To recap, things looked bleak heading into the free agency period for the Miami Heat. In a summer where it felt like every major player in the league was available, Miami had no cap space. It looked like the Heat would be sitting out on free agency. Instead, they walked away with one of the best available free agents and changed their future direction.
Free Agency Recap for the Miami Heat
Free Agency Changes
Though Miami only made one free agency signing, it was one hell of a move. Via sign-and-trade, the Miami Heat acquired Jimmy Butler from the Philadelphia 76ers. Butler had expressed interest in joining the Heat ever since his trade request from the Minnesota Timberwolves last fall. While he ended up in Philadelphia, the connection was still there. As free agency approached, Butler’s camp signaled they’d be interested in a sign-and-trade to the Heat. Pat Riley pounced, and Miami finally got an All-Star level player.
To make things more impressive, it wasn’t as simple as a sign-and-trade between the 76ers and Heat. A sign-and-trade triggers a hard cap for both teams. Therefore, Philly and Miami needed a third team to make it work. While the Dallas Mavericks were originally going to be that third team, they reneged on their deal with Miami. In the end, it would take a four-team trade, including the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers, to pull this off and get Jimmy Buckets to Miami.
As is the case with four-team trades, there were a lot of moving parts. Focusing on the Heat, they sent out mercurial center Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers, a 2023 first round pick (top-14 protected) to the Clippers, and young guard Josh Richardson to the 76ers. In return, they got Meyers Leonard from the Blazers and Butler from the 76ers. Overall, it was an absolute steal for Miami.
Looking Ahead for the Miami Heat
While the Heat only executed one move, it addressed their biggest need and also took care of a potential problem. Miami needed a go-to wing scorer that could close out games, as was made evident for anyone watching last season. At times, they leaned on Dwyane Wade to finish though they knew he wouldn’t be the answer next season. They tried Richardson as well but he couldn’t consistently come up clutch, through no fault or lack of effort from him.
With Butler, they’ve now solved that issue. Butler is a hyper-competitive player that thrives having the ball in his hands during high-pressure moments and will now be Miami’s answer when they need a bucket. He’s able to score in a variety of ways, driving to the rim and finishing, drawing contact and going to the free-throw line, or shooting from three-point range. Butler has also improved as a playmaker, being able to drive and kick or keep the ball moving to get his teammates open shots. An elite perimeter defender, Butler will fit in perfectly under defensive-focused Erik Spoelstra.
While losing Richardson hurts, swapping him out for a top-15 player like Butler is just the kind of move teams have to make. An underrated part of the offseason was getting rid of Whiteside, who would be making $27 million while grumbling from the bench. Now, Miami has a solid big that can shoot triples in Leonard, who will backup Bam Adebayo. The pick, as mentioned, is top-14 protected, a small price for getting the four-team trade done. Miami acquired a top-15 player that solves their biggest problem, cleared out a potential locker room problem, and got a good backup big all in one fell swoop. It was just one move, but it led to an “A+” Miami Free Agency.
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