Sports

The Trades and Deals That Ruined the Miami Heat's 2021 NBA Draft

Goran Dragić at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Goran Dragić at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Photo by Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons
For basketball fans who aren't ready to say goodbye until October, there's good news on the horizon: The NBA draft takes place this Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

But not so fast, Miami Heat fans: We aren't invited. Our invitation is someone else's plus-one, thanks to trades that sent this year's selections to other teams.

Welp.

It was bound to happen. The Heat's wheelin' and dealin' had to catch up to the club at some point, and this NBA draft seems to be that point. Thanks to prior trades, the Heat doesn't have a first- or second-round selection in the draft. That doesn't mean the team won't acquire a selection during the draft, but as of now, they aren't scheduled to participate.


The short answer to the question of why Miami won't be participating on Thursday night is, well, LeBron James. The fact that both selections were traded away is a direct result of his arrival and departure. One to recover, and one to break away a piece of the team that, without him, wasn't worth the price tag any longer.

So what happened to the Heat's picks? Let's take a look.
The Heat’s 2021 first-round pick was originally part of the 2015 trade with the Phoenix Suns that brought Goran Dragić to Miami. Subsequent deals have seen that pick make it all the way to the  Oklahoma City Thunder, which pretty much owns every first-round pick moving forward in perpetuity.

At the time of that deal, Miami was looking to pair Dragić with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in what would have been a quick recovery from the breakup of the "Big 3" after LeBron James departed the year prior. Unfortunately, it was discovered that Bosh had a blood-clot issue hours after the deal was sealed, which led to him being out for the season and, eventually, retiring from basketball altogether.

Ironically, Miami could be finishing paying the bill for acquiring Dragić just as he walks out the door. The team is unlikely to pick up his option — worth over $20 million — and it's very possible he signs with another team in free agency.
The math on where Miami's second-round pick went is a little more complicated, but in the end, also the result of LeBron James' departure. In order to get under the salary cap's luxury-tax line, Miami had to trade Chris "Birdman" Andersen to Memphis for Brian Roberts — whom they quickly sent, along with this year's second-round pick, to Portland.

All Miami got, in the end, was tax savings. Nobody bought a tax-savings jersey. Weird.

So, there you have it. The price of building a superteam and attempting to recover from its untimely breakup is not being invited to the 2021 NBA draft.

There's more than $5 million available to the Heat if they'd like to buy a ticket to the second-round-pick party. We'll have to wait and see whether any of those tax savings go to good use. 
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi