ASK IRA: Is out of the box the Heat’s best approach Thursday?

Sun Sentinel writer Ira Winderman addresses the Heat's issues of the day.

June 16, 2019

Q: I'm starting to convince myself that Bol Bol is the best option for the Heat, assuming the pick stays at No. 13, despite a crowded power rotation. I actually think that the Heat's depth could benefit Bol: He'd be able to essentially redshirt his rookie year, work with the Heat’s tremendous strength and conditioning coaches to get into "world class shape," and hopefully prevent future injury in the process -- the main concern in evaluating Bol. (Drafting Bol, instead of another playmaker, would allow the Heat to further explore Justise Winslow at point guard, which would hopefully bring clarity, from a personnel perspective, going into the ballyhooed 2021 offseason.) Bol could play off the bench, perhaps learn some shot-blocking tips from Hassan Whiteside, and develop chemistry with his new teammates, while learning the NBA game. His potential is just too much to pass on, particularly at that stage of the lottery. He has shown that he can score, efficiently and in bunches, from all three levels. He's a shot blocker. He has NBA pedigree, with notoriously elite length -- length that allows him to create his own shot essentially whenever he wants on offense, and which can act as a Rudy Gobert-like deterrence on defense. In predicting future lineups, Bol would likely be able to stay on the floor with Bam, as well, due to his great outside shooting (think about how successful the Bam-Kelly Olynyk lineups were, and consider that Bol is projected to be a more talented scorer and defender than Olynyk). In fact, predicting a future Heat lineup with Bol on the roster is scary defensively, and fairly versatile offensively, with a lot of length all around: Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Derrick Jones Jr., Bam Adebayo and Bol. Bol has a chance to be unique, to be a star, and to be the scorer that the Heat need. The concerns about health and attitude? I don't see that being as much of an issue with the Heat's renowned culture. Pat Riley has always built around talented big men. It might be wise to continue that trend on June 20, with a young man that could be the NBA’s next unicorn -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: "Unicorn"? Actually, I like it. And, as I've been writing, No. 13 is where you can afford to take a chance, hardly with any sure things at that spot of the draft. You make a compelling argument. Hopefully Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg and Adam Simon are reading.

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Q: I kind of want to see a healthy Dion Waiters. Very intriguing if he comes back in shape, which he should. I definitely think he has been working. -- Douglas.

A: He has been, frequently posting workout sessions on social media. And yet I believe if you were to get Pat Riley on a lie detector, the preference would be to escape the salary-cap hit rather than to continue to explore the possibilities. It just seems as if the exasperation is real.

Q: Half of these guys on the roster been here too long on bad contracts. Get rid of em. -- Enm.

A: If only it was that simple. The concern is that the offloading becomes prioritized to the point of sacrificing draft picks. That is a line that could prove dangerous, considering just about every upcoming second-round pick is gone, as well as the unprotected 2021 first-round pick.

June 15, 2019

Q: This is fine. Goran Dragic, if he stays healthy, is still the Heat's best player on offense. If the team is tanking at the midway point of season, I'm sure they can trade him for a draft pick. Several playoff teams would take a shot at him at the trade deadline. -- Josh.

A: And that is another way of thinking about Goran Dragic becoming trade eligible now that he has opted into the final season of his Heat contract. Basically, expiring contracts are exactly what the Heat seemingly want, to ease the move into cap space either in 2020 or '21. As for a trade, that comes down to demand. So while Goran is eligible to be dealt immediately, the better value might be from a team unable to fill a need at the draft or in free agency, or perhaps one that loses a contributor at point guard due to injury before February's trading deadline. The only argument that could be made for a trade being imperative would be if the perspective is that Goran's presence reduces the opportunity for Justise Winslow to thrive at point guard. And even then, we do not know whether that is the Heat's long-range plan, anyway. Which brings us to . . .

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Q: It's kind of bizarre how next season will be Justise Winslow's fifth year and the Heat still do not know what his true position is. -- Trent, Orlando.

A: Or is it? Do we know what LeBron James' true position is? Or even Ben Simmons' or Luka Doncic's? Don't confuse versatility with lack of positional ability. It is why I'm not sure the Heat ever designate Justise Winslow as their starting point guard. While position-less gets away from such designations, anyway, it likely will be a case of how Justise best complements the roster at any given moment. In other words, I don't believe the Heat will shy from drafting, signing or trading for a player at a certain position because Justise is on the roster.

Q: All this talk about free agency, placating these privileged athletes, begging for their attention is just the side of the NBA I don't enjoy watching. I'm tired of the entire basketball planet wondering what Anthony Davis will do. If he wants to be on LeBron's team so bad, then go. Everybody wants to play for the Knicks, to live in an overcrowded city and play for a dysfunctional franchise. Ditto for the Lakers. Let them all go. Tired of groveling at their expensive feet. -- William.

A: Or simply pay attention only to the games. The outside noise will never go away, only amplified by social media. But there’s also nothing wrong with just enjoying the games for the artistry of the game. The reality is that there is almost more fascination with the game away from the game than the real thing. That’s because there can only be one champion during the season. But during the offseason, fans of every team can claim victory.

June 14, 2019

Q: I am confused, why would Goran Dragic opt in now and not wait until after the draft? He has now opened himself to a higher percentage of getting traded now. I'm concerned; he is my favorite player on the Heat squad. -- Terry, Miami Beach.

A: I, too, thought that something seemed fishy when it came to the timing of the opt-in, considering that Goran Dragic had until June 29 to make his decision. Now, perhaps it is as simple as Pat Riley wanting to know Goran's decision and then offering assurances that there would be no trade. It all could be as simple as that. Yes, there actually are times when you don't need to read between the lines, although in sports that seems to be the exception. Of perhaps it was a way of the Heat telling Goran that if a trade were to happen, that by opting in earlier it would be easier to get him to a destination of choice. There is a relationship there with New Orleans General Manager David Griffin from their Suns days, as is the relationship with Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry from Goran's time in Phoenix. Or perhaps there is the opportunity to reunite with Luka Doncic in Dallas, but only in a trade that would come before Goran's opt-in deadline. Or perhaps it is a matter of riding this contract out, the Heat deferring their move into cap space until 2021, and then offering Goran a new one-year deal next summer. So perhaps there is nothing fishy at play.

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Q: Now that Goran has opted into his contract, let the trade chatter intensify. Could you realistically see Dragic fetching a first round pick in this year's draft, presumably from the Utah Jazz or Indiana Pacers? -- Aydan.

A: I could, and there is something to be said about the Heat adding a player on a rookie-scale contract because of the cost certainty it brings, especially with the expected move into cap space in the 2020 or '21 offseasons. But I'm not sure there is necessarily something to jump on at those draft slots. There also could be the chance of utilizing Goran Dragic's expiring contract as a way of moving off other money on the current payroll. Yes, it all is speculation. But the timing of Dragic's opt-in certainly opened the door to such speculation -- as well as the ability to now deal Goran ahead of the draft.

Q: On the other hand, Hassan Whiteside has hinted, on several occasions, his desire to move on. You'd think Whiteside would be eager to opt in in order to make it as easy as possible for Pat Riley to find a deal. -- Gerald, Miami.

A: I’m not sure Hassan Whiteside has expressed anything along those lines. He loves playing in South Florida and enjoys playing alongside these teammates. By deferring his opt-in decision until closer to his June 29 deadline it makes it less likely there could be a trade, at least from a draft standpoint. All of that said, I’m not sure there would be deals for Hassan, at that price, anyway.

June 13, 2019

Q: Ira, Anthony Davis' agent said to Sports Illustrated that Davis will be a free agent in 2020 no matter where he is traded. Bingo! Pat Riley needs to clear the deck to open enough salary-cap space. -- Charles.

A: But he also could settle into his destination of choice (Lakers) with full Bird Rights and simply re-up a year from now, without as little as an interview elsewhere. Then again, with the way the Lakers have screwed things up for years, how ironic would it be for Pat Riley to sign Anthony Davis away from LeBron James (as if Rich Paul ever would allow that to happen)? For now, the Heat's preferred Davis career arc would be a deal this offseason anywhere other than to the Lakers, to at least put the future free-agency threat into play. But even then, what exactly would be the allure of the Heat a year from now? As it is, more than anything, the threat by Davis to leave any team after next season is just that at the moment, a threat. Paul George ultimately stayed with the Thunder. Now we wait to see if Kawhi Leonard does the same. But with Anthony Davis, 2020 free agency could wind up being a rather tepid process.

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Q: Ira, Kevin Durant's injury changes everything. If Golden State lose the Finals, Durant will remain a Warrior, especially with the type of injury he has, making him a free agent in 2020. We might have a chance. -- Ricardo, Brazil.

A: No, the Heat likely won't. Just as with LeBron James, when he took shorter deals with the Cavaliers, the belief is there will be max deals out there even with the potential loss of a season to injury. It might not be Kevin Durant's ultimate destination of choice, but there will be a max deal out there for him this summer. There is no reason for him to opt in to his $31.5 million Warriors 2019-20 season when there otherwise would be an additional $130 million or so out there for him from other teams or even $190 million more from the Warriors. Kevin Durant's summer of free agency will be this summer. The Heat's summer of free agency will not be until 2020 and possibly could be 2021, based on what happens with Dion Waiters and James Johnson.

