$36 Million Trade Target Would Kickstart Heat Into ‘Win-Now Mode’

Jimmy Butler Miami Heat

Getty Erik Spoelstra, head coach of the Miami Heat.

The Miami Heat are in desperate need of a wake-up call. At 16-16, the Heat’s season has been something of a tease; just when the team looks to have turned a corner by defeating the Boston Celtics or producing a four-game win streak, they lay an egg against the Detroit Pistons and scandal-plagued Chicago Bulls.

One of the best ways to kick a team into high gear is by injecting some fresh blood into the rotation. And according to Sean Deveney of Heavy Sports, that freshness might come in the form of Bulls guard Alex Caruso.

“The guy to watch is (Alex) Caruso,” one Eastern Conference GM told Deveney. “If (Chicago) can get some draft capital back for Caruso, and maybe a player, that would suit them. Teams like Phoenix or Miami, both would be in a position to make a trade like that. Even the Warriors, they could send out a young guy, a guy like (James) Wiseman to get into win-now mode.

Caruso has two things going for him. First, he’s a bona fide two-way player, connecting on 37 percent of his threes while also posting a 3.1 defensive box plus/minus, second only to reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

Second, Caruso’s salary makes him an easy get for most contenders. This season, the former Texas A&M Aggie will make $9 million, a figure that will remain consistent in his four-year, $36 million deal.

And like that executive said, the Heat are “in a position” to land Caruso. Which begs the question: who might be on the chopping block in South Beach?

Gauging the Heat’s Possible Trade Assets

Miami finds itself in an unusual position: the team owns most of its future first-round picks. With the exception of a 2025 pick heading to Oklahoma City, Miami could flip any of its other firsts for the rest of the decade.

That might be music to Chicago’s ears. With the Bulls looking like this year’s trade deadline “blow it up” team, the team must be prioritizing picks. That’s doubly true considering Chicago’s 2023 first-round pick is owned by the Orlando Magic (top-four protected), meaning the team would have to seriously bottom out in order to recoup that asset.

Any first-round picks swapped for Caruso would almost certainly be heavily protected. He’s a great player, perhaps even one that could swing a playoff game or two. That protection might be lifted if Chicago agreed to take back one of Miami’s eyesore contracts, like Duncan Robinson, whose deal was named one of the worst in the NBA.

One potential snag might be the Heat’s ability to throw a young player into the trade. First-round rookie Nikola Jovic played well in November amidst the Heat’s injury woes, which might cause the front office to pump the brakes on adding him to a deal.

But Jovic also represents Miami’s best young asset. But does Jovic beat out the cadre of young talent the Golden State Warriors could dangle? Likely not.

The Chicago Bulls Appear Headed for Rebuild

According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Bulls might be looking at trades involving its other stars, which would likely garner first-round picks.

“The dysfunction remains, and teams are looking closely at the Bulls as a potential seller ahead of the February 9 trade deadline. While some think DeMar DeRozan or Nikola Vučević could become available, recent events raise the possibility that LaVine may want out.”

While the Heat are currently set at the five with Bam Adebayo, the team could certainly use LaVine’s career 38 percent from deep as a floor spacer.

As it stands, the Heat are coming to a major fork in the path. The team likely doesn’t have what it takes to beat the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs this season but also has a lack of youth to bring the Heat into its next era. Pulling the trigger on a big deal at this trade deadline might be temporarily exciting, but could forestall a potentially much-needed rebuild in South Beach.

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