The Miami Heat continue operating in a relatively unfamiliar space for a team fresh off a conference finals run: purgatory. Not the basketball purgatory of say, the Charlotte Hornets, who have been the poster franchise of mediocrity for nearly a quarter of a century.
The on-court performances are already tough to watch; the team is stout offensively — 8th in the league, but ranks 23rd in offense, a death sentence in a league driven by nightly 40+ performances by any assortment of players.
But perhaps more gnarly is Miami’s salary situation. The team already projects to be on the hook for $177 million, assuming Victor Oladipo opts into his player option. Among the salaries are roughly $45 million for Jimmy Butler, $29 million for Kyle Lowry, and $18 million for Duncan Robinson. Lowry and Butler will be entering their 17th and 12th seasons, respectively, and Robinson’s deal looks worse and worse by the day.
What if the Heat could get out of at least one of those contracts? According to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype, they just might be able to.
“Gordon Hayward remains available but offloading him would likely come at the cost of including additional assets or taking back longer-term salaries,” Gozlan wrote. “Terry Rozier continues to play at a high level since signing his four-year, $97 million extension and has garnered interest from teams like the Lakers. The Hornets don’t have any urgency to move him but could consider strong offers for him. Teams like the Mavericks, Wizards, Timberwolves, Heat, Suns, and Raptors could be logical fits.”
To land one of either Hayward or Rozier, the Heat would likely have to attach significant contracts, a la Robinson’s, to make the finances work. But Hayward, a former All-Star, and Rozier, a former conference rival with the Boston Celtics, could be decent upgrades for a Heat team mired in mediocre play.
Heat a Future Destination for Luka Doncic?
In the back of Miami’s mind, it has to be thinking about acquiring a star, right? The franchise has a great track record of developing guys like Hayward and Rozier, essentially squeezing the most out of an overlooked player.
“Five years from now what team is Luka on?” Simmons asked. “I think it’s going to be really hard for Dallas to put a good enough team around him. I think they’re on the clock. How many years will he be happy? If he did switch teams for some reason I feel like it’s Miami.”
Doncic fits the mold of what the Heat usually look for in a player: superstardom. Since 2000, the Heat have been home to no shortage of stars: Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, etc.
And Doncic, who has been a scoring dynamo this season for Dallas, would do wonders pumping some oxygen into Miami’s lifeless offense. This season, Doncic has been good for 34.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game on 35.6% shooting from three.
Lakers Interested in Kyle Lowry?
Lowry is another name the Heat are likely looking to move off the books sooner rather than later. And in a recent article for USA Today, Jeff Zillgitt listed the Lakers as a team that may have interest in the 36-year-old.
“The Heat are notoriously tight-lipped about their plans,” Zillgitt wrote. “But around the league, it’s believed the Heat are willing to shed Kyle Lowry’s contract, which pays him $29.6 million in 2023-24. … Lowry is another player who has been linked to a potential deal with the Lakers.”
Like the Heat, the Lakers could use some help offensively. The team currently ranks 20th in the league in offensive rating (112.3), though it’s worth wondering whether Lowry is the playmaking answer Los Angeles needs.
After going all in on an aging LeBron James and Russell Westbrook and injury-prone Anthony Davis, the Lakers might be wise looking for the Fountain of Youth during any Miami scouting visit.