As the Miami Heat navigate a season hampered by more injuries than almost any other team, it could be tough for the front office to get an accurate read of the team’s championship viability.
But that’s the task in front of Pat Riley and Co. as the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaches. The Heat are squarely in the playoff race. There’s no reason to panic. But finding reinforcements ahead of the second half playoff push would help them compete against top teams in the East like the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
So what kind of deal could the Heat try to pull off? A major swing for one of the league’s available All-Stars? A minor move on the fringes?
Here’s everything you need to know.
Are the Heat title contenders?
The answer will dictate how the Heat approach the trade deadline. If the Heat believe they’re good enough to repeat last season’s Finals run, they might stay pat or make minor moves to add depth at point guard or center, or relieve their luxury tax burden.
If Miami believes it needs a bigger upgrade after rivals in Boston and Milwaukee made big swings over the summer, the Heat could seek to package a larger contract with a young prospect or picks to land an available All-Star such as Toronto’s Pascal Siakam or Atlanta’s Dejounte Murray.
In the packed Eastern Conference standings, the Heat wake up nearly every day within a game of a top-four seed. However, their net rating of plus-1.5 is closer to teams like the Orlando Magic than the Celtics (plus-9.8), Sixers (plus-8.3) and Bucks (plus-4.8). How far are the Heat away from those teams, and could a healthy stretch help them resemble a championship contender?
If the Heat do decide to make a big swing, Kyle Lowry’s expiring salary is the likeliest outgoing asset. Lowry is on the books for $29.6 million this season and will be a free agent this summer. Any team looking to get off long-term salary could use Lowry’s contract for cap relief.
The Heat are not expected to make rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. available for a trade, but could 20-year-old Nikola Jovic, who has started the last six games at power forward for the Heat, be used as a sweetener for an All-Star player? How willing are the Heat to include a future first-round pick in a deal?