July 17, 2019
Q: Dion Waiters looks great. I’m looking forward to seeing a healthy, in-shape Dion. -- Don.
A: As are the Heat. The belief last season was the by not being in shape when he approached his rehab, Dion Waiters put too much stress on the process, put himself too far behind the curve. If he truly is all the way back in mid-July then it bodes well for the work still to be put in over these next two months. That said, Dion also remains somewhat of an expiring commodity, with the Heat likely already looking at what to do with his salary-cap space when his contract expires in the 2021 offseason. So the question therefore becomes whether Tyler Herro eats into the minutes that Dion might perceive as deeded to him?
Q: I have been a fan of the Heat since Dwyane Wade was drafted. You look at that draft and some others where players stayed with a franchise for 10 to 15 years and became the team's household name. Any chance a player on this roster becomes the next face of the franchise? -- Cliff, San Diego.
A: I look at it this way: A franchise player is a player you simply would not consider trading (remember, Dwyane Wade left in 2016 in free agency). I do not see such a player on this roster, especially since the Heat seemed open to trading anyone and everyone this offseason.
Q: Miami is very lucky being part of the Southeast Division with Heat playing four games apiece against Hawks, Wizards, Hornets, Magic. Last season Miami lost nine games against them, which made a difference reaching the playoffs. The Atlantic is toughest Eastern Conference division, while the Central has two playoff teams. Part of the Jimmy Butler effect of not losing games against lottery teams. Winning winnable games at home may yield a team with 45 wins. The next five wins to 50 are the tough part. The point is there is a path to 45 wins with the squad now by not losing winnable games, and Miami's weak division helps. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: While winning a division does not guarantee a playoff berth, you are correct about the seeming advantage of being guaranteed 16 games in the Southeast. As you correctly note, the Heat lost three times to both Orlando and Atlanta last season, twice to Charlotte and once to Washington. First off, don’t sleep on the Hawks, with plenty of emerging young talent in place. But it certainly seems as if the Hornets took a step back, losing Kemba Walker and gaining Terry Rozier as a replacement; that Orlando merely held its ground; and that Washington is taking a long view. So, yes, success in the Southeast is a good place to start. And, as you also note, that’s where Jimmy Butler enters the equation, hopefully with his tough-minded approach reducing slippage in such matchups. But the Heat also parted with Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside, so it will be interesting to see how the remix comes together. At the moment, if there are major strides to be made by the Heat, it mostly will have to come from within.
July 16, 2019
Q: This is a realistic way the Heat could be a significantly better team than last year, and surprise contender in the East, with no more major changes to the roster. 1. Avoid the injury bug: This team has been snake-bit since the core of this team was put together in the 2016-2017 season. If the team can stay relatively healthy (and have Goran Dragic for a full season), they're going to be better. So, the team needs some luck here. 2. Young core takes a leap: Let's assume Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and Derrick Jones Jr. are going to be better this year than last. A very reasonable assumption. That alone makes you better. But if one of them, primarily Winslow, makes a big jump to near All-Star status, there could be a significant jump. 3. Dion Waiters: Dion doesn't have to necessarily be the player we saw in the 30-11 second half of 2016-2017 season. Just somewhere in the ballpark. 4. Embracing the sixth-man role: If either Goran (if Winslow shows he can start at the point) or Dion (if he has a return to form) can take on and embrace the sixth-man role, looking at it not as a demotion, but rather as an essential component -- taking over the "Wade" role of last year -- it could give us an explosive second unit second unit with some sharpshooters on it. 5. The young core surprises: You have to be somewhat surprised and like what you've seen from Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson in summer league. Herro looks like he can contribute earlier than (I) expected. If a couple of these guys prove valid, it gives the team much needed depth, and replenishes what appeared to be a depleted wing group (especially the backcourt). 6. Free-throw shooting: We already should be better with moving out Hassan Whiteside and gaining very good free-throw shooters in Jimmy Butler and Herro. 7. Jimmy has a big year: And brings this team together. Some of this may not happen, but all is realistic. So, there you go, 48 to 50 wins and a No. 3, 4 or 5 seed, even with a fortified East. -- Matt, Miami.
A: Works for me. But it also shows how fine the line is when you only have one elite-level talent, that just about every other component has to fall into place. And how often does that happen?
Q: Why does Pat Riley shy away from signing quality rotation players like Trey Burke, Jeremy Lin or Pau Gasol when they can all help our young guys? Last time I can remember this happening was Derrick Williams. -- Dominic. Sydney, Australia.
A: Because the priority has been developing from within, which usually comes at a lower cost against the salary cap. There has been an awful lot of sweat equity put in by the staff with Derrick Jones Jr., Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson even Bam Adebayo. The mistake might have been the commitment to so many mid-tier contributors, such as Dion Waiters and James Johnson.
Q: Just read your piece on Meyers Leonard and all I can think of is hearing Dr. Jack Ramsay calling a clutch Voshon Lenard 3-pointer back in the day. Hopefully John Crotty will revive the call. -- Rob, Plantation.
A: He’s considering “Len-arrrd!” and I would believe that there will be a comeback of the call, as a salute to Dr. Jack’s gusto for all those Lenard 3-pointers back in the day.
July 15, 2019
Q: One thing I find interesting is what the contracts of James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk look like now in the landscape of the NBA. Obviously, health has hurt both JJ and Waiters but should they be able to contribute this year, their contracts will be in line or below what most supporting NBA players are making. I believe all three have player options for next year, as well. Do you see any of them actually opting out? If Dion has a nice year or Olynyk continues his play, perhaps they might be inclined to? I imagine JJ won’t because of his age and money. -- Aaron, Miami.
A: Both Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson hold player options for 2020-21, Dion Waiters does not. But you raise an interest point, in light of how salaries have soared during this latest free-agency period, in how what once were viewed (by some) as onerous contracts now could be considered as values. With his $13.2 million salary for 2020-21, Olynyk certainly could be viewed as an opt-out possibility. Less likely, because he will turn 34 that season, is Johnson opting out of his $16 million for 2020-21. No matter the option approach, all three deals could prove enticing in deals because of their short-term expiration. That could well have those three in play for trades, just as could be the case with this coming season's expiring contract of Goran Dragic (with the Heat already having offloaded the expiring contract of Hassan Whiteside). The expiring contract of Meyers Leonard almost assuredly will be in play.
Q: Pat Riley has been pretty consistent, publicly at least, in his remarks regarding Goran Dragic, that the team wants him here and views him as the starting point guard. Fair enough, honestly; we've been quick to forget how good a healthy Dragic has been for this team. My question is, in your opinion, where does that leave Justise Winslow if Dragic is starting? Do the Heat recast him yet again as a starting wing alongside Jimmy Butler or can they find a way to let him run point with a second unit that has the potential to thrive with him in charge? I think Miami was really on to something with Winslow at point last year. I would hate to see that aspect of his game get lost in the shuffle alongside Butler and Dragic. -- Michael, Atlanta.
A: First of all, as mentioned above, there is a reasonable chance that Goran Dragic could be moved this season (or before) because of his expiring contract. So it makes sense for Pat Riley to consider Goran to be a starting-level talent, if only to maintain trade value. Still, Erik Spoelstra has gone a considerable way down the road with Justise as a playmaker, so I doubt that will be abandoned. If things remain copacetic with the roster, expect Justise to still get considerable minutes at point guard, be it as a starter or in reserve.
Q: I do believe Chris Paul will force OKC's hand and make them give up draft picks because he doesn't want to be there and they don't want his contract there, either. What is your final prediction for where he lands? -- Alontrae, Ocean Springs, Miss.
A: To me, the only way taking on the third year of Chris Paul’s contract (and forfeiting that 2021 cap space) makes sense is by receiving multiple first-round picks from the Thunder, to use as chips for acquiring a player in advance of 2021. Based on Oklahoma City’s hoarding approach, it will be interesting to see if they believe forfeiting picks is worth moving off a season’s salary.
July 14, 2019
Q: In your opinion, is Chris Paul a clear upgrade at point guard over Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow? Judging on his past season, is he still a better player worth trading for? --William.
A: The entire debate about a Chris Paul trade actually has surprisingly little to do with Chris Paul. It mostly has to do with assets and contracts. Foremost, how miserable could Paul make the Thunder in terms of forcing their hand to part with draft pick(s)? Beyond that, could the Heat get off the next two years of Dion Waiters' and James Johnson's money? That would mean only dealing with the last year of Paul's money. In the end, enough draft capital could allow the Heat to bid for 2021 free agents before 2021. But Paul straight up for outgoing salaries? Nope. Not with that third season. This is not the level of healthy or productivity or youth as with Russell Westbrook. That you might have had to pay for. This you need to get paid for. So, in many ways, the ball is in the Thunder's court.
