‘I’m still chasing another championship,’ says Pat Riley
Part 2 of a 2-part series
ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks, the longtime former Nets assistant general manager, made an interesting point last week when he noted that because the 2020 free agent class is so weak, the Heat might instead be better advised to trade the expiring deals of Goran Dragic or Hassan Whiteside for a player with two years left on his contract.
Heat president Pat Riley has publicly targeted 2020 as the offseason to significantly augment the roster, because of the potential of $35 million or more in cap space that summer. But he’s prepared to consider all options this summer.
Dragic and Whiteside will have one season left on their deals (2019-20) if they don’t opt out of their contracts this summer. It would be surprising if either opts out before late June deadlines.
So what players could the Heat acquire if it pursues Marks’ suggestion? We examined Memphis’ Mike Conley and potential Western Conference options in this piece on Wednesday.
Couple things to keep in mind: 1) For teams in taxpayer territory (as the Heat currently would be for next season), Miami could take back contracts up to 125 percent of outgoing salaries, plus $100,000. Those rules are also in place for teams that would end up in taxpayer territory following the execution of such a trade.
2) When evaluating whether a player in trade talks is worth sacrificing 2020 cap space for, Miami must consider not only the players it would be trading but whether the acquired player is comparable in quality to the Heat’s most realistic high-end 2020 free agent options (DeMar DeRozan or Draymond Green or Kyle Lowry), if you assume the Heat isn’t going to get prospective 2020 free agent Anthony Davis.
In part 2 of our 2-part series, we canvass the Eastern Conference options and teams with potentially tradeable veteran players with multiple years left on their contracts:
▪ Boston: Gordon Hayward would certainly be worth discussing if the Celtics were amenable. At this point, there’s no indication Boston would be, because the Celtics are keeping their assets to make a trade bid for New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.
He’s due $32.7 million and $34.2 million the next two seasons. And here’s the other thing: The Heat likely wouldn’t be getting precisely the same player it pursued in 2017 free agency, because Hayward hasn’t been as effective since sustaining a fractured tibia and dislocated ankle in his first regular season game as a Celtic.
Hayward, who averaged 21.9 points and 34.5 minutes and shot 39.8 percent on threes in his final season in Utah in 2016-17, averaged 11.5 points and 25.9 minutes and shot 33.3 percent on threes this past season in Boston, after missing the final 81 games with his gruesome injury the previous season.
But he’s only 29 and he possibly could regain his old form; he certainly showed flashes on multiple occasions this past season, including a 30-point game in March at Golden State and a 20-point game to close out the first round series with Indiana.
The Celtics need defenders (with some semblance of an offensive game) and selfless role players and Celtics general manager Danny Ainge always has liked Justise Winslow.
But would either team consider a Winslow/James Johnson for Hayward swap or a Josh Richardson/James Johnson for Hayward deal? Boston likely would want something better than Johnson in combination with Winslow or Richardson if this scenario were pursued, and both Winslow with Richardson would seem too much from Miami’s perspective.
On one hand, Winslow or Richardson would be difficult to give up in such a scenario because you don’t know if you would get the sustained Utah version of Hayward. But on the flip side, a Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Hayward, Dragic, Richardson lineup – with Waiters and Whiteside and Derrick Jones Jr. off the bench – would be playoff caliber if Hayward regains his old form. Perhaps returning to a starter role – and his old minutes workload – would make a big difference.
Whether old rivals Pat Riley and Danny Ainge would even be willing to make such a deal is another story entirely. And Boston would need clarity on impending free agent Kyrie Irving’s future and a Davis trade before Ainge likely even considered what to do with Hayward.
The Heat also could wait on Hayward and pursue him, among others, in 2021 free agency if he has regained his old form by then.
As for other Celtics… Marcus Smart – due $12 million, $12.9 million and $13.8 million the next three seasons – holds value to Boston because he’s an excellent defender (and averaged 8.9 points per game last season) and the fact he wasn’t at full strength against Milwaukee in the second round of the playoffs was hurtful to the Celtics. So Smart wouldn’t be a logical target for Miami.
▪ Detroit: No, the Pistons presumably wouldn’t deal rebounding champ Andre Drummond, who’s due $27.1 million next season with a $28.7 million player option in 2020-21, in exchange for Whiteside’s expiring deal.
And Detroit has given no indication it’s willing to move Blake Griffin, due $34.2 million, $36.5 million and $38.9 million the next three seasons.
