A: If nothing else, that should make summer league fun, to see if upgrades are on the way with the newcomers, or whether there will be upgrades in the games of those thrown into the fire last season. This is what you want in the offseason, the opportunity to evaluate potential, but also maximize potential. There is no such thing as too much young talent. And you didn't even mention Napier, who certainly does not deserve to be written off.
Q: Maybe, just maybe, the luck bug has fallen the Heat's way. Last year, as difficult as it was, brought the Heat Whiteside. Then Pat Riley completed a huge trade for Dragic. That was followed by managing to keep their No. 10 pick in this year's lottery. Landing Winslow, who hadn't even interviewed with the Heat, added to that trifecta. This organization knows how to play a winning hand. The team has the pieces to be very good short term and will attract what's needed to be a champion going forward. These are good times for Miami Heat fans. -- Chet, Fort Lauderdale.
A: Yes, they are. But such good times also could prove fleeting, depending on the decisions of Wade and Deng. What Pat Riley wants to see is how this total mix works together, a season with Whiteside, Bosh, Deng, Wade, Dragic, as well as Winslow, McRoberts and even Chalmers and Birdman. Of course money always seems to get in the way. So I guess what I would say is to enjoy the moments, but also appreciate that stability often is fleeting in the NBA. Wednesday's start of free agency will deliver a whole new set of concerns. In the end, it's all about riding the waves.
June 27, 2015
Q: You've said that if he could, Pat Riley would redo his "challenge" to LeBron James last season. Was he doing just that with his comments about Dwyane Wade on Thursday night? He acknowledged that Wade is a pillar of the organization, that he has sacrificed the most. He gave him respect and space, not a provocation. -- Chris.
A: You are among many who noted the same thing. The difference a year ago, I think, was that Riley felt backed against the wall, and did what he previously knew best, coming out fighting. I think the entire NBA has now come to the realization that this is a players' league, and that the players hold the cards in free agency. I also thought it was interesting that there was not a social-media response from Wade, of any kind. The two should be able to come to a compromise that could provide flexibility for both sides. By Riley shying from issuing a challenge, it is a sign that civility might yet prevail. My 50-50 doubts, now have the Heat with a better-than-even shot at keeping Wade. It's a start.
Q: The Heat should let Luol Deng opt out, use the money for Wade and Goran Dragic, and put Justise Winslow in the starting five. Your thoughts? -- Francis, Philippines.
A: As I've stated, putting Deng's financial concerns aside, the best outcome for the Heat would be to have Deng mentor Winslow for a season, allowing Winslow to ease his way into the league. Of course, with the drafting of Winslow, Deng knows the writing is on the wall when it comes to a Heat future beyond this coming season. It might come down to whether Deng is comfortable playing the coming season at $10 million and then seeking a new contract next season, or whether he would want to maximize his future earnings this offseason.
Q: And with the 10th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Ira Winderman selects . . . -- Dallas, Staten Island.
A: Sorry to get to this so late, with the mailbag so full. I think what happens is that Justise Winslow will slide down the order and that the Celtics will be unable to make a late bid to preempt the Heat from selecting Winslow. I know it sounds like a longshot, but I think if Willie Cauley-Stein goes in the first six, and if Detroit sees Stanley Johnson as the preference over Winslow, then Winslow might slide to No. 10 and the Heat. Call it a hunch.
June 26, 2015
Q: Did the Heat get a "Godfather" blessing by lucking into getting Justise Winslow? Winslow has the necessary skills to be productive off the bench behind Luol Deng (if he stays). As a starter, he'll be carried and developed by a lineup that includes Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic. His minutes will be determined by his defensive consistency and increased range. If Wade, Dragic and Deng stay this offseason, the Heat will be a true force. Do you think Winslow will be an immediate contributor off the bench/as a starter? With a little bit of a safety net built with the drafting of Winslow, does the fate of Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen seem sealed as trading chips? The Heat can definitely use the financial flexibility to keep Wade onboard, and maybe even add a veteran shooting specialist. In fact, can the drafting of Winslow affect the Wade contract talks? Winslow adds depth and competitiveness. He's a solid defender and a potential floor spacer, taking some of the offensive/defensive load off Wade. It was a pleasant surprise to find he slipped to the Heat at 10. -- Benjamin.
A: Put it this way, he fell out of the sky to the point that Thursday was the first time he ever spoke to Pat Riley. Because of that, I think that the Heat now sit back and re-evaluate . . . everything. I also think this eases concerns on the wing, be it with Deng or Wade. But the perfect outcome would be, as you mentioned, being allowed to be groomed behind Deng and Wade. I'm not sure if Winslow impacts the thought process with Chalmers or Birdman, because that part of the equation basically comes down to Wade, himself. Thursday was a very good night for Riley. Now the question is whether he can get his remaining pieces to fall into place. Having Winslow immediately eases some offseason concerns.
Q: Justise Winslow, a hard-working, defensive-minded wing who can also step out and hit the three. Hmm, who does that remind me of? Do we even want Deng to opt-in at this point, with his $10 million contract. -- Cristiano, Bethlehem, Pa.
A: Yes, very much, as the perfect player to groom and mentor Winslow, more Duke-on-Duke wisdom. The reality is that if Deng leaves, the Heat would be more likely to have to find a replacement starter at small forward in free agency, rather than simply hand the job to Winslow. And if the Heat make it work with Deng, Wade, Whiteside, Dragic and Bosh next season, it is possible the Heat would want Deng even beyond next season. The Heat would be better with Deng opting in. What is unlikely is the Heat bringing Deng back at the multi-year deal he might seek if he becomes a free agent.
Q: Is Dwyane Wade running out of options? -- Steve.
A: Of course, we still don't know if Dwyane will even require outside options. While the Lakers are looking less likely after selecting D'Angelo Russell, the door might have opened with the Knicks, who took Kristaps Porzingis and could possibly field a roster next season with Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, the free-agent signing of Greg Monroe and possibly enough free-agent money left over for Wade. Of course, that wouldn't necessarily put Wade any closer to title contention.
June 25, 2015
Q: If teams like Cleveland, Brooklyn and others are so willing to go over the tax limit, isn't that really the new "salary cap" that other teams have to meet in order to stay competitive? For this reason, isn't it justified now for the Heat to go way over the cap to keep Dwyane Wade, as well to stay relevant/competitive and with quality players? -- J.B. Miami.