July 6, 2015
Q: Although so much money is now tied up by the core players, the offseason signings of last year are still limiting Heat going forward. Chris Andersen's two-year deal, Josh McRoberts' long contract, and possibly even the deals of Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers' are contracts and ultimately roster spots that could be better utilized on/by other players. -- Nikki.
A: But it's all about the context of those deals. With Birdman, it was making good on a follow-up to the request of first having him play on two years of minimum salaries. With McRoberts, the acquisition was about utilizing him in a halfcourt offense, with the Heat now looking to play at a tempo possibly faster than his natural speed. With Haslem, it also was about making up for previous salary sacrifice, or at least restructuring his money in a more advantageous fashion for the team. And with Chalmers, it was about stability at a time when there was so much change. When the deals were signed, they were prudent for the moment. Now, everything has changed, which is why it makes sense for the Heat to be reconsidering everything that came before.
Q: If the Heat push a power rotation player out of the picture to alleviate some tax woes, do you think that Willie Reed will finally get a chance to play? His summer-league play has certainly been up to par. Or do you think the Heat would be better off with a veteran? -- Josh, Atlanta.
A: It depends whether the Heat think they need to add to the power rotation from a developmental standpoint or a win-now standpoint. Based on minimum salaries, or at least how they count against the cap and tax, Carlos Boozer basically would come at the same price as Reed. We know Pat Riley prefers veterans, but Reed's length could be an advantage. I also think we should reserve judgment on Reed until all three weeks of summer league are complete.
Q: Dear Ira, I am thrilled that Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade signed and Luol Deng opted in. Still, there is only one addition to a team that failed to make the playoffs. He is a 19-year-old rookie, albeit very talented Justise Winslow. I know that we had a lot of health issues, but health and one 19-year-old will not get us to the Finals. Is this, and minimum salary vets no one else wanted, all we are doing to go from the lottery to the Finals? -- Jeffrey.
A: But this never was about additions. It was about Chris Bosh and the rest of the ailing players getting healthy. It was about having Goran and Hassan Whiteside in a training camp together for the first time. It was getting all these pieces together for the first time.
July 5, 2015
Q: Miami fans are going hard for Lou Williams on Twitter. He lives in Miami and seems to be interested. Any chance Miami could be interested and do a sign-and-trade to get him? Since Toronto needs a power forward, Josh McRoberts would be the perfect fit. Right? -- Tre, Lithonia, Ga.
A: I will say this: I like your thinking. I'm not talking specifically about Williams, although he would be quite a get, but rather the notion of a sign-and-trade to land a shooter while also excising potential duplication and unnecessary salary. While adding a player at the taxpayer mid-level could prove onerous against the luxury tax, a sign-and-trade could instead just shift salary to better use. Lou earned $5.4 million last season with the Raptors, so a sign-and-trade with McRoberts or even Chris Andersen could work. There are permutations where you could also do something involving Mario Chalmers. The good thing with the latter two is that Birdman and Chalmers would be on expiring contracts next season. But beyond all of that, the only way a sign-and-trade works is if the other party is interested in what you have to offer. But I do believe the Heat have players with sign-and-trade value.
Q: Were the Heat better off not striking a deal with LaMarcus Aldridge? His game is similar to Chris Bosh and Bosh is a better defender. I would have hated to give up Bosh or, worse, Justise Winslow to Portland for his services. I think the Heat are better off not having him at that price. -- Rodney, Sarasota.
A: Count me in the minority (at least based on the majority opinion out there), but I also would rather have Bosh because of his defensive tenacity, and the fact that he is not as much of a ball-stopper. Of course that could all come down to Chris' health, with that full story likely not to be told until training camp. But Chris fits for the Heat. And with the Heat's approach, that's meaningful.
Q: I was really impressed with Winslow in the summer-league opener. I didn't see one mental error on offense or defense. He always made the right basketball play. He looked for his teammates. It's going to be nice to see him with the vets. -- Todd.
A: As I always say: It's only summer league. But good habits should translate to any level of the game. But you could also see in the summer opener how an adjustment is required for any newcomer to NBA speed and force. I think that is among the reasons Justise went without a rebound in his debut.
July 4, 2015
Q: The West has better players, but teams keep getting diluted. Besides the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, the West is not great. -- Jeffrey.
A: I would beg to disagree, including with what the Mavericks did Friday with DeAndre Jordan, and even how the Rockets managed to keep everything together. Plus, you will have a healthy (presumably) Kevin Durant coming back for the Thunder and a locked-in Anthony Davis for the Pelicans. And don't sleep on the Jazz, who began a significant revival by the end of last season, or the muscle of the Grizzlies. Yes, the Clippers have been stung, with the same potential fate for the Trail Blazers, but an argument could be made that the West still has six of the seven best teams in the NBA, maybe more. Actually, the way free agency has gone probably has been a relief to teams in the East, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo from the Blazers to the Knicks are about the only significant West-to-East moves so far in free agency, and it's not as if the Knicks suddenly have the look of a contender. Beyond the Cavaliers, there are no locks when it comes to seeding in the East, or even that many teams, beyond perhaps the 76ers or Magic, that are locks for the lottery.
Q: My two reactions once I heard of Dwyane Wade's signing were relief and a little bit of sorrow. I didn't want the Heat to commit to a multi-year contract. It must be sobering for a player of Wade's stature to receive such little attention in free agency. So that Wade could save face, aren't you surprised the Heat didn't offer the full $23.5 million? -- Rich (West Palm Beach)