When the Miami Heat lost to the Denver Nuggets in the 2023 NBA Finals, it became clear they needed another superstar to help Jimmy Butler get the job done next year. That’s when Damian Lillard emerged as the perfect trade target for the South Florida team.
After years of falling short with the Blazers, Dame requested a trade out of Portland. His favorite landing spot was Miami, where he saw a legitimate chance to contend. But after months of stalling, the Blazers ended up sending the 33-year-old to the Milwaukee Bucks.
It was obviously painful for the Heat, who only were interested in Lillard. In fact, the franchise passed on other star players available on the market. Bradley Beal, for instance, seemed to be keen on moving to Miami. But Pat Riley couldn’t make it work, and in the end, the veteran guard joined the Phoenix Suns.
“So, my initial favorite was Miami,” Beal told Andscape. “And so, we call Miami … we hear back [New York] Knicks, Sacramento, Brooklyn a little bit, and then it was Milwaukee and it was one more big team. So, I didn’t like Knicks. I didn’t like Sac from the standpoint they were still a little too young … And that was kind of one of the most difficult things about every trade and every team. And I respect and love every team, but a lot of them just couldn’t do it because the money was just so high”.
Heat fail to get another star for Butler, Adebayo
The Heat went much further than predicted in 2023. After struggling for consistency in the regular season, Miami had to work its way to the playoffs via the Play-In Tournament.
A loss to the Hawks forced Erik Spoelstra’s team to play for the eighth seed against the Bulls. When it looked like Chicago would get the win in South Beach, Jimmy Butler stepped up to send his team to the next round.
From then on, they defied the odds. The Heat took down the No. 1 seed Bucks in the first round, before knocking out the Knicks and Celtics on their way to the Finals. But Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets proved to be too much for the Heat, who won just one game in the series against Denver.
The fact that they came so close made it look like they would boost their roster by adding another star, but their patience for Lillard proved too costly. The months have passed, and Miami will ultimately enter the new season without another big name.
Had the Heat kept their options open, Beal would have been an interesting addition. But the financial aspect may have also been a major hurdle in this potential move.
Beal admits it hurt not to be traded to Miami
Beal admitted his preferred destination would’ve been Miami, but it was Phoenix who looked willing to make it work. The 30-year-old signed a five-year, $251 million supermax contract with the Wizards in 2022. Therefore, not many teams could absorb that money.
“With our new CBA [collective bargaining agreement] and the luxury tax, a lot of owners just was like, ‘We don’t want to get hit over the head with that.’ And that’s a respectable decision. If I was the ownership and I’m pouring in billions of dollars, I want to make sure we’re getting a championship out of it too. So, out of nowhere I get a call and it’s Mat Ishbia in Phoenix … That didn’t even cross my mind of going to Phoenix …” said Beal.
SURVEY Should Miami have traded for Bradley Beal instead of waiting for Damian Lillard?
Should Miami have traded for Bradley Beal instead of waiting for Damian Lillard?
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Even then, the veteran guard still wondered where the Heat stood. But at some point, they just admitted they couldn’t do it. Beal said it hurt him, since his desire was to play in Miami. However, the situation was also an “eye-opener” for him, which is why he could see the Suns were a great option as well. One that he didn’t imagine until then, but still.