This column’s premise, ranking the Miami Heat by trade value, is ripped off the one Bill Simmons created on ESPN and carried over to Grantland. Salaries matter. Age matters. Contract length matters. Imagine any player can be traded straight up regardless of salary-cap ramifications, but the next morning everything reverts back to normal.
Last year’s column featured Justise Winslow at No. 1 after the then 19-year-old lottery pick stormed out of the rookie gate showcasing elite defensive potential and an advanced feel for the game.
A year later and much has changed.
While it’d be tricky for the Heat to complete any deal to make them significantly better in the short and long term, considering they can’t trade a first-rounder until roughly 2045, Dan Le Batard did indicate this morning Pat Riley “is active.”
For a look at the Heat’s salary structure, click here. Assume anyone can be traded for the sake of this exercise.
14. Josh McRoberts
In the summer of 2014, his four-year, $23 million contract looked like it would eventually become a bargain as the NBA’s cap spiked.
Today, McBob has played in just 81 games in three years and is one of the most untradeable players in the Association after suffering from a severe case of Mike Milleritis.
13. Udonis Haslem
Could UD provide a contender with an impactful 10 minutes a night in the playoffs with his hoops IQ, toughness, and post defense? Probably but the trade value is nil.
12. Luke Babbitt
What’s incredible is the one-way Babbitt is still a starter. While his 3-point shooting has value his game is wildly limited. He only remains with the first five because of a likely combination of the Heat liking James Johnson off the bench and they’re winning.
Consider this: During Miami’s recent stretch winning 14 of their last 16 games, their starting lineup (Dragic, Waiters, McGruder, Babbitt, Whiteside) was (their most frequent one at 114 minutes) highly ineffective, with opponents outscoring that group by five points per 100 possessions (-5.0 Net Rating).
Insert Johnson for Babbitt and the efficiency swells to a Net Rating of +29.8.
It’s a shame Winslow is hurt because I think he’d fit well with that group at the four, but maybe it’s time to tinker with Okaro White in that spot considering he’s a superior defender and capable shooter (42% 3FG).
11. Rodney McGruder
Limited in size and talent, Rodney overcomes his weaknesses because of his heart and tenacity — his effort level never dips below 100 and he’s carving a nice role as a 3-and-D wing who’s willing to defend anyone.
I love me some McGruder. He’s exactly what you want from your 9-to-12 man and he’s going to stick in this league for a long time if his long ball (34% 3FG) improves marginally.
10. Wayne Ellington
Playing for his seventh team in eight seasons (!), Ellington is fitting in nicely as a shooter and playmaker off the Heat’s bench. However the 29-year-old’s trade value is limited because of his expiring contract and overwhelming evidence he’s nothing more than a solid reserve.
9. Willie Reed
8. Okaro White
Here we have two D-League gems carving solid roles in the Heat’s rotation with White holding more value because they have his rights for at least two more seasons after this one, becoming a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019. Reed will be a free agent this summer and will command a BIG spike in compensation from his bargain $1 million salary.
This time last year White was placing in Greece. Now he’s positively impacting the game on both ends for a borderline playoff team.
There’s a lot to like with the wing capable of playing some 4, including his shooting (42% from three), length (7-foot wingspan), and ability to defend multiple positions. However, the sample is a diminutive 14 games.
7. Josh Richardson
Injured for most of his second season, he flashed enough during his rookie year to still hold some long-term value. The former second-round pick is on such a sweet rookie contract, with the Heat affordably holding onto his rights for at least two more seasons after this one.
6. Dion Waiters
It’s tough to project Waiters’ value on the open market for two reasons. First, he’s playing out of his ass, shooting 41 percent and 43 percent from the 3-point line in January and February, respectively, while playing more under control than in years past.
The regression is coming. It’s just a matter of whether the real Dion Waiters is closer to the player of the previous four years or the one of the last two months.
Nonetheless Waiters County has arrived and he’s by far the team’s MEP (Most Entertaining Player).
Considering he holds a $3 million player option for next season, which he most definitely will decline for a bigger payday, I think his value is somewhere around a high second-round pick at this point. Expect the Heat to hold considering the recent surge unless they can land a big fish.
5. Tyler Johnson
TJ is proving his four-year $50 million contract isn’t as monstrous as it once appeared. In today’s market, a two-way player like Tyler holds value even though he’s not great in any one area.
He is, however, a good shooter, creator, and defender, capable of playing on and off the ball in a league of positionless basketball. He would’ve been the ideal “point guard” during the LeBron Heat Era.
4. James Johnson
Of all the Heat’s one-year rentals, James holds the most value. He’s showcasing a playmaking ability we’ve somehow never witnessed before with the 30-year-old journeyman.
The advanced metrics love him, leading the Heat in ESPN’s Real RPM metric, and he’s going to get PAID this summer, which could easily price out Miami from bringing him back.
The situation feels similar to Luol Deng’s resurgence last year, which was capped off by a four-year deal totaling $72 million with the Lakers. If the Heat decided to be sellers, it’s feasible Johnson could net them a late first-rounder from a contender going all-in for this season.
3. Justise Winslow
Winslow has had the sophomore season from hell, ranking dead last among all wing players in True Shooting Percentage before he went down for the season with a torn labrum in January.
Still, value remains because of his age — he turns 21 in March — and potential. His assist ratio climbed from 16.2 to 19.1 and even if he never becomes a good shooter, he will always positively impact the game with his defense, basketball IQ, and playmaking.
He’s the type of player that shouldn’t be defined merely by numbers because, unlike the No. 1 player on this list, he churns out winning basketball plays every time he touches the court. His hair, as always, remains elite.
2. Goran Dragic
1. Hassan Whiteside
Full disclosure: In terms of overall impact and consistency, the Dragon is unquestionably the better player right now and by far the best player on the Heat’s squad this season. He’s the only player in the league averaging at least 20 points and 6 assists with a 48-42 (FG-3FG) shooting split.
But Whiteside could command more in a trade because he’s three years younger and still offers tantalizing potential. It also only takes one team to fall in love with him and there are many, many inept franchises out there, as the Kings, Knicks, and Bulls continue to show us. Putting up gaudy numbers, averaging 17 points, 14 rebounds, and a couple of blocks, Whiteside’s value is fluid.
The NBA has shifted more to 3-point shooting and away from the post, diminishing the desire for elite big men. Whiteside’s most coveted tool is his rim protection, which becomes increasingly valuable in the playoffs when the game slows, defenses tighten, and open shots are harder to come by.
Both Dragic and Whiteside are on team-friendly contracts considering the NBA’s salary spike is ongoing.
Whiteside still has some things to figure out before becoming a true All-Star but that doesn’t negate the fact special ability is there. It’s a matter of him tapping into it on a more consistent basis.