Q: If the Clippers don't get Kawhi Leonard, does Goran Dragic make sense for them in exchange for our now famous unprotected 2021 first rounder? -- Alberto.

A: Putting aside any Kawhi Leonard speculation, because I’m not sure how that would impact the Clippers’ decision-making, including on possibly signing back Patrick Beverley, the reality is the Heat’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick probably has more value at the moment than a 33-year-old Goran Dragic on the final year of his deal. Of course, the Heat’s place in the standings at the end of 2020-21 will be the ultimate determinant.

June 12, 2019

Q: It's a disgrace that KD was put in that situation. -- Marc, Arlington Texas.

A: And also a lesson to outsiders about making assumptions about injuries. It is an aspect that transcends what happened to Kevin Durant. There was, for example, a time this past season when some around the Heat questioned the nine games Justise Winslow missed with his bruised right thigh near the end of the season, during a stretch when the Heat desperately were fighting for a playoff berth. For years, the Heat's training and medical staffs have opted to err on the side of caution. Still, in the wake of the Durant situation, expect players to seek even more outside views. It is a touchy situation when some NBA players will earn $500,000 per game whether they play or not. If anything, the Durant situation might ease the pressure on others going forward when it comes to playing through injury, after it came at such a heavy physical cost to Durant and emotional cost to his teammates. And yet, if 'load management" becomes the norm, then what about the fans who purchase season tickets and then see players preemptively held out for a quarter of the schedule, as was the case with Kawhi Leonard during the regular season? The ball seems to again be in Adam Silver's court.

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Q: I can see the Heat creating even more room next year by having James Johnson opt out his final season for a team-friendly deal. He seems more inclined to help the Heat out like he did a couple years ago in waiting while the Heat were also trying to court Gordon Hayward. -- Brett, Miami.

A: James Johnson will turn 33 next season, which hardly seems like a time to rework a deal for additional years. If anything, the Heat cannot afford to chase bad money with more money. At this point, I think you ride out those 2017 contracts and live with the consequences, even if it pushes back a makeover to 2021.

Q: The real beast under the bed is still Justise Winslow's actual playing position on this team, is it small forward or point guard? -- Skip, Tampa

A: That comes down to the rest of the roster. If Goran Dragic remains, then it most likely it not as the starting point guard. But that also doesn’t really matter. The Heat need more talent throughout the roster. The most significant issue is whether Justise Winslow is deserving of being locked into the starting lineup, regardless of position, for years to come.

June 11, 2019

Q: Ira, how do the Heat get themselves into the Anthony Davis trade talks, like they did with Kawhi Leonard? -- Franklin.

A: Did they with Kawhi Leonard? There was plenty of speculation, but I'm not sure once DeMar DeRozan came into the picture that there was anything close to contending with the Raptors for Kawhi. As for the latest ESPN report of what the Pelicans are seeking for Anthony Davis, the Heat would seem to lack "an All-Star player," as well as "a young player with All-Star potential," unless you consider Justise Winslow or Josh Richardson in that category, and certainly would have issues in coming up with "two first-round picks," considering they are without their 2021 unprotected first-round pick and therefore currently are ineligible to deal their 2020 or 2022 picks. Granted, New Orleans is in such early stages of soliciting offers that it likely will have to come down in price. But there does not appear to be a landing spot where, say, Richardson, Winslow and the Heat's No. 13 pick in the upcoming draft would prove to be enough, not when the Raptors a year ago went to the level of DeRozan.

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Q: Heat should be tank/asset acquiring mode this year. They should not be whale hunting for trades. They should be selling off every veteran for garbage one- or two-year deals to acquire as many draft picks as possible to prepare for 2021 offseason. I'm OK with one tank year to increase the long term outlook. So why isn't Pat Riley OK with that? -- Chadwick, Lake Worth.

A: First, it's not as if the Heat have immediate space to take on bad money. And the only way they can deal one-year contracts for bad two-year contracts is if Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic opt in. While that likely will happen, it's not as if the Heat are positioned to load up on such contracts. Yes, the Heat likely could replenish some of their draft stock with such moves, but they mostly are in an untenable limbo.

Q: What do you think it would take to move up to sixth or eighth, to one of those positions? Would Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr. and No. 13 be enough for Chicago's No. 7 pick? -- Ben, Melbourne.

A: If Chicago’s goal is to reset at point guard, then such a deal would make little long-term sense, when they could just go ahead and select Coby White, or perhaps Darius Garland, should he fall there. And, again, Goran Dragic’s option deadline is not until June 29, nine days after the draft. Failing an early decision, the Heat would not be able to put him into play at the draft. I doubt the Heat would have much to offer when it comes to any potential significant move up the first-round order.

June 10, 2019

Q: Ira, like you, I have been an advocate for patience and even the possibility of becoming a bank in the short term. If the Heat are to do so, they need value contacts. Should or will the Heat look to buy into the second round of the draft? -- Gabriel, Lakeland.

A: I don't see much of a downside. And unlike last year, when all their spending cash was gone, utilized to unload the contract of Josh McRoberts, the Heat have $3.4 million they could spend on a second-round pick this month, money that does not count against the cap and is only available until June 30 (before being replenished with a full $5.2 million to spend during the 2019-20 cap year). That is more than enough money for such a purchase. The question becomes whether the Heat believe that they already have enough of a development core after shifting Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten to standard contracts before season's end, and then signing Kendrick Nunn to a standard deal of his own. It likely will come down to whether the Heat believe that the players that they are targeting as post-draft additions, as Maten and Robinson were last year, will be available, or whether a pick has to be purchased. Again, because that $3.4 million has nothing to do with the salary cap or luxury tax, it would seem to be a reasonable fee for being able to trade back into the second round after utilizing so many second-round picks to save previously against the luxury-tax.

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Q: It looks like we should just see who drops in the draft. The player that drops is usually a good pick. -- Darian.

A: As was Caron Butler for the Heat in 2002. As was Justise Winslow in 2015. But this year could be interesting because if Kevin Porter Jr., Nassir Little, Romeo Langford or even Bol Bol are there, is it because they have fallen, or is it because No. 13 is where their overall value beings? Now, if De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Darius Garland, Jarrett Culver or perhaps Rui Hachimura are there, then they have, indeed, fallen.

Q: Ira, how can the Heat possibly believe they can compete any time soon against a Raptors team that has Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Danny Green and Norman Powell? -- Alan.

A: Because if Kawhi Leonard leaves, then everything changes. And because Marc Gasol also has a player option for next season. And because Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka only have one more year on their deals, as does VanVleet. Dynasties aren’t what they used to be, because of so much free-agency turnover. It’s what made the Spurs so unique all those years.

June 9, 2019

Q: Why is everybody so desperate for the Heat to make a move? We have waited nearly three years to get our house back in order again. We don’t have a terrible team (but also not a good one, too) but we are down to having two big-money contracts in their final year and two more contracts (James Johnson and Dion Waiters) who will be in their final year after this season. Is it really that hard to trade and/or get rid of two final-year contracts that are basically in the mid-level exemption area in the 2020 offseason? Play out the season and if the season is truly that terrible, we will have a wonderful draft pick next year with lots of potential cap space. Look at the Knicks and how they have a great draft pick and talk of getting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and are worried it's just the headlight of an oncoming train, when, in reality, it’s the sunlight showing the end of the long dark tunnel we have been in for the last two to three years. -- Greg.

A: It all comes down to patience. I believe the consternation stems from the lack of clarity about the light at the end of the tunnel. Usually a team, as it builds back, has one or two players who you believe will be part of something bigger and better, even if just complementary pieces. I'm not sure that there is a comfort from the fan base that Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo are those players. For example, where would each fall in the rotation of the Raptors or the full-health Warriors (or even the Bucks, Celtics or 76ers)? And if none of your contention components are in place, then it certainly can be disconcerting.

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Q: I don't see Pat Riley waiting. He's never been about patience. I don't see his waiting two years. Plus, how old is he now, he wants to win sooner than later. But we'll see. -- Klif.

A: What can't become a factor is Pat Riley being 74 years old. And, to his credit, he has spoken about potentially taking the long view. The bottom line is he remains invested in building toward something better, active in his role. But there also are enough active voices in the decision-making process to protect about any potential shortcuts.

Q: Is having the free agent opt-in deadline come after the draft something that was negotiated in the CBA to help veteran players? Not having Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside officially on the books on draft day makes it more difficult for management to make a move -- A.P.

A: Those dates can be decided on a player-by-player, team-by-team basis. Generally such decisions come in the final two days of June, making the June 29 deadlines for Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic essentially the norm. But a team can move up such dates, as if the case with other option decisions around the league this months.

June 8, 2019

Q: Draft Rui Hachimura. He has great potential and work ethic and it's a chance to get millions of new Heat fans from Japan. That will be a huge market to increase Heat Nation even more. -- P.M.

