There is more to fielding an NBA team than just picking players. The lifeblood of a contender depends on things like good-value contracts, draft picks, and having extra currency beyond just money to spend. The teams that best manage their assets are usually champions whose success lasts.
With reports that the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves are revisiting a possible Jimmy Butler trade — and consecutive losses to fast-moving Sacramento and Charlotte — now is good a time to take inventory of what the Heat has to offer. If a star player becomes available now, or this offseason, these are the most valuable trade chips the Heat could push to the center of the table.
1. Josh Richardson. If you’re looking to dispel the myth that second-round picks don’t matter in the NBA, look no further than Richardson. Since being selected 40th overall in 2015, he has become arguably the Heat’s best player.
Richardson is extremely valuable thanks in part to his youth (age 25) and the incredible value of the extension he signed last season (four years, $42 million). Miami won’t be parting with J-RICH unless an All-Star difference- maker is coming back.
2. Justise Winslow. The Heat definitely had a nice draft in 2015, huh? Winslow came with a lot of hype when the Heat selected him in the first round of the same 2015 draft when they snagged Richardson, but due to a variety of factors, including injury, the payout has been a tease so far. Winslow seems to have figured things out lately and is now looking like the sort of glue player championship teams crave.
Winslow, like Richardson, is extremely valuable thanks to his age (he’s 22!) and his fair contract (three-year, $39 million dollar extension signed a couple of weeks ago). Like J-RICH, Winslow is unlikely to leave Miami unless the Heat gets an All-NBA type of player back.
3. Goran Dragic. Unlike the first two players on this list, youth is not on Goran Dragic’s side. The Heat’s point guard is 32 years old and likely on the downswing of his career. However, he’s a far more established commodity than Winslow and Richardson, making him the perfect fit for a trade partner that feels it is just one stable point guard away from a serious title run.
Dragic is a value in the NBA — his two remaining years under contract come at a very reasonable price of less than $20 million each. If the Heat gets to a point this year where it is looking more toward the future and is presented with a first-round pick for Dragic, the team should pounce.
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4. Hassan Whiteside. Any Heat fan will tell you Hassan Whiteside is a riddle wrapped inside a crossword puzzle. You never know which Whiteside you will get on any given night. For the Heat, that’s terrible — the team badly needs his rebounding and point-scoring to be special. For a high-level team such as the Warriors or Rockets, adding Whiteside to the mix would be worth the max-player price tag that takes him through next season.
They don’t make them like Whiteside anymore. He’s a throwback to the centers NBA fans saw dominate in the ’80s and ’90s. While he may not be leading anyone to a title in 2018, he can be the difference between a conference finals exit and a championship for a contender. If another team starts asking about Whiteside, the Heat should definitely consider selling.
5. Bam Adebayo. While the Heat’s second-year center isn’t exactly playoff ready for a contender, he’s certainly someone any NBA team would want to acquire. Bam is the future of the Miami Heat. Alonzo Mourning recently called him the franchise’s future best player. He’s not going anywhere unless LeBron James or the rights to LeBron James Jr. are in the mix.
Bam is an asset the Heat has rarely had, one that comes with a rookie-deal price tag, extreme youth, and the sort of character traits that indicate he could one day be the leader on a championship squad. He’s the crown jewel of Heat assets when you put it all together. Jimmy Butler be damned, he isn’t going anywhere.