Q: This team needs to build around an athletic and talented group of selfless players. Heard many a prognosticator say they would sacrifice Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow without hesitation, and I’m still scratching my head on that one. Neither has reached their potential on how good/great they can be and the ceiling for both is pretty high. -- Brian, Fort Lauderdale.
A: But that also is the most difficult skill set in the NBA, projecting a player's ultimate upside. If you believe either or both has All-Star potential, you wait. But you can only have so many supporting players if you don't have someone to support. At this point, I don't believe anyone can call it, with any certainty, that Justise Winslow or Bam Adebayo will be an NBA leading man. So, yes, for a star you have to consider a move, similar to the assessment the Heat made before sending out Josh Richardson for Jimmy Butler.
Q: Hey, I don't like the game of Kelly Olynyk. I hope that Meyers Leonard can start in his place, do you agree? -- Leonardo, Guarulhos, Brazil.
A: It doesn’t really matter what I think (I have yet to be given a Heat lineup card that hasn’t already been filled out). What I do know is that the Heat have been efficient with Kelly Olynyk in the lineup, particularly alongside Bam Adebayo. What Leonard does is provide a sort of Olynyk 2.0 when Kelly either isn’t available or in foul trouble. The real question could be if Meyers plays ahead of James Johnson, who has had an uneven role the past two years.
July 13, 2019
Q: Between Chris Silva, Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, it seems like the Heat have found some more diamonds in the rough. Adding them to Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Derrick Jones, Jr., could this prove to be a crop of young talent that may eventually develop into legit starters and rotation players? Or am I overstating their potential? It seems like under Pat Riley that Miami has consistently found talent that the rest of the league overlooks (similar to Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside, etc.) -- David.
A: There are two factors at play. First, the Heat have committed to development from the moment Pat Riley arrived. Part of that is to develop, as Riley likes to call then, "chips" that potentially could be put into play in transactions. The second part of it is that with the Heat trading away so many draft picks, the opportunity is there for prospects to receive a legitimate shot to stick. It is why the Heat have been able to lure such prospects, be it to the G League or their summer rosters. That, in fact, is what makes the current roster so intriguing, that no matter what happens with the veteran core (or if other veterans are brought in), there is a subset on the roster being developed below the surface, that could yet emerge. It is an intriguing mix.
Q: The 2021 free-agent class is insanely loaded and if the Heat don't add any salary they would have room for two max players. But does Pat Riley have the patience? -- Chadwick, Fort Lauderdale.
A: I'm not sure he will need it, with so many players forcing their way out ahead of time. In fact, having chips to trade for such players during the 2020-21 season (or before) might be the way to go, with the Heat then obtaining the Bird Rights of those players, to be able to sign them above the cap. The lesson of NBA pre-agency is that a players' free-agency summer generally is a calendar approximation more than a definitive timeframe.
Q: Do you think it's wise for the Heat to keep Udonis Haslem on the roster at the expense of one our new guys that we can develop? -- Julio, Cape Coral.
A: I’m not sure there necessarily will be room, based on where things stand both against the hard cap and the luxury tax. As it is, the Heat could open the season with as few as 13 players. At the moment, they already have 13, when counting Bam Adebayo, Meyers Leonard, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and second-round pick KZ Okpala in the power rotation, with Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, Justise Winslow, Tyler Herro, Dion Waiters, Derrick Jones Jr. and possibly Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson on the wing. Of course, it’s still early in the process, with teams allowed to carry as many 20 players during the offseason. Still, it could be a case of Udonis Haslem having to bide his time until the Heat get into the season.
July 12, 2019
Q: The summer league performance of Kendrick Dunn and Tyler Herro seems to make Justise Winslow closer to expendable. That is a shame, since Winslow seems to be exactly the kind of person -- operative word person -- you'd want on your team. The problem still is: Where to put him? Both Dunn and Herro would seem to be reasonable options at point, or at least bringing the ball up, and both Duncan Robinson and KZ Okpala, if he fits the billing, might be suitable small forwards behind whoever starts at the two and three. I would really hate to see Winslow go. -- Max, Passaic, New Jersey.
A: That is the ongoing issue with Justise Winslow, just as it was last season when Goran Dragic returned from his knee injury: Is Justise nearly as valuable off the ball? As it is, whether it is Dragic or (dare we suggest?) Chris Paul at point guard, that, right there, takes Justise off the ball. And that’s not even getting into how dominant Jimmy Butler can be on the ball. In fact, should the Heat wind up with both Butler and Paul, it would almost seem to make Justise an odd man out even if he’s not in a trade. Yes, Justise can play power forward or small forward, but for all his 3-point success last season, it’s not as if he is necessarily viewed by opposing defenses as a floor spacer. It is likely that without the ball, Winslow might not be tracked by defenses at all. This certainly is a pivotal moment for Justise in his Heat career. Could it be that Rook 1 and Rook 2 both wind up gone?
Q: Could we see Miami signing Kendrick Nunn to a fully guaranteed two-year contract? I mean he has been no less than outstanding and explosive. -- Rolando.
A: First, they don't have to. And second, they effectively have done just that, save for having to pay out his salary up front. When Kendrick Nunn was signed away from the Warriors' G League affiliate on the final day of the NBA, the Heat signed him to a contract that keeps him under Heat control -- should they chose -- for both the upcoming season, as well as the following season. The Heat have Nunn under contract through 2020-21, with the right to extend a qualifying offer for 2021-22 to match outside offers. Kendrick's contract is structured thusly: A $50,000 guarantee is already in place, one that increases to $150,000 on August 1 and $450,000 on opening night, to become fully guaranteed at $1.4 million at midseason. The 2020-21 salary of $1.7 million is not guaranteed until $300,000 on opening night 2020, fully then again at midseason. It is the type of value deal that makes it seem highly unlikely he would be going anywhere else anytime soon.
Q: Is there a possibility that Goran Dragic could remain with the Heat after this year at a far lower salary? -- Charles, Waxhaw, N.C.
A: Perhaps for one year, as the Heat work toward a more likely return to cap space in 2021. But it certainly appears as if the finish line is approaching for Goran’s tenure with the Heat, it only because of cost and alternatives, through no fault of his own.
July 11, 2019
Q: The Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers are just a few teams who have built through the draft for the most part. When you pull the trigger and bring in stars who command these $100 million dollar-plus salaries and mortgage the future to do so, you put the onus on them to deliver at the very least a deep playoff run. When there is a breakup from the team or an injury to one of these stars, the team may not have the talent left to win in the playoffs or make the playoffs. Just look what happened to the Lakers with LeBron James being sidelined last season and look what happened to the Warriors without Kevin Durant and then Klay Thompson in the Finals. Pat Riley seems to value veteran All-Stars above all else. It may have worked when he brought in Shaquille O'Neal to play alongside Dwyane Wade and then when he brought in LeBron and Chris Bosh to play alongside Wade. However, look what happened to the Heat after the run with those stars. The league keeps tightening the screws with what a team can spend on trading for stars in free agency. -- Michael, North Miami Beach.
A: And yet the Raptors won only when taking on the salary of Marc Gasol, along with Kawhi Leonard. And the Rockets at least got closer when taking on Chris Paul. And it's not as if the Warriors didn't thrive during Kevin Durant's tenure. You even could make a case with Cleveland spending to keep Kevin Love during the Cavaliers' run as Eastern Conference champions. With the Bucks struck gold with Giannis Antetokounmpo and got value with Malcom Brogdon, they mostly stand as an exception. And while the 76ers have their core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, you are talking years and years and years of misery (with a lottery system that no longer is in place). Even the Trail Blazers, with their homegrown backcourt of Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum have only had tempered success. Beyond all of that, it's not as if those drafted players don't eventually turn into high-priced players themselves. It's not as if you draft, then cast aside when the price gets too high. That sort of is what the Bucks are going through now with Khris Middleton and soon Giannis. It's among the reasons Brogdon no longer is a Buck. There are many ways to win. But at least with Pat Riley there is no pretense about a willingness to wait through extended misery.
Q: If Hassan Whiteside now with Portland turns in an All-Star year does our opinion of Erik Spoelstra as head coach change? It would need some serious consideration. -- Bob, Boca Raton.
A: It wouldn't, for the reason that stubbornness is part of the Erik Spoelstra package. He simply did not see it working with Hassan Whiteside, and, unlike outsiders, also was able to get a read behind the scenes, including Hassan Whiteside's relationship with teammates. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum so dominant in the Blazers' system, I would find it difficult to envision Hassan getting an All-Star berth as a third Portland player in the game. As it is, with Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns in the West, there are plenty of big men that Hassan would have to vault for All-Star consideration.
Q: Hey Ira, what is your opinion of Kendrick Nunn. With some more experience he looks like a keeper. I know we have point guard issues but he can create for his teammates and he can stroke it from downtown. And another good thing he’s a pest on defense. -- Greg, Hialeah.
