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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Ira Winderman

Complex math won’t get in the way of a Lillard deal. Heat practically invented it.

MIAMI — Standing as a destination of choice is nothing new for the Miami Heat. It has allowed Pat Riley to reel in some of the biggest names in the NBA over a stewardship of the franchise now into a third decade.

But the process often has not been linear, rarely as simple as trading Player A for Player B.

So with Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard making clear that Miami is his sole trade destination of choice, it again could have Heat general manager Andy Elisburg busy both with his calculator and switchboard.

Over the years, bigger has not only proven better for the Heat when it comes to reeling in A-list talent but also when it comes to making salary-cap math work in deals.

The history is there.

Which is why hope remains of a Lillard-Heat resolution being near.

And that could make Thursday particularly significant, as the NBA’s transaction moratorium comes to the close. During those hours, it is possible for the Heat potentially to mesh the sign-and-trade free-agency loss of Max Strus to the Cleveland Cavaliers and salary dump of Victor Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder into a Lillard deal.

Jimmy Butler from nothing

Arguably the ultimate salary-cap wizardry over the Heat’s 35 seasons came on July 6, 2019, when the Heat landed Philadelphia 76ers free agent forward Jimmy Butler despite standing without a single dollar in salary-cap funds.

In order to make that deal happen, the Heat initially appeared to lure in the Dallas Mavericks as a trade partner, before coming up with a three-team deal involving the 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers.

In the deal, the Heat sent Josh Richardson to the 76ers, Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers, a first-round pick to the Clippers, while taking on the contracts of Meyers Leonard from Portland and Maurice Harkless from the Clippers.

It was a deal so complex that it even included someone named Mathias Lessort going from the 76ers to the Clippers.

Goran Dragic with a twist

In a scenario similar to the Lillard situation, Goran Dragic made clear he wanted to be elsewhere, in his case after a falling out with Phoenix Suns management.

In that case, the Heat worked the acquisition through a three-team deal in order to make the math work.

In the Feb. 19, 2015 transaction, the Heat acquired Goran Dragic and brother Zoran Dragic from the Suns.

In what grew into a three-team deal, the Heat sent Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams to the New Orleans Pelicans, and Danny Granger, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2021 first-round pick to the Suns.

To round out the deal, the Pelicans sent John Salmons to the Suns.

Going big, bigger, biggest

On Aug. 2, 2005 the Heat put together the most complex trade in the franchise’s 35 seasons, one that put supporting pieces Antoine Walker, James Posey and Jason Williams in place for the team’s 2006 NBA championship.

As part of the five-team trade, the Boston Celtics traded Walker to the Heat and the Memphis Grizzlies traded Andre Emmett, Posey and Williams to the Heat.

From there, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Greg Ostertag to the Utah Jazz; the Heat traded Albert Miralles, Qyntel Woods, a 2006 second-round draft pick and a 2008 second-round pick to the Celtics; the Heat traded Eddie Jones to the Grizzlies; the Heat traded Rasual Butler to the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets; the Hornets traded Roberto Duenas to the Heat; the Jazz traded Curtis Borchardt to the Celtics; the Jazz traded Raül López to the Grizzlies; and the Jazz traded Kirk Snyder to the Hornets.

The complete Shaq bag

No, not a multi-team deal, instead the Heat’s July 14, 2004 acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers was similar to the Lillard discourse in terms of how high the bidding would go from the player who wanted out.

Ultimately, at the height of the Lakers’ feud between O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Heat kept adding pieces until the deal turned into Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, a 2006 first-round pick (Jordan Farmar was selected) and a 2007 second-round pick (Renaldas Seibutis was later selected) for O’Neal.

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