A: I'm on record in favor of such a selection. I'm also increasingly suspect about whether Rui Hachimura is there at No. 13. It could be that after finishing tied with Charlotte, the Heat lose out on Rui because of the Hornets winning the postseason tiebreaker. The Heat have been here before, potentially one spot from something special. The last time they visited the lottery, they selected Bam Adebayo at No. 14, one spot after the Jazz landed Donovan Mitchell. In 2008, it was Michael Beasley one spot after Derrick Rose. Even in 2002, it was Caron Butler one spot after Amar'e Stoudemire. That, however, certainly wasn't the case in 2015, when the Heat got Justise Winslow at No. 10, after the selections of Stanley Johnson at No. 8 and Frank Kaminsky at No. 9. The problem for the Heat this time around is there isn’t much in the way of available assets to move up.

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Q: Why is it as a fan that I am so worried that the Heat will reach for a player that we do not think should be on their board as high as they are? I was upset when we drafted Bam Adebayo because at the time I did not think he was the best player on the board. It did work out but it just makes me nervous that we might reach for someone who does not have as much success as Bam did. -- Trevor, Coral Gables.

A: Actually, with the exception of the Dorell Wright selection over Jameer Nelson, Pat Riley has pretty much gone with the chalk with his lottery picks, with Caron Butler at No. 10 in 2002, Dwyane Wade at No. 5 in 2003, Michael Beasley at No. 2 in 2008 and Justise Winslow at No. 10 in 2015. So there have been far more Winslows than Adebayos. I would tend to believe you will be well aware of the qualifications of the Heat's pick at No. 13 when that selection is announced on June 20.

Q: I like the idea of trading Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic to Boston for Gordon Hayward and a late first-round draft pick. Hayward brings some interest to the team, we get a pick and it keeps the 2021 timetable intact. -- Chadwick, Lake Worth.

A: OK, we need to talk. When it comes to potential Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside trades, it’s apples and orange. Dragic should be able to fetch something of quality in return if a deal can be made with a contender looking for a one-year rental (but nothing close to what you propose from the Celtics). Whiteside, by contrast, likely would require the Heat to add a sweetener to get off his money (with no real need, considering the Heat likely won’t be working with cap space this offseason). Bottom line is it would take more, far more, to get anywhere close to a Gordon Hayward trade.

June 7, 2019

Q: Ira, if the Raptors finish off the Warriors, does Kawhi Leonard stay to defend the title, and does Kevin Durant remain with Golden State to regain his? -- Carl.

A: First, we're still a ways away from anyone finishing off anyone in the NBA Finals. But working with the thought of Toronto eventually winning the series, I'm still not sold that it sways Kawhi Leonard over any preconceived notions when it comes to free agency. If it solely was about title contention, consider that he forced his way out of San Antonio, where he won a title and was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals. As for Durant, I don't necessarily sense the type of attachment to the Warriors that would motivate him to stay and make things right in the event of a Warriors Finals loss. But you are correct, that a Toronto series victory could potentially drain much of the mayhem from free agency. By contrast, if Kawhi leaves Toronto, it could immediately drop the Raptors to the middle of the playoff pack in the East, while a Durant defection to the Knicks could have New York swapping places with Toronto in the standings. As much as players say the result of the Finals doesn't hold much sway, I'm still not sure LeBron James would have left the Heat in 2014 or the Cavaliers last summer if it had been a case of being able to defend a championship. So, yes, we soon might be getting our first clues about the level of 2019 free-agency chaos. Or not.

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Q: I've never seen a player pack it in after getting the contract like Dion Waiters has the last few years. -- Zeb.

A: I'm not sure that's the way I would look at it, considering the seriousness of his ankle injury. And I still don't buy into the notion that the money changed who Dion Waiters is. Instead, I think it might have been a miscalculation by the Heat about Dion being able to take the next step, of becoming a more reliable and driven presence. Instead, it might have been a case of 2015-16 being as good as it was going to get, that whether earning exception money or 10 figures annual, what you saw was what you were going to get.

Q: Let's say the Heat have their choice on the clock and Kevin Porter Jr., Romeo Langford, and Sekou Doumbouya are the best on the board who do you choose? -- Tom, Boca Raton.

A: Going to be candid here that I don’t have enough working knowledge to accurately assess Doumbouya. As for the other two, Porter has a more dynamic edge to his game, which makes him a bit more intriguing than Langford. Considering the shooting questions with both, including Porter’s unusual release point, I would likely lean toward Porter because of his explosiveness.

June 6, 2019

Q: It always confuses me when people like you said Dion Waiters and James Johnson have little or no trade value. I would think any win-now teams in the NBA, like the Bucks or Rockets, would gladly take those contracts off our hands. Salaries at $10 million to $12 million sound like a bargain to me. -- Byron, Fort Lauderdale.

A: But they're not, because it's not as if either, coming off their injuries, would necessarily be viewed as a potential starter on contending teams. Yes, the salaries are not much more than the full mid-level exception, but this increasingly is becoming a league of high-end and low-end salaries and little in between. So the question comes down to the prudence of attaching sweeteners to unload the contracts or merely allowing the final two seasons to play out. As in all businesses, one of the worst things you can do is chase losses. The best-case scenario for the Heat would be for Dion Waiters and James Johnson to rebuild their worth to the point where they could have value as their deals come closer to expiration.

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Q: I think the Heat are in a nice position at 13th overall. They'll have an opportunity to add a good piece. I think it really should only come down to four players. The first two guys are the upside guys -- Kevin Porter Jr. and Cam Reddish. These guys are immensely talented and have a chance at becoming premiere scorers someday. Forget the question marks, draft one, and trust our culture. The next two guys are the safer picks if Porter and Reddish are gone. Brandon Clarke and PJ Washington will be quality players in this league, maybe even starters. Washington would fit perfectly next to Bam as the player they wanted James Johnson to be. And If Clarke proves to have a reliable jump shot, could be a scary athletic front court with Bam. -- Aaron.

A: Ugh. Good enough rarely is enough in today's NBA. If you're going to settle for players who are good enough, you're likely settling for complementary components. And I'm not sure if there's enough to complement at the moment. The Heat tend to develop their complementary pieces from undrafted prospects, which is why I think you have to think big with such a draft slot, while accepting the inherent risks.

Q: Hey Ira, I am actually intrigued by the little rumors about us signing Isaiah Thomas. He has always had his career highs against us and maybe we can ignite a fire in him. But do you think that the personalities of Dion Waiters and Isaiah Thomas could cause conflict because of both their attitudes and similar play? -- John, Minneola.

A: First, there are no guarantees that Isaiah Thomas would be willing to settle for the minimum or a minimal salary. Second, such players who attempt to rebuild value tend to make such attempts with teams that would guarantee playing time or guarantee title contention. I’m not sure either would be the case with the Heat. But I can assure you that any move made by the Heat would be independent of whether that player could coexist with Dion Waiters.

June 5, 2019

Q: The Heat wouldn’t trade the No. 13 pick and James Johnson for J.R. Smith and the No. 26 pick unless there's a reason to create cap space now (free agent showing interest) with obvious avenues to do so now (deals on table to move Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk). Otherwise, the interest in J.R. Smith and his non-guaranteed deal doesn’t make much sense. -- Ryen.

A: Can't say what the Heat would or would not definitively do. But I do believe that the Heat would welcome excising either Dion Waiters or James Johnson (or both) for nothing but eventual cap relief (think 2021). I just don't see many teams, including the Cavaliers, talking on such amounts over the next two season ($31 million for Johnson, $25 million for Waiters) unless there is something tangible in return, likely something more tangible than moving up 16 spots in the draft. What the Heat shouldn't do is step out of this year's first round entirely merely to save eventual cap space. It continues to look like there could be value at No. 13 with savvy scouting. And remember, if J.R. Smith is acquired, it would be a temporary addition, with as much chance of being with the Heat beyond July as Ryan Anderson.

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Q: Ricky Rubio seems to be available. His skill set seems to be what the Heat needs; a pure point guard. Would the Heat be interested, and if so what would be an avenue to get him? -- David, Plantation.

A: Ricky Rubio is an impending free agent, which basically would make any Heat interest moot unless he would be willing to take a one-year (or possibly two-year) deal, since the Heat cannot compromise their 2020 or 2021 cap space. Then again, with only exception money to spend at the moment, it's not as if there is a path to Rubio. All things being equal, I'd prefer Goran Dragic, and merely playing out his final season if he does not opt out.

Q: The Heat have shown interest in several prospects projected in the mid to late first round, which may suggest a trade down or interest in acquiring an additional pick. The Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers had expressed interest in Goran Dragic recently. They're undoubtedly in the point guard market. Maybe the San Antonio Spurs could be interested, as well. Could Dragic fetch a late first-round pick or is it too much for an expiring deal? -- Kyler.

A: It’s possible, but only can happen if Goran Dragic opts-in before the draft, with his deadline nine days after the process. It is among the reasons Goran likely would wait to make anything official.

