Mailbag: What does Heat’s offseason approach say about what could be next?

·3 min read
Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

The Miami Herald Heat mailbag is here to answer your questions this offseason.

If you were not able to ask this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang). You can also email them in to achiang@miamiherald.com.

@Billsfan1712: What’s next for Heat if they don’t get KD or Mitchell?

Anthony Chiang: This is an interesting question because I don’t think the Heat is going to just give up on its chase for another star if it doesn’t manage to land Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell this offseason. Even if Durant is dealt to another team in the coming days and Mitchell stays with the Jazz for now, it’s hard to imagine that the Heat would give away any assets that could be used to trade for Mitchell or any star who becomes available in the next few months.

So yes, the Heat does have a glaring need for a starting power forward following the departure of P.J. Tucker in free agency. And yes, that need could be addressed on the trade market with options on expiring contracts like Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes (expiring contract with $18.4 million salary for 2022-23 season), Phoenix’s Jae Crowder ($10.2 million salary for 2022-23 season) and Indiana’s Myles Turner ($17.5 million salary for 2022-23 season). Atlanta’s John Collins (entering second season of five-year, $125 million deal) has also been linked to the Heat as a potential trade target.

But this offseason has reinforced that the Heat’s front office, led by president Pat Riley, will almost always go after the star even if it means watching mid-level options come off the board in free agency. If Durant is traded to another team, it could be as simple as Miami using the $6.5 million taxpayer midlevel exception to bring back Caleb Martin or signing T.J. Warren to fill the hole at forward that Tucker left behind, and then rounding out the rest of the roster with minimums.

Yes, that scenario could be labeled as a step back from last season because the Heat lost P.J. Tucker and didn’t sign a top free agent or trade for Durant or Mitchell. But the Heat is in the trade conversation for Durant and it wants to remain in the conversation when other stars become available on the trade market. To do that, Miami needs to keep its assets and maintain its flexibility until the time is right to pounce.

@Electricrelaxa4: If the Heat strikes out on Kevin Durant/Donovan Mitchell and the roster stays basically the same (minus PJ. Tucker at the four), what seed would they be in the East next season? Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia all have upgraded their rosters so I’m assuming fourth or fifth, but would love to hear your thoughts.

Anthony: It’s true. The Boston Celtics upgraded their roster by trading for Malcolm Brogdon, the Philadelphia 76ers got better by adding Tucker, the Atlanta Hawks improved by trading for rising star Dejounte Murray and the Milwaukee Bucks are still elite.

But my answer to this question is this: As long as the Heat has a core of Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry, it’s going to be battling for a top-four seed in the East. In the scenario that Miami doesn’t land a star this offseason, could it finish fifth in a competitive Eastern Conference? Sure. But the Heat is also still in the tier of teams that can realistically win the East.

Also, it’s July 3. There’s a lot that can happen to the Heat’s roster between now and the February trade deadline.

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