A: I agree. He can’t be one that gets away. At this point, considering he would be ineligible for a Heat two-way contract, I would find it difficult to believe he would not be on the Heat’s open-night roster, and certainly believe he will be given every chance during training camp to back up his summer-league performance.
July 10, 2019
Q: I have watched the Heat's summer league team and am impressed by Kendrick Nunn. He can handle the ball, can shoot the three consistently, also has mid-range accuracy, can finish at the rim, and is willing to take the "big shot." It is hard to evaluate his defense because the team often goes zone. He seems to handle pressure very well. -- Irv, Boynton Beach.
A: He certainly has been a nice find. I can't fathom the Heat at least not taking the next step, which is guaranteeing his contract to $150,000 on August 1. With the guarantee then not rising until the season opener, it will afford ample time to explore not only his game on the Heat's practice floor at AmericanAirlines Arena, but also allow them to see how he would fit into a revamped roster. Remember, once a player receives more than $50,000 in guarantees he becomes ineligible to play for your team's G League affiliate. So that Aug. 1 guarantee will make it all or nothing for Nunn when it comes to the Heat's final regular-season roster. What ultimately could matter most is if the Heat view Nunn as an option at point guard, especially with Goran Dragic's contract situation.
Q: If the Heat were to send another three, four or five players out the door, what message are you sending to what will be left of the youth on this team as management tries to convince them about Heat Culture? -- Michael, North Miami Beach.
A: The lesson will be that, at worst, the Heat will develop you so you can thrive somewhere, be it with the Heat or another team. Josh Richardson stands as such an example, from a No. 40 pick in the second round of the 2015 draft to a player who already has come to be embraced by the 76ers. The program works, even if life in the NBA eventually takes you beyond the vistas of South Florida. There is a reason so many former Heat players come back to visit the team's offices and work out with Heat players.
Q: I've been quite interested in your articles about the Heat’s payroll issues. Seems their MVP is a guy in the back room with a green visor on who keeps track of all this stuff. It’s amazing how complicated these matters are. -- Michael.
A: That guy is General Manager Andy Elisburg, who is so good at his job that when he asks you for change for a dollar he somehow winds up getting five quarters in return. What we all need is to get him to do our taxes, since he has a way of making them disappear.
July 9, 2019
After considerable feedback from yesterday’s post regarding readers’ concerns about the potential Heat acquisition of Russell Westbrook, we offer equal time today to those with an opposing view, followed by a response.
Q: I just read your “Ask Ira” filled with myopic people who dislike Russell Westbrook and apparently don’t watch much non-Heat basketball. Are you going to post one of the hopefully overwhelming majority of people that do? Heat fans have been bitching about stars turning us down for years, and now we could land two in a week? If Westbrook was a free agent a week ago, these same people would be tracking his every move and plane flight if he was rumored to have interest in Miami. Knock his 3-point percentage all you want, but all he’s needed is a respectable threat from deep to keep teams honest and the driving lanes open. He creates the kind of offense we’ve been sorely lacking for years, and his aggressiveness leads to his elite rebounding, forcing mistakes, fast breaks, and fits our culture completely. I like our young guys just fine, but it’s time to cash in. The East is there for the taking. Westbrook and Jimmy Butler as teammates while so-called “experts” doubt their abilities and disrespect them? Yes, please. -- Eric, Parkland
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Q: You have to build a championship team with championship players. That is why LeBron James went to the Lakers alone and was able to now get Anthony Davis. That is why we got Jimmy Butler, to be able to get another star. That is why Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant team up. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up. Stars are teaming up. For the last year all I have heard from you Ira was that this is a star league and that the Heat are what their record is, a team in the middle of nowhere. Now we can have two stars to go to war with and people are like let's wait for someone else? Committing to Russell is trying to win. -- Kristopher.
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Q: Make Russell Westbrook happen, please. Russell Westbrook is a bona-fide superstar. I always loved his game. -- Brandon.
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Q: Let's hope they send Russell Westbrook where he wants to go. He played hard every game and never cheated the fans. -- Tiffany.
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Q: In a stars league, you need two of them to contend. Try and bring Russell Westbrook to Miami. It's worth the gamble, if you ask me. -- Asier.
A: And I respect this side of the argument, as well. It comes down to this: Are Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook compatible? Do they complement each other’s games? Or can they at least make the needed adjustment, as Dwyane Wade did in his second season with LeBron James? And even with that said, how is the floor going to be spaced with two less-than-stellar 3-point shooters dominating the ball? But, yes, stars -- any level of stars -- are hard to get. And, yes, in the NBA winning is mostly a product of talent. Russell Westbrook would make the Heat better. But how much better? Because this team needs to take a tangible step forward to contend, even in the East.
July 8, 2019
Well, this was decidedly different than expected when the mailbag was opened Sunday.
The expectation was enthusiasm that Russell Westbrook even was a possibility for the Heat after Saturday's finalized acquisition of Jimmy Butler left the Heat with a hard cap.
Instead, it was quite the opposite, with even more sent this way than those offered below.
So first a sampling of sentiment (edited for unfortunate language) -- and then a combined response:
Q: Ira, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Justise Winslow as part of package for Russell Westbrook? Giving up some of these guys for Bradley Beal would be one
g. If this comes to fruition for Westbrook, I can't think of a worse trade in the history of the Heat since Pat Riley took over. A 30-year-old ball dominant volume scoring guard who is a poor shooter and has been known for his difficult personality? He is also due $170 million over the next four seasons. -- Victor, Parkland.
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Q: It's hard not to respect the way Russell Westbrook plays the game. However, Kevin Durant and Paul George preferred not to play with him, and Victor Oladipo thrived without him. I'd expect Jimmy Butler to prefer not playing with Russ, either, considering he came to Miami to maximize his talents and be the guy. I can’t envision Jimmy and Russ working together. -- Derrick.
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Q: Once Jimmy Butler agreed to come to Miami, the clock started ticking, giving us a four-year window to field a contender. We have Jimmy for what should be his final years of his prime. Pat Riley is exploring every avenue to expedite the process. Russell Westbrook becoming available may be seen as a gift from the basketball gods, blessing us with an opportunity to acquire a second star in Miami. However, it should be taken as yet another sign that the NBA landscape is always shifting, and someone will always become available at any moment. Westbrook may be the fiery competitor that we gravitate toward, but there are far too many negatives -- the basketball fit, the jump shot, the age, the wear-and-tear, the contract. Patience. -- Carsen.
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Q: Russell Westbrook is a 30-year-old career 30-percent 3-point shooter. Jimmy Butler is a 30-year-old career 34-percent 3-point shooter. Can't pair them together, as they need to be paired with high-percentage 3-point shooters. Tyler Herro fits with Butler, is 19 and on a cheap contract. The Heat need to give young core a shot to develop, let bad contracts expire or hope they play better so someone wants to trade for them and once they are off the books, then sign a free agent that fits. For Butler to be maximized, he needs to be surrounded with shooters. It's not about finding a second or third star, but about finding the right stars that align. -- Peter, Miami.
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Q: I don't like a Russell Westbrook to the Heat trade, regardless of almost any realistic combination of players that would need to be involved. Now hitting the wrong side of 30, building your team around two 30-year-old players doesn't seem like the best way to go here. I know the Heat would be looking at this as a win-now moment, but I don't believe this trade would get you there. Especially, with all of the 3-point shooting the Heat would have to give up. I think we should develop our young core, which potentially is six to seven players, and see what can be done either next year (a weak free agent group, but with key expiring contracts to put in play), or the following year, where the Heat will have ample cap space. I know we'll have a 32-year-old Butler at that point, but it still may be the most prudent way to go. I think Westbrook's game will not age well, and again, his lack of 3-point shooting, combined with what the team would probably have to give up, doesn't make sense, to me. -- Matt, Miami.
A: Again, not what I expected, but certainly some cogent points. Ultimately, it comes down to cost. If it means the Thunder taking on the expiring contracts of Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard (a deal that could not happen until September), then the ultimate concern would be taking on Russell Westbrook’s salary and forgoing future cap space. If it is giving up cheap contracts of prospects, that could create pause. But it’s not as if the Thunder wouldn’t want something tangible in return. The questions about 3-point shooting are valid. So it could come down to the Heat keeping (or adding) enough 3-point shooting to maintain spacing. That’s not something you are going to get with Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook on the court together. But a stretch-five would be a different story. So for the right price, you would have to consider it, especially with no tangible indication that Bradley Beal is or will become available.
July 7, 2019
Q: Ira, do the Heat move up now with Toronto losing Kawhi Leonard, the Celtics losing Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler gone from the 76ers? You know, sort of addition by subtraction? -- Ellis.
