After missing this year’s playoffs with a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat seem to be looking to make some changes ahead of the 2019-20 season. One such change may involve the acquisition of former Sixth Man of the Year winner J.R. Smith, who played just 11 games for the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018-19 season and failed to find himself a new NBA home after the team deactivated him in November.
Citing a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic, NBC Sports wrote that the Heat appear to be planning to trade for Smith in what was described as a “salary-designed” deal that could help the team dump some expensive contracts. No specific players were mentioned in Charania’s report, but NBC Sports speculated that a trade for Smith could involve players with unclear futures in Miami, such as big men Ryan Anderson and Kelly Olynyk and shooting guard Dion Waiters. The outlet added that starting center Hassan Whiteside might also be involved, as his name “always seems to get floated [around]” in Heat trade rumors.
Separately, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote on Tuesday that two Heat players — Waiters and James Johnson — are “considered available” on the trading block. Per Basketball-Reference, Waiters averaged 12 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists and shot 37.7 percent from beyond the arc in 44 games for the Heat, while veteran forward Johnson averaged 7.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 55 games.
As further noted by NBC Sports and the Miami Herald, J.R. Smith could be valuable to the Heat as a buyout candidate or as someone who could be included in future trades. While he has one year and $15.6 million remaining on his four-year contract, only $3.87 million out of that is guaranteed until June 30. That means any team that trades for him will be taking a salary cap hit of less than $4 million if he gets waived on or before that date.
Meanwhile, Smith’s value as a trade asset could come into play from July 1 onward, as the Heat could trade Johnson or Waiters — who will respectively be making $15.1 million and $12.1 million in the 2019-20 season — for Smith and his full cap hit of $15.6 million. Per the Miami Herald, the Heat may also need to add “another small piece” to a trade package centered on Waiters or Johnson in order to make the deal work under salary cap rules.
After playing an important role for the Cleveland Cavaliers during their recent trips to the NBA Finals, Smith had an abbreviated stint for the Cavs in 2018-19 — a season where they ended up winning a mere 19 games and finishing with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. The 33-year-old shooting guard averaged just 6.7 points and shot only 34.2 percent from the field in 11 games before the Cavaliers, per USA Today, issued a statement in November confirming that he will “no longer be with the team” as they try to trade him to another organization.