Quietly, the Miami Heat have put themselves back in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference. Winners in six of its last eight, Miami is finally pushing up the standings, situating itself around more familiar teams on the table like the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks.
But there’s still a wide gulf between where the Heat are and where they’d like to be. And after strong recent play by the Brooklyn Nets, excellence from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the superstardom of the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, it’s hard to imagine this iteration of the Heat making a deep run. For that reason, the Heat have busily scoured the trade market, even emerging as top suitors for disgruntled Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder.
For weeks now, the Heat have been linked to Crowder, as have several other interested teams. But according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, a deal for Crowder hasn’t materialized because it’s been “challenging to do trade business with the Suns.”
“On the Jae Crowder front, one the issues is that there isn’t a straight-up trade the Suns have liked for him, so they’ve tried to do these three-team trades,” Windhorst explained. “…They may have to lower their standard.”
The good news for the Heat: everyone is balking at the Suns’ asking price for Crowder. Add in the fact that Devin Booker just suffered a serious injury and Phoenix might be more willing to make a deal sooner rather than later.
How Devin Booker’s Injury Affects Crowder Deal
Booker started the season on an absolute tear. In the month of November alone, Booker averaged 28.9 points on 38.4% from three. He was instrumental to Phoenix jumping out to an early lead in the Western Conference, which few expected after the Suns’ offseason of turmoil on and off the floor.
And then, as it so often does when the Phoenix Suns are involved, the other shoe dropped. Booker suffered a groin injury that’s expected to sideline him for four weeks.
A month without a team’s unquestioned star is a tough pill to swallow. Add in the fact that the Western Conference is as tight as ever, and the Suns are left with a challenging question: wait for Booker to return healthy and then compete, or bite the temporary bullet to keep things afloat in the meantime.
If the answer is the latter, Crowder could be used as bait to land a quick-fix Booker replacement. Granted, no one is going to completely replace the superstar shooter, but the Suns still need someone to pour in buckets — something Crowder isn’t doing while he sits at home.
Could a desperate Suns team think over a deal involving Duncan Robinson and cross their fingers that the South Beach scorer’s shooting touch returns? It’s no secret the Heat want to get off Robinson’s contract, after all.
The answer is likely no, considering Crowder’s deal expires this season and Robinson’s contract still hangs like an albatross.
Crowder Ripped for Sitting Out
The lack of league-wide interest in paying the Suns’ asking price might not be the only thing sinking Crowder’s value.
According to Steve Bulpett of Heavy Sports, Crowder’s decision to sit out on a strong Suns team is giving teams pause at trading significant assets for the forward.
“I like him a lot, but I don’t think he’s helping himself here,” an NBA general manager said to Bulpett.
“He just didn’t show up,” the GM continued. “He said he’s not playing unless he gets a contract extension that he wants. I think a lot of teams are turned off by that in and of itself. Like, ‘What? You don’t want to play for one of the best teams in the NBA and PROVE that you’re worth it so you can get a contract next year? Like, you’re not that good, bro. What are you doing?’ It’s a weird dynamic. It’s one thing if Kevin Durant’s holding out because he’s not getting paid enough, but Jae Crowder? Seriously?”
That Crowder might leave a team in free agency is something that teams interested in him will simply have to live with. But if Heat Culture was enough to lure Jimmy Butler to South Beach, why wouldn’t it be enough to keep Jae Crowder in Miami?