Mailbag: Should the Miami Heat wait for Damian Lillard?

Mar 27, 2023; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) watches players warm up prior to the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2023; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) watches players warm up prior to the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

What do the Miami Heat do now after missing out on Bradley Beal, who was traded to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday? Let’s dive into the mailbag to answer your questions.

Depends on how you define “running it back.” Beyond any star acquisitions, it seems unlikely the Heat would bring back last season’s whole NBA Finals team.

Both Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are free agents, and paying them while keeping Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson isn’t a great use of the salary cap. Vincent and Strus could both earn new contracts worth around $10 million a year, which would mean paying the point guard room (Lowry and Vincent) about $40 million combined. That’s not good value for what amounts to something less than elite at the position. Paying Strus and Robinson almost $30 million combined isn’t sensible, either, since they can’t really play together. That would mean the Heat would have an eight-figure salary sitting on the bench at all times. So, no matter what, there looks to be a shake up in the backcourt in some way.

Now, if by “run it back” you mean they won’t get another star to add to the duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the odds of that are higher than most fans might want to admit. Here’s the thing, the Heat are looking to acquire a star talent but, as we saw with Bradley Beal, they aren’t desperate enough to severely overpay. When it comes to star chasing, a lot has to go right, including the right player becoming available at the right time and his current team wanting what Miami can offer. The Heat will be aggressive. That’s all we know.

That’s a big assumption, considering that the latest reporting is that Damian Lillard wants to remain in Portland. But things can change quickly in the NBA and Lillard’s situation is one worth monitoring, particularly on draft night. What the Trail Blazers do with the third overall pick could provide more clarity on their direction.

But let’s live in Steeve’s fantasy land for a little bit and assume Lillard ends up in Miami. How do the Heat build out the rest of the roster? Part of that depends on what is given up for Lillard, but my sense is that a package would be build around Tyler Herro, one of the Lowry/Robinson contracts and three first-round picks. So that would give the Heat either the Lowry or Robinson contract (whichever isn’t sent to Portland) to move in a separate deal. Lowry’s contract is worth $29.7 million and expiring. Robinson has three years, $57.5 million left on his deal, but rehabbed his trade value in the playoffs.

Perhaps there is a team in need of perimeter shooting willing to give up a front court player for Robinson, or wants to get off long-term salary and would take Lowry for a year. The Atlanta Hawks and John Collins come to mind.  Would Detroit flip Bojan Bogdanovic for Robinson at this point? Would the Spurs take on Lowry’s salary and send back Doug McDermott and Zach Collins? Lowry and Nikola Jovic works in terms of money-matching for Kristaps Porzingis, but it’s unclear if he’s going to pick up his player option. If he does, Washington could likely get more for him.

The question is: If the Heat miss out on Damian Lillard, would I consider this offseason a failure? I guess it depends on why the Heat missed out. If Lillard simply decides he wants to see the Portland thing through, then it’s hard to pin the offseason as a failure considering the star the Heat wanted never became available. But if another team — the Brooklyn Nets, for instance — beats out Miami for Lillard then, yes, it’s a failure. Maybe that’s harsh, considering the Heat only have so much control, but it would feel like that.

There could be another wave of stars on the move beyond Lillard. There’s a lot of noise around Zion Williamson and Karl-Anthony Towns. Chris Paul could be available — would the Heat be able to convince him to come out East?

It’s not necessarily accurate to say the Heat are “waiting.” I mean, they kind of are, but stuff on the NBA calendar is happening. The draft is Thursday night. If the Heat don’t have a deal lined up using their 18th pick, they will select someone they like. Assistant GM Adam Simon and his group of scouts have been diligently scouting this class and the Heat will be prepared to make a pick.

Free agency begins shortly after, and the Heat have their own decisions to make on Vincent, Strus, Kevin Love, Cody Zeller and Omer Yurtseven. The Heat can make all of those decisions and still have the assets available to make a credible offer for Lillard, or any other star that becomes available.

No. Kyrie Irving is not an option for the Heat. Not because they don’t want him (even though they don’t want him) but because it would likely take a sign-and-trade to acquire him. Because teams that use a sign-and-trade to acquire a player are automatically hard-capped, this is a non-starter. The Heat already have $173 million committed to nine players before filling out the roster. The hard cap is set at $168 million. It would be nearly impossible for the Heat to get below that, sign Irving and build out a contending roster. This applies for other free agents such as James Harden, Fred VanVleet, Brook Lopez, etc. So Kyrie ain’t happening.