June 4, 2019

Q: The Phoenix Suns are ostensibly willing to trade their first-round pick, No. 6 overall, for a veteran guard. The Heat likely have Goran Dragic, a veteran guard, on the final year of his deal (assuming he opts in). The No. 6 pick seems like a lot to give up for a guard like Dragic, who is on the last year of his contract, but do you think the Suns would bite on Dragic and another shot at Derrick Jones Jr. (who would represent a prospect with long-term upside) for the sixth pick? Or could you see the Heat trading the thirteenth pick, along with Dragic, for the sixth pick and salary cap relief, if the Heat have a conviction about a player at number six? -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: First, never confuse speculation with what a team actually is planning to do. So, for the moment, the talk about what the Suns or James Jones plan to do is pure conjecture. Beyond that, if the Suns believe there is any chance to nab Darius Garland at No. 5, then it would be foolish to deal from that spot. Beyond that, it would seem that trading such an asset for a 33-year-old veteran in Goran Dragic would be a stretch. And beyond that, Goran does not have to inform the Heat about his option intentions until after the draft. But since we're talking speculation here, I would go here: Assuming Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett go 1-2-3 in some order, I would at least give thought to trading Goran and No. 13 if it meant a choice of the player left between Garland, Jarrett Culver or De'Andre Hunter.

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Q: I saw the article about potential trades for the Heat. Can the Heat go another route? I am a big DeMarcus Cousins fan. I believe he is a big whale that the Heat need desperately. He is the perfect big man for the NBA. He can shoot the three and punish you down low. I hope teams feel he is not worth the max because of his injury history. -- Roscoe, Coconut Grove.

A: Unless Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside both opt out, which is not happening, there won't be sufficient cap space. And after sacrificing so much to join the Warriors, I highly doubt DeMarcus Cousins would be content with the level of the mid-level exception the Heat will hold. Plus, it's not as if the Heat would be in contention with Cousins. Just don't see a match there.

Q: Some of you guys are beating a dead horse to death when it comes to developing these young guys. Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson aren’t leading men, and Bam Adebayo is not the second coming of Pascal Siakam. Why do you guys attach such expectations on these guys when it couldn’t be any more obvious they aren’t that good? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.

A: Because at 23 (Justise Winslow), 25 (Josh Richardson) and 21 (Bam Adebayo) you don’t write off potential or hope.

June 3, 2019

Q: Kevin Porter Jr. is big boom-or-bust to me: He can blossom or be out the league by his second contract. Romeo Langford I think is a guaranteed eventual Bradley Beal level of player, once his wrist is healthy. He'll blossom with space and coaching. -- Tony.

A: If that was the case with Romeo Langford, of being viewed at the Bradley Beal level, then there is no way he would be there for the Heat at No. 13. Look, there a few guarantees in any NBA draft, certainly not once you get beyond the tops picks. So there is an inherent level of risk. The question becomes whether the ultimate payoff can overcome the risk. With Porter, the risk is maturity. With Langford, it is health and the outside shot. The counter would be to take a safe player, who will be functional but not great. There will be several such choices for the Heat available at No. 13. With the Heat, it comes down to how you view not having their 2021 first-round pick: whether it means having to get value out of this selection, or whether it means taking a chance, since there are only so many bites upcoming to land someone special.

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Q: I just really hope the Heat don't make any moves that smell of desperation. They can be patient and still get better. All this instant gratification is unrealistic and foolish. There's only a handful of elite players and we don't have the assets to get them. -- Tony.

A: That, of course, comes down to your definition of "desperation." Is desperation taking on the contract of a player who has become too costly elsewhere? That would be the case with someone like Mike Conley Jr. or Danilo Gallinari (amid the Clippers' need to clear cap space). Sometimes that also can provide an instant upgrade. To me, true desperation is selling out future cap space (waiting one year is one thing, beyond that is another) and robbing your future by dealing draft picks. The Heat cannot afford to sell out multiple years of their future. Of that, I agree.

Q: Hi Ira, I would like to speak about a player who has been sort of tossed under the rug so to speak, in Ryan Anderson. When we first traded for him, I thought his shooting ability and defense could help us a lot, but we rarely ever played him. Do you think he has a future with the team? Do you see the Heat keeping him or giving him a bigger role? -- Jeff, Orlando.

A: There is no Heat future for Ryan Anderson and there wasn’t from the moment he was acquired from the Suns at the NBA trading deadline for Tyler Johnson in a tax-saving move. The only question is if the Heat utilize his contract in a trade or simply waive him by his July 10 guarantee date. The Heat acquired Ryan Anderson’s contract, with little regard to the player accompanying that deal. The irony is that even with Ryan’s 2019-20 salary reduced from $21.3 million to $15.6 million with his buyout, he still will have the third-highest salary on the roster next season. Such is NBA economics.

June 2, 2019

Q: Ira, remember when Pat Riley asked LaMarcus Aldridge to wait a year in free agency? Now there's a report that Kawhi Leonard will re-sign a short deal with Toronto. Isn't that perfect for the Heat? -- Onie.

A: Whoa, there's a lot of assumptions at play there. First, while TrueHoop reported Kawhi Leonard "would return to Toronto, at least on a short-term deal," that is one of several perspectives being floated, with enough time before free agency to still change the dynamic. So there's that. Then there is the question of how short-term of a deal. Beyond that, perhaps it is time to stop putting the Heat into every mix, even though they seemingly have been in every mix for years. But if you want to go there and give thought to Kawhi being back on the market when the Heat potentially have cap space in 2020, '21 or beyond, there also is the matter of being an attractive, championship-level landing spot. Yes, it could turn out that the Heat's free-agency timing is not as bad as it initially appeared, in light of the marginal 2020 free-agency class. But as even this type of speculation shows, it is a constantly changing equation.

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Q: The Heat are in this position now because they overpaid for veterans and lacked first-round picks in multiple years. The avenue of building a team by signing whales is far more difficult today than it was when LeBron James and Chris Bosh were signed. Plus, it was more Dwyane Wade than Pat Riley making that happen, and he's gone. No one is left on the Heat with the panache to attract players, not to mention, sacrifice his own payday to make it happen. -- Brian, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Correct. And there's nothing wrong with patience. But as you allude to, the margin of error is razor thin, meaning there is little room for mistakes with both the upcoming draft picks and upcoming cap space.

Q: If Cam Reddish falls past No. 10, this could get interesting. -- J.G.

A: I’m not sure that teams would alter their long-term plans if the Cam Reddish core surgery is as minor as reported. Instead, having completed his agency workout, it could be as simple as knowing where he will be selected, and therefore not having to sweat out his draft position.

June 1, 2019

Q: Watching a 25-year-old third-year player in Pascal Siakam drop 32 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals for the Raptors made me wonder if we, as fans, aren't being patient enough with our youth. He averaged 4.2 and 7.3 in his first two season before this year's 16.9. Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Josh Richardson and Derrick Jones Jr. have talent. They will get better. -- Dave, Placentia, Calif.

A: Good point, and timely. But NBA evaluators also can be pretty good at projecting growth, especially for a player who started so late with the game. Ultimately, you have to decide at a certain point where the eventual upside stands. So using a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is perennial All-Star and 9 is All-Star potential, can you envision Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo or Derrick Jones Jr. reaching that level of a 9 or 10? The Raptors seemingly did with Siakam (or he at least proved it to them in short enough order). I'm not sure that the aforementioned Heat players peak beyond an 8, which is why some look back at the Jimmy Butler negotiations as an opportunity missed.

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Q: Let Justise Winslow have a chance at being the main point guard for a full season. We finally see him have some growth with massive potential and people keep talking about getting another point guard. I don’t understand -- Julian.

A: Except I'm not sure that is the preferred approach by Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley, with both noting in their season-ending comments that they don't want to limit his versatility. I agree that Justise deserves additional time at the position, but even if not the primary point guard, those touches should be there with Dwyane Wade retiring.

Q: The Heat should look under every stone, but I have no faith they will get it right The Heat are horrible at drafting They simply don't seem to find that diamond in the rough that turns into a player. -- Bev.

A: Couldn’t you make the argument that Bam Adebayo was such a player, taken several spots ahead of where many had projected? And before that, when Justise Winslow fell to them, they sort of were boxed in. Beyond that, wouldn’t Josh Richardson in the second round count as diamond in the rough? As always, it comes down to daring to think out of the box. But when you do that and miss, you’re allowing a quality piece to escape from your grasp. Face it, if the Heat were to take some unknown from Unknown State, the pushback would be huge if it didn’t work out, similar to going for Dorell Wright over Jameer Nelson.

May 31, 2019

Q: Wouldn't the Miami Heat drafting Bol Bol, with their present roster, be the ultimate case of redundancy? -- Ralph, Franklin, N.C.

A: If they were living in the moment, then, yes, you are correct. But this is a team in transition, seemingly trying to move off some bad money and reconfigure for the future. In that case, the best approach is to add what you believe to be enduring talent, even if it is redundant at the moment, even if it will take significant time to develop. All of that said as a possible reason to possibly move toward Bol Bol, you also can't afford to overreach on a risk, considering you currently are without a 2021 first-round pick, and, indeed, are taking that long view. Personally, the preference here would be a developmental wing. But when it is draft time, if the Heat have the best available at No. 13 at a different, possibly redundant position, so be it.

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Q: Ira why is everyone hyping up this international guy Sekou Doumbouya. I don't know what they see that is intriguing. He will need extensive work and development. He won't even have a big impact in his first season. I see he is talented, but is he worth the time to develop? -- Julius, Florida City.

