It's possible this is the craziest NBA offseason of all time. The regular season doesn't begin for months, but that hasn't stopped the NBA "down months" from providing fans with premium playoffs-level drama. How it unfolded will be taught to schoolchildren one day.
The first week of NBA free agency brought rumors of a sign-and-trade that would land Jimmy Butler in Miami. Those reports rang true, and Butler has since been signed, sealed, and delivered — officially number 22 on the Miami Heat. Soon after, there was a week of flirtation between the team and Russell Westbrook, who was then traded to the Houston Rockets. Now there's Chris Paul via Oklahoma City, which has no intention of keeping him. Rather, the Thunder would prefer to pay someone to take him and his massive contract off the team's hands.
For now, the Heat has a huge franchise-altering decision to make: They can pull the trigger and acquire another good friend of Dwyane Wade's and All-Star-caliber player in the name of competing now, or they can pack up shop, be patient, and get ready for next year.
OKC, to this point, has offered nothing enticing enough to seriously interest Heat in Chris Paul talks. Heat won't close door if that changes, but this is OKC trying to move Paul, not Heat actively pursuing player— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) July 13, 2019
But as with all things NBA-related, there's a crazier scenario here: The Heat can do both. They can acquire Paul and stock up for the future. They can actually get paid to take on Paul and the three years and $121 million remaining on his contract.
Oklahoma City is desperately looking to shed Paul and his money. They also own the Heat's 2021 and 2023 first-round draft picks. Reports are the Heat is willing to engage the Thunder only if one or both of those picks (or others) are on the table. Outside of gaining back the Heat's picks themselves, there's another reason Miami would want them back: It would allow them to jump feet-first back into any sign-and-trade that presented itself in the future with a boatload of newly reacquired assets to spare.
Allow Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald to spell it out in a tweet in a much clearer way (because we're all a little transaction-fatigued at the moment):
If the Heat finds a way to get its 2021 and 2023 picks back, it will then be eligible to trade its 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 picks.— Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) July 12, 2019
NBA doesn’t allow teams to be without consecutive future first-round picks, which currently prevents the Heat from trading its 2020 and 2022 picks.
So, yeah, taking Paul and getting the Heat's picks back for doing so would open up another route for the team to improve beyond the ones that are currently available. As of now, Miamis can't trade a future first-round pick for a long time. How long? Here's a tweet from cap expert and Heat Hoops author Albert Nahmad to sum it up:
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Heat now owes first-round picks to Clippers in 2021 (unprotected) and 2023 (lottery protected through 2025, unprotected in 2026). As a result, for at least the next 4 years, they won’t be able to trade a future first-round pick unconditionally until 2028. That’s 9 years from now!— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) July 2, 2019
So, does the Heat bite? Does Miami take on CP3, his known attitude, diminishing game, huge contract, neediness, and overall baggage in the name of scoring back a few assets the team has lost in the past (trade for Goran Dragic, clearing space for Jimmy Butler)? There would be something to be said for getting Paul for less than nothing, and in this day and age, it seems as if no contract is untradable and the bigger the expiring deal the better, so one day Paul's contract will actually be a weird plus.
The safe move is to say no. But the home-run move is to go for it — demanding picks back in a trade for Paul, committing to him and Butler for the foreseeable future with the young kids around the pair, and, for all intents and purposes, locking Pat Riley into what is likely his final master plan as president of the Miami Heat.
It's a crazy idea. So crazy it might just make sense.