The trade deadline for the 2020-21 NBA season is Thursday, March 25.
With a little more than a week to spare, the Miami Heat have gotten active, reportedly acquiring forward Trevor Ariza from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second-round pick.
OFFICIAL: The Miami HEAT have acquired forward Trevor Ariza in exchange for Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second round draft selection. https://t.co/UrHONxbn58- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 17, 2021
Ariza, 35, was acquired by the Thunder in the 2020 offseason but reached a mutual agreement to not report for the 2020-21 season. As Ariza opted out of the NBA restart in 2020, it has been over a calendar year since he has seen NBA action.
With that in mind, here's why the reported deal would make sense for both sides.
Why it makes sense for the Heat: Ariza, who turns 36 this summer, is entering his 16th NBA season.
In Miami, Ariza can take on a role similar to that of Andre Iguodala and KZ Okpala which, in theory, allows the three to split time as rangy wing defenders. With Ariza and Iguodala on the older end of the spectrum, they also serve as perfect mentors for the 21-year-old Okpala, who has tremendous upside.
Ariza, a career 35.2 percent 3-point shooter, is coming off of a season with the Portland Trail Blazers in which he shot 40.0 percent from beyond the arc in 21 games prior to the 2019-20 NBA season shutting down in March.
Miami has greatly felt the absence of Jae Crowder, who moved via free agency last offseason. While not a one-for-one trade-off, Ariza brings similar grit, versatile defence and 3-point shooting, which could help Miami recreate the blueprint that resulted in its NBA Finals run of 2020.
Why it makes sense for the Thunder: It's pretty simple: draft capital.
With a number of young core pieces in the fold, Oklahoma City continues to build for the future. With this most recent trade, the Thunder now own 19 first-round draft picks or pick swaps and 16 second-round picks in the next seven drafts.
OKC now have 19 first round picks/swaps and 16 second round picks in the next 7 drafts. pic.twitter.com/M7wFIFxSnI- StatMuse (@statmuse) March 17, 2021
As for the acquisition of Leonard, it was a money-matching move as the big man has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in early February. Given the fact that Ariza had not reported to the team, OKC gets his salary off the books and acquires an expiring contract in addition to another draft pick to continue a very impressive rebuild.
Financial implications: According to Spotrac, Ariza is earning $12.8 million this season and will be a free agent in the summer. Leonard, who is also on an expiring deal, is on the books for $9.4 million this season.
Leonard waived his no-trade clause, and has a $10.1 million team option for the 2021-22 season that Oklahoma City will likely decline, making the nine-year veteran a free agent this upcoming offseason.
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