With cap space and open roster spots this summer, the Heat will be looking to improve.
Paul George is one of the big-name stars who could be available this summer. Not because he’s a free agent, but because his current contract situation could force the Pacers to trade him.
George has two years left on his contract and is set to make $19.5 million this upcoming season, but he can opt out and become a free agent next summer. And the 26-year-old forward is expected to do just that and enter free agency after the 2017-18 season with a big raise — probably in the form of a max contract — available on the open market.
When asked about his future in Indiana after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs Sunday, George said, “I ain’t even at that point, yet.” But if the Pacers feel like they are in danger of losing George next summer for nothing in free agency, they could explore what they can get for him in a trade before it reaches that point.
That’s where the Heat enter the picture. Miami is in need of a star and George falls into that category, as he averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists and led the Pacers to the playoffs this season.
But if the Pacers are going to trade George, they are going to want a lot in return.
Unlike the Knicks, which would likely just want to free up cap space if they traded Carmelo Anthony, the Pacers are going to want good players in exchange for George. Why? Because cap space isn’t as valuable to Indiana, which historically has not had much luck acquiring big-name players in free agency.
So who could the Heat trade for George? Obviously some names that could interest Indiana are Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow or Tyler Johnson.
The next question is, would you trade those pieces for a player who could end up being a one-year rental? Even if George is traded this summer, he’s still expected to chase the pay raise and become a free agent next offseason.
Many people believe George is destined to play for the Lakers, as Los Angeles is close to his hometown of Palmdale, Calif. Lakers president Magic Johnson even jokingly made his desire to have George in Los Angeles during an interview last week with late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel.
While the Pacers could be scared of losing George next summer for nothing, the Heat should probably be scared of trading away big pieces for a player who could leave the organization after one season.