A: Clearly Toronto and Boston are not what they were last season. And with the Celtics you omitted Boston's loss of Al Horford, as well, with his impact as a glue guy to be particularly missed. But there also was plenty of shifting at the top of the conference and plenty of bolstering, from the 76ers adding Horford to the Celtics reloading with Kemba Walker and with Irving still in the conference, just now with the Nets. So, when assessing potential strides for the Heat with Butler, perspective is needed. I would place the 76ers and Bucks, even with their restructuring, at the top of the conference. You still have to respect what the Raptors and Celtics have. So that's four spots right there. And even though Kevin Durant won't be ready, Kyrie is going to a heck of a supporting cast in Brooklyn. And that doesn't even get into Victor Oladipo to return at some point next season for the Pacers. Beyond that, I certainly would keep an eye on the young talent the Hawks have amassed. So you might be, best cast, looking at the Heat contending for No. 6 in the East, or maybe No. 5, depending also on your thoughts about the Magic.
Q: So now the next step is another roster spot and finding a way to pick up more in cap space to get back under the tax. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: And that well could be the approach, considering how the Heat in recent years have stressed tax avoidance when not in contention mode. They have an expiring contract in Meyers Leonard, and also could downsize one of their other contracts, which could keep Goran Dragic's name out there.
Q: Can the Heat pick up Dwight Howard? A player who never won before, looking for his first NBA championship? -- Stuart.
A: At this point, I’m not sure any follow-up moves are coming for the Heat, considering where they stand against the hard cap. Then again, they apparently were in play for DeMarcus Cousins before he signed with the Lakers, so there obviously were eyes on another big man. Still, we’re talking about a player who has spent more time in recent years shifting between teams than actually spending time on the court. I would consider it a longshot, but this certainly is a unique time when it comes to the Heat roster. But Dwight Howard over Udonis Haslem? Could the Heat actually sign off on that?
July 6, 2019
Q: I'm looking forward to seeing how Hassan Whiteside does in Portland. I think he will have a big year, and Heat fans will really wonder why Erik Spoelstra refused to maximize his potential. -- Brian, Mount Vernon, Wash.
A: Actually, considering Jusuf Nurkic is expected to reclaim his starting spot with the Trail Blazers when healthy, it is likely Hassan Whiteside will find himself back in a resolve role. Beyond that, when considering the Blazers' firepower with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, I doubt there will be much in the way of consistent touches. Hassan averaged 12.3 points last season on a Heat roster where no player averaged more than Josh Richardson's 16.6 points. The Blazers, by contrast, were led by Lillard's 25.9 average and McCollum's 21.0. Nurkic was next at 15.6, with no other full-season member of the roster averaging more than Al-Farouq Aminu's 9.4. So I highly doubt Terry Stotts is going to change his approach to accommodate a player in the final season of his contract.
Q: Is there something to be said that most Heat players issued farewells and praise for Josh Richardson, but none such for Hassan Whiteside. Seems like he was an outcast. -- Marc, Arlington, Texas.
A: It certainly did appear telling, although Bam Adebayo had kind words for Hassan Whiteside at the Miami pro-am summer league. I think it became a challenging work environment for all involved.
Q: Kendrick Nunn handles the ball well, scraps on defense, can create his own shot on command, can get to the rim with reliable handle, and has shot the 3-point well. There is something there. It's worth keeping him on the roster. -- Dale.
A: The problem could be roster space. With the hard cap coming into play because of the acquisition of Jimmy Butler through a sign-and-trade, it is possible that the Heat commit to only 13 full-time players on the roster and then float in a 14th player when required by the NBA to meet minimum roster limits. That total doesn’t include two-way contracts, but it has been made clear that Kendrick Nunn had no intention of settling for such a deal. So it could come down to the Heat first having to thin out the roster elsewhere before replenishing with Nunn-type youth and possibilities.
July 5, 2019
Q: Help understand what it is that all of you see in Bam Adebayo, and why you guys are so quick to overhype his mistakes as upside. The kid would miss easy shots around the rim, set too many moving screens, committed some silly turnovers, and did not play well against bigger players, which cost us too many games down the stretch. Now that Hassan Whiteside is gone, there are no more excuses, and if Bam Adebayo does not show as much growth as you and others have said, then Erik Spoelstra has some explaining to do. -- Charlie, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Because with players, especially young players, especially one-and-done players, it's not what you are as much as what you can be, especially two seasons in. That's when it comes to the Heat's long view and the ability to project what could come next. At that point into his career, there were similar doubts about Justise Winslow. Now there is a far greater degree of hope. The NBA game has become a nimble one, especially for big men. The Heat see more of that in Bam than Hassan Whiteside. Whether they are correct is likely something we will not know for another season or two, if even then.
Q: Will the Heat look for another gig man to fill the center position after the Hassan Whiteside trade, or are we going to play "small ball" all season? -- Irv, Boynton Beach.
A: First, I'm not sure that with 7-footers Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard in the power rotation, you can necessarily term that pairing along with Bam Adebayo as small ball. Plus, James Johnson at this stage of his career is essentially only a power forward. So that's four pieces right there, let alone the development of Yante Maten and even the spotting of Derrick Jones Jr., Justise Winslow and even Duncan Robinson at power forward. So, no, I don’t believe the Heat will reach for a big man just to get another big ma. Especially when their roster already appears full when considering the likelihood of only going with a 14-player roster. Beyond all of that, there remains the wait on Udonis Haslem, who, at this stage of his career is a center.
Q: Is there any scenario where you see trading for Bradley Beal and John Wall makes sense? -- Bob, Boca Raton.
A: To me, it would come down to the medical reports. Such a deal, from this perspective, only can be done if there is a belief that John Wall will at least re-emerge as a playable, serviceable option after his injuries. But beyond that, for all the speculation, it still comes down to whether the Wizards would be willing to strip it all down and begin a total rebuild. So far, this remains speculation.
July 4, 2019
Q: Ira, now that the Heat have Jimmy Butler do you see Tyler Herro ever being more than a backup for Butler. And if that is the case, does he become a disappointing lottery pick (you hope a lottery pick becomes a starter playing big minutes)? -- Joel
A: At No. 13, or at least in that range, you are more likely to get a solid contributor than necessarily an enduring starter. Plus, the Heat and Erik Spoelstra play plenty of small lineups. So the opportunity will be there. It mostly will come down to what happens to the balance of the Heat’s wing rotation, when it comes to trades. But it is safe to say that the Heat will carve out consistent minutes for Tyler. After all, it’s not too often that first-round picks show up with the Heat. That said, it would be interesting to see if there might have been an alternate approach from Pat Riley in the draft had free agency come first. But even with Jimmy Butler, you need shooting. And Tyler, at the least, sets up as the Heat’s shooter of the future. All of that said, Dion Waiters, of course, will want a say in the situation, as well, as is his wont.
Q: Ira, something needs to change with summer league, it should be pushed back by a week or two and extended by a week or two. -- Gabriel, Lakeland.
A: And leaving me with vacation time when? But seriously, the NBA has created a schedule that is unwieldy, based on the timing of the draft, free agency and then summer league -- especially with how big summer league has grown. The first step is an earlier close to the NBA Finals, to allow an accounting for the next salary cap. Then there should be a week of free agency, so teams can draft with the knowledge of which veterans will be under contract. Then hold the draft. And then, allow time for signings and trades to be compete in time for summer league, so anyone who wants to play can play -- from the start. As it is, teams that made deals on June 20 only now will get them resolved on Saturday, more than two weeks later. Instead of being able to stage media conferences for those players in their home arenas, many teams will have to do the introductions on the fly, before cycling back to the photo opportunities. Of course, an earlier NBA Finals would again compact the schedule, something the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver have worked tirelessly to avoid. But you also have to have an offseason. You can't draw out summer league into August, especially when there are so many international competitions in September, as will be the case with the World Cup this year.
Q: Miami will miss the putbacks, blocked shots, rebounds and shot deterring of Hassan Whiteside, but they won't miss the inconsistency. It’s a shame it didn’t work out. Watch him be suddenly motivated this year. -- William.
A: Which well could be the case. But it became clear that the some-of-the-time approach couldn’t and wouldn’t be tolerated by the Heat. Other teams have different ways of motivating. So perhaps a change of scenery will prove the panacea. And if it does, it’s not as if the Heat will be looking back. Erik Spoelstra clearly is more comfortable with Bam Adebayo.
July 3, 2019
Q: Ira, Boogie Cousins might not have made sense before the Hassan Whiteside trade. But I don't see a backup center now. So why not, if the price is right? -- William.
A: The "price is right" portion of your question is key, particularly with DeMarcus Cousins having foregone so much in salary in recent years. Ultimately, the salary portion of the equation could come down to how far below the hard-cap barrier the Heat can drop, in the wake of the Jimmy Butler trade. As for the basketball element, it comes down to whether DeMarcus would be amenable to playing off the bench, with the Heat likely leaning toward a Bam Adebayo-Kelly Olynyk opening pairing. The advantage with a player like Cousins is the outside shot, something that Olynyk and Meyers Leonard also can offer, which meshes with Adebayo's offensive repertoire.
