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Why it’s nearly impossible for Miami to sign Kevin Durant and keep its core together

If the Heat want Kevin Durant, they almost certainly have to say goodbye to Hassan Whiteside and/or Dwyane Wade.

Superstar free agent Kevin Durant isn't just giving out meetings to anyone. Aside from the Oklahoma City Thunder, where Durant has spent his entire career, only five teams -- the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat -- are getting sit-downs with Durant.

Aside from the Thunder and the Celtics, each team in the Durant hunt would need to tinker their rosters to create cap space. But while the Warriors and Spurs could sign Durant without hemorrhaging their rosters, the Heat are facing an uphill battle of Mt. Everest proportions if they want to have the cap room to sign Durant and keep their own two marquee free agents.

Pat Riley and the Heat have pulled off free agency coups before -- remember 2010? -- but Riley would need a miracle to bring Durant to Miami while retaining Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade. In fact, keeping just two of the three, while likely doable, could prove to be a challenge depending on Whiteside and Wade's contract demands.

For the Heat to lure Durant to Miami without breaking up their core, they'll need many pieces to fall in their favor.

Gut the roster or hope for a bargain

The Heat have $50.9 million on the books next season -- which means they have a little over $40 million to reach the projected $94 million cap. However, they have three players they want to sign who could demand max contracts. The Heat could give one to Whiteside, who they've said is priority No. 1 this offseason, and it would earn him about $22 million. Doing the same for Wade (his max number is even higher) would put them over the cap. That means they couldn't sign Durant to the $26.6 million max he's in line to receive, or even get in the ballpark. (For more on Durant's future contract, read here.)

In order to sign Durant, both Wade and Whiteside would have to take major pay cuts. As Bobby Marks of Yahoo Sports! notes, both would need to sign significantly smaller one-year deals in the $8-10 million range and hope the Heat are able to make them whole next summer with maximum contracts. On top of that, the Heat would have to renounce the free-agent cap holds of Luol Deng, Udonis Haslem, Amaré Stoudemire, Gerald Green, Joe Johnson and Dorell Wright to clear the cap space for Durant.

It's asking a lot of Whiteside and Wade, and neither seems particularly inclined to do so right now, especially given the latest rumors that Wade will test the open market. Even Riley will find it nearly impossible to convince his stars to sacrifice that much, especially considering how little time he has to sell them on it.

The Whiteside Problem

Whiteside isn't making things any easier for the Heat. He said he plans on making his decision on July 1, the first day of free agency. If he signs with the Heat for the max (and the Heat keep Wade's cap hold on the books to have a chance to re-sign him), that bumps the payroll up to around $73 million, depending on where the cap falls. That already may not leave enough space for Durant's maximum contract.

Whiteside has been telling the press how great it is to be the one receiving calls from teams after he was the one making those came calls only two years ago begging to get a chance. Can Riley really talk a guy who made less than $1 million last season into skipping out on his first huge payday? It's hard to believe.

This is a very tough spot for a team that wants a chance at Durant. If they let Whiteside walk, will Durant want to join? Whiteside makes the Heat a more intriguing landing point for Durant. If Whiteside's not there, Durant may be less likely to jump on board. On the other hand, if the Heat max Whiteside out, they jeopardize their chance to afford Durant. It's a no-win situation.

What about Wade?

Wade, meanwhile, took a one-year, $20 million deal last summer after a contentious bargaining period. He was going into this year's free agency period hoping things would go more smoothly, but that's looking like a pipe dream if the Heat are going to make a big splash with Durant.

Wade's talks with the Heat stalled on Tuesday, and he's prepared to field outside offers, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. The Heat need Wade to sign for much, much less than the $20 million he made last season if they're going to keep Whiteside and add Durant. Riley has talked Wade into pay cuts for the good of the team before, but Wade may have reached his limit. Riley must coax Wade again, in a big way.

If Riley is successful, Wade's new salary can replace his massive cap hold, giving the Heat much more breathing room under the cap for Durant. But if Wade is set on testing the market, the timing may be off.

There is one other chance for the Heat to win over Durant, but it depends on the health of Chris Bosh.

Chris Bosh's status

There's a small chance Bosh can't return to the court because of the blood clots that kept him out of the second half of both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. Bosh is set to make $23.7 million next season. If the injury is deemed career-ending, the Heat could stretch the remaining $76 million owed to Bosh over seven years and drop his cap hit to $10 million for 2016-17, per Bobby Marks of Yahoo Sports. That would create more breathing room to sign Durant. The Heat could also petition the league to remove the remaining years of Bosh's salary off their books, but they can't do that until February.

That said, Bosh wants to continue playing as of now, and it's hard to believe the Heat will have enough clarity about his health status to make any long-term decision on his future.

Even if Bosh isn't available to play, his salary is going to fill up the Heat's cap this summer. It's just another obstacle in the path to signing Durant. And though it would be for less under the stretched scenario, wouldn't Durant prefer to come to Miami to play with Chris Bosh?

For once, you may have to count out Pat Riley

There are countless moving parts for the Heat to sign the biggest star in the 2016 free agency class. By getting Durant to agree to a meeting, the Heat passed one test.

But figuring out the remaining bit seems to be too great of a task. Not only do they have to get two stars to agree to small contracts, they must fill the roster around them after ditching the other free agents they sent away this summer. Possible scenarios to keep all three (including this creative one) are so fanciful that they aren't realistic.

Riley has done the unthinkable before, but if he somehow pulls it off, this will be his greatest achievement yet. There are almost certainly too many obstacles in the way of Durant taking his talents to South Beach.