A: Which dovetails with my response to the previous question. When you draft in the middle of the first round there are two approaches: plug-and-play with limited long-term upside, or long-range potential with limited current contribution. If the Heat were a single player away from greater things, then absolutely fill the need and take the next step. But that is not the case. And even when you think you are getting plug-and-play, a player like Justise Winslow takes three seasons to truly hit a stride, anyway. So if they see something special in Sekou Doumbouya, there is nothing wrong with also accepting that the special moments might not come until 2021 or '22 -- as long as they are willing to eventually make the long-term commitment, as they did with Justise.

Q: Ira, the Heat are going nowhere next season. Why not play Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside together to see if Bam can develop into a power forward in the mold of a Serge Ibaka, instead of as an undersized center. Bam looks like he has the athletic ability to eventually handle that position. -- Joel.

A: Because even Serge Ibaka’s most recent teams concluded that such an approach does not work, which is among the reasons he is coming off the bench in Toronto. There simply are not many remaining examples of big-big as an NBA way of life. It is one of the reasons that complicates the Heat’s current mix, and among the reasons that Erik Spoelstra explored the Kelly Olynyk-Bam Adebayo pairing.

May 30, 2019

Q: With the Heat now interested in trades, the Heat should go after a guy like Eric Gordon. He can shoot the ball and create his own shot when he has to. See if there is some way, bring in Clint Capela (and someone else) and trade Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson to get some cap space. -- Fabian.

Q: Ira, you said the Heat had interest in drafting Clint Capela. Now that he has is on the trade market, do they still? -- Steve.

Q: Houston is selling. We should be buying. -- Mike.

A: It's always interesting that at the first mention of a team potentially overhauling that it turns into cleaning house. Now, perhaps that will be the case with the Rockets, that Wednesday's reporting merely was a way of making it clear that they are open for business. But assuming there is no deal involving James Harden, then caveat emptor. First, while Chris Paul instantly would become the best player the Heat have had for years, with all due respect to Dwyane Wade, you're talking salaries of $38.5 million, $41.4 million and $44 million over the next three seasons for a player in Paul who is 34. Only by being able to offload significant salary would that make sense (James Johnson, Dion Waiters, etc.). As for Eric Gordon, at $14 million for next season and then free agency, I'd assume the Heat would bite if it means offloading James Johnson or Dion Waiters, but why would Houston bite? And with Clint Capela, four seasons remain at an average of $18 million in a league that is downsizing. It's not to say there isn't value in Capela, only that the Heat already have Bam Adebayo on the rookie scale. So should the Heat shop? When you have won only one playoff game over the last three seasons, certainly. But chasing bad money is one of the most dangerous propositions in sports.

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Q: While it's still early for talk of the mid-level being used on a player, why not use all or part of it to rehab Mario Hezonja to fill a multi-tool role? I felt last year and still do that he would be an excellent Heat rehab player with a lot of upside. -- Skip, Tampa.

A: Because, based on where the Heat stand against the luxury tax, I'm not sure they will use any of their exceptions, having bypassed the mid-level this past season. Granted, Andy Elisburg has a way of making the tax disappear, but there will have to be a solid reason -- likely more than a Mario Hezonja reason -- for the Heat to put their mid-level into play.

Q: Miami needs Bol Bol. We need to draft a star, not drafting a position we are lacking in. -- Andy.

A: I agree that the Heat have to swing for the fences, with plenty of supporting pieces already in place. I’m just not sure that Erik Spoelstra, with all his position-less offense and zone creativity, would feel comfortable utilizing Bol in a rotation-minutes role. But perhaps there would be an eventual epiphany there.

May 29, 2019

Q: Ira, the Lakers are a joke. First Magic Johnson, now that ESPN story on Rob Pelinka. Could this be the last straw for the Buss family? Will they load up the wheelbarrow for Pat Riley again? -- Dave.

A: It wouldn't be a case of the Lakers reversing course, because Pat Riley told ESPN last week that he never was contacted by the Lakers. But based on how toxic it apparently has grown inside the Lakers' organization, I'm not sure that we're talking short-term turnaround, either. And that might not make it the most appealing job to a 74-year-old icon, albeit one who appears to be working as intensely preparing for this draft as any that have come before with the Heat. If the Lakers continue to believe they don't need Pat Riley, they assuredly have to realize they need someone Riley-like. Then again, perhaps they become the Jets of the NBA and simply hand all the keys over the Frank Vogel in Adam Gase-like manner.

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Q: Ira, say you are the GM of the Miami Heat, what would you do? Would you trade draft picks for current players or build players around what we have now? Or would you blow it all up and keep only the young players? -- Tom.

A: First, I would accept that the Heat, and likely many of their fans, would not tolerate a drop to the bottom and anything like the 76ers' "process." But I also would accentuate the youth. That would mean, over the short term, maximizing what is available in Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and then this year's and next year's first-round pick. And, if at any time along the way I could get cap or draft assets, I would excise anyone and everyone else. Basically, from this point, I would establish a three-year program, accept that whatever was done was done, and then make sure no more compromises to the future, with the 2021 first-rounder already dealt.

Q: For once can the Heat not play it safe? Stop going for these blue-collar guys that fit with culture. Take a risk and go after the guy that has superstar potential. We have plenty of role players to begin with. I want them to a risk on guy like Kevin Porter Jr. or Cam Reddish. -- J.G.

A: First, it remains unlikely (but not impossible) that Cam Reddish will be there at No. 13, and that could be the case with Kevin Porter Jr., as well. But I agree that if ever there was a time the Heat could take a risk, this would be it, amid a rebuild. There certainly will be ample “safe” picks at No. 13, but the pick, regardless of position, should be a player with as much long-term upside as possible. This is not exactly a team living in or for the moment.

May 28, 2019

Q: One thing I believe will help us for the upcoming draft is that the undrafted, hard-working players will see how last year Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten dominated the G League and both earned NBA contracts. Do you believe this is an advantage for the Miami Heat? -- John, Minneola.

Q: It seems the Heat place way too much effort and emphasis on scouting the undrafted players and two-way contracts. It's very rare to find a Ben Wallace or Bruce Bowen or Udonis Haslem. These players generally go undrafted for a reason. The Heat need to stop talking up all the player development for their undrafted players they sign for the G-league. -- Chadwick, Lake Worth.

A: Fan fight! To me, it depends where your franchise stands. When you are in contention, then development takes a back seat, as you live in the moment. But at times such as these, when your contention window has yet to arrive, there is plenty to be said about development, especially when you have available roster spots. Because the more Robinsons and Matens you have, the better chance you have of identifying a Wallace, Bowen or Haslem. But, as to the first of those dual questions, it will be interesting to see if prospects elect to head elsewhere if they believe the Heat's ongoing commitments are to Robinson and Maten.

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Q: Do you think Bam Adebayo will become more of a shooter next season? Toward the end of last season we saw Bam taking more 3-pointers and actually making them on more than one occasion. Could this be a sign of what is to come? Or am I just overthinking it? I think it's exciting to imagine Bam becoming a better shooter and could help him take his game to the next level. -- Zach, Pembroke Pines.

A: I believe the approach has to be incremental, to first make himself a threat at the mid-range and the elbow. That will start to open need space for the drive-and-kick game. As for the 3-point shot, I would not overstate 3 of 15. So small steps, starting about midway between the rim and the arc.

Q: I was wondering: What is the real chances of Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragíc being on the team when the season starts? Do you think a trade that opens up cap will happen in the offseason? -- Billy, Atlanta.

A: I’m not sure of the timing, but as soon as Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic opt in, it immediately will have them on the trading block, and should have them on the trading block. If the Heat can add future assets for players not only in the final seasons of their contracts, but also whose future cap space assuredly will be accounted for elsewhere, then there has to be a forward-thinking approach.

May 27, 2019

Q: Ira, Dion Waiters is all over his Instagram with workout video and diet pictures. It's nice to see that the message hit home. Do you think Pat Riley read him the riot act? -- Arthur.

A: So you noticed, too? On one hand, it was heartening to see Dion Waiters running on the track and beach and working out with Dwyane Wade's trainer, Dave Alexander. And it also was encouraging that Dion felt it important to display his healthy plate. But it also is still May and there's still five months before a meaningful game. So, as with many things Dion, can he sustain? And beyond that, why did it take so long? Yes, the ankle was an issue, but allowing conditioning to fall into such disrepair only makes the eventual challenge all the more difficult. I also have seen the workout sessions that James Johnson has posted on his Instagram. But again, it has to be about more than show. And it has to show when the games matter. The best players appreciate the value of such fulltime commitment. When you are playing catchup, it also says something about the way you've fallen behind.

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Q: Who wins out: The Warriors pushing for one more before it falls off or the Raptors for their first ever? Personally rooting for the underdog Raptors. -- Skip, Tampa.

A: From a Heat perspective, the best outcome likely would be the Warriors winning convincingly, which could create re-signing pause for Kawhi Leonard with the Raptors, similar to how LeBron James left the Heat and then the Cavaliers after failed NBA Finals. In this case, Kawhi, if he does leave, is likely to head west, which would remove the Raptors as a leading Eastern Conference contender. By contrast, if the Raptors win the series or even play close, it could make Kawhi somewhat of a permanent pest in the East.