Q: After all the sound and fury, what has the Heat gained? Jimmy Butler is an upgrade over Josh Richardson, but at multiples of the price and with many fewer years potentially left in the tank. The Hassan Whiteside deal was necessary, but any operative gain from it is dubious. As things stand post-trades (assuming no Goran Dragic deal, which might change the equation (or might not), the Heat remain just about where they were before the activity: a middle-of-the-table bunch fighting for a 6-8 seed, with five teams still clearly better than it, though not necessarily in order of finish -- Bucks, Raptors, 76ers, Pacers, Celtics. Seems to me it's just different folks with the same strokes. -- Merlin.
A: I would tend to agree, although wonder about the Pacers, with Victor Oladipo to miss part of the season. I would say the ultimate upside would be fighting for homecourt in the first round. But something in the No. 6 range seems like a reasonable target, considering the Nets, even without Kevin Durant, still will have Kyrie Irving plus a healthy cast of elite supporting talent from LeVert to Spencer Dinwiddie.
Q: I think that with patience that Tyler Herro may have the potential to be the point guard of the future for the Heat. I know that he is a shooting guard, but I believe he has the quickness and enough ball handling skills that eventually the better position for him will be point guard. Thoughts? -- Victor, Bethlehem, Pa.
A: First, never overstate summer-league defense. Even when going again individual opponents known for their defense, very little is in place schematically from a team-defense standpoint during summer league. I’m not sure that Tyler Herro has to be classified as a point guard, just as a ballhandling and playmaking contributor, something along the lines of the role that Tyler Johnson previously held. With both Josh Richardson and Dwyane Wade no longer on the roster, the Heat will need additional secondary ballhandlers. That might be the best-case scenario with Herro.
July 2, 2019
Q: Ira, you have the numbers. How are the Heat getting Bradley Beal? -- Rap.
A: Um, are they? Yes, I appreciate that there has been plenty of speculation about Bradley Beal amid the Wizards' directionless meandering. But the real question is whether any team looking at Beal would be interested/brave enough to take on the seeming albatross that is John Wall's contract. Start with Beal, who is due $27 million next season and $28.8 million in 2020-21. Fine, that's the going rate. But then there is Wall and his Achilles and other injuries, who is due $38 million this coming season, followed by seasons at $41.2 million, $44.3 million and $47.3 million. That's a lot of highly questionable money to take on as a plus-one. Yes, the Heat survived with Chris Bosh's money on the books as he dealt with blood clots, but that was not on a Wall level. Beyond that, consider the math of even making a deal work for two players who will earn a combined $55 million this coming season. You are talking Goran Dragic's $19.2 million, James Johnson's $15.3 and perhaps Kelly Olynyk's $13.1 million (or, perhaps in coming days, Ryan Anderson's $21.2 million). So, yes, the math can get you there. But it also would leave you without any place in free agency for years . . . and years . . . to come. So how far does a core of Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow, Jimmy Butler and Bradley Beal get you, especially with Butler turning 30 this coming season?
Q: Another first-round pick traded? When does it end? -- Vince.
A: When Pat Riley is done prioritizing veterans and the certainty of living in the moment. In this case, as long as there is lottery protection, which is the case rolling through 2023, 2024 and 2025, there is little trepidation here. No. 15 or later only gets you so far in today's NBA drafts, as witnessed by this June's selections. And face it, if it rolls over to unprotected in 2026, then something is very, very wrong. The greater issue is the Clippers already being in possession of the Heat's unprotected 2021 pick. That could be significant.
Q: Ira, Jimmy Butler is the rare star that took less money to join a lottery team with no stars. Defies logic. Why? -- Brian.
A: Because it is an opportunity to be a leading man with an organization he has come to respect through his relationship with Dwyane Wade and even Caron Butler.
July 1, 2019
Q: Ira, how does Pat Riley talk about culture and then willy nilly toss players about when conjuring trades? Wasn't it just yesterday when he couldn't let Josh Richardson go? -- Nelson.
A: Because it's a business, has always been a business, and you're in the culture until you're out. Basically, a quarter of the Heat roster at one point or another was tossed into the Jimmy Butler permutation, possibly even more. The lesson after Dwyane Wade 2016 is that there's loyalty, there's business and there's money, and rarely do those three mesh well, let alone permanently, What the Heat's culture is about is that when you're in, you're all in. And then you might be out. I believe a better way to think about Heat culture is that it is designed to make you the best you for as long as you are part of the organization. That, in itself, can be appealing, as it has been to numerous players over the years. It is why so many, even after they move on or are moved on, still have a fondness for the experience.
Q: How would you sum up Josh Richardson? -- Jason.
A: The ultimate supporting piece, a complementary scorer who is miscast when cast as a leading man. Where he would fit best, I believe, is on a contender, where he could thrive in the background as a two-way player while working behind elite talent, something he rarely has had the opportunity to do to this stage. You are a better team when he is on your side.
Q: Why wasn't there a plan? James Johnson and Dion Waiters. Then the young players playing. And then back to Jimmy Butler? -- James.
A: Because in the NBA opportunities happen when they happen, and you have to take advantage when presented. It is why the Heat pushed for a disgruntled Jimmy Butler before last season and why they circled back. The difference between the Heat and many other teams is they are not interesting in tanking in the interim when it comes to offseasons that ultimately don’t prove transformative. So sometimes it leads to what appears a disjointed approach.
June 30, 2019
Q: It will be interesting to see what happens to the teams above Miami, like Philly, Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee, as all four teams could lose massive pieces. It will be interesting to see how the East looks in a couple of weeks after free agency. -- Aaron, Miami.
A: Of course, the flip side of that is that others in the East could then be bolstered, such as if Brooklyn signs Kyrie Irving, if the Knicks take the long view with a play for Kevin Durant, or Chicago adds another young piece. And that does not even get into the move Atlanta is poised it make with its surfeit of young talent. Yes, you are correct that major shakeups could loom for the 76ers (Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris), Raptors (Kawhi Leonard), Celtics (Irving, Al Horford) and Bucks (Khris Middleton), and already have for Boston. But it's not as if any of those four appear to be tumbling out of the playoffs, a level the Heat hope to again reach. So, yes, free agency well could reset the East. But the Heat still face the challenge of merely attempting to get back into the postseason mix.
Q: The Heat should bring Rodney McGruder back. -- Si.
A: Highly unlikely, especially now that the Clippers have picked up his $3 million qualifying offer, a level that created Heat reluctance in the first place, with Rodney McGruder now a restricted free agent. At the minimum, the Heat might have been tempted. But, again, remember that if the Heat opt to carry 14 players because of luxury-tax concerns, instead of the regular-season maximum of 15, then roster spots might be limited, when counting returning veterans Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr., Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters; former two-way players Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten; and draft picks Tyler Herro and KZ Okpala. That's 13 right there, not even counting a potential return by Udonis Haslem.
Q: Why do you keep stressing the importance of trying to see if Josh Richardson or Justise Winslow can be leading men? All throughout last season, Erik Spoelstra foolishly force-fed those two (particularly Josh Richardson) that role, and even Dwyane Wade at times took a step back so they could prove themselves. And look where we are now, sitting here wondering why Pat Riley pulled the plug on the Jimmy Butler deal. Those two aren’t good enough to be in the forefront of a team -- Xavier, Hollywood.
A: But they are good enough to be developed. And young enough. So what better time than when a team is resetting and not in contending mode?
June 29, 2019
Q: I'm betting Tyler Herro plays in such a way that warrants minutes at the shooting guard position. With Dion Waiters already there, Josh Richardson may have to remain a small forward if that’s the case, or they trade him. -- William.
A: If not Josh Richardson as the starting small forward, then, on this roster, who? Derrick Jones Jr. or Duncan Robinson certainly are not at that stage yet. James Johnson has almost solely been cast as a power forward. And Justise Winslow has mostly played either power forward or point guard. It is why some expected the Heat to draft a lengthier wing than Tyler Herro, who certainly is not an NBA small forward and actually has more of a build of a point guard. When you get down to it, the Heat wing rotation stands as somewhat muddled.
Q: It’s time to really let Bam Adebayo loose, put him out there for 30 minutes a night, suffer the necessary growing pains and ups and downs, and find out exactly what we have with him. The last thing Miami needs is Hassan Whiteside on the court as a justification of his bloated salary. At this point, it's obvious he isn't part of our future, doesn't have much a prayer of playing his way into becoming a more desirable asset, and, frankly, isn't going to push the needle much in the win column, anyway. Thoughts? -- Michael, Atlanta.
A: And that is the way I see it. Basically, Bam Adebayo would have to play his way out of the lineup in order to wind up with less than starter's minutes.
Q: LeBron James's teammates have included Shaq O'Neal, Antawn Jamison, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and a superstar free agent to be named soon. Has there ever been a player in the history of NBA with that type of support system? -- Stuart.
