The Miami Heat could deal for Dwight Howard before the NBA trade deadline in an attempt to further advance the team’s chances of a playoff run this year.
The Heat are one of the surprise teams in the Eastern Conference, holding the seventh place despite being bugged by injuries and inconsistencies early in the 2015-2016 NBA regular season. However, Tom West of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided believes the Heat are not a legitimate contender for the NBA title yet, despite having key players in the roster.
According to West, the Heat’s “mediocre” record of 23-20 would not be enough to keep them in the hunt for a championship, but could alter their course if Miami moves some of their players to acquire assets who could help the team in the future. The Heat have very limited trade pieces, but West argues the three-time NBA champs may consider dealing away young player Hassan Whiteside.
“Believe it or not, the Heat are actually better off without Whiteside on the floor,” West wrote. “The offensive rating of their opponents drops by 4.9 when Whiteside is on the bench not in the game, and overall they lead by an average of 1.9 points per 100 possessions without him and only 0.7 with him.”
Aside from Whiteside’s inconsistency, the logical reason to trade him away is his pending free agency. Whiteside is playing the final year of his contract and almost guarantees himself a max deal from other suitors once he hits the market. Moreover, the Heat may not be able to afford to offer Whiteside a max contract, given the team’s preference for keeping Dwyane Wade.
In West’s list of possible trade targets, one ideal move is trading Whiteside for Houston Rockets All-Star centre Dwight Howard, who has also been rumoured to be in the trading block, according to Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops.
Sheridan reported in December that Howard was unhappy in Houston playing second fiddle to James Harden, which sparked trade rumours about the Rockets putting their big-man on the trading block.
“With the Rockets underachieving more than any NBA team, look for them to try to move Howard later this season,” Sheridan disclosed. “And the destination that makes the most sense is Miami in a trade centered around Hassan Whiteside.”
Howard may not have an expiring contract, but what makes him the odd man out of Houston is his player option for the next season. With the NBA’s massive TV deal set to kick in this year, Howard is expected to opt out of his contract to either get a bigger deal with the Rockets or a max contract with another team.
Howard would give the Heat frontcourt depth with his interior defense and inside scoring. His 14.8 points and 12.4 rebounds per game on a limited 8.9 field goal attempts still proves he is one of the most valuable centres around the league.
However, it would be difficult for both teams to orchestrate a straight swap of Whiteside and Howard. If such a deal materialises, the Heat would probably have to include other expiring contracts or young talents who could help the Rockets improve their own playoff chances in the Western Conference.