Q: I was very confused about the details of Yante Maten and Duncan Robinsons contracts. Do you know the details about their contracts, like how many years and how much money and team options? -- Mason, Rockford, Mich.

A: Each signed a contract that has partial guarantees for each of the next two coming seasons. For Duncan Robinson, there is a $250,000 guarantee already in place and then a $1 million guarantee for next season if he is on the roster after July 1. There also is a $1 million guarantee deadline of July 15, 2020 for his 2020-21 salary. Yante has received a $100,000 guarantee for next season, with two additional staggered guarantee dates. Yante’s 2020-21 salary does not include guarantees until opening night of that season.

May 26, 2019

Q: Assuming the Heat come to the conclusion that I believe some fans (including myself) have come to about Josh Richardson not really being capable of being anything more than the fourth-best player on a championship team, do you then think it might make sense to explore trading him for a higher-upside player (or picks) that may fit better on the team's current timeline? I just struggle to see the value of keeping a player entering his prime that is incapable of really making a huge impact in the standings when you could just cash out on the asset. -- Josh, Orlando.

A: First, Josh does not turn 26 until September, so I'm not sure it is time to move on. Beyond that, there were several encouraging moments at the start of last season, when many thought the Heat made a prudent decision in pulling back on the Jimmy Butler trade talks with the Timberwolves. And then Dwyane Wade happened, with Wade cast as closer in virtually every game-deciding moment. Later in the season, Dion Waiters returned and took on some of those late-game challenges. So, in a way, the question becomes whether, during a season likely to provide another middle-of-the-pack finish, it is worth one more look at Richardson as closer, with Wade having settled into retirement. That said, it’s not as if Josh is untouchable. If a trade comes along whether Josh could serve as a needed component, so be it, similar to when the Heat moved on from Caron Butler, who at the time stood in a role similar to Josh.

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Q: Hiring Udonis Haslem as coach could lead to sticky situation if he fails. In performance-driven jobs it’s better to have arm’s length relationships. Haslem is revered here in Miami. The things Alonzo Mourning does allows him and the organization to avoid conflict and stay on good terms. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.

A: And it's not as if Udonis Haslem wouldn't be in the gym working with players, anyway, or training with them away from the gym, as he does now. But as consultant, similar to Alonzo Mourning's instructional role, there also are not 41 road games, landing in Detroit at 4 a.m. in the dead of winter, having to remain on the 82-game grind. If Udonis does not return on the roster, the Heat are well aware there still be a presence, even without stepping in for Juwan Howard.

Q: Pat Riley grew up watching Bill Russell and the Celtics Dynasty as a young student of basketball. He saw and spoke about the vision of a generational team in the summer of 2014. Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors players are executing that vision in 2019. Love them or hate them, the Golden State Warriors are fun to watch and have taught us a few things about basketball. -- Stuart.

A: And yet the Warriors’ moments of truth also are approaching, when it comes to the impending free agency of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, as well as the impending extension decision with Draymond Green.

May 25, 2019

Q: Hello, Ira, I am a big fan of Sekou Doumbouya and many mock drafts have him in the Nos. 9-12 range. What do you think is the real chance that the Heat even pick him if he's there, being that in the past they've avoided picking European players? Do you think they could pass on him if he falls to 13? -- James.

A: I think that much of that is overstated. In fact, if there wasn't such apprehension about attempting to appease LeBron James on the eve of his 2014 free agency with the selection of Shabazz Napier, the Heat were poised to draft Clint Capela out of Switzerland in that first round. And there has been nothing but respect for the comportment and competiveness Goran Dragic has delivered since his acquisition in 2015. In fact, if the Heat don't move toward Sekou Doumbouya, there is a chance they give consideration to Goga Bitadze from Georgia (the country not the school that produced Yante Maten). As an organization run by Micky Arison and his international interests, I can assure you there is no anti-international bias in the front office, nor would it be tolerated.

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Q: Do you think that the Heat will keep their draft pick this year? I'm only asking because they have interviewed players that are projected late first round early second round. -- John, Mineola, New York.

A: As they have done during the years they have drafted earlier in the first round, later in the first round or didn't even have a selection in either round. As with every team, you need to be poised and prepared should a trade avail itself during the draft. And then there is the free-for-all after the draft for players that go unselected, with the Heat last year at that time nabbing Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten. Plus, the Heat build dossiers on every player they can in case of trades later in that player's career. So don't overstate -- or understate -- and of the Heat's interviews or workouts.

Q: Ira, the only reason the Heat should trade an expiring contract for more years is if those contracts come attached with picks -- and a lot of them. However, I don’t see that happening. -- Gabriel, Lakeland.

A: But even then, do you want to trade away free-agency opportunity for mere draft picks? For example, would extra picks in the late teens or 20s get you anywhere close to where cap space could put you? I’m not sure dealing away a year’s worth or cap space is worth anything short of a lottery pick -- unless the player also acquired has the same type of upside as a potential free agent.

May 24, 2019

Q: Hi, Ira. How does this draft class compare to other years in the range the Heat are selecting? Is there more talent than in previous years? Thanks. -- Scott, Davie.

A: Have to admit, I am intrigued. To a degree, it reminds me more of the 2015 draft, when the Heat had the No. 10 pick, than 2017, when the Heat had No. 14, from the perspective of greater intrigue in the middle of the first round. In 2015, when Justise Winslow fell to the Heat, among those who went in the middle of the first round were Myles Turner at No. 11, Devin Booker at No. 13, Kelly Oubre at No. 15 and Terry Rozier at No. 16. I see some of that draft depth this time around, with the mid-round possibilities potentially including Kevin Porter Jr., Bol Bol, Rui Hachimura, Romeo Langford, Sekou Doumbouya and Nassir Little. In 2017, I wasn't as solid, when after Bam Adebayo, the choices, in order, were Justin Jackson, Justin Patton, D.J. Wilson and T.J. Leaf, before the Hawks scored with John Collins at No. 19.

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Q: Ira, with Juwan Howard leaving to coach Michigan, do you think Erik Spoelstra should hire a defensive and/or offensive assistant head coach. I think Spoelstra could really use help on the offensive end. -- Joel.

A: I agree, but the Heat do not delineate such distinctions on their coaching staff, so I think it again comes back to Erik Spoelstra refreshing his approach, as he did with pace-and-space and position-less. The approach, of course, also depends on the roster, which could be somewhat in flux. What the Heat need to do, as I mentioned in yesterday's "Ask Ira," is get someone who can work with the team's big men.

Q: The same team, same players, same coach and staff, the same game plans, and 38 or 39 wins is awaiting the Heat for the next season unless there are any changes. Ira, does this sound intriguing to you? -- Masoud, Tucson, Ariz.

A: What sounds intriguing is being patent enough to get to the next incarnation of the team. So many in this space have mentioned tanking and the need to step back in order to eventually get back ahead. So where the intrigue should be, and has to be, is with the young players, to measure their gains and how they could help when it again becomes contending time.

May 23, 2019

Q: Ira, you have written that Udonis Haslem would prefer not to coach. But isn't that because he knows there still is a roster spot with his name on it? What if the Heat pull out the chair, then would he change his thinking? -- Ole.

A: I'm not sure that is the only aspect he is considering. But it is interesting that Juwan Howard left for the Michigan job for basically the same $2 million-ish salary that Udonis Haslem would earn by returning for another season to sit on the bench. It is interesting how the NBA no longer allows player-coaches, but Haslem basically could have that job if he returns in a role similar to what he held last season. Ultimately, you are talking about an entrepreneur who has several business interests outside of basketball. For all that players are required to do -- and for the Heat it can be seemingly endless hours in the building -- it is not nearly as much as the work put in away from games by the coaching staff. It is why Alonzo Mourning has preferred to advise rather than coach, and why Chris Bosh appears intent on doing the same. All of that said, it would be interesting to see what the power of persuasion from Pat Riley and Micky Arison would be like, should those two choose to persuade Haslem to take a coaching role.

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Q: With the draft being June 20th and most opt outs and free agency after that, has the NBA ever thought of moving back the draft or moving the opt outs and free agency up? It really puts teams like the Heat in a bind not know who is opting in or out or what free agents might fall their way before the draft. The NFL has the right set up here. -- Aaron, Miami.

A: I agree, but the NFL also is a shorter season and one without summer league. The problem for the NBA is that the turnaround between the end of the NBA Finals and the draft can be a scant few days, hardly enough time to fit in free agency. And if you push back the draft, then you likely would push back summer league. For a league that basically already is running September (opening of camps) through July (summer leagues), you basically are running out of calendar. And in a salary-cap league, you only can determine the upcoming cap figures once all revenue is factored in from the previous season, revenue that includes the playoffs. So, yes, it is a good idea in theory -- but not necessarily in calendar.

Q: Ira, seeing the Bucks struggle, will the East have a super team like the Warriors or even a dominant one like with LeBron James? The Heat might not be too far away. -- Alvin.

