After a summer in which just about every disgruntled NBA star was linked to the Miami Heat in trade chatter, the South Beach crew will head into the 2022-23 campaign bearing a striking resemblance to the unit that fell short in the East Finals last season.
Meanwhile, 2,000ish miles west in the Valley of the Sun, a popular member of Miami’s 2020 Finals team is looking for greener grass.
Former Heat forward Jae Crowder dropped a tweet on Sunday that seemed to indicate his time with the Phoenix Suns would be coming to an end. After helping the Suns reach the Finals in 2021, Crowder has seen his role diminished while Cameron Johnson has become a bigger part of the team’s process.
Phoenix looks to be on board with facilitating a move, too. Per a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Suns will work to find a trade for the 10-year vet. And one hoops scribe thinks a Heat return may just be in order.
Heat Namechecked as Potential Landing Spot for Crowder
Shortly after word of the Suns and Crowder’s agreement began to spread, hoops pundits were already guessing at potential landing spots for the 32-year-old. For his part, CBS hoops reporter Sam Quinn mentioned Miami as a logical destination.
“I can think of a lot of teams that could use Jae Crowder,” tweeted Quinn. “Tougher to find one with a win-now player that can help Phoenix. But Miami, Cleveland and the Lakers all come to mind here.”
As it stands, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson are the top candidates to step into PJ Tucker’s vacated role as the Heat’s starting power forward. However, Martin is a matter of months removed from being a two-way guy, fighting for a roster spot. And Robinson is fresh off a season-long slump and playoff run during which he was glued to the bench by Erik Spoelstra.
So, there’s definitely a logic to making a play for a battle-tested four-man. And during his abridged run with the Heat in 2020, Crowder averaged 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while sinking 44.5% of his three-point attempts.
Actually Getting Crowder Back to the Heat Could Be Difficult
Even if the Heat were absolutely convinced that adding Crowder could help them get back to the Finals this season, they may have their work cut out in bringing him home again.
As it stands, the Heat are stuck in the luxury tax zone with a payroll exceeding $150 million. So, they’re not in a position to simply absorb Crowder’s $10.1 million salary via trade. Instead, they have to match money within the threshold established by the CBA.
In a perfect world, they could simply swap out Robinson for Crowder. However, the Heat’s struggling sharpshooter is due around $17 million, so without including additional players and/or involving a third team, that deal is a non-starter.
One player who would work from a salary standpoint is Victor Oladipo. However, he’s not eligible to be traded until January 15, and it’s difficult to discern what exactly he would bring to the table for the Suns, who already have Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet on the guard line.