After a surprise run to the NBA Finals in 2020, the Miami Heat took a step back last season. They finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and were swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the eventual champions, the Milwaukee Bucks.
No team is going to be happy with a result like that, but certainly not one led by Pat Riley. Even before the offseason began, they were being linked to some big names such as Kawhi Leonard -- though it seems likely he'll stay in Los Angeles -- and Kyle Lowry. Ahead of Monday's opening bell for free agency, it appears they're setting themselves up to make a meaningful acquisition, and the Toronto Raptors point guard could be their main target.
On Sunday, a report from Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press indicated that the Heat have Lowry's attention, and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added that the Heat's moves are being made with the idea of being front-runners to acquire Lowry in part because of his desire to team up with Jimmy Butler.
That's step one complete, but they still have some work to do in order to bring the six-time All-Star to Miami. Lowry is reportedly looking for a three-year deal worth $25 million to $30 million per year, and the Heat do not have that kind of cap space. In fact, after some moves they made on Sunday they don't project to have any meaningful cap space.
While they declined the team option for next season for Andre Iguodala, they picked up Goran Dragic's team option. The latter was worth $19.4 million, which might seem a bit confusing given their cap situation and the Lowry pursuit. However, it's likely that they'll try to use Dragic in a potential sign-and-trade with the Raptors.
The Raptors aren't going to have much use for Dragic as they enter a rebuild, so the Heat would have to add young players and/or draft picks to sweeten the deal. Dragic is mainly important in this scenario because his salary is worth nearly $20 million, which gets the Heat pretty close to what Lowry would want on an annual basis.
Given what we've learned today, the Heat apparently thought it would be easier for them to pick up Dragic's option and work on a sign-and-trade than clear the requisite cap space to sign Lowry outright. Whether that works out for them remains to be seen, but they're clearly in the mix. And if they aren't able to get Lowry, they could use Dragic to pursue other trades or just keep him as a reliable veteran point guard.