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Is Dorell Wright On The Move?

The always dapper Dorell Wright

As the NBA trade deadline fast approaches, questions are naturally beginning to surface in South Florida as to what activity we are likely to see from the Miami Heat.

The answer, quite simply, is nothing too exciting.

Pat Riley has a plan now nearly three years in the making. The plan, however tenuous it may appear in the current salary cap environment, is to sign three max contract free agents to long-term contracts next summer. The plan has always been to sacrifice the present for the benefit of the future.

At this point, nothing will – and nothing should – deter him from that goal.

Trading away the only continuing contracts – those of Daequan Cook and James Jones – would be ideal, but the market for each is exceedingly thin.

And so all that remains are financial considerations.

Miami’s payroll currently stands at $72.7 million, $2.8 million over the luxury tax threshold. Unfortunately for Dorell Wright, he happens to be making a tidy $2.9 million. That puts him directly in the line of fire.

Should Dorell Wright be traded?

When all is said and done, owner Micky Arison would stand to save on the order of $7.7 million by moving Wright to a team that can swallow his contract without requiring the Heat to take back any salary in return: (i) the $1.2 million that would be left on his $2.8 million salary at the trade deadline, plus (ii) $2.8 million in tax payments avoided, plus (iii) the $3.7 million approximate luxury tax distribution check all teams that are under the tax threshold are set to receive.

So the question becomes: Is 26 post trade-deadline games from Dorell Wright worth $7.7 million?

Unfortunately for Wright, business is business.

Monetary justifications have never been all that popular for fans, and rightfully so. It’s not as if Arison needs the money. But, at some point, impartiality dictates certain actions be taken.

There is a another potential upside to a trade of Wright, anyway, one that should not be overlooked.

The Memphis Grizzlies are said to be one of the many teams taking a serious look at the improving Heat forward. Wright would fit the Grizzlies’ expressed desire to add length, shooting and defense along the perimeter. They are reportedly prepared to offer one of their three 2010 first round picks in return.

The plan for the Heat has always been about the summer of 2010, and that first round pick could go a long way. This is no time to develop a sense of ignorance.

This is the time to think big.

If Riley is successful in attracting two max contract free agents to play alongside Dwyane Wade, it will undoubtedly require every dollar available under the salary cap. The entire rest of the roster would likely be constructed with a combination of minimum contract free agents and second round draft picks. Any first round picks, depending upon their location in the draft, might themselves be too expensive.

But think bigger. Think huge.

The Heat currently projects to have two 2010 first round draft picks – their own, and the lottery-protected pick received from the Raptors in the Jermaine O’Neal trade. Memphis’ pick would make three.

Imagine if, on draft day in June, Riley were to trade these picks for 2011 picks. Imagine if he were then successful in luring his dream free agent trio in July.

The Miami Heat will have picked up the best free agent haul in basketball for the 2010-11 season, an instant title contender, and would then have four – yes, four – first round draft picks from which to improve the following season.

We all love Dorell Wright. We love his potential.

But we have invested three years in this plan. It’s never been about this season. We must continue to think big for next season, and give ourselves every degree of flexibility to get there.

Twenty-six games of Dorell Wright is simply not worth ($7.7 million and) a future first round draft pick. Not when Wright could be brought back this summer, after the 26 games, anyway.

If one were to be offered, the Miami Heat should take it.

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