A: And you might right, that there is not a specific roadblock, especially if the Raptors lose Kawhi Leonard, the Celtics lose Kyrie Irving and the 76ers lose Jimmy Butler. But the distance between the Bucks and the Heat is significant. And that does not even take into account potential emerging powers, such as what the Knicks could accomplish with two max-salary slots and their impending No. 3 draft pick.

May 22, 2019

Q: Couldn’t the Heat just tell Goran Dragic's and Hassan Whiteside's agents that if they opt in they will be aggressively pursuing trades this summer? They might give it second a thought so that they can decide where they want to go. -- Cage, Miami.

A: First, they probably don't have to tell them, because that would be evident, anyway, with the Heat needing their cap space in the 2020 or 2021 offseason. They basically will be walking trade chips, anyway -- be it during the offseason, over the first half of the season, or at the February trading deadline. Aware of that, the decisions for Dragic and Whiteside ultimately comes down to money, likely too much money for either to bypass.

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Q: If I'm Pat Riley, and Kevin Porter Jr. and Cam Reddish are off the board come 13, I look to trade down. There are some teams that have two late first-round picks that might want to move up (San Antonio has Nos. 19 and 29; Brooklyn has Nos. 17 and 27; Boston has Nos. 14, 20 and 22) -- Jarvis.

A: I've already gone on record downplaying picks later in the first round, the types of picks that quality teams attempt to move off of, often offer up in trades for little more than cash. And I still stand by that when it comes to picks in the late 20s. But something like moving back a spot or two with a team such as the Celtics could have value. What it comes down to is if a team has a specific player targeted at your draft position. Of course, that often sets off the radar when it comes to what the trade partner is seeking, such as, when the Jazz moved one spot ahead of the Heat in 2017 to nab Donovan Mitchell. I am intrigued by several players who could (emphasis on could) wind in the teens in this year's draft. The question is whether bypassing getting at least one who you like, you would up with none of your optimal choices.

Q: Ira, in the playoffs we've seen Russell Westbrook with the Thunder, Kevin Durant with the Warriors (before) he got hurt, James Harden with the Rockets and Serge Ibaka still playing with the Raptors against the Bucks. For all that Golden State has accomplished, wouldn't the Thunder have been close with Durant, Harden, Westbrook and Ibaka? -- Tim.

A: In hindsight, of course. But chemistry, also matters, and I’m not sure if any two of those Thunder players you mention had the same type of chemistry as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Plus, it is a lot easier to routinely deal with life deep in the tax in the Bay Area than Oklahoma City. The price of success seemingly priced the Thunder out of the championship market.

May 21, 2019

Q: Hey, Ira. Why is everyone so quick to get rid of Goran Dragic? I think it is a given that he is currently the most impactful player on the roster. If we could get him on a decent contract next year, why couldn't he play the same role as Dwayne Wade did this year coming off the bench? -- Bob, Boca Raton.

A: I'm not sure there is a "hurry," but Goran Dragic's expiring contract is one of the Heat's few avenues toward salvation. So the question becomes whether playing out the final season of his contract delivers a tangible difference in the standings or whether it could allow the Heat to add assets. With Dragic, the Heat figure to fight for a final playoff berth. Without Dragic . . . probably ditto. So if he does opt in and the Heat can flip him for future assets in the form of draft picks, then I believe that should be a consideration. I do not, however, see a scenario where returning Goran on a multiyear contract advances any type of rebuild. Now, if he accepts a Dwyane Wade-like contract after the coming season, that is another story. But often overlooked is that Dwyane's cap hit was $1.5 million this past season. And Goran is more than a year away from settling for such a figure.

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Q: What about making a run at Terry Rozier? He’s young, showed great potential, especially on the big stage in last year’s playoffs. Go after players like Rozier and our core to pair with a couple stars. Thoughts? -- Chris, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Except that Terry Rozier will have a $9.1 million cap hold with the Celtics this offseason and the Heat cannot trump such a figure. Unless the Celtics were to set Rozier free, and keep him from becoming a restricted free agent, the price point would freeze out the Heat. And remember, if the Heat utilize the full midlevel exception, they would become hard-capped. There's nothing wrong with dreaming, but reality paints a far different, and far more limiting, picture, unless Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic both opt out.

Q: Is Pat Riley's always-try-to-win-now attitude hurting the Heat in the long run, in the post-LeBron James era? -- Chadwick, Lake Worth.

A: It would, if that was the case. But I don’t believe it is at the moment, with Riley talking about 2020 or 2021 being “space” offseasons. Now, if he were to somewhat compromise the future by trading away draft assets or prospects, that would be another story. Anything that impacts the 2021-22 Heat should be off limits. Impacting the interim seasons would otherwise seem to be fair game.

May 20, 2019

Q: Assuming Hassan Whiteside opts in, do you think Erik Spoelstra would play him and Bam Adebayo together? Watching Draymond Green, I think Bam's best position is ultimately at the four rather than as a center, where his energy and athleticism would be best utilized. Since the Heat won’t be challenging for a championship, next year would be the time to develop Bam's future at the four. It would be an interesting approach for next season. -- Michael, Boca Raton.

A: First of all, many of Draymond Green's and the Warriors' best moments come when Draymond is cast at center, be it in the Death Lineup or the Hamptons Five. So it's not a matter of playing alongside a classic center, which, save for the late arrival of Andrew Bogut, the Warriors have not had in their rotation (DeMarcus Cousins, with his ballhandling, hardly is a classic center). And while Bam's versatility has been impressive, it is nowhere near the level of Draymond, who has been mastering such a skill set for years. That doesn't mean Bam Adebayo can't been unconventional and unique, just likely not to Draymond level. As for your Hassan Whiteside-Bam Adebayo thoughts, I'm just not sure I see Erik Spoelstra changing, not after playing the two together for a grant total -- total -- of 14 minutes last season.

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Q: Ira, you keep writing about 19-year-old Heat draft candidates. Pat Riley does not draft children, he drafts men. -- Barber.

A: Which might be part of the Heat's fascination with Rui Hachimura. But at some point, all these years after the selection of Dorell Wright out of high school and the uneven times with Michael Beasley, you have to accept that the NBA is a one-and-done league that soon will be headed to none-and-done. So you hope you get a 19-year-old as mature as Justise Winslow or even as level-headed as Bam Adebayo. What you can't do is allow age concerns, and past failures, get in the way of analyzing prospects on their merits. And plenty of 19-year-olds have merits at the top half of this year's first round.

Q: I think the Jazz are also a good fit for Goran Dragic. And they had interest at the deadline according to some. -- D.R.

A: It certainly will be interesting after Goran Dragic commits, as expected, to the final season on his Heat contract. But if the Heat stay true to their commitment of pushing for the playoffs, then one more season of Goran and cap relief in the 2020 offseason might make the most sense. However, if the Heat can move Goran for a quality future draft asset, then that should be strongly considered. The Heat spent two first-round picks to acquire Goran in February 2015. So I would say 4 1/2 seasons of Dragic and one first-round pick rebated would make it a decent transaction.

May 19, 2019

Q: I can see Miami trade down if they figure the guy they want will be available later. -- Sergio.

A: Unlike the NFL, with its seven-round draft and the need to fill so many roster spots, the NBA generally is not a trade-down league. Teams that trade down tend to do it because they are offered an additional chip, generally a player they have sought. Beyond that, picks outside of the top 10, if even that, tend to devalue quickly in terms of value, to the point that selections in the 20s at times can be available for purchase. This is not a league where you trade No. 13, for example, for Nos. 18 and 27. If anything, teams with an abundance of selections tend to sell of picks for future selections. There isn't a lot of packaging up. The NBA and NFL drafts very much can be apples and oranges. That said, the Heat scouting staff every year (or at least the years the Heat have held first-round picks), presents to Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg potential options for trading up, trading down, trading in or trading out. The upshot is it usually tends to involve the targeting of a specific player, with such possibilities often not known until draft night.

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Q: Please, please tell us there is no real substance to Mike Conley trade rumors. Is Pat Riley delusional? The Heat are multiple years and multiple players away from contending. We don't need to be trading away our lottery pick for 30-year-old, non-All-Star making 30 million. -- Chadwick, Lake Worth.

A: First, I wouldn’t play the All-Star card when it comes to Conley, who was an All-Star talent in a conference overloaded with All-Star guards. If he played in the East, he likely would have been a multiple All-Star by now. As for the speculated trade, as I wrote yesterday, it wouldn't make any sense if it means compromising draft position. As for Conley's salary, taking on an extra year in a deal for Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic could come down to whether the Heat truly believe there are gains to be made in 2020 free agency, or whether waiting for 2021 will be the case, anyway.

Q: I understand that if Miami is going to realistically make changes it will have to come in 2020 when they have enough cap space. But isn't that a bit concerning given how weak the free-agency class will be? -- Chase, Jacksonville.

A: Or the Heat could use that space to trade for 2021 free agents who issue ultimatums to their teams that they won’t be returning, which seems to be standard operating procedure in the NBA this days.

May 18, 2019

Q: Ira, would you make the Mike Conley Jr. trade that's out there? -- Juan.