▪ Washington: Whoever the Wizards hire to replace ousted general manager Ernie Grunfeld will decide whether to shop All Star guard Bradley Beal, who’s due $27.1 million and $28.7 million the next two seasons.
But even if Beal were made available, any Heat offer likely would need to begin with at least two among Winslow, Richardson and Bam Adebayo plus the No. 13 pick and perhaps something else. That’s a steep price but worth pursuing if the Wizards were open to moving Beal.
Guard John Wall, expected to be out until at least next January with a ruptured Achilles tendon, wouldn’t make sense even in a trade for distressed assets because of the enormous money he’s still due: $38.1 million, $41.2 million, $44.2 million and $47.3 million the next four seasons.
It was notable that NBA announcer and former journeyman forward Brian Scalabrine reported recently that he was told Miami was closing in on a deal for Wall before his Achilles’ injury last season. (I’m skeptical of that unless Miami was able to offload Johnson, Waiters or both.) It’s all moot now.
▪ Cleveland: Kevin Love would be worth a discussion if he had only two years left on his contract. The problem is he has four, with salaries of $28.9 million, $31.2 million, $31.2 million and $28.9 million.
It’s not worth that type of financial risk for a player limited to 60, 59 and 22 games the past three seasons, even though he still put up numbers in the 22 he played last season (17.0 points, 10.9 rebounds per game). Durability issues, defensive shortcomings and big money owed make this an unappealing option.
▪ Charlotte: I would rather take my chances on getting DeRozan in 2020 – or pursuing dozens of other scenarios - than flipping Whiteside for two years of Nik Batum ($25.5 million, $27.1 million) – who averaged 9.3 points this past season - or Cody Zeller ($14.5 million and $15.4 million) and something else of limited value.
▪ Orlando: Evan Fournier (15.1 points per game) for an expiring contract would be pointless, because he’s due $17 million each of the next two years.
▪ Chicago: The rebuilding Bulls aren’t jettisoning Otto Porter ($27.2 million, $28.4 million player option the next two seasons) after he impressed (19.2 points per game) following his acquisition from the Wizards.
Zach LaVine, who averaged 23.7 points last season, is due $19.5 million each of the next three seasons and there wouldn’t appear to be incentive for the Bulls to trade him.
▪ Indiana: Even with the Heat coaching staff never fully trusting Whiteside, it wouldn’t make sense to flip Whiteside’s expiring deal for capable Myles Turner, who averaged 13.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and a league-leading 2.7 blocks but is due $18 million each of the next four years.
That $18 million would be highly restrictive - and unnecessary to take on - with Adebayo poised to be the Heat’s primary center for the foreseeable future.
Doug McDermott (7.3 points per game, 40.8 percent shooting on threes) would be helpful, but there’s no natural trade match, with McDermott due $7.3 million each of the next two seasons, and Miami not looking to take on 2020 salaries unless it’s an impact starter. And we all know how the Heat sometimes buries one-dimensional shooters (exhibit A: Wayne Ellington last season).
Among the six other Eastern Conference teams, New York and Atlanta aren’t realistic trade partner options for Miami, with no natural fit for a deal. Milwaukee likely wouldn’t be, either, since Miami would have no use for the final two years and $21 million on Tony Snell’s deal or the final two years and $14 million on Ersan Ilyasova’s contract.
Toronto likely wouldn’t be, either; there’s no need to take on three years and $32 million for Norman Powell even if offered.
Brooklyn has no incentive to deal emerging Spencer Dinwiddie (due $10.6 million and $11.5 million the next two seasons) after a breakout season (21.5 points per game), though Miami assuredly would have interest otherwise.
Philadelphia has no natural fit, since the 76ers have no incentive to trade Ben Simmons, due $8.1 and $10 million the next two seasons, particularly if they’re not getting an All-Star back.
So here’s the bottom line on the Marks’ idea after canvassing every roster: While the idea of flipping Whiteside or Dragic for a player with two years left makes sense in theory because of the weak 2020 free agent class, there are few players who fall into this category worth making exploratory calls about. Mike Conley, LaMarcus Aldridge, Beal and perhaps Hayward would be among those at least worth exploring.
If the Heat cannot make a significant trade or find a free agent worthy of enormous money next summer, the logical plan then would be to fill out a roster for 2020-21 with pretty good players willing to take one-year deals. Let’s hope it doesn’t necessarily come to this.
Here’s part 1 of this series with a look at Conley and other potential Western Conference trade targets in the Bobby Marks scenario.