Miami Heat

Report says Chris Paul could start year in OKC. Here’s why Heat trade hasn’t materialized

There’s an increasing expectation that point guard Chris Paul will start the season with the Thunder, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday.

While the Heat has been mentioned as a destination Paul would be interested in being dealt to, a league source told the Miami Herald this week the Heat has not aggressively pursued a deal for the nine-time All-Star. Miami has done due diligence on the matter, but is not seeking out a deal for Paul at this moment.

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Paul and his representatives have been working with Oklahoma City on finding a trade, but nothing has materialized. According to Wojnarowski, there’s a belief there could be a bigger market for a deal involving Paul after Dec. 15, when players who signed free agent deals this offseason become eligible to be traded.

The Heat would need some extra incentive to take on the final three years and $124 million of Paul’s contract. Paul could help the Heat, but that expensive contract paired with the point guard’s age (34) and lack of durability raises concerns.

Paul is scheduled to earn $38.5 million next season and $41.4 million in 2020-21, with a player option worth $44.2 in 2021-22. Acquiring Paul would mean Miami would not have cap space to sign a max free agent in 2021 unless he opts out of the final year of his deal, which is not expected considering he will be 36 entering that season, or the Heat waives Paul and stretches the final year of his contract.

For Miami to consider trading for Paul, the Thunder would likely need to take back unappealing contracts and return 2021 and 2023 first-round picks to the Heat. Oklahoma City acquired Miami’s 2021 and 2023 first-round selections from the Clippers in the Paul George trade earlier this month.

What would make that trade (getting the 2021 and 2023 first-round picks back) so appealing to the Heat? Aside from getting two first-round picks back and a point guard who can help you in the short-term, it also unlocks Miami’s ability to trade multiple first-round selections in a potential deal for another star.

Because Miami currently doesn’t have its 2021 or 2023 picks, it’s not eligible to trade an unprotected first-round pick until 2028. The NBA doesn’t allow teams to be without consecutive future first-round picks, but getting its 2021 and 2023 selections back gives the Heat the freedom to include first-round picks in trades.

However, Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that Oklahoma City doesn’t feel a need to include draft compensation to unload Paul’s contract and “Paul has warmed to the idea of the Thunder as a landing spot for the year based on the organization and a competitive talent-level.”

Paul averaged 15.6 points while shooting 41.9 percent from the field and 35.8 percent on threes, 4.6 rebounds, 8.2 assists and two steals for the Rockets last season.

After the Heat’s pursuit of All-Star guard Russell Westbrook ended without a deal, the Thunder instead traded Westbrook to the Rockets for two first-round picks and Paul, who can be traded immediately unless his contract is aggregated with another player.

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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.