Q: I read online that Luol Deng will probably opt out to seek a longer term deal in the neighborhood of four years at around $20 million. This is pretty much the mid-level exception. If this is the case, what are the odds the Heat use their exception to re-sign Deng to a longer deal with less annual salary? He's still only 30 (going on 33) and a quality starter who can be eased into a sixth-man position next year if Winslow advances as expected. If next summer it turns out the Heat have a legitimate shot at Durant and need cap room, there is no doubt they would have suitors for Deng's contract. -- Mal.
A: The Heat don't have to use their mid-level. They can offer him a 20-percent bump on last season's contract (or any number below that) and offer up to four years. The issue is they don't want to guarantee any money beyond this season, to have 2016 offseason flexibility. I don't see many, if any, permutations that would have the Heat offering Luol anything beyond 2015-16. Yes, you might be able to trade him down the line, but there never are guarantees there would be takers. Now, if you're talking about the type of pay cut you're mentioning (less than half what he is otherwise due in his option year) that, indeed, would be another story, but I don't see that happening.
Q: Do you trust Justise Winslow will be able to reach his full potential under Erik Spoelstra's coaching? I mean since 2008 Spo hasn't really "developed" any player nor really given a rookie a chance if his hand wasn't forced. He benched the 2008 No. 2 pick and only started him 19 games where players like Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, the Lopez Brothers and others got the start from their respective coaches. Michael Beasley's best numbers were put up on other teams. This year even injuries weren't enough to give our rookies steady minutes. Shabazz Napier, Tyler Johnson and James Ennis averaged fewer than 20 minutes. Spo hasn't developed a player his whole time here so far. The Norris Cole case can be made, but the league itself witnessed a different Norris in New Orleans. So my question is do you trust Spo can develop a player like Winslow? -- Ben.
A I disagree. I believe that Erik found games that made Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and even LeBron James more efficient. You don't design around bit players, but you do around your leading men. And I believe he will be able to find a game that works for Justise.
June 28, 2015
Q: Will the Heat be limited in singing players to summer league with potentially no open roster spots? -- Michael.
A: Just because the Heat are carrying players with partial guarantees in the offseason doesn't mean the roster is locked. Remember, you can carry as many as 20 players in the offseason, and that's not even counting summer-league types. At this stage, even assuming the best with Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Goran Dragic, of the 15 roster spots the Heat are allowed to carry during the regular season, spots currently are basically locked in (pending trades, free-agency departures, or other moves) for: Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, Deng, Justise Winslow, Wade, Mario Chalmers, Shabazz Napier and a pair of Dragics (with Zoran's contract guaranteed). So there's three more roster spots available (potential more with trades or free-agency losses) for the likes of Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, James Ennis, Henry Walker, any of the summer leaguers, or perhaps even Michael Beasley. And, of course, the Heat will have one of the mid-level exceptions available, should they choose to add a player by that means.
Q: So rookies vs. sophomores, who has the bigger upside? Justise Winslow-Josh Richardson or James Ennis-Tyler Johnson? -- Yanussi, Miami Beach.
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