Smaller moves at trade dead­line could make big dif­fer­ence.

Even if Heat don’t make big splash, smaller moves can help

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - Ira Win­der­man iwin­der­[email protected]­sen­tinel.com. Fol­low him at twit­ter.com/ira­heat­beat or face­book.com/ira.win­der­man

MIAMI — Some­times it’s not about the big splash at the NBA trad­ing dead­line, which is Thurs­day at 3 p.m. Some­times it’s about set­ting up what comes next.

For the Miami Heat, there are three ar­eas worth ad­dress­ing in par­tic­u­lar, even if not block­buster in na­ture, if only be­cause of the way such de­ci­sions could set up the fu­ture.

Ac­quire a 2021 first-round pick: Any 2021 first-round pick. The Heat’s 2021 un­pro­tected se­lec­tion cur­rently is in the hands of the Philadel­phia 76ers, hav­ing ac­quired it on draft night last year from the Phoenix Suns. The pick was the sec­ond of the two the Heat sent to Phoenix in the 2015 trade for Goran Dragic.

No, this is not about get­ting that pick back, with the Heat likely lack­ing the re­sources for what could be a par­tic­u­larly valu­able se­lec­tion. That ship has sailed.

Rather, the Heat can un­lock their fu­ture draft pos­si­bil­i­ties by sim­ply get­ting back into the first round of the 2021 draft.

By rule, teams are not al­lowed to be with­out a first-round pick in suc­ces­sive fu­ture sea­sons. So, be­cause the Heat cur­rently lack a 2021 first-round pick, they are, by rule, in­el­i­gi­ble to trade their 2020 or 2022 first-round se­lec­tions.

How­ever, the rule does not re­quire a first-round se­lec­tion to be your own in or­der to es­cape such lim­i­ta­tions. So even if the Heat were to ac­quire what might be per­ceived as a worth­less late-round 2021 se­lec­tion from a con­tender, it then would in­crease draft flex­i­bil­ity go­ing for­ward. The only caveat is such a firstround pick must stand with­out pro­tec­tions.

So if it’s Wayne Elling­ton or Rod­ney McGruder or what­ever it takes for even a nom­i­nal 2021 first-rounder, it could go a long way in clar­i­fy­ing the long-range blue­print.

Come to a con­sen­sus with Goran

Dragic: So let’s see: The Heat thrive in De­cem­ber in Goran Dragic’s ab­sence with Jus­tise Winslow as pri­mary ball­han­dler and Dragic comes to be viewed as su­per­flu­ous. Then the go­ing is not as smooth in Jan­uary and per­haps the think­ing changes.

All the while, Dragic holds a player op­tion for $19 mil­lion for 2019-20, which yet might be by­passed for greater longterm money else­where.

So where do the Heat stand with Dragic? Which, of course, means where do they stand with Winslow as a point guard?

With Dragic seem­ingly re­cov­er­ing from his De­cem­ber knee surgery at the ex­pected mid-Fe­bru­ary pace, there yet could be the pos­si­bil­ity of a deal with a con­tender at the dead­line. Or do the Heat per­haps see a way of Dragic in­vok­ing his op­tion to be­come a free agent and then re­sign­ing for lesser money over a longer term?

In the­ory, much of that is a June/ July de­ci­sion, based on Dragic’s op­tion de­ci­sion and Winslow’s play. But if there is out­side in­ter­est Thurs­day, are the Heat in po­si­tion to make a de­ci­sive dec­la­ra­tion on Dragic’s fu­ture in real time?

Maten sea­son: With a fo­cus on the lux­ury tax, the Heat have been op­er­at­ing with a 14-player ros­ter, one shy of the league max­i­mum. And the trad­ing dead­line may yet sort out that sit­u­a­tion if Elling­ton is moved and per­haps an­other cap tweak or two are made.

But the Heat would be wise to cre­ate a us­able ros­ter spot to con­vert G League break­out star Yante Maten from his two-way con­tract to a stan­dard deal be­fore sea­son’s end. Such a move, which would re­quire a stan­dard ros­ter spot, then could come with the Heat also lock­ing in the un­drafted for­ward out of Ge­or­gia into a mul­ti­year deal, and hav­ing an­other de­vel­op­men­tal prospect in the pipe­line as the James John­son sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues to go side­ways.

Later in the sea­son, if the tax sit­u­a­tion be­comes locked in, even do­ing the same with Dun­can Robin­son, the Heat’s other two-way player, would be pru­dent for fu­ture de­vel­op­men­tal-pro­gram sta­bil­ity.

JOHN MCCALL/SUN SEN­TINEL

Heat pres­i­dent Pat Ri­ley will have some op­tions at the trade dead­line.

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