Miami Heat Trade Season Primer, Teams to Watch, Victor Oladipo Update
Plus: Ramifications from Caleb Martin and the Bulls being placed in health and safety protocols.
Happy Monday. In today’s newsletter… we go around the NBA to take stock of trade deadline buyers and sellers, take a look at the Miami Heat’s options to improve the team and get into the latest on the team’s dealing with COVID-related healthy and safety protocols.
Catch Up Quick
Minutes before Saturday night’s win against the Chicago Bulls, the Heat were alerted that Caleb Martin would be placed into the league’s health and safety protocols and therefore unavailable. Martin was the planned starter in place of Jimmy Butler, but coach Erik Spoelstra was forced to make changes on the fly and start Gabe Vincent. This was a frustrating process for all involved.
Now the Heat face more potential ramifications. These cases rarely occur independently, as most teams face players being entered into protocols in bunches. Take the Bulls, who have had two of their games postponed as a COVID-19 outbreak has sidelined 10 of their players. Mucking up matters for the Heat is the fact that these teams just played over the weekend. Longtime Heat broadcaster Jason Jackson was placed into protocols Monday. More players being impacted should be the expectation.
Victor Oladipo traveled with the team for Monday night’s game in Cleveland and was seen putting up shots after this morning’s shootaround. Spoelstra called Oladipo’s presence an “emotional and mental boost.”
NBA #TradeSZN Teams to Watch
Wednesday is an important day on the NBA calendar. On December 15, most players who signed contacts over the summer as free agents become eligible to be traded.
This increased flexibility marks the unofficial start to the NBA trade season. Though most deals won’t happen until closer to the February 10 deadline, there’s already plenty of rumblings. Two of the league’s biggest names — Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons — remain in a stalemate with their respective teams. Other clubs, such as the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers, could have their metaphorical fingers hovering over the button to blow things up. Buyers and sellers have emerged and, while a blockbuster may still be a longshot, there are several teams and players worth monitoring in the weeks and months ahead.
Before taking a look at things through the Miami Heat lens, let’s first scan the latest rumors and reports from around the league.
Philadelphia 76ers: When my co-host Adam Mares asked if I have thought about Ben Simmons recently during last Friday’s episode of “Locked On NBA” my answer was simple: No. Little has changed in the standoff between Simmons and the Sixers, so much so that the entire situation has become a bit of an afterthought anywhere outside of Philadelphia (and perhaps Portland). Still, the Simmons stuff appears to be reinvigorated this week with The Athletic on Monday reporting that the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers “are among the teams interested in Simmons.”
Indiana Pacers: Hiring Rick Carlisle was supposed to be the jolt the Pacers needed to take a step forward, out of mediocrity. Instead, the team has gone the other way this season. At 12-16, Indiana is still just 1.5 games out of the play-in tournament, but that isn’t the point. The Pacers are going nowhere fast, and reports indicate that they are seeking a star to built around. As such, they are believed to be listening to trade offers for some of their best players, including Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Caris LeVert.
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard has consistently shot down reports of his rumored unrest in Portland, but it’s becoming more and more clear that there isn’t a way to return to the Western Conference Finals with the current group. Unlike his predecessor Neil Olshey, who was fired after a month-long investigation into his workplace conduct, interim GM Joe Cronin struck a different tone when discussing a roster he hopes to take “from good to great.” That means a Lillard deal is probably not happening, especially mid-season. It’s more likely that Portland tries to trade pieces such as McCollum, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic and Larry Nance Jr. in order to reshape an underperforming roster.
Boston Celtics: While injuries have certainly contributed to Boston’s disappointing start (13-14), it’s also clear that this roster has major holes to fill. Brad Stevens, in his first season in charge of the front office, is faced with the challenge of reshaping this roster. While Jayson Tatum remains a star worth building around, Stevens could opt to ship out role players such as Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, Robert Williams and Romeo Langford in exchange for a point guard who can take some of the playmaking duties from Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
New York Knicks: After a bing-bongy start to the season, the Knicks have fallen to 12-15 and have dropped six of their last seven games as they get set to host the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night. Down seasons from Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Kemba Walker have left the Knicks searching for answers, and coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t have much patience for losing.
