• Jorge Cantu

Pat Riley, Heat Ready for the Trade Season


We are now past December 15th, which means players that signed new contracts this past offseason are now eligible to be traded. With most of the players around the league available, nobody is safe. The Miami Heat is perhaps one of the most unsafe NBA franchises to play for right now, because things have not worked out as planned and nobody is safe from being dealt away as Miami will desperately start looking for answers elsewhere. With the trade season officially arriving, Pat Riley and the rest of the Heat front office will certainly be quite busy from now until the February 7th trade deadline. Who on Miami’s roster makes the most sense in a move? Who should the front office keep out of trade talks?

THE UNTOUCHABLES

Baltimore Sun

The Young Core (Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow)

These are the three guys the team needs to build their future upon. In 357 possessions the three youngsters have played together, the team has a 6.1 net rating, 81st percentile compared to every other lineup in the NBA with at least 100 possessions played.

The combination of offense and defense these three bring to the table, as well as their long-term potential, is what makes them untouchable. When the three share the court, they hold opponents to a 45.4% EFG, 99th percentile in the league. They take care of the ball and crash the offensive glass with purpose, posting a 13.4% turnover percentage and a 29.5% offensive rebounding percentage together, both marks ranked in the 82nd percentile.

Long story short, Richardson, Justise, and Bam need to become starters if the Heat want to reap the benefits sooner than later. They will make mistakes in the process, but they are good enough to keep the team afloat and will continue to develop their games playing meaningful minutes together.

The Heat Legends (Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem)

Obviously, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are not going anywhere. They have spent nearly their full careers together and bring leadership and locker room presence for the youth on the roster.

As dreadful as Wade has been on defense, he has bailed the team out with a couple of timely shots. He is still below average on offense, scoring only one point per shot attempt (18th percentile amongst combo guards) and coughing up the rock in 13.5% of his possessions (40th percentile). He gets a pass because this is his “last dance” and has brought three championships to South Beach.

THE IDEAL MOVERS

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Hassan Whiteside

A lot of people wonder why Heat fans kind of despise Hassan Whiteside these days. How could anyone dislike the one player that blocks more shots per game (2.9) than anyone else, or the guy that ranks in the 98th and 92nd percentile in defensive and offensive rebounding percentage among big men, respectively?

The problem is not what he can do; it is what he cannot do.

He cannot shoot, and opposing centers who can shoot cook him on defense. He cannot defend versatile guards and forwards. His bad attitude does not help matters either.

His shooting is way too poor considering he takes 85% of his shots within 14 feet of the basket. Whiteside only makes 54% of his two-point shots (46th percentile) and scores just 105.6 points per 100 shot attempts (19th percentile). Maybe the story would be different if his offense made up for his lack of all-around versatility.

Whiteside is due $52 million from now until 2020 free agency, making it very tough to find someone willing to take him. Pat Riley has done tougher things, though.

James Johnson

Johnson used to be a low-usage role player until 2016, when he signed with Miami and became a do-it-all big. He could pass, rebound, play defense, he even made threes at league average rate. A couple of seasons and injuries later, he has now become an unplayable cancer.

The Heat has been outscored by 17.7 points in the 264 minutes Johnson has seen on the court this season, near the bottom of the league.

He will turn 32 next year and injuries have clearly taken a toll on him. He is owed $46 million over the next three years and it is hard to imagine somebody genuinely taking a chance on him without the Heat attaching one or more picks to the deal.

Goran Dragic

If we are being fair, Dragic is not as bad as his two previous teammates in this category. His overall on-off numbers are good, but his rough shooting this season and his consistent problems on the defensive end have turned his game into a coin toss every night.

His $19.2 million player option for next season is not too much of a problem for some teams that may want to give him a shot in their rotation; he is still a useful player when surrounded by the right teammates and when his shots do not bounce off the rim 70% of the time.

The one reason why I believe the Heat should trade Dragic is to clear the way for Justise Winslow to take the starting point guard slot. They can always keep him, but given his limitations and declining game he would be better suited in a smaller role. Quoting a Five Reason Sports tweet from a couple of days ago, Erik Spoelstra needs to play the kids, not the contracts.

Dion Waiters

It might be unfair to criticize a player who has not even logged a single minute in almost one year due to injury, but if his track record is any indication, Waiters will not be too big of a positive for the Heat upon his return.

