It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Trade Season.
Any hint of action will send (most) of us in a tizzy. We’ll overreact to “Team X has discussed Player Y with Team Z” tweets. We’ll be even more irate when Woj (re)tweets quite literally anything that isn’t trade related.
The NBA is fresh off the heels of a 12-player, four-team deal we haven’t seen since Patrick Ewing (yuck) deal in 2000. Follow-up moves are coming, which means chatter is about to pick up league-wide.
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, it’s only fitting that we — Greg “Lefty Leif” Sylvander and I — examine where the Heat are, what they need, and what we can expect over the next day or so.
Where the Heat Stand
At 34-15, the Heat find themselves 4th in the Eastern Conference. They’re only 1.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors for the second seed, and 3.5 games ahead of the 5th seeded Indiana Pacers. In short, they’re on pace for 50 wins and the right to host a first round series.
Stellar two-way play from All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have set the tone for this team. Butler is doing a little bit of everything. He’s setting the table (career-high 6.2 assists), cleaning the class (career-high 6.8 rebounds), getting to the line (career-high 9.4 free throw attempts), and playing free safety (1.8 steals) on the other end.
Adebayo is making the most of his increased role. The elbow is his home, operating as a post split hub more than ever. He has the freedom to hit cutters, flow into dribble handoffs with Miami’s cast of shooters, or take matters into his own hands as a driver or (short) mid-range merchant. That, on top of his versatility defensively, has made him one of the NBA’s most valuable big men.
Speaking of shooters, the Heat have five rotation players — Duncan Robinson, Meyers Leonard, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Herro, and Goran Dragic — shooting over 39 percent from three this season. As a whole, the Heat are the NBA’s second best three-point shooting team (38.0 percent). With Robinson flying off screens, Herro and Dragic getting busy off the bounce, and Leonard and Olynyk operating as pick-and-pop threats, defenses have been spread thin.
That extra space has given Butler and Adebayo more room to work with, making their offense look unguardable at times. This isn’t just an elite offense; this is, statistically, the best offense in Miami Heat history.
The Heat have (rightfully) earned a reputation as a tough-minded, defense-first group during Erik Spoelstra’s tenure as head coach. They’ve finished with a top-10 defensive rating eight times since the 2008-09 season.
This team is … not that.
Their 108.1 defensive rating is easily the highest of the Spoelstra Era, and currently ranks 14th in the league. The game is much spacier than it was even five years ago, let alone the late 2000s. That context shouldn’t be completely ignored.
Even with that caveat, the defense has bled points in a way that should cause concern. A 111.0 defensive rating since December 1st (18th, 31-game sample) is sound-the-alarm worthy. Their issues are equal parts schematic and personnel-driven; it’s hard to effectively run a drop coverage scheme without players that can stay connected over screens.
What the Heat Need
Offensively, the Heat are a high-level creator short of being really dangerous. Butler and Bam have been worthy scorers, but the lack of equity they possess as jump-shooters puts an artificial cap on their ceilings in the half-court. Teams consistently duck under Butler-ran pick-and-rolls, while more bigs have begun giving Bam acres of space when he has the ball.
There are obvious counters to the play-off-Bam strategy — taking short jumpers, flowing into quick-hitting dribble-hand0ffs — but that’s putting a lot of strain on Robinson, Herro, Dragic and the rest of the crew to knock down off-movement shots. Miami’s woes have really come to light against switchier defenses like the Boston Celtics, a team they could very well face in the first round if the seeding breaks a certain way.
Defensively, it’s pretty much a fielder’s choice for the Heat. Ball pressure is a legit issue. Allocating so many minutes to Kendrick Nunn (though he’s been much better in 2020), Dragic, Herro, Robinson has led to a predictably soft first line of defense. Once enemy drivers puncture the paint, there isn’t much resistance to be met with unless Bam is at the 5.
The Heat either need some “oomph” at the point of attack (hi, Jrue Holiday), a versatile 4 that would allow Bam to play the 5 more often (hi, the idea of Trevor Ariza), or a more effective 5 that can deter shots at the rim (hi, last year’s Dewayne Dedmon).
This may shock you, but the Heat have been linked to all three of those guys this season.
As we approach Thursday’s 3 PM deadline, here’s what I’m hearing surrounding the Heat and the trade market:
- The organization is approaching the deadline with caution and careful inspection. The team is not anxious to make a trade that compromises 2021 salary cap flexibility. Another huge factor is ensuring nothing is done to negatively impact the chemistry this core group has developed. The Heat like their current positioning and trajectory so are not inclined to force a deal
- The Heat is not actively shopping any player apart from Dion Waiters according to a source. As always, they are listening on all players. Well, almost; Butler, Bam and Herro are completely off limits in all talks according to another league source.
- That is where Justise Winslow comes into focus. The Heat have had to learn to live largely without Winslow this season. This gives rise to the question of what type of upgrade he can fetch via trade. At this point what the Heat would get in return would be 100% incremental value to the current active roster and that player could also come packaged within the confines of preserving 2021 cap space.
- Currently the biggest question surrounding Winslow is his health. Teams have registered interest contingent on his health, per Ethan Skolnick.
- I reported in early December that Andre Iguodala was a Heat trade target and I would expect those talks to continue through Thursday. Memphis and Miami continue to discuss possibilities, one of which could potentially include a 2019 deadline target: Jae Crowder. Would the Heat consider parting with Winslow if it nets Iguodala and Crowder (and sheds Waiters)?
- If you put me on the spot, I would say the most likely big-name acquisition resides in San Antonio. Riley has long been fond of LaMarcus Aldridge’s skill set, evolving now to include a 3 point shot that would fit nicely next to Adebayo up front. Aldridge’s playoff experience is attractive provided he wouldn’t cost more than some combination of Winslow, Leonard, Olynyk and/or impending free agent Derrick Jones Jr.