Sacramento Kings: Speaking of patience, there is very little within a Kings organization seeking to snap a two-decade-long skid of missing the playoffs. GM Monte McNair has yet to make a major move since taking over in 2020, but he could be motivated to explore trades for De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes.
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson’s continued absence and ambiguous return timeline has submarined the Pelicans season. At 8-21, there isn’t much time to turn things around, even if Williamson does eventually return. Can GM David Griffin afford to wait until next season?
Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James teams are always ripe for a mid-season trade, especially ones that are underperforming as these Lakers (15-13) are. While it’s unlikely they’ll be able to move Russell Westbrook for anything resembling the cast of role players they traded to Washington to get him, there may be a fringe move to be made. Centers Dwight Howard and Deandre Jordan have seen their roles diminish, and the team is in desperate need of a 3-and-D wing.
Where Do the Heat stand?
At 16-11, the Heat have done well to stay afloat despite prolonged injuries to Markieff Morris (whiplash), Victor Oladipo (quad), Jimmy Butler (tailbone contusion) and Bam Adebayo (right thumb surgery). Coach Erik Spoelstra has revamped the team’s identity defined by flexible defense, rebounding and, lately, 3-point shooting.
Miami’s window as a fringe contender is open. Internal beliefs that this team can reach the Finals when healthy have not wavered since the start of the season. The last time the organization felt this way, Pat Riley signed off on a mid-season trade to acquire Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder. Similarly, these Heat are a body short on the perimeter (even when factoring in the eventual return of Oladipo).
The Heat signed nine players to new contracts this summer who will become eligible to be traded this week — P.J. Tucker, Kyle Lowry, Morris, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Omer Yurtseven, Dewayne Dedmon, Oladipo, Udonis Haslem. Those who signed an extension, Butler and Duncan Robinson, don’t become eligible until January.
So while Miami will have more flexibility later this week, it is still about $400,000 short of crossing into the luxury tax. Around the league, it’s believed the Heat will only trigger the luxury tax for a player they believe could tangibly swing their title chances. That means any trade would have to include like-for-like salaries or net a true difference-maker.
Also making a deal difficult is the fact that Miami’s roster is largely split between large contracts and small ones, making it difficult to match salaries for a player who can move the needle.
For example, even if the Heat wanted to acquire someone on the trade block such as Indiana’s Myles Turner, they would have to cobble together roughly $17 million of salary from a group that includes Tucker ($7 million), Tyler Herro ($4 million), Morris ($2.6 million), Dedmon ($2.3 million), Oladipo ($2.3 million), Okpala ($1.7 million), Vincent ($1.6 million), Strus ($1.6 million) and Yurtseven ($1.4 million). Remember, Robinson cannot be traded until later. That sort of deal fails to make sense for either side.
The same goes for guys who would be good fits — such as Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Eric Gordon, Robert Covington, Larry Nance and Josh Richardson — also have “middle class” salaries that Miami would have a hard time matching. The Heat also don’t have any draft capital except for a distant first-round pick to use in a deal.
If there’s a trade to be made, it’s likely for a smaller contract. Miami’s most logical package is Morris’s expiring deal and Okpala, which works out to about $4.4 million. But unless Okpala takes a measurable leap over these next few weeks, that’s not all that enticing for a rival team and wouldn’t return anything meaningful.
If the Heat make a move, it will likely come on the buyout market in February. Even then, they could potentially deal Okpala (or another youngster) into a team’s cap space, sign a bought-out veteran to the minimum and still stay below the tax. Trade season could bring some excitement to the NBA this season, but probably not to Miami.
- What do you think Miami should or could do? Comment below!
Miami Heat Goku (h/t Heat Reddit)
Locked On Heat
If you aren’t already listening/watching to Locked On Heat, please consider subscribing on all channels. My co-host David Ramil and I recently launched the YouTube channel to great success. On today’s episode, we discussed Tucker’s enhanced offensive game, Spoelstra’s adjustments and made predictions for this week’s game. Tune in tonight for our recap of Heat-Cavs.
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