A: Yes, every member of the Boston Celtics in the ’60s.
June 28, 2019
Q: Julius Randle most likely won't re-sign in New Orleans due to skill overlap with Zion Williamson, but I feel he's a Pat Riley guy (and from Kentucky). Julius plays real "bully-ball," capable of averaging 21 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and a 34% 3-point shooter (good enough to play alongside Bam Adebayo). How about a sign-and-trade with a New Orleans? David Griffin wants a shooting big next to Zion, and in my opinion, who better than Kelly Olynyk (for the price)? -- Desmond.
A: But that also would mean adding longer-term contract, with the assumption here that Julius Randle would not be amenable to a two-year contract. You could, in fact, make an argument for Kelly Olynyk as the better lineup complement alongside Bam Adebayo because of his ability to potentially defend at center. The bottom line is that the next time the Heat go big in terms of spending it will be to go big for a franchise player. I'm not sure that Julius, for all his attributes, is that player. And don't forget that with any of these sign-and-trade permutations that such agreements would leave the Heat hard-capped, something the team has made sure to avoid over the years. Beyond that, I'm not sure the Heat are even positioned to become hard-capped, based on the remainder of their salaries.
Q: If the Celtics land Kemba Walker then what happens to Goran Dragic? -- Tad.
A: Um, he plays out the final season on his Heat contract? Or, who knows, he is acquired by the Hornets? Yes, Kemba Walker to the Celtics would remove one potential landing spot among contenders for Goran Dragic. But it's still early, with no need for the Heat to rush a move. Eventually, there will be another contender in need of a veteran talent at point guard who is in the final year of a contract. The key for the Heat would be the ability to either offload additional longer-term salary or acquire a future-oriented asset in such a deal.
Q: Miami has beautiful weather, a great lifestyle and no state income taxes, which under the new tax law you can't even deduct (and get a benefit) on your Federal income tax return. Pat Riley mentioned in one of the postseason conferences that the Heat, despite not having cap space, could still be players in free agency because the players dictate where they play by forcing trades and joining forces. If the players want to come to Miami, it usually can be made to happen. There is a superstar void in Miami with Dwayne Wade retired and no remnants of the Big Three. The spot for the next player or group of players is just waiting to be filled in Miami. To summarize: sun, blue skies, water, lifestyle, no state income tax and (wanted) superstar sign on the door. So where are they? -- Stuart.
A: Chasing the money. In this case, the easy money, the money that comes from teams with cap space. Again, sign-and-trade transactions are not what they used to be. Acquire a player in one and you are hard-capped for the season. That is a hard reality the Heat have fought for years to avoid.
June 27, 2019
Q: Adding players such as Jimmy Butler willy nilly makes present players more confused. Heat followers want action for the sake of action. I'd rather take a deep, deep breath and say let's clear our heads first. -- Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.
A: And that's a reasonable point about free agency, whether it's better to go all in at once, or whether you patch things together as opportunities present themselves. First, I would not overstate the Jimmy Butler thing, where the goal appears to either max out his contract in Philadelphia or work his way to Houston. As to your greater point, you can't always get everything you want in one sitting. I believe Heat fans got spoiled from that in 2010, when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller all lined up together. Based on where the Heat stand, it could come down to adding something in 2020, after the contracts of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside expire. And then adding something else in 2021, when the deals of James Johnson and Dion Waiters expire. The problem there is there might not be enough on the roster to entice in 2020, and the 2020 addition had better succeed in order to entice in 2021.
Q: I know the Heat has somewhat of a crowded power rotation right now, do you think Boston would consider Hassan Whiteside's expiring deal as a replacement for losing Al Horford? They get a big man who can defend and rebound without the long term commitment. -- Mike, Pembroke Pines.
A: I'm not sure Hassan Whiteside is a Brad Stevens type of player, nor do I believe the Celtics would commit such cap space to Hassan, even if for one year. So even if there were interest, it would take creative accounting for a salary match.
Q: Now about your Haslem article – Haslem has always been a fighter and a team player who has always been appreciated for these qualities. That is why -- I believe -- he has been given exceptional rights in the team. He was being signed for the last season even though his contribution on the field was only marginal. The reason given was his contribution on the bench. If his main contribution is on the bench, why not to continue as an assistant coach and let a extra new player start developing on the bench? -- Simo.
A: Because a coach, even an assistant coach, isn’t in the locker room at some of the moments of truth. Goran Dragic leads by example. James Johnson is primarily focused on resurrecting his career. That’s where Udonis Haslem comes in. So it likely will come down to the importance of the 14th (or 15, if the Heat go to the maximum) man on the roster.
June 26, 2019
Q: The trade talks have been going a little silent. I heard there is a market for Hassan Whiteside and then Pat Riley says Goran Dragic would be the starting point guard next season. Do you think any trades will happen? What's the real likelihood that either Dragic or Whiteside will be traded? -- Carlos, Miami.
A: First, nothing has gone silent, because that would have meant it wasn't already silent. If Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic are to be moved, this likely isn't that moment, not when the fascination is on newly drafted players and cap cash to spend on free agents. Eventually, the market could come around to players available in trades (if that is, indeed, the case with Whiteside and Dragic) when the free-agent class, or at least the top of it, dries up. But the bigger question is that if the Heat's ultimate goal is cap space either next summer or the 2021 offseason, then patience to simply allow contracts to expire after the coming season might be the most prudent approach. The exception is whether a future asset could be added, perhaps a draft pick or a young prospect.
Q: Jimmy Butler again? Haven't we already been there, done that? -- Bull.
A: Seems like it. Sign-and-trade deals are complex as it is, not even getting into the base-year compensation that could come into play for the 76ers. Ultimately, if Jimmy Butler can't be retained (or doesn't want to be retained), the 76ers might be better off simply moving on and bolstering by locking up Tobias Harris.
Q: Ira, can you see the Heat's draft picks spending most of the season up in Sioux Falls? I just don’t see a lot of playing time for both of them, barring injuries. At least not the kind of playing time you want from guys this young. -- Gabriel, Lakeland.
A: I think Tyler Herro will play mostly, if not exclusively, with the Heat this coming season, if only because this well could be a developmental season for the Heat, anyway. This is one case where the Heat invested enough equity, in the form of a No. 13 pick, that they can’t simply bench a player (James Jones, Wayne Ellington) because he solely is viewed as a shooter. As for KZ Okpala, the G League element could come down to how the rest of the Heat rotation shakes out, including if Derrick Jones Jr. continues to trend positively.
June 25, 2019
Q: Ira, I love the KZ Okpala pick. I see the potential with the size and length, but he seems to have great handle that allows him to create his own shot as well as defend multiple positions. He complements the current core, and could slide in as the starting three with some time and development. It could be another second-round gem. -- David.
A: I spoke to an NBA scout on the eve of the draft, running down the first round of my mock draft, and was told I was missing a player. That player, the scout warned ahead of the draft, was KZ Okpala. The more video I watch, the more impressed, particularly with the Bam Adebayo-like ability to take the ball and go. That's what makes the NBA's arcane policy regarding the timing of draft trades all the more infuriating. Not only do the Heat have to wait until July 6 to complete the transaction for Okpala, but they also have to remain hands off when it comes to all three of their games (and the preceding training camp) in the Sacramento summer league, as well as at least their first game (and preceding practices) in the Las Vegas summer league. There simply is not much offseason time for five-on-five work led by the Heat coaching staff during the offseason. Now Okpala has to miss more than a week of that.
Q: I do see it as interesting if we play Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro together we have two 3-point shooting threats on the floor. However, I don't know if Erik Spoelstra will be able to give him minutes after the whole Wayne Ellington situation.
A: Well, Pat Riley did stress a tangible upgrade in shooting after the selection of Tyler Herro, so you might be on to something with the Herro-Duncan Robinson combination. The problem in summer league is whether there will be enough supporting pieces to help foster such an approach (enough attacking players to create drive-and-kick opportunities). As for playing time, Herro will play. Unlike during some of the Wayne Ellington era, the Heat are in rebuild mode. That is exactly when you can afford to allow your young players to play through mistakes. It also is the best time to see if the defense can be serviceable.
Q: Hmm, Hassan Whiteside for Cauley-Stein? I can't see why both sides wouldn't agree to it. Cauley-Stein adds youth and can run the floor and Whiteside gives the Kings a defensive presence. -- Marc, Arlington, Texas.
A: Because while much of the Kings’ front office has been overhauled, Hassan Whiteside’s initial tenure in Sacramento did not exactly inspire confidence. Beyond that, what makes such consideration moot is that Cauley-Stein, if the Kings keep his qualifying off in place, will be a restricted free agent. And with that qualifying offer of $6.3 million, it’s not Cauley-Stein is anyone close to Hassan’s salary stratosphere.
