For the Miami Heat, silence around the opening of this year’s NBA free-agent period could mean the team will ultimately come up empty in its search for added pieces. But it could mean the Heat are in the market for bigger fish, and maybe even the biggest fish to hit the trade market since Kawhi Leonard was dealt to Toronto in 2018.
The Heat have been holding internal discussions on the possibility of acquiring Kevin Durant from the Nets, a move that would vault Miami—which was within a game of the NBA Finals in last year’s playoffs—back to favorite status in the Eastern Conference. But how to get a deal done is complicated, especially with the signals that Durant has sent out.
Reports say that Durant wants the Heat to keep Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler in a potential deal with Brooklyn. That can’t quite happen, however, because of salary rules, and the key for the Heat will be to persuade both the Nets and Durant that making Lowry part of the deal can work for everyone.
Kyle Lowry Is the ‘Most Expendable’ Heat Star
Lowry struggled to stay healthy over the course of last season, missing 198 games and averaging 13.4 points, his lowest output in nine seasons. He bottomed out in the postseason, averaging 7.8 points on 29.1% shooting, and 24.1% 3-point shooting in 10 games. He missed eight games with injuries.
“I think Lowry is the one to go if Miami moves forward on it,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy.com. “The Heat can’t match salary with the Nets for Durant so they will have to send one of those three guys back. Lowry is the most expendable. If Lowry is in the deal, Miami could be in the best position to make a KD trade happen. You’re not going to give up Bam and the Nets do not want Butler with his age (32) and his contract (Butler is just entering a four-year, $140 million extension with the Heat.) So you can do Lowry and the guys they were going to give for James Harden, (Duncan) Robinson and Tyler Herro, and I am not sure the Nets are going to get a better deal than that.”
A potential deal for Durant, then, would start with Lowry, Robinson and Herro, with 2022 draftee Nikola Jovic and center Omer Yurtseven included as young sweeteners. The Heat would have to layer in first-round picks, too, but they owe their 2025 first-rounder to Oklahoma City. Miami could deal away its first in 2023, 2026 and 2028 and offer further pick swaps to give the Nets the youth and draft capital they’re seeking.
Nets Hope to Come Away With Rebuilding Pieces
If teams are over the salary cap and the players involved make more than $19.6 million, trades must line up in terms of total salaries shipped both ways, within 125%. Durant’s salary is just over $44 million for next season. A package of Robinson and Herro totals around $22 million, about half of what Durant makes. The only way to make the trade legal would be to include Lowry.
For the Nets, a potential deal for Durant comes down to how much the team can salvage in terms of young players and draft picks as it looks to move forward after the disaster that the past three seasons have turned out to be. The Suns are also maneuvering to make a move on Durant, but the Heat could be in the better position—if, that is, Lowry is included.