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NBA Daily: What Bold Move Can the HEAT Make?

Despite their recent surge, the Miami HEAT aren’t mentioned among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. Drew Maresca identifies a bold move or two that could catapult the HEAT back into contention.

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The 2020-21 NBA season is officially past its half-way point. As we approach the March 25 trade deadline, teams face big decisions. Some are within striking distance of a finals birth and must decide if they’re going to leverage their future to pursue a championship. Others must decide which assets to liquidate in an attempt to jumpstart a rebuild.

A third group, into which the Miami HEAT fall, are just outside of serious contention, but close enough to convince themselves they can pull it off. And with the trade deadline just 10 days away, these teams have a number of bold decisions to make, including which direction they’d like to go.

Miami isn’t known for being conservative, so let’s eliminate any “sit on their hands” strategies. The HEAT have a relatively young core, which can help facilitate an upgrade. That said, they can’t deal a first round pick until 2024 at the earliest, which hurts their chances of a major upgrade (e.g., Bradley Beal).

To understand what to expect from the HEAT, it’s important to understand how they view themselves and their recent success. Miami was not supposed to advance to the Finals last season, so it’s important to remember that they’re playing with house money. They got their youngsters great exposure in the bubble, but it’s simply unrealistic to expect a repeat result with this roster considering the rejuvenated Eastern Conference. With that in mind, Miami must go big or go home.

So, where do they need to improve?

They’re 21-18 – but significantly better than that record indicates. The HEAT started off incredibly slowly – thanks to a combination of injury- and COVID-related absences – winning just six of their first 15 games. But, with most of their core players back, Miami has won 10 of their last 11 outings and 14 of their last 20.

They’ve also corrected many of their early-season struggles. They’re getting production from Jimmy Butler again, who is averaging 22.9 points per game over his last 18 games after scoring less than 16 points per game through the first 15 games. Further, Tyler Herro is shooting efficiently again, connecting on 37% of his three-point attempts in the last 10 games in which he’s appeared – up from just 30% through his first 15.

As a team, the HEAT have improved in multiple areas, as well: they’ve posted the fifth-best defensive rating (109.4) after starting the season ranked 23rd; they’ve increased the number of field goals they attempt and offensive rebounds they grab per game; and they’ve cut down on their turnovers.

But Miami could still use help on the offensive end. The seventh-worst three-point shooting team in the league, Miami is also last in field goal attempts, attempting just 83.2 per game. Even across their recent four-game win streak, the HEAT are attempting just 84.5 per game, which still ranks dead last.

So who should they turn to? Their first bold move could be a doozy — Miami needs help getting shot attempts and, particularly, connecting on the three-ball. Enter Buddy Hield

Hield, a career 40.5% three-point shooter, is scoring 16.3 points per game so far this season. He’s relatively durable, having played 72 games last season and 82 and 80 in each of the previous two, respectively. Better yet, Hield is an improved defender and playmaker.

Hield, alongside Butler and Bam Adebayo, would make for a nice core moving forward, one that would bring significant firepower to compete with super teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. He addresses a number of the HEAT’s needs and he’s signed at a relatively affordable price (four years, $86 million) through the 2023-24 season. Hield is still just 28, so this is as much a move for the future as it is for this season.

But there’s a major problem – is Hield the guy who Miami would want to splurge on? The HEAT constructed this roster and salary situation with the idea of going on a shopping spree in 2021. Giannis Antetokounmpo is no longer available, but Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo, John Collins and more still expected to hit the market. Granted, Miami can clear a lot of space, but adding Hield to Butler and Adebayo would represent approximately $87 million. Miami can’t possibly clear another max slot.

Further, how much would it even cost to acquire Hield? Finding the requisite salary filler isn’t terribly challenging (Andre Iguodala, Meyers Leonard, etc.), but agreeing on picks or young players to include could be tough. Hield’s notoriously icy relationship with coach Luke Walton is probably a minor motivation to trade him, but it’s unlikely that Sacramento accepts a deal that fails to include a legitimate asset like Herro or Kendrick Nunn.

If the HEAT balk at the price – which is entirely fair considering Hield isn’t quite the blockbuster deal the HEAT were hoping to swing for with their upcoming cap space –  Miami should prioritize size.

