Heat send Michael Beasley to Timberwolves

Update (July 12, 2010): The compensation received for Michael Beasley has been changed to a pair of second round draft picks from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2011 and 2014. 

The cloud of mystery that has surrounded the stay of Michael Beasley in South Florida for the past two seasons has been lifted.

In the wake of Thursday’s addition of Cleveland Cavaliers free-agent forward LeBron James, and amid the need to clear additional cap space, the Miami Heat late Thursday night traded Beasley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who can simply absorb Beasley into empty salary-cap space.

The Heat will almost surely turn around and utilize the $4.96 million in gained cap space on Washington Wizards free-agent swingman Mike Miller, who has a standing five-year, $30 million offer on the table from the Heat which figures to start at roughly $5 million.

The Heat had to virtually give away the No. 2 overall pick from the 2008 draft to rid themselves of his expiring contract. To complete the trade, Minnesota must only part with a 2011 second-round pick. The teams have also agreed to a swap of unspecified future first-round picks.

Miami was previously working on a four-team trade that would have turned the Heat’s acquisition of Chris Bosh into a sign-and-trade with the Toronto Raptors while also sending Beasley to the Charlotte Bobcats. The Houston Rockets were also involved in that deal, which called for the Rockets to ship swingman Jared Jeffries to Charlotte and take back Bobcats center Tyson Chandler.

The Raptors, though, held firm on their determination to participate in a Bosh sign-and-trade only if they have to take back draft picks, while also creating a large trade exception through Bosh’s departure. The four-way proposal, which was introduced Wednesday, would have required Toronto to take back at least $3.1 million in contracts from Houston, which the Raptors were unwilling to do. 

Toronto’s refusal could be a significant blow to the Heat from a perspective of structuring.

Now that the Heat has found an alternate trade partner for Beasley, a Bosh sign-and-trade that could net him a six-year deal as opposed to a five-year deal, along with slightly higher annual raises, is likely to go through by week’s end, with Toronto getting the package (draft considerations and a trade exception) it wanted from the start.

Because the Heat would not be returning any player contracts in return, the Raptors would receive back a trade exception equal to the full value of Bosh’s starting salary for next season.

But it remains unclear as to what package of draft considerations the Raptors will demand. The hope was that the four-team trade could have been worked out such that the Bobcats, in exchange for Beasley, would part with the draft considerations necessary to satiate the Raptors’ demands for a Bosh sign-and-trade. Charlotte was highly motivated to acquire him, sources said, but Minnesota had the requisite cap space to do so without involving any other team.

The consideration received back for Beasley from the Wolves surely won’t be enough for the Raptors. The Raptors are now likely to require, at the very least, a return of their own first-round draft pick, originally dealt to the Heat as part of the February 13, 2009 trade that sent Jermaine O’Neal to the Heat in exchange for Shawn Marion. That pick is lottery protected through the 2014 draft, and becomes fully unprotected in 2015. With the Raptors set to face an imminent rebuild, that pick could potentially quite valuable if the Raptors continue to miss the playoffs in the years ahead.

The Heat — so confident that they would eventually manufacture a deal — told Beasley on Wednesday to prepare to be dealt, and asked him to scrap a voluntary workout this morning on the Heat’s practice floor.

It seems incredible to think that the man once thought by many to be the most talented player in the 2008 draft – an explosive, versatile scorer, and an excellent rebounder – could net the Heat such a limited return in trade just two years into his career. Perhaps it was a signal that few teams were willing assist the Heat in the dramatic transformation of its roster. Or perhaps it is a testament to just how far Beasley has fallen.

Beasley averaged 13.9 points as a rookie and 14.8 points last season. He could never nail down a starting spot and spent long stints on the bench because of his inability to grasp the Heat’s defensive system. That lack of defense forced coach Erik Spoelstra to keep Beasley on the bench late in close games, frustrating the 21 year old.

Beasley spent six weeks in a Houston substance-abuse rehab facility before his second season. The previous year he was sent home from the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program after his room smelled strongly of marijuana. Fellow rookie Mario Chalmers, currently the only Heat player under contract for next season, also was sent home.

That he gets a fresh start, in a low key city, for a team that will need to leverage his unquestioned offensive gifts is probably a good outcome for Beasley. Swapping Beasley for Miller, a 2011 second-round draft pick and an unspecified exchange of future first-round picks represents a solid, if imperfect, outcome for the Heat as well.

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