Ira Winderman

Ira Winderman (September 30, 2014)

A: As long as there were no Spurs in the NBA Finals last year, I think it's safe to say the Heat would have been in line for a third consecutive title. Now LeBron James is playing on against that backdrop. And the East sure does seem weaker than last season, especially with Indiana not standing in Cleveland's way. I think even this season's Pacers, with some of their strong play at season's end, could have at least challenged the Cavaliers, perhaps more than the Bulls did.

Q: The Chicago Bulls couldn't hit a 3-point shot against the Cavaliers, after Aaron Brooks didn't miss during the season. The Cavaliers hit timely 3-point shots when needed. Golden State wins in the playoffs when they hit threes. Same for Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers. San Antonio hits a few more timely threes and they are playing Houston. And even though the Heat lost LeBron James, what they really lost was timely 3-point shooting. When was the last time Dwyane Wade played without a go to 3-point shooter on the Heat (even pre-LeBron)? How many times during the season did we watch if the Heat hit a timely 3-point shot they win the game or stop an opposing team's rally? The Heat were down James Jones, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Ray Allen with no replacement at that position. Basically, the NBA has come down to you hit threes you win, you miss threes you lose. It is all about the three! Is this a concern/trend the NBA should be worried about? -- Stuart.

A: I think it is an evolution that began with analytics and also grew with the college game moving in that direction with the shorter 3-point line. I spoke to one former NBA coach who said what is overlooked is the downside of missed 3-pointers that lead to long rebounds and transition opportunities the other way. But I do agree that that have to have 3-point shooting on the court to space the floor, and that the Heat were woefully lacking in that regard at times this season. And it can't just be Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts, with the Heat also needing their rebounding. I think 3-point range will be weighed with just about every decision in this year's draft and going forward, by the Heat and the rest of the league. Of course, in the playoffs it's not only about players capable to make 3-pointers, but players capable of making them in pressure situations.

Q: If the Bulls roster does get overhauled, the Heat really should be ready to pounce on role players. -- Matthew.

A: And Mike Dunleavy might be a good place to start. We know the Arisons love them some Duke. Dunleavy is an impending free agent, after earning $3.3 million this season, which would make him a possible fit into the taxpayer's mid-level exception.

May 15, 2015

Q: Who has a better chance of beating the Cavaliers: the Wizards or the Hawks? And who in the West creates the most difficulty for Cleveland? -- Neil, West Palm Beach.

A: Hmm, a South Florida inquiry about to whether there is anyone left to knock off LeBron James? Shocking. Look, what I will say about the entire East is that this has been a down year through the conference. If there ever was a year when a shorthanded (Kevin Love) and ailing (Kyrie Irving) contender could push through the conference, this is it. Even with the Hawks and Wizards, you have Atlanta playing without Thabo Sefolosha (which many have seemed to overlook) and Washington with a diminished John Wall. And, as we've seen, Chicago has carried a look throughout these playoffs of a team that seems headed for a major overhaul. While the Heat players who attended Thursday's scholastic event at AmericanAirlines Arena didn't bite when asked about what might have been, it is clear there plenty could have been if the Heat had Chris Bosh and any semblance of continuity down the stretch of the regular season. But I digress. Getting back to your question, I would say Atlanta might have the better chance to knock off the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, because of their variety of options, and the presence of DeMarre Carroll as a deterrent against LeBron James. But it sure looks like LeBron is going back to his fifth consecutive NBA Finals. And in that round, I would have to say it would be the Warriors with the best shot to try to keep him from a third title in four years.

Q: Who do you think is a better fit for the Heat: Frank Kaminsky or Sam Dekker? -- Rod.

A: I think it would be wise to wait for Tuesday's NBA Draft lottery just to see if there is a need to even consider such a debate, with a nine-percent chance that the Heat would have to forward their first-round pick to the 76ers. But if you insist on playing the game, I would say Dekker, only because of the Heat's lack of depth on the wing. The bonus there is he also offers the type of length that Pat Riley covets. I just can't see the Heat finding consistent minutes for Kaminsky in a power rotation that also would include Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside and, presumably, Josh McRoberts. But let's revisit this Wednesday, when clarity and the Ping-Pong balls will be in place.

Q: All this talk about the upcoming lottery is fine but I'm still concerned about the coaching staff for next season. When do you think we will get a read on what changes will be made if any on this coaching problem? Thanks. -- Gary, Delray Beach.

A: The Heat tend to handle such matters, or at least make such announcements, closer to the start of the next season, as they previously did with Keith Askins and Chad Kammerer, and then did before this past season with Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo. What comes first is how teams fill vacancies elsewhere, and then how those new coaches fill out their staffs. And there has been absolutely no hint that the Heat are poised to make any moves with their own staff. 

May 14, 2015

Q: Ira, let's dare to dream. Should the Heat avoid the "buzzards" and keep their lottery pick, there seems to be a couple of possibilities that can augment the roster. But what if they actually lucked into a top three pick? Which way should the Heat go? Size with Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, considering we have a frontline of Hassan Whiteside/Chris Bosh, or wing with Emmanuel Mudiay or D'Angelo Russell, considering you draft before free agency, with Goran Dragic watching interestedly (more help with size or competition at point guard). -- Maurice, Coral Gables.

A: First, I've already been warned by other readers not to jinx the Heat, so I apologize to those readers in advance. Moving up actually would be fascinating on so many counts, including those you have mentioned. With size, the Heat would be able to add a prospect at a cost far lower than what Whiteside could command on the 2016 free-agency market, so there's a cap element to that equation. With one of the point guards, either Russell or Mudiay, it could mean limiting the offer to Dragic, since there would be a backup plan. And yet, when you look at the Heat's needs, an argument could be made for Justise Winslow as the best fit for the Heat among the top five prospects. But if you're going to reach for the stars (since we're reaching with this very premise), then I would go for Mudiay, who could build a bridge from the Dwyane Wade era with his athletic possibilities. Then again, just keeping the No. 10 pick would be victory enough (and even there, there would be a debate over drafting size, with power forward among the most plentiful options in that range of the draft).

Q: Pat Riley can be smart and offer a max deal to either Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard (much better than signing Dragic). -- Aura.

A: Both Butler and Leonard are restricted free agents, with it assured that the Bulls and Spurs, respectively, will match outside offers, as is their right. Also, even if the Heat do not re-sign Dragic, they would not have enough cap space to make a bid for either Butler or Leonard that would get them into the room for such negotiations. That is among the reason the Heat likely will have to go above and beyond with Dragic. There really is no other Plan B in this summer's free agency beyond taking advantage of his Bird Rights.

Q: The whole league is becoming about make-or-miss 3-pointers in the playoffs. -- Stuart.

A: Which is why Heat have to reassess whether they have enough 3-point shooting for next season with the returns of Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts, or whether they have to restock beyond the arc. The NBA has become, without question, a 3-point league. While some, such as Phil Jackson, insist that offense can't be focused at the 3-point line, it remains too great a part of the league to be overlooked. It was a major shortcoming for the Heat by the end of this past season.

May 13, 2015