Miami Heat potential offseason wish list: How realistic is Donovan Mitchell, Lauri Markkanen and Brandon Ingram?

Detroit Pistons v Utah Jazz
Detroit Pistons v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

We’ll begin this wish list with a few important notes to frame the upcoming offseason.

  1. The hope is that the Heat will go forward with Jimmy Butler next season. Despite the fact that both sides appear to be far apart on a contract extension  – Butler will ask for the full, two-year, $113 million extension this summer. The Heat prefer to wait to negotiate until next year – both parties are motivated to keep this partnership going. For now. As this front office and fanbase learned during Dwyane Wade’s contract negotiations in 2016, money can come between even the strongest relationships.
  2. The Heat will be operating right up against the second luxury tax apron and will need to make a cost-cutting move to create enough flexibility to remain below it or make substantial additions in free agency. Depending on what certain players do with their player options, the Heat may have access to the $5.1 million taxpayer mid-level exception. We’ll operate as if that’s an option for now. Beyond a trade, it will be Miami’s best chance to add a difference-making talent.
  3. After losing two key starters last summer, the Heat could lose another pair of important contributors this summer. Caleb Martin and Haywood Highsmith are set to his free agency, with Martin expected to decline his $7.1 million player option. The Heat are likely to lose at least one, if not both, depending on what kind of offers Highsmith garners as an unrestricted free agent. Salary cap analysts Bobby Marks and Keith Smith peg potential offers in the range of $7 million to $8 million per year.
  4. The Heat will be looking to add athletic, two-way wings and a backup center. Shooting is always a requirement for those playing with Butler and Bam Adebayo. Miami’s last two draft picks were Nikola Jovic and Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Pat Riley has said publicly that the team values filling out the roster with length found in the draft.
  5. They have the 15th pick in this year’s draft and can trade up to three first-round picks starting on draft night. Besides the picks, Miami’s best assets are Tyler Herro, Jaquez and Jovic. Jaquez, in particular, might be the team’s most valuable trade chip. But as the Heat have shown in the past, they will be relunctatnt to trade Jaquez or Jovic for anything short of a superstar.
  6. The Heat have one of the most expensive rosters in the league – that’s fine when making Finals runs, but not great when considering that they’ve been in the play-in tournament two years in a row. Although the Heat generally don’t like to take a step back, they may be forced to salary dump one of their guards – Herro, Terry Rozier or Duncan Robinson – to create financial flexibility. Particularly if they can’t swap out some of that salary for a superstar who warrants the team’s high payroll. 

While on the topic, Rozier might be complicated to trade this summer given his season-ending neck injury. Riley said that doctors have told Rozier and the Heat that he will make a full recovery and it shouldn’t be an issue going forward, but any team trading for Rozier would likely want to form its own opinion and check with its own medical team. Just something worth keeping in mind.

So with all that out of the way, let’s take a look at some names that the Heat could target and the likelihood of Miami acquiring them.

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers guard

Situation: Mitchell is eligible for a contract extension this summer and, if he does not resign, the Cavaliers are reportedly ready to trade him this offseason rather than let him leave for nothing a year from now. Because Mitchell can be a free agent in 2025, he does have a bit of say in where he gets traded because he can simply refuse to sign an extension with any team that trades for him.

Heat’s chances: Relatively realistic. Of course, it depends first on what Mitchell does about his contract. If he declines to give the Cavs a long-term commitment, the Heat are sure to call about a trade. The Lakers and Nets have also reportedly prepared potential offers, but the Heat – with their combination of young players and draft picks – should be able to beat competing offers and offer Mitchell a winning situation is a major market.

Paul George, LA Clippers forward

Situation: George is eligible for a new contact but, unlike Mitchell, can become a free agent this summer. If George doesn’t get the maximum contract he covets from the LA Clippers, he’d likely be able to get it elsewhere – such as in Philadelphia, where the 76ers will have max cap space.

Heat’s chances. Zero. Even if George does take meetings as a free agent, the Heat cannot create the necessary cap space to sign him. A sign-and-trade is made nearly impossible by Miami’s position against the second tax apron.

Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks guard

Situation: The Hawks are expected to explore the trade market for Young and Dejounte Murray and pull the trigger on trading one of them. 

Heat’s chances: Unlikely. While Young does make some sense for the Heat, and the Heat’s potential package makes sense for the Hawks, we rarely see trades of this magnitude happen between teams in the same division. Atlanta doesn’t want to see Young four times a season and would likely prefer to send him to another division or conference.

Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz forward

Situation: Markkanen can become a free agent next summer but neither he nor the Jazz have signaled any intention of a parting ways. Still, you can never dismiss Danny Ainge’s willingness to shake things up.

Heat’s chances: Slim. If the Jazz do make Markkanen available, he will be one of the most coveted players available. A 27-year-old, 7-foot, knock-down shooter with an All-Star appearance under his belt, Markkanen can fit into just about any situation. The Heat could easily be outbid by teams like the Spurs and Thunder.

Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets forward

Situation: Once seen as the cornerstone for the Nets’ post-Kevin Durant rebuild, the shine and worn off Bridges over the last year. Still, although he’s not the No. 1 option on a playoff team he’s considered one of the top two-way players in the league. But the Nets are likely more motivated to get a new No. 1 than to trade him.

Heat’s chances: Slim, for now. If the Cavs do make Mitchell available, the Heat will be competing with the Nets for the five-time All-Star. They aren’t likely, then, to work together on a deal that hurts Brooklyn’s ability to trade for Mitchell – since Mitchell isn’t likely to commit to a Nets team that doesn’t have Bridges on it. But that could chance if the Nets strike out this summer and decide to pivot before next year’s trade deadline.

Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans forward

Situation: It was a rough postseason for Brandon Ingram, who might be the odd man out in a wing rotation that includes rising stars Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III. With one more year left on his contract, it makes sense for the Pelicans to explore trading him now.

Heat’s chances: Possible, but are we sure it’s a good fit? Ingram is a talented scorer but he does most of his damage in the mid-range area – a space already occupied by Butler and Adebayo. The Heat need more ball-handling and outside shooting and less isolation-based mid-range stuff. For what it would cost, Ingram probably isn’t the player the Heat should push the chips in for.

Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers center

Situation: If the Cavaliers make dramatic changes to the roster, Jarrett Allen could be shopped to make room for Evan Mobley to take on full-time center duties. Allen if a good rim protector, rebounder and scorer who was playing well in the playoffs before getting injured.

Heat’s chances: Intriguing, but ultimately not the right fit. Allen would give the Heat some size and theoretically allow Bam Adebayo to slide down to power forward, but he’s not a floor spacer. Playing Allen, Adebayo and Butler together would be too cramped. For what it would cost in a trade, it’s not worth it.

Dejounte Murray, Atlanta Hawks guard

Situation: The Hawks are expected to explore the trade market for Young and Dejounte Murray and pull the trigger on trading one of them. 

Heat’s chances: Unlikely given what it would cost for just a marginal upgrade over Terry Rozier and Tyler Herro. The Heat explored a Murray trade before the deadline and ultimately decided to trade for Rozier instead. That tells you everything you need to know.

Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks center

Situation: Lopez has been a foundational part of the Milwaukee Bucks’ success but the team may need to make some changes to maximize the Giannis Antetokounmpo-Damian Lillard window. Lopez is under contract for one more year at $23 million.

Heat’s chances: This is a possibility, although it’s unclear what the Heat would offer. Would a package built around Herro be enough to pry Lopez from a conference rival? The Heat would have a better chance if Caleb Martin opted into his $7.1 million contract, but that seems unlikely.

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls center

Situation: Vucevic is coming off a down season in which he shot 29% on 3s. He’ll be 34 at the start of next season and the Bulls might be ready to move on.

Heat’s chances: Starting to get more likely. The Heat would theoretically have a few players that should interest the Bulls. Herro is too good and too young to trade for just Vucevic, but could a Duncan Robinson for Vucevic swap help both teams?

Bruce Brown, Toronto Raptors guard

Situation: After signing a rich two-year, $40 million with the Pacers last summer, Brown was traded to the Raptors as part of the Pascal Siakam deal. Now he has one year left for $20 million is the Raptors are expected to see what they can flip the 27-year-old for this summer.

Heat’s chances: Realistic. Brown, a former University of Miami standout, might welcome a return to South Florida to play for a team that represents a lot of what makes him special. Brown is a hard-nosed, versatile defender with a tendency to make big plays. He’s a career 33% 3-point shooter who could fit into most lineups. The Raptors could use spacing and like to trade for players under contract. Duncan Robinson and a future first-round pick could be enough to get a deal done. But the Heat might not have those assets if they move them in a bigger trade.

Jalen Smith, Indiana Pacers center

Situation: Smith has a player option for $5.4 million that he could decline to become a free agent. A mobile big man who can shoot 3s, rebound and protect the paint, Smith could be in line for a raise and more playing time elsewhere.

Heat’s chances: Tough, but not impossible. While the Heat can’t offer a raise, since they’ll be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception, they could offer more years and player options on the back end. If Smith, the 10th pick in the 2020 draft, thinks he can maximize his potential in Miami, maybe he’d be willing to bet on himself the way guys like Caleb Martin, Haywood Highsmith and so many others did.

Other potential free-agent targets: Goga Bitadze, Cedi Osman, Andre Drummond, Kyle Anderson, Taurean Prince, Kira Lewis Jr., Saddiq Bey, Jordan Nwora, Dario Saric, Dennis Smith Jr., Keita Bates-Diop, Lamar Stevens, Kessler Edwards, Kris Dunn, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Xavier Tillman.