It’s no secret that the Miami Heat are in hot pursuit of superstar Damian Lillard, though they are forced to wait and see what he decides to do. If he decides to stay in Portland, then the Heat will have to move on, at least for the time being. On the other hand, if he asks for a trade, Miami will need to be ready to pounce or risk missing out on their best chance to dramatically improve this summer.
In the meantime, the Heat can make another trade that could serve as the prelude to a Lillard deal by turning to a former rival. The San Antonio Spurs are looking to put a prolonged rebuild behind them now that they have number one overall pick Victor Wembanyama and are trying to build the best possible team around him.
While they have a talented young roster, their biggest roster flaw is their lack of playmaking. Tre Jones, Devonte Graham, and Blake Wesley are a passable point guard rotation for a non-playoff team, but the Spurs appear ready to try and win now and will need better playmaking to do so.
Meanwhile, the Heat are trying to get rid of veteran point guard Kyle Lowry and his massive $29.6 million expiring contract. Factor in that he would be an excellent fit in San Antonio and that the Spurs have significant cap space, and it’s not hard to see a potential trade between these two teams happening.
What could a potential Heat-Spurs trade look like?
The reason for wanting to trade Lowry is to clear enough salary to use the mid-level exception. With limited ways to improve, that may be their best way of doing so, and they are even willing to take the drastic step of stretching and waiving Lowry. That would mean that they would cut Lowry and spread his $29.6 million in remaining salary out over three seasons, averaging 9.8 million in dead salary each year.
Trading him would obviously be their preferred option as a result, and the Spurs could offer plenty of savings by offering them Doug McDermott and Khem Birch for Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo. Both Birch and McDermott have expiring contracts and combine to make $20.6 million, whereas Oladipo and Lowry combine to make $39 million next season. Swapping two for two would save the Heat $18.4 million this season, create a trade exception for that same amount, and keep them from having to waste future cap space by stretching and waiving Lowry.
That would drop the Heat’s payroll from around $173 million to a more manageable $154.7 million. Better yet, with the luxury tax set at $165 million and the mid-level exception at $12.2 million, they could use most of it to sign a player, such as Russell Westbrook or Christian Wood, who’s been linked to the Heat.
Adding Wood or Westbrook, a sharpshooter in McDermott, a depth piece in Birch, and a trade exception could set the table for a Lillard trade. Moreover, they could deal Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and multiple first-round picks to Portland to land him if he becomes available.
Overall, the Heat’s need to get off of Lowry’s contract, combined with the Spurs’ need for a playmaking point guard, makes them ideal trade partners. If the Heat and Spurs do come to an agreement, it could help Miami bolster their championship caliber roster and keep the option of trading for Lillard open.