June 24, 2019
Q: I'm 100 percent sure this Miami Heat roster will look vastly different come mid-July. There is ample cap space around the league yet again, not to mention a wide-open race toward legitimate title contention. Nobody wants to sacrifice cap space quite yet until the market takes shape and players start signing. When teams strike out, as most will, the expiring contracts (Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside) and even two-year deals (Dion Waiters and James Johnson) will be better backup plans than signing this summer's free agents to three- and four-year deals. -- Kevin.
A: You raise a solid point. And that well could be the case with players that teams believe will move their needle. Goran Dragic would appear to definitively fall into that category. But I'm not sure you can say the same for Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters and James Johnson. But as with all of free agency, it only requires one team be smitten. So, yes, there may yet be a place to park the contracts of Waiters and Johnson if the Heat become so inclined. What can't happen is the Heat also sacrificing assets to move off that money. If a team bites to take one of those four into space? Sure. If not? Patience.
Q: Could you see guys like Mario Hezonja and Jabari Parker as potential options this summer to resurrect their careers? -- Thomas.
A: Not if they're seeking more than the minimum, because at the moment, because of the Heat's position against the luxury tax, I'm not sure Pat Riley will be spending even a portion of the mid-level exception. It would have to be an ultimate value to take the spending there. As it is, word is Jabari Parker already is working toward a replacement deal with the Wizards. As for Mario Hezonja potentially at the minimum, that would come down to available roster space.
Q: The Heat are great at reclamation projects, getting the most out of players who have not reached their potential. I would love for the Heat to target two players for this coming season as reclamation projects: Michael Carter-Williams as our backup points to Justise Winslow (assuming Goran Dragic is eventually moved for a draft pick), and Stanley Johnson, who is probably out of New Orleans with everyone they have coming in. They both are very good defensive players, so already a fit there. The Tyler Herro pick helps space the floor for both. What do you think? -- Peter, Miami.
A: Again, price point and roster space. I believe the Heat would first have to thin the current mix before moving forward with additional project players. It is, after all, not as if Derrick Jones Jr., Yante Maten, Duncan Robinson or even Tyler Herro or KZ Okpala have moved beyond their developmental stages.
June 23, 2019
Q: The voice of optimism? Pat Riley says the players in the Heat's young core are "better than average," that Dion Waiters "knows what he has to do," and that "more is needed" from Waiters and James Johnson. Not exactly the most encouraging prediction, for the short run or the longer future, all still dependent on netting an "orca" if not a "whale," which Riley hasn't been able to do since LeBron James' departure. Zi, Metarie, La.
A: Until the new face of the franchise arrives, there is little of substance to embrace. Yes, the Heat might have capable complementary players, but who are they complementing? In many ways, this feels like a holding pattern, particularly because the Heat will need the salary-cap space going forward of Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, as well, potentially, as the cap space of James Johnson and Dion Waiters. So, for now, you say the right things, you recognize the realities, and you again set out hell bent on the quest for the No. 8 playoff seed. Basically, that's what Pat Riley's state-of-the-franchise update was about, a rallying cry for yet another push for a playoff berth, any playoff berth.
Q: Is the J.R. Smith trade still in play for the Heat. It would be nice to move off some of this cap space. -- Wes.
A: Considering the Heat utilized the No. 13 pick with the intent of moving forward with Tyler Herro, it's not as if they have they type of asset to lure the Cavaliers into such a move, which then would provide immediate cap relief due to J.R. Smith's partial guarantee that expires June 30. So, as before, it comes down to a team being able to step up with a tangle asset. It's certainly not getting done for Dion Waiters and James Johnson, and shouldn't be getting done for one of the Heat's young players.
Q: The thing about these young guys, Bam Adebayo included, is that it really is hard to determine their upside. -- Douglas.
A: As it will remain until we see who they will be complementing. Will it be a post presence, and outside shooter, a ball-dominant point guard? Until the new leading man arrives, it will remain uncertain how the followers will fit.
June 22, 2019
Q: Assuming no orcas off the coast of Miami Beach (hope not!) and Hassan Whiteside is here next season, how can Heat management justify not playing him at least 27 minutes? Can't bygones be bygones and give him 20 games at 30 to 35 minutes and let him play? See what happens. Can't we just give him a chance to air it out, even if he makes some mistakes? -- Stuart.
A: Well, you can do anything. But to what goal? If this season is about setting up the future for the Heat, then how do you justify setting it up with a player who has to be off the roster in order to move into cap space next summer or the summer after? Yes, there certainly could be injuries and time for Hassan Whiteside to pile up points, rebounds and blocked shots. But it’s not as if those numbers would be creating trade value, when the trade value would be the expiring contract. And the sample size, as limited as it might be, is that Whiteside-Bam Adebayo is more often than not not in the Heat's best interest. So if you give Whiteside the minutes you suggest, it minimizes the role of Kelly Olynyk, reduces the impact of Adebayo and limits the time to showcase James Johnson, in a bid to possibly get off his dollars sooner rather than later. Now, if it's all -- and only -- about winning in the moment, then, yes, I agree, there are times that Hassan Whiteside can give you give the best opportunity to win. So the question comes down to whether going from 39 wins to 43 is the ultimate endgame.
Q: Ira, can you please help us understand the infatuation with Jimmy Butler? The guy couldn't get it done in Chicago with Derrick Rose, Minnesota with Karl Anthony Towns, or in Philadelphia with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. What has he done to prove he can be a leading man and why is he being brought up in these sign-and-trade rumors? It seems so obvious to me that trading him and signing him to long-term max money is the wrong decision that it's making me think I'm missing something. -- Michael, Miami.
A: Or is it that he made all of his teams better and that there were other reasons for the limitations of his team? First of all, if the 76ers offer Jimmy Butler the maximum in free agency, then that is end of discussion. And they well might do that. Otherwise, this is what free agents do, make it clear that they would consider any and every overture. The problem with any affection toward the Heat is that such an agreement would have to come in a sign-and-trade deal (barring the Heat miraculously opening ample cap space). And that would require the 76ers to be amenable to a Heat package. Even then, under the sign-and-trade wording in the latest collective-bargaining agreement, it still would leave Butler with a far lesser deal than he could receive from the 76ers. Beyond all of that, is offering a contract to Butler in the $40 million range per season in his mid-30s. That the Heat even would consider such a deal demonstrates the difficulty in attracting elite talent.
Q: Am I crazy for wanting to see a lineup of Bam Adebayo, Yante Maten, Duncan Robinson, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow for a year to see how they develop? Then we can set ourselves up with a cheap roster that would be set up for a max contract or two to add a difference maker or two. To me, this is the way to the Heat should play this coming season. -- Peter, Miami.
A: That might be a bit extreme, particularly because you are omitting Derrick Jones Jr. and, now, Tyler Herro. Also, just because Yante Maten and Duncan Robinson have partially guaranteed contracts doesn’t mean they yet are viewed as rotation players. While your plan might have forward-thinking merits, I can’t fathom Erik Spoelstra managing a locker room where Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic aren’t playing.
June 21, 2019
Q: I think Tyler Herro is good, forward thinking by the Heat, considering this league is a 3-point shooting/dunk fest every night now. If you get yourself a poor man's Klay Thompson I’m good with that. -- Phil.
A: I agree that this team was in need of shooting and might be even more in need of shooting if Goran Dragic eventually is dealt. But I still have trouble getting past the fact that this team had Wayne Ellington and seemingly could have kept him going forward if not for the prioritizing getting out of the luxury tax this past season. It would seem, at least at the moment, that Tyler Herro's upside might by Wayne Ellington. As it is, Cam Johnson was taken ahead of Herro when it came to the leading shooters in Thursday's draft. Over the past few months, the Heat have moved off the shooting of Ellington, Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder. Granted, that hardly proved sufficient, but going for a shooting specialist at No. 13 still comes off as somewhat of a stretch. Then again, some might have said the same thing about Devin Booker in 2015. So now we wait -- and see if the Heat can develop Herro into something more than the Heat's previous shooting specialists. At worse, the Heat have someone who can confidently shoot technical fouls.
Q: I love this pick. Tyler Herro reminds me of Devin Booker, who I wanted the Heat to pick a few years back, when they got Justise Winslow instead. -- Sebastian.
A: And, as referenced above, that will be the likely player comp for Herro. But the NBA is replete with players who entered as shooters and found that being a specialist only gets them so far. At the moment, an argument could be made for Duncan Robinson as the more developed Heat shooting specialist. As it is, it will be interesting to see if there even will be minutes for Herro at the outset, with Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow all available in the perimeter rotation, and Derrick Jones Jr., as well.
Q: OK, now that my head has stopped spinning at the No. 13 being Tyler Herro, what on earth is Pat Riley thinking? The only thing that hits me is he's part of a bigger trade package somehow. Just color me jaded on this pick. It's certainly an emotional letdown, especially for a team that had to really hit big with this pick. -- Skip, Tampa.
