Martin was a key contributor during Miami’s run to the NBA Finals last season, and the Heat didn’t want to lose the sharpshooting forward.
“It’s worth noting Caleb Martin was one reason the Heat didn’t acquire Damian Lillard since Miami wanted to retain him following a brilliant playoff performance in the Eastern Conference Finals that helped the team punch an NBA Finals ticket, league sources told HoopsHype,” Scotto wrote.
“Similarly, rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. has carved out a significant rotation role after Miami was reluctant to part with him in trade talks for Lillard.”
Miami was long mentioned as a potential landing spot for Lillard, but the star guard was ultimately traded from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Milwaukee Bucks in September. He joined Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee to form one of the most formidable and productive duos in the entire league. Lillard originally requested a trade away from Portland in July after spending the first 11 seasons of his career with the franchise.
Though the Heat were interested in Lillard, a deal wasn’t struck, perhaps due to Portland’s asking price. Making a deal likely would have cost them several future draft picks in addition to current rotation pieces, like Martin. The Heat had already lost a pair of key cogs from last season in Max Strus and Gabe Vincent in free agency, and they apparently didn’t want to lose Martin, too.
Martin missed a chunk of the current campaign due to a knee injury, but he’s in the process of returning to full form following the injury. In eight games so far this season, Martin is averaging 8.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 21.1 minutes per performance for Miami.
The addition of Lillard might have raised Miami’s ceiling this season, but the Heat have gotten off to a pretty solid start without him. Through 18 games of action, they sit at 10-8, which is good for seventh in the Eastern Conference. This comes despite the fact that the team has had to deal with several injury issues early on.
In addition to Martin missing time, Tyler Herro has missed a lot of action with an ankle injury, and Bam Adebayo missed a few games due to a hip injury. Once the Heat get fully healthy, they should have an opportunity to make some noise and potentially climb up the standings in the East.