A: It could be. Even if the cap skyrockets to the $80 million range for 2016-17, you're talking about Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, based on their salary demands (Dragic) or potential (Whiteside), eating up about 75 percent of that number. Then there is the issue of taking care of Dwyane Wade because of his previous givebacks. And that doesn't even speak to the possibility of re-signing Luol Deng should he opt into next season's option on his contract. The Heat's Big Three at the moment is Wade, Bosh and Dragic, with the promise of Whiteside. Starting in 2016, the Heat's Big Three, based on cap space, could be Bosh, Dragic and Whiteside. Unless, of course . . . Chris Bosh stops being part of either of those equations. Basically, Whiteside is on the clock the next two seasons in order to get his 2016 money. But Bosh might be on the clock to show that he can work as a max player in this new alignment, as well as the one to follow. On Thursday, everything changed.
Q: Reasons I am happy today: 1. Goran Dragic is already the best Heat point guard since Tim Hardaway. 2. My faith in Riley is restored (it was a little shaky for a while). 3. Goran and Zoran -- priceless! Do they have any more brothers? 4.This lineup has a chance to knock off the Cleveland LeBrons in the playoffs. 5. Slovenian Heritage Night is gonna rock! 6. That's two fewer first-round draft picks Riley gets to waste. 7. An empty roster spot means everything is set for Michael Beasley's return. 8. Chris Bosh will almost definitely be the best fourth option in the league. -- David.
A: Ah, the rare Top 8 list (unless your email somehow cut off). Look, this is what Riley does: He targets free agents and pursues like a rabid man with a large wallet and enough draft picks to bait a trap. And, to your last point, by having a legitimate point guard, Chris Bosh should result as the lead option, not some sort of afterthought.
Q: People can say what they want about Pat Riley trading draft picks, but at the end of the day, Riley is getting proven talent for the unknown. Most of us would do that trade any day. -- Stuart.
A: Actually, teams without an owner willing to spend like Micky Arison might not do that, with many teams coveting rookie-scale contracts more than they sometimes covet the prospects acquired. To play the way Riley plays, through the trade market and the free-agent markets requires a significant pocket book to make it all work. This Heat team might be back in the luxury tax sooner than many might have anticipated.
February 19, 2015
Q: Why would Pat Riley risk anything before 2016? This team isn't going anywhere and Riley has never played for second place. -- Jason.
A: First, I think 2016 has been widely overstated. If Kevin Durant does goes anywhere, it likely would be back home to Washington, if he leaves Oklahoma City at all. And Anthony Davis will be a restricted free agent in 2016, and I don't think the Pelicans can survive as a franchise if they have to endure another Chris Paul-type episode. As for LeBron James, this time he isn't going anywhere. Basically, I'm not sure 2016 is going to be anywhere as dramatic as 2010, except for the scale of the contracts extended. What 2016 does is allow teams to maximize their window of patience. Plenty can be done at this trade deadline, during the 2015 offseason, and at the 2016 trading deadline. A quality acquisition at any point is a worthwhile investment. That's why Riley and the Heat are sorting through anything and everything. In a perfect world, Riley gets his team back into championship contention sooner rather than later, if only to maximize Dwyane Wade's possibilities. I highly doubt Riley would be willing to endure another season like this one.
Q: The Heat just don't have the assets to make a good deal. Even the best poker players can only do so much with a pair of deuces. -- Martin.
A: Which is Part II to the answer above. Among the reasons why the Heat likely won't be able to fast-track is because of their lack of assets. The Heat's greatest hope remains the $50 million-plus they might be able to put into play in free agency with the new 2016 salary structure, with the boost of the new television money. But I've seen Riley make chicken soup out of chicken feathers before, so I would never sell him short when it comes to sooner-rather-than-later possibilities.
Q: Is there any chance Danny Granger will be bought out if they can't move him at the trade deadline? -- S.I.
A: Not with Granger holding an option year for 2015-16. Players with more than the balance of the current season on their deals rarely are bought out, unless they agree to waive their option year. And those tend to be players coveted elsewhere. When Amare Stoudemire gave up cash from the Knicks, it was because he already had his Dallas landing spot lined up. I doubt there is a team, even through back channels, that has let Granger know there would be replacement money in place for him. Granger's best chance for playing time most likely remains with the Heat, unless Riley packages him out of town.
February 18, 2015
Q: I think trading the Birdman at this point would be a mistake. With Hassan Whiteside getting injured every now and then, and with Chris Bosh still not entirely sure of his place in this team, who will effectively help man the paint? Justin Hamilton? -- Ann, Perth, Australia.
A: First, I am not advocating the trade -- or non-trade -- of any player. The whole Chris Andersen scenario is based on the realities of his age, the fact that he may have value to a contender, and the emergence of Whiteside, as well as a likely return next season of Josh McRoberts. Basically, the Heat have very limited currency when it comes to the trade market. They don't have prospects to deal and essentially are banned from trading a first-round pick because of the top-10 protected pick due the 76ers. Then again, it's not as if Birdman has been mentioned elsewhere as a target. In fact, there has been far more Luol Deng speculation of late. I agree that Birdman-Whiteside is a nice combination in the middle, as good as it's gotten for the Heat at center since Shaq-Zo. Chris Andersen being on the roster Friday is far more likely than him being shipped out. So we watch and wait.
Q: Ira, Michael Beasley did shoot 50 percent from the floor last year, 40 percent from 3 off the bench for the Heat. He had a good season in China. With this team lacking a true instant-offense guy off the bench, doesn't it make sense to bring in a guy that knows the system and can score? -- Dom, Miami.
A: First, the system has changed. Dramatically. Second, bringing back Beasley would basically mean putting James Ennis on hold, a player the Heat have under contract for the next two seasons. Considering how the Heat have so distanced themselves from much of last season's roster, I don't see the likelihood of a Beasley return . . . unless Deng actually is moved in a trade. Then all bets would be off.
Q: In my opinion, the Heat Lifer campaign and the chest-beating about loyalty, organization, etc., has hurt the Heat, more than helped: overpaying those past their prime (Udonis Haslem, Bird, Mario Chalmers, Bosh), an unwillingness to trade/jettison players who are not contributing, etc. I would love to hear your opinion. -- Nar, Glen Allen, Va.
A: It has been stressed to me that the Heat's marketing campaign and roster management are two separate entities. What is legitimate is taking care of those who have made past sacrifices, a loyalty aspect that often is successfully sold to those considering signing on as free agents.