The Cleveland Cavaliers are in Miami tonight to take on the Miami Heat for the final time this regular season, as LeBron James is scheduled to play his first game against his former team in Miami for the first time since 2016.
What is now apart of the Cavaliers-Heat rivalry again is Dwyane Wade being on the Miami side of the spectrum following the Cavaliers decision to trade Wade back to the Heat on February 8th. Cleveland elected to trade Wade to the Heat after reshaping their roster that same day by acquiring guards Jordan Clarkson, George Hill, and Rodney Hood. Cleveland also wanted to shell out more minutes to Cedi Osman, which is another reason why Wade became expendable.
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman received a lot of praise for his work at the deadline, and rightfully so. He was able to re-tool the entire Cavaliers roster and recoup younger assets for his veteran assets like Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, and Wade, all while not giving up the prestigious Brooklyn Nets 2018 first-round draft pick that is highly coveted around the NBA.
What we didn’t know about the Cavaliers activity during the trade deadline was how long the thinking of revamping the roster has been in the thoughts of Altman and other team executives. Sure, it would’ve been an easy to guess that you can’t just think about a roster overhaul night, but ESPN’s Dave McMenamin was able to give us a clearer picture of the Cavaliers’ trade discussions with teams across the NBA, including Miami.
In the linked article, McMenamin says that Cleveland and Miami were in communication about potential trades about 3-4 weeks ahead of the actual trading deadline, with Heat general manager Andy Elisburg going through the Cavaliers’ roster alphabetically, telling Altman which players he could see the Heat making a realistic trade offer for.
Then, when Wade’s name came up, Elisburg told Altman something along the lines about the Heat’s history with Wade, and then Altman told Elisburg about the potential roster remaking in Cleveland that could soon take place. Elisburg took the information seriously, and filed it away before informing Heat president Pat Riley about the discussions.
Fast forward back to February 8th, the phone is ringing in Miami, and it’s Altman on the line just passed 9 am. The question from Altman to the Heat was simple, would they want Wade back in a Heat uniform? The answer was of course an emphatic yes, and the timing of the trade likely couldn’t have came at a better time for Miami.
The Heat entered the trade deadline with limited flexibility to acquire talent via trade. They were armed with a $5.5 million disabled player exception, but that ended up expiring a couple of weeks ago. They received that exception because of guard Dion Waiters undergoing season-ending ankle surgery in January, and were trying to find a way to use it to either sign a player, or use it in a trade to get a player.
They had real, legitimate interest in Memphis Grizzlies wing Tyreke Evans, but the price for Evans was a first-round pick, something Miami didn’t have. Memphis didn’t get their desired first-round pick for Evans, and he will now be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Could the Heat potentially look at him again then? That’s a whole new story, and would take serious cap space altering and figuring from Elisburg to fit Evans into their budget.
Miami’s main goal at the deadline was to end add a perimeter player who would be a scorer on the perimeter if they potentially could. That’s why when the chance to acquire Wade popped up, the Heat felt like he was just what the team needed, and what the fan base needed after going through the two side’s messy divorce.
So that’s when the Heat sent a heavily-protected 2024 second-round draft pick to Cleveland for the 36-year-old Wade, making it their second deadline deal of the day, as earlier that same day they acquired forward Luke Babbit from the Atlanta Hawks. Babbitt was with the Heat in 2016-2017 and was very well liked by head coach Erik Spoelstra for his ability to space the floor and fill-in as a starter on a needed basis. They hoped to re-sign him over the summer, but nothing was able to materialize.
ESPN’s Stephen A Smith was the first to report on his radio show that Wade could potentially be headed back to Miami, but Smith’s colleague Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to put it out on Twitter, and it was perhaps the most retweet and liked Wojnarowski Tweet ever:
Miami has played better since Wade’s return to the Heat, especially at home. Wade himself has also played better, as the Marquette alum is averaging 13.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game in 14 games with the Heat this season, bringing his total season averages to 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game.
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