With Harden off market, exploring Miami Heat’s trade options, including two All-Star wings

Barry Jackson
·6 min read

So with Brooklyn-bound James Harden now officially off the trade market, what can the Heat realistically do to improve the roster?

Four possibilities:

Hope the Wizards make guard Bradley Beal available, which could be as simple as Beal eventually saying he wants out, as Harden did with Houston. The Heat’s interest level is high, a source reiterated. At this point, there’s no indication that Washington is making him available.

The question is whether Miami would have enough to interest Washington if it offered a 2025 first-rounder and 2027 first-rounder, Tyler Herro, and either Duncan Robinson or Precious Achiuwa and cap fillers. Whether the Heat would even offer that much is unclear.

If Washington insists on Herro, Robinson and Achiuwa and picks, that would likely be too much for the Heat’s liking.

And even all of those players and assets might not be enough, if the Wizards prefer the type of draft-pick heavy package that Houston secured for Harden (four first-rounders and three pick swaps, plus Caris Lavert, who was flipped to Indiana for Victor Oladipo in a trade not yet completed because both players need to take physicals.)

A source briefed on Heat discussions with Houston about Harden said Miami wasn’t willing to give up Herro and Robinson and Achiuwa all together. That, combined with Miami’s lack of draft assets in the next three years, torpedoed those talks.

Miami could trade a future first-rounder or two (2025 and 2027), only if Oklahoma City agrees to unlock protections on the 2023 pick, which the Thunder should have no objections to doing.

Pursue a trade for impending unrestricted free agent guard Oladipo before the March 25 trade deadline or attempt a sign-and-trade for him this summer.

As we noted a few months ago, Oladipo would love to join the Heat if he didn’t get a max extension from Indiana. The Ringer reported this week that Oladipo didn’t want to go to Houston and hopes to end up in Miami.

But here’s the problem: The Heat won’t have space to give Oladipo a max contract this summer, meaning a trade would be necessary now or in August. Oladipo, 28, can be traded by Houston at any time but cannot be packaged with another player (such as P.J. Tucker) until March 5. The trade deadline is March 25.

If Houston asked for Herro — either before the trade deadline or in a sign-and-trade during the summer — it’s difficult to envision Miami acquiescing in exchange for a player on an expiring contract, even though Oladipo is playing well — 20.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 36.2 percent on threes in nine games before the trade.

A package of Andre Iguodala and impending restricted free agents Robinson and Kendrick Nunn for Oladipo (earning $21 million) would work from a cap standpoint, if Miami was willing to do it.

Iguodala, Robinson, Nunn and Olynyk for Oladipo and Tucker also would work. Acquiring Oladipo now gives Miami his Bird Rights this summer.

If Oladipo tells Houston before the trade deadline that he might leave in free agency this summer, would there be a way to acquire Olapido without giving up any of Miami’s top young assets? That’s highly questionable. I’m not sure a 2025 first-rounder, KZ Okpala, Iguodala and Nunn would be enough to satisfy Houston, even for a rental.

Incidentally, if the salary cap ends up being the projected $112 million, Miami couldn’t sign Oladipo to a max deal without a sign-and-trade. If Oladipo took a deal starting at $4 million under the max from Miami this summer, the Heat could afford him, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Herro — without needing to do a sign-and-trade — and fill out the roster with players on minimum deals and exception money. But that doesn’t seem especially realistic.

Absorb a player with Miami’s $7.6 million trade exception that was obtained from last February’s trade with Memphis. It’s no coincidence that the Heat stands $8 million below the luxury tax threshold — a number Miami prefers not to exceed. That exception expires Feb. 6.

Though Miami has 15 guaranteed contracts, absorbing a player with that trade exception without sending anyone back would mean Miami would simply need to cut Chris Silva to stay at 15. (Or trade Silva to that team.)

Keep in mind that the trade exception cannot be combined with a player to acquire a more expensive player.

Among teams not expected to be contenders, players who would fit into Heat trade exception money would include Minnesota power forward Ed Davis ($5 million), Houston swingman Ben McLemore ($2.3 million), Oklahoma City small forwards Darius Miller ($7 million) and Justin Jackson ($5 million) and center Mike Muscala ($2.3 million), Knicks guard Reggie Bullock ($4.2 million), Chicago guard Garrett Temple ($5 million) and Washington guard Ish Smith ($6 million). Disappointing lottery picks Dennis Smith Jr. (Knicks) and Malik Monk (Charlotte) also would be eligible for this.

All of those players would all be trade exception options should Miami have an in-season need at any of those positions because of injuries.

And if the Sacramento Kings fall out of contention, keep an eye on three skilled players who can be free agents this summer who could all fold into Miami’s trade exception: Nemanja Bjelica ($7.2 million), Jabari Parker ($6.5 million) and Richaun Holmes ($5 million). But the Kings seem unlikely to be sellers.

Trading for a player with an expiring contract, such as the Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge ($24 million), Houston’s Tucker ($7.9 million) or Detroit’s Derrick Rose ($7.7 million). Aldridge or Tucker and Rose would address areas (power forward, point guard) where the Heat could improve. But none likely would be worth dealing a future first-rounder.

Impending unrestricted free agents Otto Porter ($28 million), DeMar DeRozan ($27.7 million), Rudy Gay ($14.5 million) and Trevor Ariza ($12 million) are also potential half-season rentals but less likely unless Miami has a rash of major injuries at small forward or shooting guard. Same with Spurs guard Patty Mills ($13.5 million). The key would be avoiding trading a future first-round pick for a half-season rental.

Those types of players perhaps could be acquired with a package involving either Iguodala or Olynyk (perhaps both in an Aldridge swap) and Nunn or Okpala.

Perhaps Golden State decides it doesn’t want to keep Kelly Oubre ($14 million) — he will be pricey in free agency — and instead decides to deal him to a team as a half-season rental.

Forget Detroit’s Blake Griffin, because he has a burdensome $38.9 million player option for 2021-22 — one he seems likely to exercise.

There’s another option: Sit tight all season and see if Oladipo or (less likely) Kawhi Leonard wants to join the Heat through sign-and-trades next summer.

Here’s my Friday piece on Dolphins backup QB options.