NBA Free Agency: Competition in East gets better as Heat stand pat

The Miami Heat's standing in the East has only gotten worse after the first day of NBA free agency.
Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Clippers
Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Clippers / Harry How/GettyImages

For the second straight summer, the competition in the East is busy getting better while the Miami Heat have struggled to make improvements.

One day into free agency, the Philadelphia 76ers signed Paul George while a division rival landed one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. Besides re-signing Kevin Love to a two-year, $8 million contract, the Heat haven’t made much noise. 

A quick recap of the key moves made by teams in the Eastern Conference:

  • Philadelphia 76ers: Signed Paul George to a four-year, $212 million contract. Re-signed Tyrese Maxey to a five-year, $204 million extension. Signed Andre Drummond to a two-year, $10 million deal to be Joel Embiid’s backup at center. Re-signed Kelly Oubre Jr. on a two-year, $16.3 million deal.
  • New York Knicks: Traded multiple future first-round picks for Mikal Brides. Agreed to a five-year, $212.5 million contract to bring back OG Anunoby.
  • Orlando Magic: Signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a three-year, $66 million deal. 
  • Boston Celtics: Re-signed backup center Luke Kornet to a one-year deal as they keep their championship team intact.
  • Indiana Pacers: Agreed to terms on a four-year, $189.5 million maximum contract with Pascal Siakam that keeps their All-Star trade deadline acquisition with the franchise.
  • Elsewhere in the East: The Wizards signed center Jonas Valaciunas… the Raptors agreed to a new contract with guard Immanuel Quickly… and the Nets re-signed center Nic Claxton.

Meanwhile, the Heat still have some business to take care of. Forwards Haywood Highsmith and Caleb Martin are free agents. Highsmith will have interest from teams with cap space including the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto.

Martin, after declining hsi $7.1 million player option, is a candidate to earn a non-taxpayer mid-level exception from contending teams. 

The Heat have 12 players under contract but could create another roster spot by waiving Orlando Robinson’s non-guaranteed contract by July 15, but will be limited to signing players to veteran minimum contracts unless they make moves to reduce payroll. The Heat can also explore trades to improve the roster.

If there’s any looming hope for Heat fans, it has to do with Donovan Mitchell, who still hasn’t agreed to an extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While most reports indicated that the Cavs are optimistic about re-signing Michell, nothing is official. Does that leave a door open for the Heat to trade for the All-Star scorer?

Another name reportedly on the trade block: Lauri Markkanen, who the Utah Jazz are listening to offers for. But, like Bridges, Markkanen might demand more assets than the Heat have in a trade.

Besides that, there may not be another avenue to greatly improve the team going into next season. Miami’s best chance to improve may be counting on a more engaged Jimmy Butler during what could be a contract year, a full year of Terry Rozier and internal improvement from Jaime Jaquez Jr., Nikola Jovic and Kel’el Ware.

Unfortunately, the Heat don’t have the cap space or draft capital to be as nimble as their Eastern Conference rivals. If Mitchell re-signs with Cleveland, a meaningful addition, for now, doesn’t appear to be on the table for the Heat this summer.