A: It’s safe to say that few expect the Tyler Herro selection to be franchise altering. But perhaps it also ultimately was a referendum on what many had said about this draft, that there isn’t much there there. If Pat Riley truly believed that there was a more complete player out there, I’m sure he would have moved in that direction. But, as I said going in, the key at this stage is getting players who can complement the team’s next star, however that star arrives. If nothing else, 3-pointer shooters can always complement.
June 20, 2019
Q: I really think Kevin Porter Jr. is the right pick and I believe he's going to be a very special player for a long time. -- Green.
A: And it was the name that hit home for me early in the draft-evaluation process. And then, as the talk continued about immaturity, including with a scout I spoke to this past week, and as Porter kept falling in mock drafts, not among the first 20 players invited into Thursday's draft room, the doubts began to creep in. So in many ways, shame on me. You know what? Draft Porter, bring back Udonis Haslem for another season as a locker-room mentor and roll the dice on talent. If, of course, Porter is even there, with NBA teams known for attempting to game the system to get a prospect to slip.
Q: Ira, the Heat could have gotten out in front of the Jazz for Mike Conley Jr. by offering the No. 13 pick. Why not more from Pat Riley? -- Red.
A: First, in addition to their No. 23 pick, the Jazz also included what could stand as a lottery pick as soon as 2020. And that was the last thing the Heat could afford on a two-year rental, was spending yet another draft asset, already still owing one from the Goran Dragic trade. While I do believe Mike Conley Jr. would have been an upgrade to Dragic, it's not as if such a move would have moved the Heat into contention in the East. If anything, the Grizzlies' trade could open an avenue for the Heat with Dragic, who would fit into the trade exception that Memphis will open with the deal. You certainly could do worse than Dragic as mentor to Ja Morant, or even as a shooter to play alongside. If the Grizzlies were willing to toss in draft compensation, it could be an intriguing possibility, especially if you are from the camp that wants to hand over the Heat's keys at point guard to Justise Winslow. Of course, Memphis would need to move into the luxury tax for such a Dragic deal, which would make minimal sense for a rebuilding team.
Q: Buckle up Ira, Hassan Whiteside is gonna make so many people eat crow. -- Shane.
A: Which certainly remains possible. Only I’m not sure I see that opportunity coming with the Heat as long as Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk are in place, and as long as those two remain Erik Spoelstra’s power players of choice. At least statistically, there is little doubt that Hassan Whiteside could put up a consistent 16 and 12 with the requisite minutes.
June 19, 2019
Q: Ira, you're not going to start this Chris Paul thing again, are you? Move on. -- Steve.
A: That has been a tough sell from the outset, if the Rockets, indeed, are in sell mode with Chris Paul, as has been speculated. It is one thing for the Heat to put off a free-agency plunge in 2020, considering Dion Waiters and James Johnson still will be on the books. But not only is Chris Paul scheduled to earn $38.5 million next season and then $41.4 million in 2020-21, but he also has a player option for $44.2 million in 2021-22. Yes, $44.2 million in a season he will start at 36 years old. Granted, Dwyane Wade still had something left at that age. But not at anywhere close to that price point. As a matter of perspective, the only salary on the Heat books at the moment for 2021-22 is a $13 million team option on Justise Winslow, an $11.6 million player option for Josh Richardson and a $7 million potential qualifying offer on Bam Adebayo. That's a lot of future to sell off for an older point guard who has had plenty of recent injury issues.
Q: It seems we always draft a player who isn't a shooter. Isn't it time we draft a prolific scorer? -- Bob, Boca Raton.
A: And I would have no issue because of that with Tyler Herro. Of course, the Heat also could have retained Wayne Ellington and still had that No. 13 pick to spend elsewhere beyond a shooter. But such is the cost of luxury-tax avoidance.
Q: Is it possible to talk Hassan Whiteside into betting on himself and his talents, by suggesting he does as Harrison Barnes and Al Horford have done by opting out the last year of his contract? -- D.K.
A: That is not happening, because such a market is not there. Hassan Whiteside will opt into his $27 million for next season by his June 29 deadline and then Hassan, his agent and the Heat can decide where to go from there.
June 18, 2019
Q: I have a Dion Waiters question: I can understand why Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra may want to move him because of his conditioning last season. But if he’s working hard on getting into Riley-type shape, as I read he is, then I can't figure out why there is so much talk about moving him -- even at the expense of giving away their No. 13 pick. When healthy, he’s a pretty good player at a position the Heat is thin at. -- Ray.
A: Correct. But there also comes a point when you have to recognize that the fit isn't what was anticipated. Plus, it becomes a matter of where your priorities rest, in terms of those you are hoping to develop going forward. There was a point where it appeared Dion Waiters would be the go-to scorer of the Heat's next rendition. Then came the ankle. Then came the conditioning issues. So it gets to the point whether Erik Spoelstra retains confidence. Because if he doesn't, then there would appear little need to continue the charade. So, at this very moment, do you believe Erik Spoelstra is designing an offense around Dion Waiters as his featured scorer? If you do, then absolutely move forward with Dion as a core component. But if not, and if Goran Dragic is to be dealt, then it becomes time to begin the move in a different direction.
Q: In a coherent management, a draft choice should fit into an overall and coherent pattern. Why did the Heat sign Yante Maten and Duncan Robinson to regular contracts at the end of last season if they plan to draft a four-type this week? Was letting Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington go done in anticipation of drafting a wing, or just a haphazard salary dump with no clear idea of this summer's player acquisitions? -- Juan, San Jose, Calif.
A: I would not overstate the Yante Maten and Duncan Robinson deals, with those contracts, at the moment, only including partial guarantees. And from the moment Tyler Johnson agreed to the back-loaded component of his deal, he essentially was traded-man-walking. But it does seem that the luxury-tax moves with Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder could leave the Heat short in areas of need. And, no, I do not believe any element of those moves were related to draft. Based on where the Heat stand with their roster, especially of Dragic or Waiters are moved, it might have come in handy to have Bird Rights with Ellington and/or McGruder. But that, of course, could have led to another round of luxury-tax roulette.
Q: D'Angelo Russell seems to be the perfect target now. Why isn't this a discussion? We know Brooklyn wants Kyrie Irving. -- Marc, Arlington, Texas.
A: Because the Heat do not possesses the needed cap space, and with the Nets’ cap situation, it’s not as if they are positioned to tax back salary in a sign-and trade. Neither the math nor the mechanics work.
June 17, 2019
Q: Ira, you tweeted that the Heat shouldn't give up Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson or Bam Adebayo for the No. 4 pick that the Pelicans are shopping. That's like saying you wouldn't trade the No. 10, No. 14 or a second-round pick for No. 4. Do they teach math at the Sun Sentinel? -- Al.
A: No, but they are kind enough to present us with calculators. To me, Justise, Josh and Bam all have exceeded their draft pedigree and are showing the signs of development that is worth continuing. That doesn't mean that Jarrett Culver, De'Andre Hunter, Darius Garland or Coby White won't have better careers. And I'm not sure that New Orleans General Manager David Griffin would even entertain such straight-up possibilities. What I would consider is a possible deal of a player and salary-cap ballast (Dion Waiters, James Johnson) for a higher pick. As for moving up, the player beyond the Heat's range who intrigues and could come at a relative low cost in a pick swap is Cam Reddish.
Q: Now that we know the Celtics are losing Kyrie Irving and not getting Anthony Davis, given all of their draft picks, doesn't it make sense for them to trade for Goran Dragic to be their point guard? -- Peter.
A: First, Boston does have the fallback of Terry Rozier's free agency. And they were awfully good with him in that role during the 2018 playoffs. But the greater issue is whether the Heat expect to retain Goran Dragic going forward beyond the expiration of his current contract in 2019-20. If his cap space is the priority, which it currently appears to be, than maxing out on longer-term aspects (cap space, draft picks) would appear prudent. So the question becomes whether there is a contender who would consider him a prudent one-season rental. Perhaps that turns out to be Boston. Or maybe it will be Utah, if Ricky Rubio leaves. Or maybe Dallas. It would seem that there would be several landing spots where Goran would have greater in-the-moment value next season than with the Heat.
Q: Ira, Wayne Ellington a perfect fit for the Lakers. -- Joel.
A: He is. And he also would be a nice fit for the Heat. The issue with both is the lack of the type of exception money available from either of those suitors. Coming off a short deal, Wayne Ellington likely is looking to cash in. Shy of that, playing for a contender certainly would seem appealing. The reality for the Heat is that if not for the luxury tax, they would have been better off with both Wayne and Rodney McGruder going forward, particularly with Dwyane Wade having retired and Tyler Johnson having been dealt. Basically, one more Dion Waiters injury or conditioning lapse and the Heat are lacking where they previously were loaded. The great escape from the 2019 luxury tax could have ramifications for the Heat going forward.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.