Up next for the Heat: NBA buyout market and shot at LaMarcus Aldridge

In some ways, Thursday’s NBA trading deadline was just a starting point for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat front office.

In trading Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley to the Houston Rockets for Victor Oladipo, and then dealing Moe Harkless and Chris Silva to the Sacramento Kings for Nemanja Bjelica, the Heat opened two roster spots, having previously been at the NBA maximum of 15 (plus two-way players).

That makes the buyout market a particularly significant part of the equation when it comes to the Heat’s playoff prospects.

According to NBA rules, a player who has spent time in the league this season must be waived by April 9 in order to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster. The player then can sign any time going forward, up to the final day of the regular season, for playoff eligibility, as long as he is waived by April 9.

That process already has begun with veteran power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been away from the San Antonio Spurs, awaiting a trade or a buyout. With the trade deadline over, Aldridge will become a free agent once the 48-hour waiver period passes. Based on his $24 million 2020-21 salary, Aldridge will not be claimed on waivers, with no team with such available salary-cap space.

Many players involved in deadline deals were included simply to balance trades under the salary cap, likely to be waived in coming days.

Among others who could shake free for the buyout market are Andre Drummond, Austin Rivers, Jabari Parker, Jeff Teague, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Gorgui Deng, Cory Joseph, Rodney Hood, and, yes, Hassan Whiteside.

By rule, the Heat are ineligible this season to sign back Olynyk, Bradley, Silva or Harkless if they are waived by their acquiring teams. In each case, those players were acquired because of matching salaries required under the salary cap.