It might not be much, but the Miami Heat reportedly have San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard on their radar.
On Wednesday, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reported that the Miami Heat, among other teams, have Kawhi Leonard on their radar. That’s if the San Antonio Spurs trade him, which there’s no indication of for now.
Of course, Miami successfully fulfilled its superstar-prophecy in 2010, when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade to form the most mainstream “Big 3.” This group made four consecutive NBA Finals and won two of them (2012, 2013). With Pat Riley still in charge of the front office, he might want to have lightning strike twice and form another superteam.
As a trade candidate, the Heat might not jump off the page. They have a loaded salary-cap situation for the 2018-19 season, so any deal would have to go as close to dollar for dollar as possible, or match the salaries between both sides.
Due to the backloaded contract that Miami gave Tyler Johnson in 2016 (to keep him away from the Brooklyn Nets), he’s owed $19 million in 2018-19 and 2019-20 on a player option, presumably one he picks up next summer. His salary actually eclipses Leonard’s $20 million for 2018-19, due to a $2.9 million trade kicker, and since it’s not the most appealing to have on the payroll, the Spurs can target a handful of Heat assets, including Justise Winslow ($3.5 million) and Bam Adebayo ($3 million).
If the Spurs wanted to trade Leonard before the 2018 NBA Draft, Miami would have no first round pick to offer until 2019. However, due to the Stepien Rule, the 2020 pick can’t be included. Sure, there can be a pick swap where San Antonio take the better selection of the two, but only seems plausible if the Silver and Black choose to enter a rebuild.
That leaves the 2021 pick, which the Heat also does not own from the 2015 Goran Dragic trade. So the Spurs can get two unprotected picks, but in a three-year span of each other. Is that worth it?
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A deal hypothetically looks like this: Leonard and Brandon Paul for Adebayo, Johnson, Winslow, an unprotected 2019 first-round pick and an unprotected 2022 first-round pick. On the surface, does it look great? No. Adebayo is unproven, Johnson will clog the salary cap and Winslow has disappointed in his young NBA career.
The Spurs can try for disgruntled center Hassan Whiteside, but he’s owed roughly $5 million more than Leonard, which R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich and company can absorb into the open salary cap. However, would they want to take away flexibility and acquire a center that had trouble finding a consistent role as a starter? Plus, Whiteside and LaMarcus Aldridge are paint-cloggers and that likely creates a problem.
James Johnson’s salary can also headline a deal, but the Spurs would be locked into his $14 million in 2018-19 and $15 million in 2019-20 since there’s no player option. Although, if Johnson’s money replaces Tyler Johnson, it would not be as much for San Antonio to absorb into the cap, with about an $8 million difference. That should make a deal more appealing, even though James Johnson is past 30.
Let’s put it this way: The Heat are not an appealing option for a Leonard trade. Their assets do not have the potential of the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers or the Phoenix Suns, and it complicates something from ever happening for arguably one of the NBA’s best players, when healthy.