Early Trade Targets Heat Should Pursue at NBA Deadline
The Miami Heat make the shortlist of the most fascinating teams to track between now and the March 25 NBA trade deadline.
On one hand, this squad is fresh off of a Finals trip and might feel little need to rock the boat in dramatic fashion; on the other, this roster is screaming out for a go-to scorer—sophomore Tyler Herro paces the attack with 17.7 points per game—and a legitimate replacement for Jae Crowder.
While the Heat had carefully balanced their budget for 2021 free agency, the class has lost much of its luster with players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James already locking into contract extensions.
The possibility for a blockbuster swap is hard to ignore, but a certain read of the tea leaves might instead foreshadow a sleepy trade season in South Beach.
While it's tough to predict what type of deal this team will pursue, the following three players should already be on Miami's radar.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
With James Harden officially off the board, Bradley Beal should rocket atop the wishlists of all dream-big buyers. Truth be told, some were arguing in favor of Beal even before Harden received his long-coveted ticket out of town.
"[Beal's] trade value will never, ever be higher than right now, when he is still under contract for 18 more months and playing at an All-Star level," The Athletic's John Hollinger wrote. "Between that, his age (27) and the snug fit of his perimeter game next to other star-caliber players, I'd argue Beal actually might have more trade value than James Harden."
Beal would be a dream get for the Heat. They would immediately go from lacking an alpha point-producer to rostering the league's scoring leader. Even better, he's not so ball-dominant that he would disrupt coach Erik Spoelstra's egalitarian style. While more plays would run through Beal, his lethal long-range touch could let him thrive off the ball as an All-Pro receiver for deft distributors Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.
Two questions will ultimately determine the viability of a Beal deal. The first is the Washington Wizards' willingness to let him go. That's by no means a given, but considering how far the franchise appears from championship contention, the District could deduce that only a blockbuster swap could fix this roster.
The second is compensation on the part of the Heat. Tyler Herro would almost certainly be needed to anchor this deal, but how much else would the Heat put on the table? Without much to offer in the way of draft compensation, they might be forced to part with several other up-and-comers, such as Duncan Robinson, KZ Okpala and rookie first-rounder Precious Achiuwa.
Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs
When the Heat allowed Crowder to walk in free agency, they either banked on Maurice Harkless being up for the job or their internal options to cover the void. Neither option looks great so far.
Harkless is off to an abysmal start, and the latest experiment of plugging Kelly Olynyk into the opening group will have no shortage of defensive question marks come playoff time.
If Miami looks outside of the organization for assistance, it could do a lot worse than plugging Rudy Gay into a stretch-4 role.
While not quite a knockdown shooter, the veteran forward is potent enough on the perimeter to demand some defensive attention out there. He'd also add to the offensive menu of an attack already featuring seven double-digit scorers (or eight, if you count Gabe Vincent's two outings).
Gay has been around this game long enough to understand how to make a quick transition, and Spoelstra's tactical mind could surely find the optimal role for the 34-year-old.
Otto Porter Jr., Chicago Bulls
If Otto Porter Jr. could ever stay healthy—he hasn't played 60 games since 2017-18—he might be a souped-up version of what the Heat had in Crowder.
Porter doesn't have Crowder's strength, but his length and mobility could yield similar defensive versatility. He's also much more accurate from outside (career 40.4 percent) and could help scratch an itch for more two-way talent.
The 27-year-old is down to his last year under contract, and an overhauled Chicago Bulls front office may not be factoring him into the franchise's long-term plans. If that's the case, trading him now for stuff—maybe something along the lines of Andre Iguodala, Meyers Leonard, Kendrick Nunn and KZ Okpala—sure beats watching him walk out of the Windy City for nothing this summer.
Miami has the financial flexibility to get this done, and taking on the remainder of Porter's $28.5 million salary would do nothing to disrupt whatever remains of the franchise's 2021 free-agency plans.
The Heat could add an impact acquisition now and still have the funds to hunt a bigger whale down the road.