Miami Heat

What if the Heat trades its first-round pick? A look at the many possibilities

More from the series

What will Miami Heat do in 2019 NBA Draft?

The 2019 NBA Draft is Thursday. The Heat currently holds two picks, Nos. 13 and 44. What will the Heat decide to do with the selections? Here’s a look at all of our coverage leading up to the draft.

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There are questions the Heat must answer this offseason, but there’s one it must find the answer to during the next few weeks.

Should the Heat trade its first-round selection in this year’s NBA Draft?

With the No. 13 pick in the June 20 draft, the Heat could stick with the pick, trade up, trade down, trade its first-round pick for a future one or simply cap relief and not make a first-round selection this year.

(Side note: The Heat is not allowed to trade its 2020 or 2022 first-round picks because its 2021 first-round selection was already dealt as part of the 2015 Goran Dragic trade. The NBA doesn’t allow teams to be without consecutive future first-round picks.)

There are options to choose from …

Sticking with the No. 13 pick is the logical choice if there’s a prospect who’s projected to be available the Heat covets at that spot. Among those who are expected to be drafted in the Heat’s range include forwards Sekou Doumbouya, Nassir Little, Rui Hachimura, P.J. Washington, Brandon Clarke, Cam Reddish, Keldon Johnson and Romeo Langford, guards Tyler Herro, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kevin Porter Jr., and centers Bol Bol, Jaxson Hayes and Goga Bitadze.

It would be surprising if Reddish or Hayes is available for the Heat at No. 13, as both are projected to be top-10 picks. But there’s a realistic possibility any of the others on the list could still be on the board for Miami when it makes a selection.

Adding another first-round talent to the young core of Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr., Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow should be appealing to the Heat. The rookie scale salary in 2019-20 for the No. 13 pick is about $3.6 million, which is considered good value if Miami drafts a player who turns into a consistent contributor.

Trading for an earlier pick in the first round is the route to go if the Heat values a prospect who is expected to be drafted before No. 13.

But it just doesn’t seem Miami has enough to deal into the top 10, unless it gets other teams involved as part of a larger trade or includes one of its current players in the deal. As previously mentioned, the Heat can’t combine the No. 13 pick with its 2020 or 2022 first-round pick to get into the top 10. Why? The NBA doesn’t allow teams to be without consecutive future first-round picks, which prevents the Heat from trading its 2020 or 2022 first-round selections because its 2021 first-round pick was already dealt.

As for adding second-round selections as sweeteners in deals for an earlier pick, the Heat is already without its 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023 second-round picks because of previous trades.

Trading for a later pick in the first round would be the path to take if the Heat isn’t particularly drawn to any of the prospects projected to be drafted in its range at No. 13.

What would swapping the 13th pick for one in the 20s get Miami? It depends, but the most likely return would be a future protected first-round pick.

How about completely trading out of the first round? That’s an option, but one that (again) only makes sense if the Heat doesn’t covet a prospect in its range at No. 13.

Trading this year’s first-round pick without getting a 2019 first-rounder in return would probably mean the Heat accepted a deal that brought it salary cap relief or a larger deal that brought it established players in return. Using the 13th pick as a sweetener to trade one of the contracts on its books with multiple years remaining is possible, with James Johnson and Dion Waiters among those who fall under that category.

Based on the deal agreed upon Thursday by the Hawks and Nets, it looks like the cost to get a large contract with two years remaining off the books for little money in return is two first-round picks. Brooklyn traded Allen Crabbe and his $18.5 million contract, the No. 17 pick in this year’s draft and a 2020 lottery-protected first-round pick to Atlanta for Taurean Prince and his $3.5 million contract and a 2021 second-round pick — a move that cleared the cap space for Brooklyn to pursue two max free-agent contracts this summer.

But it could be challenging for Miami to achieve cap relief this way because of the price tag of two first-round picks. The Heat is not permitted to deal its 2020 or 2022 first-round selections due to an NBA rule, and it’s 2021 first-rounder was already dealt. That leaves 2023 as the earliest first-round pick Miami is able to pair with this year’s selection, and that might not be soon enough to convince a team to take on one of the Heat’s multiyear contracts.

Another reason the Nets’ strategy might not be right for the Heat? The Nets were willing to trade assets (two first-round picks) for cap relief because the move opened the space for Brooklyn to pursue two max free agent contracts this summer.

For example, if the Heat trades Johnson and the No. 13 pick for Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith’s unique contract that only has $3.87 million guaranteed, it would eliminate $11.2 million from the Heat’s books. That would likely be enough to push Miami below the luxury tax threshold, but not enough to bring Miami under the cap. Dealing two first-round picks to open up two max slots is one thing, but trading two first-round picks to get under the luxury tax is another. One could make the argument, you’re also cutting about $15.8 million from the payroll to free additional cap space for the 2020 offseason. That’s important to consider.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.