MIAMI — Amid an uneven season of play at point guard and a deteriorating relationship with Kyle Lowry, the Miami Heat on Tuesday dealt the 37-year-old veteran along with a future lottery-protected first-round pick to the Charlotte Hornets for guard Terry Rozier.
The trade comes in the wake of Lowry being demoted to the second unit last week and during a stretch when both the Heat and Lowry have struggled offensively.
In dealing a first-round pick, the Heat signaled a win-now approach amid roster bolstering elsewhere throughout the Eastern Conference, including the New York Knicks acquiring OG Anunoby, the Indiana Pacers adding Pascal Siakam, and follows the offseason additions of Damian Lillard by the Milwaukee Bucks and Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday by the Boston Celtics.
Lowry is in the final year of the three-year, $85 million contract he signed to join the Heat in 2021 free agency, due $29.6 million this season. The expectation is he will receive a buyout from the Hornets, who again are stuck in lottery mode.
Rozier, 29, is in the midst of a four-year, $96.3 million contract signed in the 2021 offseason. He is due $23.2 million this season, $24.9 million next season and in 2025-26 is due $26.6 million, with $24.9 million guaranteed.
In taking on long-term money with Rozier, the Heat likely will have to make ancillary moves going forward, because of implications with the salary cap and luxury tax.
For example, on the Heat’s salary cap for the 2024-25 season are Jimmy Butler at $48.8 million, Bam Adebayo at $34.8 million, Tyler Herro at $29 million and Duncan Robinson at $19.4 million. That would slot in Rozier’s salary between Herro and Robinson.
As far as salary-cap implications, the deal saves the Heat $15.4 million in luxury tax. The deal also created a $6.4 million trade exception.
In Rozier, the Heat are adding a combo guard who is averaging 23.2 points on .459 shooting the field and .358 shooting on 3-pointers, averaging 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 35.9 minutes per game.
The move reunites Rozier with Heat forward Caleb Martin, who played two seasons with Rozier in Charlotte.
“He’s able to create a lot of space, get his own shot,” Martin said. “He’s gotten so much better at playmaking, getting guys open in that point guard position, athleticism at the point guard spot. He’s a dog, too. Great teammate. He’s a good dude. He’s a competitor, he competes, he wants to win, plays hard on both ends and he’s going to fit right in.”
The move for Rozier could inject new life into the Heat, who have lost three straight games and are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
“There are cases where it can be a big lift for a team,” veteran forward Kevin Love said. “Sometimes that’s off the floor and emotionally, on the floor, as well. I think that Terry — if it does go through and when it does go through — I think it would certainly give us a lift in that way because sometimes hitting that refresh button and getting some new blood in here can be good.”
Love also spoke of Lowry’s departure.
“Certainly, for me, it hurts losing Kyle, who has been somebody I’ve competed against and a friend of mine who I’ve become very close to off the floor,” Love said. “Obviously, even more so here, being so close to him. A lot of battles over the years, so losing him definitely hurts.”
The No. 16 pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics, Rozier was traded to the Hornets for Kemba Walker in July 2019.
The first-round pick dealt by the Heat to the Hornets for Rozier is lottery protected (Nos. 1-14) in 2027 or unprotected in 2028. That leaves only a 2030 first-round pick currently available for the Heat to trade.
The trade lowers the Heat’s luxury-tax bill for this season because of the differential in salaries between Rozier and Lowry. The Hornets were able to take on the additional salary because of their position below the luxury tax.
With the one-for-one trade, the Heat retain an open spot on their standard roster. But the team’s position against the luxury tax precludes adding a player on the buyout market earning more than the league average of $12.4 million.
The NBA trading deadline is Feb. 8, with players waived by March 1 eligible to playoff rosters on other teams.
By league rule, the Heat would not be allowed to reacquire Lowry in a buyout, although the deteriorating relationship precluded any such interest.
Rozier’s contract is considered market friendly, making it possible for the Heat to move off his money, if desired or needed, in future seasons.