His shooting is terrible for a wing, he is highly turnover (and injury) prone, he is not a good defender, and he is due $36.3 million until 2021. He most likely has zero suitors.

If Miami cannot find a trade destination for Waiters, they can re-assign him to the halftime show crew and have him do his best Kanye West impression after gaining some pounds.

THE VALUABLE ASSETS

Heat Zone

Wayne Ellington

Even when his on-off numbers are not too kind, nobody makes more threes per game in Miami than Ellington. His ability to make three-pointers should be highly coveted by needy Playoff contenders such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers.

With only a $6 million contract that expires after this season, the Heat may be able to snag a pick or a young player out of an Ellington deal. At this point, the Miami youngsters will benefit the most by taking the 8.3 shots per game Ellington attempts.

Rodney McGruder

While some consider McGruder a part of the young core, he currently has more trade value than anyone else on the Heat (excluding the three members of the aforementioned core). McGruder is having a career year – he is currently shooting 39.5% from deep on 4.3 attempts – and he has shown massive improvements on the defensive end.

At 27 years of age, McGruder has just been in the league for three seasons and is just entering his prime. As a 3-and-D commodity with potential to grow even more as a player, he is a good fit on pretty much any team in the league. And as much as the Heat would like to keep him around for the long haul and see him develop further, it may be smarter to try and get a better option through the trade market.

LIMBO PLAYERS

Heat Zone

Kelly Olynyk

Olynyk has been the best and most consistent offensive player for the Miami Heat this season. He plays hard, stretches the floor, draws charges, is a great passer compared to other big men, and fights for rebounds. All of this makes him valuable in a trade, but the team would be much better keeping him.

He averages 125.7 points per 100 shot attempts (75th percentile amongst bigs), by far the best mark on the team. He provides good playmaking, as Olynyk especially likes to use fake screens and handoffs as a way to lure defenders into early reactions that open up scoring opportunities for both him and his teammates.

Olynyk is a part of the Heat’s best five-man lineup alongside Dwyane Wade, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, and Bam Adebayo. On 107 possessions, they have a 30.6 net rating (98th percentile), a 37.8 free throw rate (100th percentile), allowing only a 44.3 EFG% (98th percentile), and force turnovers on 21.6% of their opponent’s possessions (99th percentile).

At the end of the day, it would not be catastrophic if Olynyk gets traded as long as there is a proper return. But the Heat have struggled quite a bit on the offensive end (107.0 offensive rating, 25th in the league), and they cannot afford to lose their best offensive player. At the end of the day, he is neither a core piece nor a dumpster; he is in the limbo.

Derrick Jones Jr.

I find Derrick Jones Jr. to be a very intriguing player. He was picked up by the Heat off waivers on a two-way deal last December and made some noise in his first year with the team. Jones started some games early this season and he looked very good, with a couple of his highlight plays going viral on social media.

Jones is super athletic, still very young at 21, and can do a little bit of everything. He is active on defense, crashes the glass, and does the little things that help the team. As a neutral contributor, he is not really a part of the young core and is more of a long-term prospect. But if I were Miami, I would look to keep him.

Tyler Johnson

As much as Heat fans despise Tyler Johnson and the nearly $40 million he is owed until 2020, I am still a believer. Much like Jones Jr., Johnson has been a neutral contributor this season with not too many positives, but not too many negatives either. Once again, what makes him abhorred by some Heat fans is his humongous contract.

He started the season with rough three-point shooting splits but he is now up to 36.1% from deep, a pretty respectable mark. He can play both on and off the ball, giving the team some backcourt flexibility, and uses a soft lefty floater to score over big men on drives. Johnson is actually shooting 64% at the rim, right at the 84th percentile mark for combo guards.

The team might be forced to dump his overpaid contract if the opportunity presents itself via trade, but it is not like he hurts the team badly on the court if they keep him. Injuries have derailed his progress this year, but I do believe he can be much better and make his paychecks feel worth it.

The Heat is in cap hell for at least two more seasons. And after taking a look at the status of each player on the roster, it is safe to assume the team will not stand pat by the time the trade deadline arrives. And while Miami has more than a handful of bad contracts, you can rest assured Pat Riley always has a trick under his sleeve.

All statistics courtesy of Cleaning the Glass and Basketball Reference.

You can follow Jorge on Twitter @CantuNBA

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