5:22pm: The Heat have officially announced the deal (via Twitter). As had been expected, the Thunder announced in a press release that Leonard would remain away from the team.
“Leonard will not be reporting to Oklahoma City and will not be an active member of the organization,” the statement read in part.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets that Ariza has been undergoing tests for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in anticipation of a potential deal, and hopes to suit up for Miami as soon as Friday, when the Heat host the Pacers.
1:57pm: As expected, Leonard has signed off on the trade, confirms Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).
1:32pm: The Heat and Thunder are finalizing a trade that will send forward Trevor Ariza to Miami in exchange for center Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second-round pick, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).
As Wojnarowski notes, Leonard’s contract gives him the option of vetoing a trade, but he’s expected to sign off on the deal. Although the veteran big man likely won’t ever play for Oklahoma City, he’ll probably remain on the roster through the deadline in case he can be used in another deal, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman.
After starting the 2019/20 season in Sacramento, Ariza was dealt to Portland and played well for the Trail Blazers, averaging 11.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG on .491/.400/.872 shooting in 21 games (33.4 MPG). However, he opted out of the summer restart, then was traded multiple times in the 2020 offseason, ultimately landing in Oklahoma City. Ariza and the Thunder reached an agreement to have him remain away from the team.
Since he’s 35 years old and has essentially spent a full calendar year out of the NBA, it’s unclear how much Ariza has left in the tank, but the Heat will pay a very modest price to find out.
Leonard is out for the season with a shoulder injury and was recently fined and suspended for using an anti-Semitic slur during a video game live stream. While his $9.4MM salary for this season is guaranteed, his $10.15MM salary for 2021/22 is a team option and has long been viewed as a lock to be declined. He’s just being included in the deal to sufficiently match Ariza’s $12.8MM expiring contract.
The real asset going to the Thunder in the swap is the future second-round pick, which was one of the only picks Miami had left available to trade. Even though they won’t actually receive it for another six years, the Thunder will be happy to add that 2027 selection to their ever-growing stash of draft assets, especially for a player who didn’t play a single game for the club.
Even after trading for Ariza, the Heat will have a handful of assets to pursue other deals prior to next Thursday’s deadline, including Andre Iguodala‘s and Kelly Olynyk‘s expiring contracts, a $7.5MM trade exception, and a handful of promising young players. Because they’re trading Leonard, they’ll lose the $4.7MM disabled player exception they received after he suffered his season-ending injury, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks observes (via Twitter).
Miami remains about $5.4MM below the tax line and still has approximately $10.6MM of breathing room below the hard cap, Marks adds (via Twitter).
If the Thunder don’t use one of their existing traded player exceptions to take on Leonard’s salary, they’ll create a new $3.4MM TPE in the deal. They could very well be active again before the deadline, with veterans like George Hill, Al Horford, and Mike Muscala among their potential trade candidates.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.