The NBA trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. and the rumor mill involving the Heat began spinning a little harder Monday.
First, New York Daily News NBA writer Frank Isola reported that Dwight Howard could be moved by Thursday's trade deadline and that Miami was talking with the Rockets about a deal that would include center Hassan Whiteside.
Then, later in the afternoon, Houston-based radio reporter Adam Spolane said the Hawks were also are involved in the Heat/Rockets discussions and Miami had discussed sending Goran Dragic as part of that deal, with Al Horford and Jeff Teague coming to Miami.
All of that made for great radio and lots of fun on Twitter and on ESPN's NBA trade machine.
But does any of it make any sense?
Here are a few things you need to remember first before you dive headfirst into all Heat trade chatter:
> Even though Heat president Pat Riley, 70, told TNT last week he wants to win now and he's "getting too old to win down the road," the Heat are $20.2 million over the salary cap, $5.6 million over the luxury tax threshold (Miami is trying to avoid becoming a repeat tax offender) and don't have much in the way of assets that could net them a significant weapon in return unless Miami is willing to part ways with Luol Deng (he's a free agent in 2016-17), Dragic (he's due another $70.2 million over the next four seasons) or rookie Justise Winslow.
> Although Miami is willing to listen to offers for everyone except All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, parting with Winslow at this point would be mortgaging the future again. The Heat has already traded three first round picks (2016 to Philadelphia; 2018 and 2021 to Phoenix) and four second round picks (2016 and 2020 to Boston; 2017 to Atlanta; 2019 to Minnesota) and doesn't have much in the way of young talent outside of Winslow.
> Center Hassan Whiteside, meanwhile, while an intriguing prospect for any team to take a shot on, is making only $981,000. Not only would the Heat need to include other players in the trade to make it work under the salary cap financially, but those other teams could be asked by the Heat to take on a bad contract -- like Josh McRoberts (who is due $11.7 million combined over the next two seasons) -- to complete the deal. Most teams probably won't be willing to do that.
Further complicating a Whiteside trade, any team that acquires him from the Heat would still deal with the same financial contstraints Miami would if it kept him. Because Whiteside doesn't have full Bird rights, any team that tries to sign him next year when he becomes a free agent has try and fit him under their salary cap. If Whiteside had Bird Rights, the team that had him could go over the cap to keep him. So, essentially, whatever team trades for Whiteside has to know ahead of time they've got the money to resign him and -- perhaps even bigger than that -- that they trust his previous mishaps on the court aren't going to be long-term problems.
Now, aside from all that, the Heat, sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference at 29-24, are at a bit of a crossroads.
While Wade, 34, and Bosh, who turns 32 on March 24, have played at an All-Star level to this point, they are aging. And now Bosh, who was sidelined by blood clots in his lung after the All-Star Break last season, has been sidelined again by a right calf strain, the same injury that essentially started his blood clot troubles last year.
Even with both of them healthy, it's clear this Miami team doesn't have enough three-point shooting (32.3%, 28th in league) or offense (96.0 points per game, 29th in NBA) on the roster to make a serious, deep run in the playoffs.
So Riley could opt to make a small trade and net a three-point shooter like Omri Casspi of the Kings (likely for someone like the injured Tyler Johnson) and hope that Miami somehow catches fire in the playoffs.
Then, the Heat, who have only six players signed and $48 million tied down for next season (Bosh, Dragic, McRoberts, Winslow, Jarnell Stokes and Josh Richardson), wait until free agency this summer when the salary cap expands by roughly $19-20 million, resign Wade (he told our Barry Jackson last week he wants to come back to the Heat) and make a run at a few of the top unrestricted free agents.
Those are: Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Al Horford, Pau Gasol, Nicolas Batum, Mike Conley or (gulp) Rajon Rondo.
But if Riley can't sit idle and feels he has to swing for the fences to give Wade and Bosh a real chance this season he could opt to make one of those trades reported earlier today.
Here's why those deals could make some sense and why they don't:
If the Heat trades Whiteside to the Rockets for Howard ($22.3 million this season), they'll obviously have to include either Deng (making $10.1 million this season and a free agent in 2016) or Dragic (he's in the first year of a five-year, $85 million deal) and someone else like Chris Andersen ($5 million this year) or Josh McRoberts (due $11.7 million combined over next two seasons) to make it work financially. The Rockets might also ask for Winslow in order to take on McRoberts.
The pluses: Riley could probably rid himself of McRoberts' contract (he's signed through 2017-18) and do away with any more worries about Whiteside (some would say a win for the Heat) while also teaming Bosh and Wade up with a better offensive center for a playoff run. Howard (due $23.7 million in 2016-17) could then opt out after this season, become a free agent, and that's only going to put Miami further under the cap to make a hard run at Durant.
The minuses: Howard, 30, is on the decline. If Miami trades Dragic to get the deal done they put themselves in the same spot they were in before acquiring him -- needing a point guard in free agency. They'll also have to depend on Beno Udrih to guide them through the playoffs. The Rockets don't have any point guards to send Miami back in a trade that would fit under the cap. Patrick Beverley is making $6.4 million and Ty Lawson is making $12.4. If the trade involves Deng, it makes more sense for Miami, but doesn't seem to be a great fit for Houston.
AL HORFORD/JEFF TEAGUE
The trade that seemingly makes more sense for everyone involved is the one that sends Horford and Teague to the Heat, Howard, an Atlanta native, to the Hawks and Dragic, Whiteside and Andersen to the Rockets.
The pluses: The Heat get an All-Star in Horford, who could team up very well with Bosh in the frontcourt and would probably resign with the Heat in the off-season. The cheaper Teague (he's due $8 million this year and next) replaces Dragic, who hasn't necessarily clicked in this Heat offense. Miami has more money under the cap next season and flexibility in the future.
The minuses: None really except you are admitting the Dragic deal didn't work and are minus two first round picks for it. In the end, the Hawks seem to be losing out more than anybody. They are getting something for Horford who they could lose in free agency, but are giving up a quality starting NBA point guard and strengthening and helping a division rival. That last part is what doesn't really make sense here. Howard could opt out of his contract and sign in Atlanta anyway and replace Horford and the Hawks could keep Teague or use him in another trade to net something more.