With a quarter of the NBA season in the books and All-Star voting underway the trade rumor mills are start to heat up.
Earlier today Chris Sheridan and Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops in separate pieces reported that the Miami Heat have shown interest in acquiring either center DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings or center Dwight Howard from the Houston Rockets. Today marks the first day where players that signed contracts over the summer are eligible to be traded.
The situations surrounding both Cousins and Howard feel like the ideal ones Heat president Pat Riley has used to get marquee players vie trade before. Both Cousins and Howard are believed to be disgruntled with their current teams to various degrees. The question is whether either scenario is actually feasible for Miami to do particularly when it comes to center Hassan Whiteside and forward Justise Winslow, who have been listed in each report as centerpieces for a possible trade.
One aspect in each report, now debunked by Barry Jackson and Ethan Skolnick of The Miami Herald, has been the notion that the Heat would only be able to offer Whiteside $10 million a year next summer when he will be an unrestricted free agent due to salary cap rules. Miami can in fact can offer Whiteside up to the league maximum salary but would not be able to give him a fifth year in the contract as the team does not have his Bird rights.
Because Whiteside is not eligible for full Bird rights it makes trading for him risky. While his skill set is valuable as he’s the NBA’s leading shot blocker currently, his league minimum contract is almost worthless. Any team willing to trade for Whiteside will be put in the same situation with him as the Heat are as in not having that fifth year to use as a bargaining chip.
With Winslow his skill set has been a great asset that makes him attractive for teams wanting to do a trade with the Heat, but it is also why the team won’t likely do a trade involving him. He has already become arguably Miami’s best perimeter defender, something that was not expected of him for at least another year. Winslow’s rookie contract also won’t hurt the Heat as the salary cap increases.
Then there are the centerpieces the Heat would get in a trade.
Cousins has a contract (over $15 million a year) that is more favorable than Howard. Sending forward Luol Deng and center Chris Andersen straight up for him works given they have expiring contracts but it also clogs up the Miami front line. With Whiteside at center and forward Chris Bosh at the four there is no room for Cousins unless one of those two is benched.
Howard’s bigger salary (over $22 million) and decreasing productivity doesn’t look attractive unless the Heat want to go all in this season. His attitude about not being the primary option on offense won’t change in Miami as guard Dwyane Wade and Bosh would be above him in that pecking order.
The biggest issue with trading for either is that unless Howard opts out of his contract next summer Miami would in effect take themselves out the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.
Riley has long been known to love a dominant big man, and both Cousins and Howard fit the bill to an extent. However, the losses if they include Whiteside and Winslow, might outweigh any gains in a trade. The fact that neither move would fix the Heat’s primary weakness in perimeter offense is also room for pause. Riley could very well make a move, but it will likely be for a three-point shooter that won’t hurt his chances at getting in a room with Durant.