Evaluating the Heat's plans in the wake of the Harden trade
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA world was taken by surprise because of the massive deal that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. Harden will be teaming up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, which may be the best offensive “Big 3” in the NBA’s modern era. It could be even better than the Miami Heat’s “Big 3” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

This move cements the Nets as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and maybe the entire NBA. In a league full of dynamic duos, the Nets created the only “Big 3” in the league for the time being. However, they still have to prove they can beat the defending Eastern Conference champions until they can be crowned with success.

Miami struck out on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Harden, but there are other options on the table for Heat that can be explored over the coming months. The Heat are always involved in discussions when it comes to disgruntled stars, and even if they haven’t landed one of the big prizes, they can never be counted out.

There is a lot to dissect from this Brooklyn trade and how it may impact the hierarchy in the Eastern Conference, but what does this trade specifically mean for the Heat and where do they go from here?

Miami Heat trade targets: Who can they grab to fill in the gaps of the roster?

The Miami Heat’s options over the last couple of months have been dwindling due to recent trades and signings. It started out with Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he re-signed with the Milwaukee Bucks on a super-max contract. Miami then turned its attention to James Harden due to his anger with the Houston Rockets.

Miami explored a deal for Harden, but nothing ever came to fruition and they were not one of the teams contending for him down the stretch. After missing out on arguably two top-five players, where does Miami turn its attention to now?

Victor Oladipo has been one name linked to the Heat for years now. Oladipo has always wanted to be there, And despite his trade to the Rockets, the guard still wants the Heat to acquire his services at some point. Oladipo does not want to be in Houston and could be flipped for a package of players and a pick or two. If Miami waits until the trade deadline, they could try to trade for P.J. Tucker along with Oladipo.

Another name that could be expendable is Andre Drummond. The Cavaliers traded a first-round pick for Jarrett Allen on Wednesday and look to invest in him for the future. Reports say that Drummond’s time in Cleveland is nearing an end. He could be traded before hitting unrestricted free agency this coming summer.

The Heat should definitely look into Drummond as they have struggled significantly inside with their offensive rebounding and interior defense. Drummond would be an amazing acquisition for Miami and allow them to have a defensive-oriented big man outside of Bam Adebayo.

Kyle Lowry would also make sense for Miami since the Raptors have struggled thus far. Lowry would be a great fit for the Heat at point guard and they could move Herro back to his natural shooting guard position. They could perhaps move Robinson to the bench if they could acquire another big man and have a potent duo coming off the bench in Robinson and Dragic.

Other players that could fix Miami’s issues could be LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. The Spurs are entering a rebuild soon and Aldridge is scheduled to hit free agency along with DeRozan. Aldridge could help secure a stable power forward for the Miami Heat, which is an improvement over Kelly Olynyk and seems to be the most likely option out of the two players.

Who on the Miami Heat needs to step up to make another NBA Finals run?

There are many young players on the Miami Heat that have stepped up over the previous years. Bam Adebayo went from being a bench player to becoming one of the best young stars in the NBA. Tyler Herro went from being slandered by Heat fans to becoming a fan favorite after his performance in last year’s playoffs.

There are many players on this Heat squad that will have to step up. The biggest player out of that pool is Herro. The young guard is averaging 17.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists on 47.2% shooting from the field this year. Herro was a starter in the NBA Finals for Miami but struggled at times on the offensive and defensive end.

Herro has shown up the last two games with some players down by scoring 31 and 34 points in each of those contests. Herro won’t have to put up these types of numbers, but if they stand pat and don’t make any moves, it would be very nice to see Herro score 20 per night and limit his turnovers.

Adebayo is also another player who needs to step up. Even though he is an emerging superstar, there are still some flaws in his game. Adebayo has struggled with aggression in some games this year and at points, he doesn’t make an attempt to look at the basket. That has to change for Miami.

He needs to be confident and aggressive to maximize his potential as an offensive player. The jump-shots have been falling and that is great, but Adebayo needs to be more inclined to shoot the ball sometimes instead of being tied to creating opening looks for his teammates.

Duncan Robinson is the last player that the Heat needs to take a step forward. While he is already one of the best shooters in the NBA, there were times during the playoffs that he seemingly disappeared. Robinson needs to find other ways to score the ball in the playoffs. Teams will focus more on him because they know he can shoot lights out from the three-point line.

Robinson could try to attempt more mid-range jumpers or drive more when it seems like he could do so. There are more ways to score and he has to become more dynamic and not live at the three-point line on offense the whole game. Improving defensively would be huge for him, but the expectations should not be too high when it comes to this.

Do the Miami Heat have enough to match up with the Brooklyn Nets?

The Brooklyn Nets arguably have the best roster in the NBA after acquiring James Harden to team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. While their bench is weakened due to the trade, they still have players such as Joe Harris and Jeff Green. How does the Miami Heat size up against this Brooklyn team?

The main three players in the Miami Heat’s lineup are Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. They also have specialists such as Duncan Robinson and a really well-rounded defensive anchor in Avery Bradley. They do have one thing that the Nets don’t have: depth.

On the other hand, the Nets have three of the best scorers in the game with Irving, Harden and Durant. It’s reasonable to see the Heat stop two of them alone, but the addition of Harden puts them over the top. You have to guess Adebayo guards Durant, Butler guards Harden, and Herro, Dragic, or Bradley would have to guard Irving.

However, it will be a very hard feat for Miami to shut down all three scorers. It’s simply not possible. The Nets also have DeAndre Jordan, who could pose a massive mismatch if they have someone such as Kelly Olynyk on him. This is where a move for someone such as Drummond would be beneficial.

The Heat will have to outscore the Nets because no one’s going to hold them to a low-scoring game if things click in Brooklyn. Miami has struggled so far on offense this season in some games and Robinson disappeared during the NBA Finals for a period of time before heating up.

Even if things in Brooklyn doesn’t click and it’s a massive mess, how is the team going to beat the Lakers? L.A. got significantly better during the offseason and certainly don’t have players coming off the bench where Miami could take them for granted like last season.

Herro will need to make a massive jump as stated before and Adebayo will need to be aggressive on the offensive end. Trading for another player who can create their own shots such as Victor Oladipo could be one of the bigger moves they can make this season.

Miami Heat fans who say this team is not good enough do not deserve to be bombarded by people saying they don’t have “the guts”. They are right and this team is not good enough. It’s more than going to the NBA Finals last year. Sure, they made it, but everyone else around them got better from a roster standpoint and they did not.

Without making a move to patch up some holes such as starting point guard, power forward, and in the interior, it is very unlikely that they will make it out of the East, let alone win the NBA Finals. It’s not a reason to panic, but it’s okay to be realistic and understand this roster needs improvement internally or from an external source.

It’s clear this roster is not good enough to beat the Nets or Lakers without some help. If you believe in this organization and its players, you also have to trust Pat Riley, because he’s going to need to make some moves to bring this team back to the NBA Finals for a second consecutive year.

This article first appeared on Sportsnaut and was syndicated with permission.

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