexibility, the Heat traded away center Joel Anthony, a conditional 2014 first round pick, a 2016 second round pick and cash in a three-team trade with the Warriors and Celtics and acquired guard Toney Douglas in the process.
Later that summer Riley traded draft picks P.J. Hairston and Shemaj Christon and a 2019 second rounder to the Hornets for Shabazz Napier, a move designed to make LeBron James happy. James ended up returning to Cleveland and the Heat went out and signed Luol Deng to try and replace him.
▪ 2013: With the best record in the East and a team about to go on a 27-game winning streak after the deadline, Riley traded reserve center Dexter Pittman, a 2013 second round pick and cash to the Grizzlies for the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez and a player trade exception in a move made to try and clear a roster spot. The Heat, who had signed Andersen a month earlier, brought Juwan Howard back for the title run in Pittman’s old roster spot.
▪ 2012: At 31-11 and with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh thriving, no moves were made at or near the deadline.
▪ 2011: After putting the Big Three together the summer prior and the Heat owning the best record in the East at 42-15, Riley stood pat at the trade deadline.
The only real tweak the Heat made in season was releasing point guard Carlos Arroyo and signing veteran point guard Mike Bibby, who had his contract bought out a week earlier by the Wizards.
▪ 2010: With the Heat at 27-27 at the deadline and looking ahead to the possibility of making a free agent splash in the summer, Riley made no moves. The Heat ended up as the fifth seed in the East and lost to the Celtics in the first round.
That following summer, the Big Three was formed with a pair of sign and trades. The Heat sent its 2011 first round pick, a player trade exception and cash to Toronto for Bosh and then a conditional 2011 second round pick, a 2012 second round pick, a 2013 conditional first round pick, a conditional 2015 first round pick and player trade exception for James.
▪ 2009: With the Heat at 28-25 at the All-Star break and unable to pry Amar'e Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns, Riley instead took the Raptors up on a long-standing offer for center Jermaine O'Neal, swingman Jamario Moon and a conditional 2011 first round pick. The Heat sent Toronto Shawn Marion, Marcus Banks, cash and a player trade exception.
“You’ve got to get honest with yourself and say if you’re going to compete with the big boys, you’ve got to get somebody in the middle,” Riley said of the trade.
The Heat finished the season 43-39 and lost to the Hawks in seven games in the opening round of the playoffs.
▪ 2008: With the Heat a league-worst 9-38 less than two seasons after winning its first title, Riley hit the reset button two weeks prior to the deadline. He called up Phoenix Suns' first-year general manager Steve Kerr and traded Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal for Marion, a three-time All-Star, and Banks.
The Heat finished a league-worst 15-67 and took Michael Beasley with the second overall pick in the following draft. MVP candidate and triple-double machine Russell Westbrook was taken two picks after Beasley by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
▪ 2007: A year after winning the franchise’s first championship, the Heat was 26-27 at the deadline, but Riley made no roster moves. The Heat finished with 44 wins, won the division and was swept in the first round by Chicago.
▪ 2006: Looking for some veteran scoring punch for its playoff run, the Heat sent reserve rookie point guard Gerald Fitch and a player trade exception to the Rockets for veteran Derek Anderson, who played in only eight playoff games and was not really a factor in the Heat's championship run. The Heat put Andersen on waivers a couple months later.
▪ 2005: With the Heat at 40-16 at the trade deadline (the best record in the Eastern Conference), Riley traded for veteran guard Steve Smith, originally drafted by the Heat, by sending Malik Allen and cash to the Hornets. Smith played eight total minutes in the playoffs and the Heat lost a tough seven-game series to Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Then in August, Riley got the Heat involved in the biggest trade in NBA history with 13 players moving to five different teams. Miami acquired James Posey, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams -- key rotation players on the franchise's first championship team -- in exchange for Rasual Butler, Eddie Jones, Qyntel Woods, the draft rights for Albert Miralles, a 2006 second round pick and a 2008 second round pick.
▪ 2004: With Wade, Udonis Haslem, Odom, Butler and a young Heat team improving as the season progressed, Riley stood pat and no moves were made at or near the deadline.
Instead, Riley waited until after the season to make the franchise’s most important move when he traded for Shaquille O'Neal in mid July. Riley sent Butler, Odom, Grant, a conditional 2006 first round pick, a 2007 second round pick and a player exception to the Lakers in exchange for O’Neal.
▪ 2003: With Mourning out for the season as he battled kidney disease and the Heat struggling at 18-36, Riley punted on the season and no moves were made at the deadline. A team led by Jones, Butler and Grant finished 25-57 and Miami wound up with the fifth overall pick, which it used on Wade.
▪ 2002: Mourning returned from his initial setback with kidney disease and played in 75 games, but the Heat struggled and no moves were made at or near the deadline. The Heat finished 36-46 and missed the playoffs. Back in October, Riley made his only major move with the roster when he acquired Chris Gatling for Ricky Davis, Don McLean, and cash in a sign and trade with Cleveland.
▪ 2001: Riley made no moves at or near the trade deadline. Hardaway’s final season with the Heat began with the franchise learning of Mourning's battle with kidney disease. The Heat still managed to finish 50-32, but was swept in the first round by the Hornets.
Before Mourning got sick, Riley made a power move over the summer, acquiring Grant in a sign and trade from Portland for Gatling, Clarence Weatherspoon, and a conditional 2001 first round pick. A few weeks prior to that, Riley acquired Ricky Davis, Dale Ellis, Eddie Jones and Anthony Mason from the Hornets for P.J. Brown, Rodney Buford, Tim James, Jamal Mashburn and Otis Thorpe.
▪ 2000: No moves were made at or near the deadline.
▪ 1999: No moves were made at or near the deadline.
▪ 1998: The Heat acquired Brent Barry in a trade with the Clippers for Isaac Austin, Charles Smith and the Heat's 1998 first round pick.
▪ 1997: The Heat acquired Jamal Mashburn from Dallas for guard Sasha Danilovic, forward Kurt Thomas and forward Martin Muursepp. Mashburn became a key part of the Heat’s early success with Riley over the next couple seasons.
▪ 1996: In what was Riley’s most impressive trade deadline performance, the Heat aquired Hardaway, Gatling, Tyrone Corbin, Tony Smith and Walt Williams in three separate deals. The Heat picked up Hardaway and Gatling from Golden State for power forward Kevin Willis and guard Bimbo Coles, then acquired Williams and Corbin from Sacramento for Billy Owens and Kevin Gamble. Miami also added Smith from Phoenix for rookie Terrence Rencher.
Back in November, in Riley’s first major move, the Heat acquired Mourning, Ron Ellis, and Pete Myers in a trade with Charlotte for Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, Khalid Reeves and the team’s 1996 first round pick.