The Kawhi Leonard rumor was once a clickbaity throwaway nugget in a trade deadline story. It was thought to be a “Hail Mary” heave for the Miami Heat.
Now that prayer is being talked about in hushed tones around South Beach after gaining serious street credibility in a local newspaper. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald explored the idea of Leonard joining the Heat in a recent opinion column where he stated why there’s a “legit chance” it could happen. Prying the five-time All-Star away from the Los Angeles Clippers would be a gargantuan task — Leonard is eligible to sign a five-year extension worth a projected $228 million next year, per The Ringer — but there is reason to believe in that heavy lift.
For starters, Heat star Jimmy Butler has an existing relationship with Leonard who recruited him to play for the Clippers in the summer of 2019. And Miami will have ample salary-cap space to sign Leonard next year independent of what happens with Victor Oladipo. They can decide to move on from the two-time All-Star if the “test run” fails or have enough room “to sign Leonard and give the Heat a Big 3 1/2.”
Cote cited Pat Riley’s desire to make a run at a “giant whale” and wrote the following:
Leonard is in his second season with the Los Angeles Clippers but has a player option allowing him to become a free agent this summer. The Clippers fizzled in the playoffs last season and Leonard’s chemistry with Paul George has not always seemed a great fit. If LAC fails again to make a title run there is talk Kawhi might leave.
One more note: ex-NBA executive Amin Elhassan was asked about the probability of Leonard joining the Heat. His response? “It’s logical that he would explore that option.”
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Heat Interested in Adding 15th Player?
The decision to add big man Dewayne Dedmon was a smart one. The Heat didn’t fully trust rookie Precious Achiuwa enough to give him meaningful minutes in the playoffs and Bam Adebayo can’t play 48 minutes a night. That was a foregone conclusion. However, Riley might not be done adding pieces to this year’s roster.
Miami has room to grab another guy before the end of the regular season and stay under the luxury tax. There aren’t many big names left out there but a few intriguing wing players like Justin Jackson, Austin Rivers, or Jabari Parker.
Their biggest need had been at power forward or center, but Dedmon hopefully solidifies that spot. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to grab another three-point shooter, especially with inconsistency and injury plaguing Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic this season.
“Teams know who we are now,” Herro told reporters last month. “Last year, we might’ve caught some people by surprise but this year there’s no surprise about us. Just continue to put the work in and continue to shoot. You can’t make the shots you don’t take.”