Barry Jackson

Heat trades Whiteside to Portland for two players, explores Dragic deal

The Heat shipped center Hassan Whiteside to Portland on Monday for center Meyers Leonard and forward Maurice Harkless, a transaction that gives the Heat additional financial flexibility.

Harkless later was traded to the Clippers - along with a first-round draft pick - to complete the Jimmy Butler trade with Philadelphia.

The Portaldn trade was confirmed by two league sources with direct knowledge.

The Heat had been trying to trade Whiteside for well over a year and found a taker in Portland.

In return for Whiteside, Miami gets a skilled-shooting center in Leonard and a serviceable small forward in Harkless, who combined will make $22.8 million next season, less than the $27.1 million due Whiteside. Harkless was then used to pull off the Butler trade.

The 7-foot-1 Leonard, due $11.3 million in the final year of his contract this coming season, averaged 5.9 points and 3.8 rebounds in 61 games, in 14.4 minutes per game, for Portland last season. He shot 54.5 percent from the field. He shot 45 percent on threes (50 for 111) last season, a skill the Heat values in its power rotation players. He’s a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter.

Leonard, 27, has averaged 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in seven seasons, all with Portland, who selected him 11th overall out of Illinois in 2012. Leonard had a career-high 30 points and 12 rebounds in a 119–117 season-ending overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors in May. He started two games each of the past two seasons and 42 in his seven seasons with the Blazers.

Harkless, a 6-9 small forward with limited three-point range, averaged 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds last season for Portland, shooting 48.7 percent from the field but 27.5 percent (33 for 120) on three-pointers. He has spent the past four seasons with the Trail Blazers after his first three with Orlando. He’s a career 32.3 percent shooter on threes.

The Heat was determined to move on from Whiteside, who was replaced by Bam Adebayo in the starting lineup last March and averaged just 17.3 minutes per game over his final 19 games.

The Heat gave Whiteside a max four-year, $98 million contract in the summer of 2016, but the Heat never had complete trust in Whiteside because of inconsistent effort, among other factors, according to a team source.

Whiteside ended up playing 324 games for the Heat, averaging 14.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.

Meanwhile, the Heat conveyed to the Dragic camp late Sunday night that it was trying to trade Dragic in order to fulfill financial obligations needed to complete a sign-and-trade with Butler, a league source with direct knowledge said Monday.

Ultimately, it wasn’t necessary, with the Clippers agreeing to take Harkless from Miami after the Whiteside trade.

The Heat thought Dallas would take Dragic, but the Mavericks decided not to do that because they felt they needed financial flexibility to accomplish other things.

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