Miami is 28th in total rebounds, 29th in blocked shots and 26th in points in the paint so far this season. There are a number of bigs available including Andre Drummond and Demarcus Cousins. They could sniff around Dallas’ interest in dealing Kristaps Porzingis, too.

Still, the best option could be LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is playing a near-career low 25.9 minutes per game, which has resulted in near-career low output – 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. That said, his per-36 numbers are still strong enough (19.1 points and 6.2 rebounds) to entice Miami, especially since he amounts to little more than a rental. His 2020-21 salary is essentially the same as Hield’s ($24 million) and he comes off the books following this season, so it’s entirely possible that Miami could see his acquisition as a win-win.

What’s more, Miami, per HoopsHype, is rumored to have already engaged San Antonio in trade discussions, offering matching salaries of Leonard, Moe Harkless and Avery Bradley – but there’s been no mention thus far about what assets could be included.

So, what should others expect Miami to actually do? It’s nearly impossible to tell, but Pat Riley is not a patient man. He recognizes the finite opportunities teams have to compete and does what he can to capitalize on every opportunity, so one of the above-mentioned deals could absolutely be in play.

The HEAT are obviously motivated to add a difference-maker without giving up a major asset like Herro, Nunn or Duncan Robinson. That may seem impossible but, if anyone can pull it off, it’s Riley. And, as much as Miami has fierce competition for their Eastern Conference crown, they could be just one move away from entering that discussion. Their potential trade partners — and Eastern Conference competition — know this; who blinks first?

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Jazz agree to trade Derrick Favors, first-round pick to Thunder

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First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Utah Jazz are trading power forward/center Derrick Favors and a first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a future second-round pick. The goal here was to help reduce their tax bill. While the six-foot-eight Georgia native does not have any notable NBA awards or honors on his basketball résumé, in the 2020-21 NBA season, Favors averaged 5.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and a field goal percentage of 63.8 percent. The 11-year NBA veteran also recorded a free throw shooting percentage of 73.8 percent last season.

The 2020-21 Thunder finished 27-50 (.306), ranking 14th overall in the Western Conference. They could use another first-round pick. Plus, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, this trade will put Utah $13 million below the luxury tax. On November 24, 2020, Favors signed a three-year, $29.2 million contract with the Jazz. Favors is set to earn $9,720,900 next season. This is the second time in his career he has left the Jazz.

He played with them from the 2010-11 season to the 2018-19 season, before he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on July 7, 2019 for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick. For the 2022-23 season, he has a player option of $10,183,800. The Jazz plan to also re-sign Mike Conley, so this was somewhat of a drastic move to help clear up cap space. On July 6, 2019, Conley was traded by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Jazz, in exchange for Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round pick.

Moreover, scoring-wise, the 33-year-old point guard has not lived up to his performances from his last few seasons on the Grizzlies, but the Jazz need all the help they can get. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik will make it a top priority to re-sign Conley here soon. Conley earned $34,504,132 in the 2020-21 season.

According to Spotrac, Conley has a cap figure of $39,344,900. Center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell have a combined percentage of 47.61 percent of Utah’s total salary cap. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five year, $205 million extension with the team. He will earn $35,344,828 next season.

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Wizards, Lakers agree to Russell Westbrook and Three-Player Trade Deal

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The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed with the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook in a three-player trade, sending Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 pick in Thursday’s 2021 NBA Draft to the Wizards. According to ESPN, the Wizards are also giving up their 2024 and 2028 second-round picks as well. During last night’s draft, at pick No. 22, the Lakers sent Wildcats’ center Isaiah Jackson to the Pacers via the Wizards. At pick No. 15, the Wizards drafted Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert. In the second round, at pick No. 31, the Milwaukee Bucks traded NBA G League player Isaiah Todd to the Wizards via the Pacers.

On Thursday, Harrell decided to pursue his $9.7 million player option for next season. Yesterday, rumors surfaced across social media regarding a possible Lakers-Kings trade involving Harrell. Despite the outlandish predictions and mindless speculation from fans over these last couple of days, this trade move could work out great for both teams.

