MIAMI — The Heat’s roster remained intact as the team returned to the court Wednesday for their first post All-Star break practice.
But will Miami’s roster look the same on the other side of Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline? Heat players hope so.
“I like what we got,” guard Dion Waiters said. “I feel as though we built that chemistry. Everybody is comfortable in their roles. We sort of know what’s going to happen out there as far as playing time and things like that. Everything is just right.”
With victories in 14 of the past 16 games, Miami is ready to make a playoff push with its current roster. The Heat return from the break just two games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference occupied by the Pistons, and three games out of the No. 7 spot occupied by the Bulls.
While some Heat players would rather see the organization stand pat at the deadline, team president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg will ultimately make that call.
“I think everybody feels positive about how the last five weeks have gone,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The one thing that’s been consistent about this organization since Micky (Arison) and Pat took over, it’s always about winning. If we have an opportunity to win, we’ll go all in and commit to it. And that’s really been the mindset. So, it doesn’t guarantee anything. But our players and staff feel good about the direction this team is going and understand how competitive it will be the next 25 games. We’ve earned the right to be in that battle this time of year.”
Miami has made a deal at the deadline in each of the past four seasons. Most were minor moves like sending Roger Mason, Jr. to the Kings in exchange for a conditional second-round draft pick in a trade deadline deal in 2014.
But one of the Heat’s recent trade deadline moves did bring in Goran Dragic. Miami put together a package that included Danny Granger and two future first-round picks to acquire its current starting point guard.
The Heat don’t seem to have the enticing assets required to make a splashy move this year, though.
Miami is restricted from trading its 2017 first-round pick because teams are not allowed to trade out of the first round in consecutive future seasons under NBA rule, and the Heat’s 2018 first-round pick could go to the Suns as part of the Dragic trade. In fact, the only first-round pick Miami currently has available to trade is from the 2023 draft with teams only able to deal draft picks up to seven years into the future.
Miami has two second-round picks it can currently trade from the 2022 and 2023 drafts. But if a trade partner is looking for a draft pick it can use soon, the Heat can’t offer that right now.
That’s why waiting until the summer to make a big trade could be a more realistic option. The Heat can trade this year’s first-round draft choice after the pick is made.
Miami’s most valuable trade assets entering Thursday’s deadline seem to be its two best players — Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. But dealing Dragic and/or Whiteside away would require getting a high draft pick or star in return, and it would dismantle a Heat core that has fought their way back into the playoff race with a 14-2 record since Jan. 17.
The Heat also have some young affordable assets they can offer like Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder. But considering that Winslow and Richardson have been injured for most of the season, it’s hard to imagine that other teams value them enough right now to make an offer that would get the Heat to trade them away.
Another option Miami has is to dangle impending free agents James Johnson and Waiters in front of contenders that are looking to win now.
Johnson is on a one-year, $4 million contract and is set to get a big pay raise this upcoming summer as a free agent, but his career-best play this season could be enough for contenders to see past that. Meanwhile, Waiters is on a two-year deal with a $3 million player option for next season, but his recent hot play makes him an attractive short-term piece for contenders looking to add a scorer.
The Heat may not have many attractive assets to offer in a trade, but the cupboard isn’t bare either. The question is, does Miami have enough to make a substantial move before the deadline?
“I’m not even worrying about that,” Waiters said. “It’s probably on some guys’ mind, but not on this team I don’t think. It’s always hectic, man. But at the end of the day, it’s a business. You can’t control it. The only thing you can control is what happens on the court when you’re out there. We’re not letting it distract us from what we’ve got going on. We’re confident and excited for the second half of the season.”