For input on the Heat, the team’s personnel and thoughts on players that Miami should target before the March 25 trade deadline, we solicited feedback from two veteran scouts with other teams:
▪ Both scouts agreed that the Heat needs another stretch big and both said San Antonio’s Rudy Gay and Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes would be high on their list if they worked for Miami, though one of the two said he had some hesitation about taking on Barnes’ contract, which has two seasons left after this one.
Gay is earning $14 million on an expiring contract, and we’re told the Spurs — who are in playoff position while executing a youth movement — are open to listening on Gay (as well as LaMarcus Aldridge, who’s also on an expiring deal but has declined somewhat, and possibly DeMar DeRozan, who’s playing well in the final months of his contract).
Gay is the type of stretch four — a former small forward — that Erik Spoelstra likes to play alongside Bam Adebayo. Miami has interest in Gay.
“He has lost some athleticism, but he can get his own shot, post up and make threes,” one of the scouts said of Gay. “He can get you double figures consistently. Defense isn’t awful but below average. He’s not as good a defender as Jae Crowder obviously, but he’s a much more reliable offensive player than Crowder.”
Barnes — who’s averaging 16.7 per game and due to earn $20.3 million next season and $18.4 million in 2022-23 — “is better at the four [power forward] than the three [small forward],” one of the scouts said.
“The thing about him is look at his assist total; it has gone up [career-high 3.6],” the scout added. “He can hit threes [39.2 percent], score from the mid-range. He would be a great pickup. The concern would be the contract. [Jimmy] Butler, Bam and Barnes wouldn’t be good enough to win a championship. We were told earlier this year that Barnes wasn’t available, but that could change.”
▪ What about other options? One scout said Miami should at least explore Chicago swing forward Otto Porter, who’s earning $28.5 million on an expiring contract and averaging 11.6 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 40 percent on threes. He has been out with a back injury.
“He used to be thin, but he’s gained weight, a lot of muscle,” one scout said. “He’s not very athletic anymore. But he can shoot, he can pass, he’s a good rebounder. He would be on our list if healthy.”
The other scout said: “I’m not a Porter guy. He’s kind of soft. If you’re not playing Moe Harkless, I don’t see Porter as a big upgrade.”
Among other power forwards, both scouts said they would consider Houston’s PJ Tucker and Sacramento’s Nemanja Bjelica — who are both available — if trade compensation was modest. The Heat has shown interest in both.
“Bjelica can really shoot, he’s a good passer, high IQ, not a bad rebounder, but unathletic and a defensive liability,” one scout said. “He’s sort of like Kelly Olynyk in some ways, but not as physical.”
The other scout said Tucker, whose numbers are down across the board at age 35, “is somebody I could see those guys liking. Can hit corner threes, versatile defender.” The other scout said Tucker has declined, which is why he wouldn’t give up much for him.
▪ The scouts didn’t advocate signing free agent center DeMarcus Cousins. “I wouldn’t touch him,” one said. “He just jacks shots, totally undisciplined. He can rebound and occasionally make a three.”
▪ What about impending Atlanta restricted free agent power forward John Collins or impending Houston unrestricted free agent guard Victor Oladipo (who would love to play for the Heat)?
“I would not pursue Collins,” one scout said. “The cost attached is too high, in terms of trade assets, and the cost to re-sign him. He’s not nearly a max player…
“Oladipo is not playing very well, plus there’s the injury history. I know he wants to go there. To me, he’s a $16 million player now, not a $33.7 million player” which would be his first-year salary if he gets a max contract this summer.
The Heat also has interest in Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry, who’s earning $30 million on an expiring contract, but it’s unclear if the Raptors will trade him.
▪ What about Cleveland center Andre Drummond or Golden State small forward Kelly Oubre, who are both reportedly available?
“Drummond would be best on the Nets,” one of the scouts said. “Never been a fan of Oubre. He doesn’t know his limits. You can’t play him at four and he’s a seventh man.”
Chicago’s Thaddeus Young has been mentioned, but his $14.1 million salary for next season would be a deterrent.
Cleveland forward Larry Nance, also linked to the Heat by Cleveland.com, is due $21 million in the two seasons after this season, which would also be a deterrent. It’s one thing to add a player with time left on his contract if it’s Sacramento’s Barnes; it’s another if it’s Nance.
▪ A final (and appealing) potential target was mentioned Monday when The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor identified the Heat, Spurs, Celtics and Hornets as teams with interest in Magic All-Star center Nikola Vucevic.
He would be ideal fit alongside Adebayo but acquiring him would take a huge return, even if Orlando was interested in moving him. And the Heat lacks the first-round draft inventory needed over the past couple of years to acquire this caliber of player.
▪ One scout on Kendrick Nunn: “He looks like a better player; has a better understanding of what’s a quality shot for him. You see more efficiency because he has a better understanding of where he should be.”
▪ One scout on Herro: “The defense is pretty bad; you want to see improvement there. He has the feel of a sixth man to me. Putting him on the bench simplified things for him; he doesn’t have to worry about getting people touches. And it helps going against backups [for some of his minutes].”
▪ One scout on Precious Achiuwa: “He’s been impressive. We had mixed feelings about him before the draft, particularly offensively. I like how he brings energy, the way he gets in and out of screens. He does everything quickly. He enhances what you guys do movement wise; tough guy, sticks his nose in for rebounds.”
▪ One scout on Duncan Robinson: “He’s doing more than just being a spot shooter. He has improved reading defenses, countering how teams play him.”
But the other was interested to see whether the drop in three-point percentage from extraordinary (44.6 last season) to very good (39.1 percent) would affect his value this summer on the open market.