After all, Westbrook is a 9-time NBA All-Star and three-time assists leader. In his MVP season back in the 2016-17 season, over the course of 81 games, he averaged a career-high 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. On Twitter, Westbrook tweeted, “I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you!”

In the 2020-21 NBA season, Caldwell-Pope averaged 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in 67 games started for the Lakers. The 28-year-old shooting guard will make $13 million next season. As for Kuzma, in 68 games played last season, he averaged 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. Kuzma is set to earn $13 million next season. For Harrell, in 69 games played last season, he averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. The six-foot-seven power forward/center is also a six-year player. Instead of having one or two notable super stars, the Wizards having several contributing players might work out better in their favor.

Last season, in 65 games played in his only season spent on the Wizards, Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists. The 32-year-old point guard finished the 2020-21 season with 38 triple-doubles, ranking first in the league and second highest in his own playing career. Westbrook also surpassed Oscar Robertson last season for the most all-time assists; Robertson accumulated 181 triple-doubles in 14 seasons. Now, the two-time NBA scoring champion has 184 career triple-doubles, the most all-time for any player. Furthermore, this is Westbrook’s fourth team in his NBA career.

He is the fifth former MVP in league history to play on four different teams over the course of four seasons or less, adding to the existent list of Bob McAdoo, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Derrick Rose. Moreover, on December 2, 2020, Westbrook was traded by the Houston Rockets to the Wizards for John Wall and a 2023 first-round draft pick. He is set to earn $44.2 million in the upcoming season. His player option for the 2022-23 season is $47 million. This trade deal will not be official until August 6th.

Per Bovada’s NBA Futures odds, the Lakers now have +300 odds of winning their eighteenth championship in the 2021-22 season. This is a move from 4/1 odds before the trade, leaping the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors, and they now have the second best odds behind the Brooklyn Nets (+250). Westbrook also has the best odds of leading the league in assists next season, with first place odds showing EVEN. He is ahead of James Harden (+150), Trae Young (+450), and Luka Doncic (+600). With +6600 odds, he also ranks 19th in the NBA for next season’s MVP odds, trailing Lakers’ teammates such as James (+1200) and Davis (+2800).

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Russell Westbrook joins L.A. Lakers in One of the biggest trades in NBA History

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(Image courtesy of AP)

In one of the biggest NBA Draft trades ever, Los Angeles Lakers acquired the services of Washington Wizards’ former MVP, Russell Westbrook, last night!

As a result of the trade, the Lakers can now boast a holy trinity of attacking talent in Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and, of course, Lebron James, unlike anything seen in recent memory. Assuming this new contingent clicks into gear, it might just be the most frighteningly talented trio to play together in NBA history, rivaling the Bulls triple horn of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, or that great Lakers team of the late 80s with Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

In exchange for their star man, the Wizards received three players and what was the No 22 overall pick in last night’s NBA Draft. The former Lakers tasked with replacing Westbrook in Washington will be Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell.

Washington then spent the Lakers No.22 pick on Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson, but immediately traded him on to the Indiana Pacers in a deal that saw the Wizards acquire pick No.31 and point guard Aaron Holiday. Wizards then used pick No.31 to draft Isaiah Todd to bolster their ranks at power forward.

(Image courtesy of AP)

The effervescent Westbrook had another great year in 2020-21, averaging 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds per game in his first season with the Wizards.

In joining the Lakers star cast, which already boasts the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Westbrook, a 9x NBA All-Star & 2016-17 MVP, will now be hoping to end his NBA championship drought.

Westbrook has since taken to social media to thank the WashingtonWizards franchise for a great year spent in the capital, tweeting:

“Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one,” he wrote. “Everyone from the front office, to the training staff, the coaches, my teammates, and the fans. I’m grateful y’all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way.”

“I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you!”

With a legendary point guard now fixed among the ranks, 2020 NBA Championship winners the Lakers have all the talent required to wrestle back the title from the freshly-crowned Milwaukee Bucks.

So, get yourselves ready for an influx of NBA betting lines on Antetokounmpo, Holiday, and Middleton vs. LeBron, Davis, and Westbrook for next year’s championship games!

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