What would it take for Heat to get into conversation for Andrew Wiggins or Karl-Anthony Towns?

Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves during a game last season against the LA Clippers at the Staples Center. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years after adding an All-Star in Jimmy Butler and a handful of other veterans to go along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

But despite topping .500 (47-35) for the first time since 2004-05, there are rumblings of uneasiness within the organization. Now it’s up to coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau to soothe over feelings and improve the roster after the Wolves lost in five games to the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs.

Most of the trade rumors center around 23-year old Andrew Wiggins, who was given a $146.5 million max extension last October that goes into effect this upcoming season. Now, the Wolves may be looking to get out from that deal and a trade is the only way.

Here is where the Miami Heat come in.

Miami, as we know, has its share of bad deals but none are as long as Wiggins’, whose contract is for five years. He starts at more than $25 million next season and will be making more than $33 million in 2022-23.

But Wiggins, a 6-foot-8, small forward, never has been an All-Star and his production dipped sharply last season, going from 23.6 points per game on .452 shooting in 2016-17 to 17.7 points on .438 shooting. Now, Minnesota may be looking to unload him.

Like the Heat, the Timberwolves are capped out, so are they looking to create space or get equal value in return? This is the same question being asked of the Heat when it comes to Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson, two players who will account for $44.6 million next season.

The Heat would have some leverage because they’d be assuming a lot more in total salary if they were to acquire Wiggins and either Whiteside (two years remaining at $52.5 million) or Johnson (two years remaining at $38.5 million) were part of a deal.

But Miami must decide what else they would be willing to give up – the Wolves would ask for much more, including Josh Richardson, in the deal – and if they believe Wiggins is that ‘transformative’ player Pat Riley has referenced, and one worth paying nearly $150 million for five years.

Wiggins was the first overall pick in 2014 by the Cavaliers and then was traded by LeBron James to Minnesota for Kevin Love. In four years he is averaging 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

Wiggins is among the worst defensive players in the league, which could give the Heat some pause, although he did improve last season. Players Wiggins was guarding shot 46.3 percent against him last season after a dreadful 2016-17 in which those same players made 49.4 percent of their shots.

 

Karl-Anthony Towns

Wiggins’ name is not the only one to come up when it comes to Minnesota. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported Towns is not happy, which has spurred trade speculation involving the 7-foot center.

Towns, 22, was the first overall pick in 2015, the same draft in which the Heat selected Justise Winslow with the 10th overall pick. He was an All-Star for the first time this past season, averaging 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds. Moving such a valuable player appears a longshot and especially to Miami. The Heat, though, certainly would love to put together a package of Whiteside and  a couple of their young players – Minnesota probably would start with Bam Adebayo and Richardson. And the Heat probably would have to take back a bad contract or two to make the deal work.

The problem is there would be a long line of suiters. Two off the top could be the Celtics and Suns. Boston could offer a package centering around Jaylen Brown and a first-round pick next year – they own Sacramento’s, their own and possibley two more – for Towns. The media in Phoenix is proposing the Suns get involved by offering the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. Moving to Phoenix would then reunite Towns with his former Kentucky teammate, and friend, Devin Booker.

Towns, too, can be a defensive liability and was a big reason Minnesota was tied for 22nd last season with a 108.4 defensive rating. Still, for one of the better offensive centers in the league and one who can stretch the floor – he attempted 285 threes last season making 42.1 percent – his contract is very friendly. He will make $7.8 million next season and $19.6 million in 2019-20 before becoming a restricted free agent.

[Mailbag: Chances Heat trade Dragic; could Suns try to pair Dragic with Luka Doncic? More on Winslow]

[Udonis Haslem wants to be part of Heat organization after playing career is over: ‘It’s important that the culture is carried on’]

[Here’s what the Heat are doing differently before the 2018 draft without any picks]

[Without pick, Heat are preparing for every possibility at NBA draft combine … even the possibility of acquiring a pick]

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Five takeaways: Even in a painful overtime loss to the Timberwolves, there were some bright spots for the Heat

Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters, center, goes up for a shot against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson, left, and guard Andrew Wiggins during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, in Miami. The Timberwolves defeated the Heat 125-122 in overtime. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI — A 2-3 start was enough for the Heat to call for a team meeting Sunday.

But the team meeting wasn’t enough to help Miami avoid a three-game losing streak. The Heat (2-4) fell to the Timberwolves 125-122 in overtime Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Continue reading “Five takeaways: Even in a painful overtime loss to the Timberwolves, there were some bright spots for the Heat”

Tonight’s matchup: Hassan Whiteside out for Heat’s game vs. Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns,right, eyes the basket as Miami Heat’s James Johnson defends during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES VS. MIAMI HEAT

When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun/WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Records: Minnesota 3-3, Miami 2-3

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS

Timberwolves

F: Andrew Wiggins

F: Taj Gibson

C: Karl-Anthony Towns

G: Jimmy Butler

G: Jeff Teague

Heat

F: Josh Richardson

F: James Johnson

C: Bam Adebayo

G: Dion Waiters

G: Goran Dragic

Scouting report: Heat center Hassan Whiteside will miss his fifth consecutive game with a bone bruise in his left knee. … Rodney McGruder is also out for the Heat. There is no timetable for his return after left tibia surgery. … Heat guard Wayne Ellington has the intention of playing Monday despite missing shootaround with an illness. … Minnesota will be without center Justin Patton, who is out indefinitely after having surgery on July 4 to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot. … Miami swept the season-series against Minnesota last year, 2-0. … Six Heat players are averaging double-digit points this season. That list includes point guard Goran Dragic, who is averaging 20.2 points on 50.6 percent shooting … Miami ranks 21st of 30 teams in the NBA with a net rating of -5.1, which is a reliable team performance measure that’s the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive ratings (OR-DR). … Timberwolves center Karl Anthony-Towns is off to a dominant start, averaging 24.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his third NBA season. … Based on defensive rating, Minnesota has played the worst defense in the NBA to start the season. The Timberwolves have allowed 114.3 points per 100 possessions through six games.