A: First, there is no "Mike Conley Jr. trade" that is out there, just speculation about what might be the Grizzlies' next move if, indeed, Ja Morant is taken at No. 2 by Memphis. Considering how the Grizzlies have moved off of Zach Randolph, then Marc Gasol and just about any remaining vestiges of Grit and Grind, it certainly does leave Conley in a seemingly precarious position, considering he is due $32.5 million this coming season and then has a player option for $34.5 million in 2020-21. But then also consider that Conley turns 32 in October. For the Grizzlies, it would make sense to attempt to move off the money in the final year of that contract, something they could do with the final year of Hassan Whiteside's contract in 2019-20 or Goran Dragic's, assuming both opt in for next season. It also could intrigue the Heat, with 2021 the offseason when they could greater maximize salary-cap space. The question is how much of a sweetener would the Grizzlies want, and I'm not sure the Heat are in position to deal their upcoming No. 13 draft pick or any future first-rounder, already owing an unprotected first-rounder in 2021 as a result of the Dragic trade. So if it would just be a salary deal? Fine, certainly worth consideration. But pushing back a free-agent summer and giving up a future first-round pick? Not sure, because adding Mike Conley to this mix and surrendering Goran Dragic does not necessarily move the Heat into the top four in the East.

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Q: Ira, you talked about Isaiah Thomas who could fit in. What about Carmelo Anthony? He's a good shooter (or was) and could also fit in Heat rotation. Can you see him coming for a one year maybe at vet minimum? -- Ricardo, Brazil.

A: I'm not certain whether Carmelo Anthony ever plays another NBA game. I can't fathom, with Dwyane Wade having retired, that the Heat would have an allure beyond location. Beyond that, if the Heat, when they needed offense and had an open roster spot, did make a move this past season, it would be difficult to comprehend such an invitation next season. Unless, of course, there is a need to put a name on the marquee.

Q: What’s going on with Kendrick Nunn? Can we expect to see him in July? -- Gabriel, Lakeland.

A: Well, the Heat will have to guarantee $50,000 by July 1, based on the contract Nunn signed the final day of the season. It could come down to whether the Heat trade for (or pay for) a second-round pick in the June 20 NBA draft, considering they current lack one. Otherwise, the Heat might come to view Nunn as that second-rounder and move forward with him in their summer leagues in Sacramento and Las Vegas.

May 17, 2019

Q: Hey, Ira. I think Cam Reddish is our guy. I see him fitting in seamlessly at small forward, with Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson at the guard positions. He has the tools to be an elite wing scorer like Paul George. I highly doubt he falls to No. 13 so I think the Heat should be prepared to go and get their guy. We don't have the assets to jump too many spots. However, say Reddish is available at No. 10 with the Hawks' second pick of the lottery, could we package No. 13 and a future first-round pick to grab him? What's the cost to move up three spots? -- Allen.

A: First, the Heat are in no position to trade a future first-round pick to move up three spots, considering they already are without their unprotected 2021 first-rounder due to the Goran Dragic trade. Usually the sweeter can be a prospect, similar to what the Jazz had to throw in, with Try Lyles, to move up in 2017 to leapfrog the Heat and get Donovan Mitchell. I'm not sure the Heat have such a prospect, considering it certainly wouldn't be Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson or Bam Adebayo. So Derrick Jones Jr.? Yante Maten? Duncan Robinson? As it is, it is somewhat surprising to see Cam Reddish interviewing with the Heat, so perhaps his stock is not as high as perceived. He certainly opened himself up to question with his shooting and turnover issues in his lone season at Duke. And remember, the Heat have never traded up in the lottery in their 31 seasons. Still, perhaps a face to face with Pat Riley on Friday changes the equation.

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Q: I'm telling you, we can't slip on Kevin Porter Jr. He is exactly the risk/reward player we need. I've been saying that I see the James Harden game in him and he is a lefty, which are hard to guard. I like this kid. -- H.L.

A: And yet the possibility of Porter potentially slipping to the Heat is a double-edged sword. If he interviews well, then he assuredly will be taken higher. If he doesn't, then the risk increases. What the Heat should do, if he interviews well with them, is then give him all the wrong answers to offer other teams during the remainder of his interviews.

Q: The Heat have enough Brandon Clarkes on the roster -- run, jump, dunk guys. Look, he will be a fit somewhere, but most of his scoring was right at the cup, plus he's a tweener. Shooting and flat-out scoring (from the perimeter) is the Heat's need. He is not that -- Wilson.

A: And yet due diligence is part of the process, as well. So you talk to and look at anyone and everyone. Plus, it is possible that you see something in a player’s game that other teams don’t. To a degree, that turned out to be the case with Bam Adebayo’s playmaking and ballhandling, a selection then as surprising as Clarke would be this time.

May 16, 2019

Q: Bol Bol? No, no. Kevin Porter? A talented player with a sense of entitlement that doesn't work or play hard (Cough! Michael Beasley. Cough!). Nassir Little? I don’t want Gerald Wallace 2.0. Romeo Langford? Another underachiever. Give me Carsen Edwards, Coby White, Rui Hachimura or P.J. Washington. Playmakers that work hard. -- William.

A: First, it well could come down to who falls to the Heat. In fact, if the Heat are enamored of the candidates you prefer, they well might have to trade up, similar to the Jazz moving up two spots to land Donovan Mitchell two years ago. As for those who evoke your distaste, the problem with the process is you are evaluating players who mostly offer a one-year collegiate sample sizes. In that respect, you likely can find warts in the game and temperament of any 19 year old. That is why teams work with far more in their evaluation files, dating to high school, AAU and international competitions. In other words, there might be more there with these players than what meets your eye. All of that said, the Heat long have shown a preference for players who have developed a level of maturity with multiple seasons in college. But at No. 13, that could prove to be a reach. With the Heat's current state, I think you have to be willing to gamble on the player who could have the greatest eventual upside, considering this hardly is a team in contention mode.

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Q: I like Rui Hachimura. That dude has a strong NBA body type already, great size and athleticism, seems to have a lot of skills and is a hard worker. Interesting that he is Japanese as well. -- P.M.

A: He is in many ways a Pat Riley type, with an extended college run to develop his skill set. But there also has to be a point where the Heat add something other than another power player. At this point, the Heat have Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Yante Maten in their power rotation. And that's not even getting into the reality that power forward might prove to be the ultimate NBA calling for Justise Winslow and Derrick Jones Jr. Yes, best player available is probably where the Heat stand at the moment. But, if in the midst of a 50-50 call, it might make sense to bypass the best power forward available. Now, if you're classifying Rui as a small forward, that's another story.

Q: Ira, it looks like both Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier are out of Boston this offseason. They'll need a point guard. Could you see a sign and trade between Miami and Boston? -- Rolando, Homestead.

A: It is difficult enough to make a sign-and-trade deal work, especially for a restricted free agent, especially with teams that could be in the luxury tax. But your question shows how there well could be a market for a Goran Dragic trade if he elects to opt into the final season of his Heat contract. He could prove to be exactly what a contender is looking for, if the goal is a short-term rental -- if not right at the start of free agency, then perhaps at some point before February’s NBA trading deadline.

May 15, 2019

Q: Is there really an immediate impact player going to be available with the No. 13 pick or will it be a two- or three-year developmental player? -- Skip, Tampa.

A: Obviously that depends on the player, and that will depend on who is left. But if given the choice, it will be interesting to see if the Heat pursue an in-the-moment contributor, potentially someone who could work his way into the starting lineup this coming season, or whether they take the long view, knowing that their real move in the standings is likely to come as a result of the 2020 or '21 offseasons. Based on the postseason comments of Pat Riley, I'm not sure if the Heat don't take a longer view. I'm not saying it would be a selection in the vein of Dorell Wright or Jameer Nelson, but it's not as if a single, mid-round rookie is going to change the Heat fortunes overnight. Justise Winslow didn't do that at No. 10 in 2015 and Bam Adebayo didn't do it at No. 14 in 2017. Yes, there is a chance of finding the next Donovan Mitchell or Devin Booker. But such selections at that stage of the draft tend to be the exceptions.

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Q: The Lakers, Knicks and Cavaliers got screwed on the No. 1 pick. For Heat fans, this draft lottery was a victory. -- Eric.

A: Well, I wouldn't go that far, since No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 would have felt like more of a victory. But I do get where you're coming from, with the first two picks going to Western Conference teams, with New Orleans at No. 1 and Memphis at No. 2. Remember, there was a scenario with the Kings' pick where the 76ers could have landed the No. 1 selection or the Celtics one of Nos. 2, 3 or 4. Even the Knicks, who landed at No. 3, likely will not come up with an instant game-changer to pair with their free-agent acquisitions. The East team I would keep an eye on would be the Hawks, who landed at No. 8 with their pick and added the Mavericks' No. 10 pick from last draft's Luka Doncic trade. Otherwise, the Cavaliers, Bulls, Wizards and Hornets, in addition to the Heat, hardly landed at transformative positions.

Q: No worries, the Heat will have a top-five pick in the next lottery. -- F.C.

A: With the Hawks, Knicks and Wizards (pending John Wall’s health) likely to improve, the pressure to avoid another lottery fate certainly should be significant. Follow him at or

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