Burning Questions: Are the Miami Heat failing at their own two-timeline plan?

Have the Heat done enough to maximize Jimmy Butler's championship window, and should they make a move to upgrade the point guard position before the trade deadline?

Miami Heat v Memphis Grizzlies
Miami Heat v Memphis Grizzlies / Justin Ford/GettyImages
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Welcome to Burning Questions! The Miami Heat mailbag with hot questions and even hotter answers. Let's jump in.

This is a great point and something I’ve thought about because (a.) I used to cover the Warriors and (b.) definitely see some similarities in the approaches.

The biggest knock on the Warriors during their audacious two-timeline excursion is that they were not fully invested in maximizing Steph Curry’s championship window. Of course, they won the whole thing in 2022, but that season is starting to look more like a post-Kevin Durant outlier in Golden State.

The Heat can fairly be criticized for the same thing. Jimmy Butler (34) and Curry (35) are 17 months apart in age. As we’ve seen in three of the last four years, Butler has been capable of being the best player on a championship-caliber team. Meanwhile, rather than make smaller moves to give Butler better help, the Heat have remained steadfast in saving assets for another star player. 

What does this tell us?

That, perhaps, the Heat’s front office – in their heart of hearts – don’t view Butler on the same level as a Curry, or the other top half-dozen players in the league.

If they did, they wouldn’t be obsessed with adding another star to a group that already includes two top-20 players (Butler and Bam Adebayo) and a top young scorer in Tyler Herro. Imagine if the Heat traded salaries, first-round picks and one or two of the young guys to trade for upgrades at power forward and at guard. 

Miami’s depth would certainly take a hit, but I’m just making a point. If the Heat thought they were that close to a championship, one would think Pat Riley and Co. would make that kind of swing.

I often think back to Philadelphia’s 2022 trade for De'Anthony Melton. Not because Melton is some awesome player – he’s a solid rotation guy – but because of what the 76ers gave up for him. The Sixers traded the No. 23 pick in the draft for Melton. Miami, in that same draft, chose a teenage Nikola Jovic four picks later. The Sixers, with Joel Embiid and (at that point) James Harden were all-in. They paid PJ Tucker when Miami wouldn’t -- future years of the contract be damned. They saw an open window and went for it.

Of course, they didn’t end up making a sustained run like the Heat, so I’m not using this as a shining example of how to maximize your star’s window or even build a team, but there is no denying that they went for it.

The Heat went for it in 2021 (Kyle Lowry, Tucker), but that was coming off a disappointing first-round performance and it was clear changes needed to be made. Those were role-player pickups who helped Miami earn the No. 1 seed in the East that season. They haven’t had an offseason like that since.

To be clear, I’m not saying that the star chase is the wrong way to go. I happen to agree that Butler at this stage can’t be counted on to morph into Michael Jordan every postseason. But it’s at least worth asking why the Heat seem so obsessed about adding another star, rather than maximizing the window of the one they already have.

OK, but let’s say they did!

Miami’s most valuable assets beyond the ones you mentioned are Kyle Lowry’s $29.6 million expiring salary and Caleb Martin, who will likely opt into free agency this summer. Would the Heat ever explore selling high on Duncan Robinson? He’s making $18.1 million this season and could help a lot of contending teams. For the right player, the Heat would have to at least think about it.

A few names I keep coming back to for Miami: Dorian Finney-Smith, Terry Rozier, John Collins, Kelly Olynyk, Talen Horton-Tucker, Davion Mitchell, Keldon Johnson, and some others.

The deal that makes the most sense, on paper, is Lowry’s expiring to Charlotte for Rozier. The Heat desperately need someone who gets to the basket. They rank 29th in restricted area field goal attempts.

Rozier takes an average of 4.6 shots in the restricted area per game, more than any other Heat player (Butler and Adebayo are at 4.3 per game, which is not a lot given their positions) and a lot more than Herro (2.2) and Lowry (0.9). 

If the Hornets want to move off the next two years of Rozier’s contract in advance of a needed retooling around LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller this summer, swapping Rozier for Lowry’s expiring would clear more than $50  million off their books over the next two seasons.

As for Martin, he could be helpful to a contending team in need of wing defense, and the emergence of Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Haywood Highsmith makes Martin, at least theoretically, more expendable. 

His $6.8 million salary isn’t that big, but it can be combined with some smaller salaries to bring a rotation player back. Someone like Sacramento’s Davion Mitchell could make sense. Would Chicago move Jevon Carter and some second-round picks for Martin? These aren’t necessarily upgrades, but rather moves that could balance the roster.

The Heat are reportedly in the market for guard help, and Jones has been a name that’s been bandied about for a few weeks. One fake trade I like is Lowry, Dru Smith’s contract and a future second-round pick to Washington for Jones, Delon Wright and Danilo Gallinari, although I don’t know how much that’s moving the needle for either front office.

That’s a fair assessment. Richardson is a bit more versatile in terms of being able to guard three positions, while Vincent was limited to defending guards. But Richardson tends to gamble for steals more and can be caught out of position.

It hasn’t been an awesome defensive season for Richardson. Players guarded by Richardson this season are shooting 4.6% better than average, according to NBA.com’s database. Vincent held opponents to 0.5% less than their average last season.

I’m a Swider fan, but it’s too early to tell if he’s ready for an NBA contract. His shooting prowess is undeniable, and he’s moving his feet better than this time last year. And while some may dismiss his G League production (26.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals on 57.9% shooting overall and 55.3% from 3) because of the setting, it’s still something.

Like many things, it depends on the rest of the moves Miami makes between now and the start of next season. But the Heat are happy with the progress Swider has made.

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