Q: Will the NBA consider an easier draft-seeding process such as how the NFL does it and just scrap the lottery process altogether? -- Rodny, Sarasota.
A: Actually, with the Knicks getting bounced down a couple of spots, I think the lottery served its purpose, which makes teams think twice about tanking, with no guaranteed results. The difference with the NFL is that there are so few games, the options for tanking are limited. In the NBA, as we've seen, teams can go into tank mode for months. Basically, the NBA needs a way from keeping teams from racing to the bottom.
May 20, 2015
Q: Hey Ira, considering the Heat kept their Top 10-protected pick, is there any consideration they can trade or bait any of the other teams to trade a proven player for No. 10? -- Jordan, Orlando.
A: For all the concern, both inside the organization and elsewhere, about the Heat not losing their pick in the lottery, I don't think it is anything close to a lock that they draft at No. 10 or even keep the pick. To refresh: Once the Heat held their No. 10 seed in the lottery, their obligation to forward a first-round pick to the 76ers was extinguished for the season. The Heat are now free to move up, down or out of the first round. What the Heat now have is an additional chip they can put into play this offseason. Throughout the process, I believe the decisions will come down to how to best bolster the current roster. Then the question becomes whether there will be a player at No. 10 (or earlier, or later) who could help the Heat accomplish that goal. Tuesday was just a start to what could be a very active offseason for Pat Riley & Co.
Q: Should the Heat use the 10th pick in the draft as ammunition to trade Josh McRoberts' contract? With the unexpected emergence of Hassan Whiteside, McRoberts is expendable. The Heat could trade the 10th pick and McRoberts for a player with an expiring contract (i.e. Lance Stephenson) and get active in the big 2016 free agent market. Such a move would allow the Heat to bring in an instant contributor and gain the financial flexibility to resign Hassan Whiteside and target more free agents in 2017. -- Andy, Hollywood.
A: I think the Heat first have to get a definitive read on what will happen with Goran Dragic and Luol Deng. And the problem from there is not having a definitive read on the health of both McRoberts and Bosh. Considering McRoberts is coming off knee surgery, he first might have to be reestablished as a contributor. And the reality is Bosh has yet to test himself at competition levels since experiencing blood clots on his lung in February. There are so many unknowns for the Heat that a major offseason move might not prove feasible.
Q: So the general manager steps in as manager for the Marlins. Do you see Pat Riley doing the same if the Heat don't play up to expectations next year? -- Kirk, Fort Lauderdale.
A: I think there is less chance of Pat Riley ever returning to coaching than the four-percent chance the Heat had Tuesday of getting one of the first three picks in the NBA Draft lottery. Then again, if Phil Jackson returns first . . .
May 19, 2015
Q: Ira, enough about the lottery. Pat Riley is not going to play a rookie, unless he wins it. None of the names you have mentioned have been inspiring. -- Jack.
A: I largely agree (although Erik Spoelstra makes the playing decisions, for the most part). But that's not what Tuesday is about. Tuesday is about asset collection, perhaps building a bridge to the future, or perhaps adding another chip that can be put in play before the draft, during the offseason, or even at February's trading deadline. That makes it a meaningful moment, considering how the cost could be far less if next year's (non-lottery?) pick is forwarded to the 76ers. Jumping into the first three picks would be a game-changer, but staying at No. 10 could change the equation soon enough. But I do agree that with a potential starting lineup of Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade (provided everyone stays or does not opt out), and with Josh McRoberts, Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen in reserve, that even the most attractive of No. 10 selections might not crack the top seven or eight.
Q: Michael Beasley is better than any prospect at small forward in the draft, but Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff don't know how to develop him. And, then, don't forget about James Ennis. That's another young player Spoelstra and his coaching staff need to develop. -- Aura.
A: You make a reasonable point about the potential of Ennis, and I actually think the Heat have done a decent job of developing him and bringing him along at the proper pace. As for Beasley, that will come down to whether they find any veteran scorers in free agency, which makes his June contract deadline a bit tenuous, with free-agency not starting until July 1. Still, that doesn't mean wing isn't an offseason priority. But, to your point, I guess you also could say that by having Beasley and Ennis, it might make it easier for the Heat to go with the best available player if they wind up keeping their No. 10 lottery pick. All of that said, what the draft potentially could offer on the wing at No. 10 could bridge the Heat to the future, which is what makes the lottery so significant.
Q; The Cavs are not facing teams like Boston before their breakup or the Pacers. -- Luis.
A: Sometimes, it's just the luck of the draw. I think Cleveland would have faced more of a first-round challenge if the Pacers or Heat wound up as their first-round opponent. But the reality is that the East is down, with Indiana and the Heat down this season. But look at the Rockets, who benefited by playing a Dallas team in the first round without Chandler Parsons and unable to make it work with Rajon Rondo, and then a Clippers team coming off a grueling seven-game series against the Spurs. This year's playoffs remind me of the voids left by the Jordan Bulls and the Shaq-Kobe Lakers after their title runs.
May 18, 2015
Q: Does the current Cavaliers run, predominately the LeBron James run, to the Eastern Conference finals begin to tarnish the contribution Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made? In other words, LeBron is showing he can win without healthy All-Star teammates, a great coach, a great offensive and defensive scheme, a quality bench and a great owner. Maybe we need to re-evaluate our championship pieces? -- Stone, Miami.
A: I don't think it does anything to diminish the past. What I think it shows to this point is that the East was particularly down this season and that LeBron is more motivated than ever to justify his offseason decision. But, again, it's still early. The criticism came when LeBron lost the Finals with the Heat in 2011 and 2014, and even when he couldn't push Cleveland past San Antonio in his previous visit to the Finals with the Cavaliers. And I think the Heat would be the first to acknowledge that their previous championship pieces need more in support in the absence of LeBron. The hope is that Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside can provide that support, when available to the team over the court of a full season.