[Why didn’t Dion Waiters play in the fourth quarter of Heat’s loss to Celtics?]

[Heat ‘aired it out’ in team meeting to discuss 2-3 start, but Whiteside still ‘very doubtful’ for Monday’s game]

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Not among top 5 centers; Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside using snub as motivation

MIAMI – Hassan Whiteside believes he is one of the top centers in the NBA. And why not considering in consecutive seasons he led the league in blocks with 3.7 per game (2015-16) and rebounding with 14.1 per game (last season).

But others aren’t so sure. In fact, one outlet doesn’t have Whiteside listed among the top 5 centers in the league. And yet, there is some good news with the rankings.

Heat center Hassan Whiteside goes up for a shot against Atlanta Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon during Sunday’s preseason game in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Whiteside is listed as the sixth-best center in the NBA according to Hoops Hype behind Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins, Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Memphis’ Marc Gasol.

Yet, among those listed, only Whiteside was in the top 3 in rebounding, scoring (17.9), field goal percentage (.557) and blocked shots (2.1).

But what do the top five have in common? All are from the Western Conference.

By these rankings, Whiteside is the top center in the East and would be ticketed for his first All-Star game.

Whiteside was asked if he uses those rankings for motivation.

“Of course,” said the 28-year-old. “People have been telling me all my life I can’t play in the NBA. Then they tell me I’ll never play on the Heat and get minutes. It’s always some people saying things negative. I try to use it as motivation and get better.”

Whiteside has had a steady, yet quiet preseason, one in which point guard Goran Dragic says he is really applying his stamp to the team.

“He was dunking the ball, dunking over people,” Dragic said about training camp. “You can see he’s really embraced him his role, he’s really the force of this team.”

Whiteside played 19 minutes in the Heat’s preseason opener Sunday with eight points, 11 rebounds and a block in the win over Atlanta.

“You look at their numbers and you look at your own numbers,” he said about his competition. “You look at what you do on the court and you look at what they do on the court. And then you look at how good they make their team. Are you on a winning team or are you the only one out there shooting 25, 30 shots a game.”

[Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow working hard to improve his outside shot: ‘It’s a huge priority for me’]

[Udonis Haslem excited to watch Derek Jeter lead Marlins, but wants Giancarlo Stanton to stay in Miami]

[Mailbag: Does starting Rodney McGruder make sense for the Heat?]

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Could the Heat trade for Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins or Zach LaVine?

Miami Heat Wayne Ellington (2) looks for help from the defense of Minnesota Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins (22) during the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Miami Heat Wayne Ellington (2) looks for help from the defense of Minnesota Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins (22) during the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

The Minnesota Timberwolves entered this season seemingly destined to improve upon a lackluster 29-53 finish to their 2015-16 campaign. With new head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau and rising stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, the future appeared bright for a franchise that hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2004-05.

Despite their promise, the trio of 21-year-olds has failed to live up to expectations so far. The T’wolves have dropped 10 of their first 14 games, and many are suggesting that it’s time for Thibodeau to make a drastic move.

According to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, Thibodeau is expected to look to trade one of his young stars should the losses continue to pile up. The Lakers and the Bulls are mentioned as potential landing spots for the exiled Minnesota player, but could the Heat make a play for one of Minnesota’s young talents?

Pat Riley has made it clear that he intends to add another draft pick if possible, but Riley, with his notorious win-now personality, could attempt to expedite the rebuilding process by acquiring young, proven talent instead.

The Heat have several notable assets they could move. Point guard Goran Dragic has been the name most often linked to potential deals, as the 30-year-old continues the steady play that has been a hallmark of his nine-year career. Dragic would likely hold less value to a Minnesota team that already has an established point guard in Ricky Rubio and invested the No. 5 pick in the 2016 draft in point guard Kris Dunn. Despite the redundancy at the point, if Dragic were to be packaged with a pair of fellow veterans that are outperforming their contracts, like James Johnson or Dion Waiters, it might bolster the proposal.

The Heat also have a young core of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson they could pull from to sweeten a trade offer, though that seems unlikely.

Of the ‘Wolves young trio, it seems that Towns would be the premiere trade target, but Minnesota likely has no desire to move a player that they’re hoping becomes a franchise cornerstone. In addition, few teams, if any, would be able to put together a package that would make such a trade worthwhile to Minnesota.

Wiggins is no stranger to being dealt, despite his talent and upside, having been acquired by the Timberwolves in the Kevin Love deal in 2014. Wiggins is averaging 23.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this season and appears to be ascending toward the superstar tier of NBA players. Any move for Wiggins would likely require a superstar-caliber asset in return.

The final piece of the ‘Wolves trifecta is LaVine, the former Slam Dunk Contest champion, who is averaging 19 points and three rebounds per game. LaVine has improved since entering the league in 2014 as the 13th overall pick. Though his value may be lower than that of Towns and Wiggins, he would also likely require a sizable return if traded.

It is unclear whether the Miami Heat have the assets to swing a deal for one of Minnesota’s three young studs, and it’s surprising that the Timberwolves are reportedly willing to move any of them so early in the season. In any case, whether the T’wolves decide to keep the trio intact or the Heat refuse to put together an adequate trade proposal, it remains unlikely that Towns, Wiggins or LaVine will be taking their talents to South Beach.