As the James Harden trade saga continues to drag on, one of the most-mentioned potential landing spots for the former league MVP has been the Miami Heat, a team historically known for its blockbuster superstar acquisitions.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra recently made interesting comments, stating that Miami owes it to its own superstar, Jimmy Butler, to build a legit contender now as opposed to pushing it down the line:
Erik Spoelstra says, "Once we got Jimmy, with our player development in Bam and the rest of the young guys, we felt we had a very special team…We feel a great responsibility for Jimmy to win now, instead of pushing this thing down the line."@5ReasonsSports
— Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) December 15, 2020
Whether that means continuing to develop their young core and getting them to reach an even higher level or acquiring a second superstar (Bam Adebayo is an elite big man but he’s not quite on that level… yet) remains to be seen, but the latter is certainly a possibility, especially for a team that operates as the Heat have in the past, making win-now moves when they have presented themselves.
Plus, with a major Miami target Giannis Antetokounmpo, who the Heat kept cap flexibility this offseason to make a run at next summer, deciding to extend with the Milwaukee Bucks, Pat Riley and Co. could be even more focused on pivoting to find another superstar as soon as possible.
Harden could wind up being that guy.
Of course, trading for Harden won’t come cheap for whichever team does pull off the major acquisition, and Miami is no different.
So what kind of trade package could the Heat put together for the 31-year-old?
For starters, Miami would need to put together roughly $33.0 million in salaries for a Harden trade to be legal.
That would mean a Miami trade package for Harden would have to include Kelly Olynyk (making $13.6 million this season) and Andre Iguodala ($15.0 million), whose combined salaries add up to $28.6 million.
Neither contract can be considered team-friendly, but there’s still one reason Houston might not be so opposed to taking them on, and that’s because both players have in essence one year left on their deals. Olynyk’s contract expires after 2020-21 while Iguodala has a team option on the final year of his deal, 2021-22, one that likely won’t be picked up considering he’s about to turn 37.
Nevertheless, and it goes without saying, Miami would need to add a whole lot more to their offer if they want to entice the Rockets.
That could and probably would mean Tyler Herro heading to Houston in a theoretical Harden trade. Herro is set to earn just $3.8 million next season, is under contract through 2023-24 at a very high-value price and has already shown glimpses of All-Star potential during his one season in Miami, making him the exact kind of player the Rockets are likely targeting in a potential Harden deal.
And considering the untouchable status Adebayo has reached, Herro is pretty much the best piece the Heat can offer Houston, so it’s extremely unlikely the Rockets would accept any offer from Miami that doesn’t include the 20-year-old 2-guard.
However, the 2020-21 salaries of Herro, Iguodala and Olynyk add up to just $32.4 million, leaving the package short of the $33.0 million needed for it to be legal.
Though that might make it seem like the Heat would just need to add salary filler to complete a deal, the fact that Houston only has nine guaranteed salaries at the moment opens the door for some haggling here, as the Rockets would be able to take back a huge package of players in a deal for Harden.
That brings us to sharpshooting stud Duncan Robinson, who blossomed into one of the best shooters league-wide in 2019-20. Robinson is making a ludicrously cheap $1.7 million next season, an outrageous price considering his level of production.
Would the Rockets accept any offer from Miami that doesn’t include both Herro and Robinson?
Probably not, depending on the types of offers they’re getting from other teams. Regardless, a package of Herro, Robinson, Iguodala and Olynyk is a pretty good starting point as far as Harden talks go, though the Heat would probably love to include Kendrick Nunn in such a deal as opposed to Robinson.
It’s unlikely the Rockets would go far that, however.
Then there’s also the draft capital to discuss. Houston absolutely wants a treasure trove of draft assets in any potential Harden deal, something the Heat would struggle to come up with considering the outgoing commitments they already have on their future first-round picks, which are pretty complicated.
To keep it as simple as possible: Miami has to lift the protections on the 2023 first-rounder that they owe the Oklahoma City Thunder, which is protected 1-14. That would allow the Heat to then offer the Rockets their 2025 and 2027 first-round pick in a trade offer for Harden, since the 2023 first-rounder would be guaranteed to be going to Oklahoma City, giving Miami their 2024, 2025 and 2026 first-round pick to offer up in trades.
Nonetheless, barring a separate trade to acquire more draft capital, those are the only two first-round picks the Heat could offer the Rockets; would that be enough to get Houston’s attention?
That’s unclear, but realistically, the best package Miami can present the Rockets in Harden trade talks looks as follows: Herro, Robinson, Iguodala, Olynyk, a 2025 first-round pick and a 2027 first-round pick, as well as a 2022 pick swap, a 2024 pick swap and a 2026 pick swap.
That Philadelphia 76ers can likely beat that just by offering Houston Ben Simmons, but if Daryl Morey remains opposed to splitting up Simmons and Joel Embiid, that would present the Heat with their best chance to swoop in and become the winners of the Harden sweepstakes.
For more on the James Harden trade front, click here.
Alberto de Roa contributed to this article.