June 23, 2017
Q: Since the Heat drafted Bam Adebayo and have Hassan Whiteside, who also blocks shots, how does that work when the NBA game is played so far from the basket? Players don't take layups on fastbreaks, they run to the 3-point line. -- Stuart.
Q: You can get a backup center for the mid-level and we wasted a lottery pick. The Warriors, only when not destroying the rest of the league playing small, made a big-man rotation out of two guys on the minimum and we just wasted a lottery pick. Who even cares if he's good? He physically can't play with Hassan Whiteside, who we've banked $98 million dollars on. -- Henry, Miami.
Q: We have one first-round draft pick for three years and we waste it on a younger and worse Bismack Biyombo? -- Nico, Charlotte.
Q: Can you make sense of this pick for us? I'm struggling to understand it considering the direction the league is heading. -- Michael.
Q: With Adebayo at 242 pounds and 6 foot 9 and just 19, Whiteside Bam and Justise Winslow would be tough to deal with on defense. -- Willy.
Q: Adebayo reminds me of Serge Ibaka. -- Lee.
A: The opinions certainly were strong with the Heat's Thursday selection, so perhaps it's best to start with the reality of drafting at No. 14. For every Kawhi Leonard, most players selected in the teens tend to be career supporting players. That well could be what the Heat wind up with. As for the direction of the game, I agree that is what made it a curious selection. But that also is where the Heat development program enters the equation, that perhaps they can envision Ibaka-like potential. And, yes, there is the defensive, Heat-like element to the equation. When I spoke to one NBA insider prior to the draft, as I wrote in my story on the draft's power players, there is a thought that the best way to beat teams like the Warriors is to offer a dramatic contrast in styles. There hardly could be more of a dramatic contrast then muscling up with Adebayo and Whiteside. Again, if this move was made at the top of the lottery, or even in the first 10 selections, there certainly were alternatives that would have raised eyebrows. But we're talking No. 14 here.
Q: How you feel now about your no-tank season? The Heat could have used a decent draft pick this offseason to acquire a star. -- Joel.
A: I'm not going to lie, after you saw what the No. 1 pick fetched for the Celtics and then the ensuing frenzy for teams to trade up to No. 3 or at least somewhere into the draft's top 10. But even with tank-a-mania, I'm not sure the Heat, with Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, could have consistently played down to the level of the Nets or Suns or 76ers or Magic or Lakers to have positioned themselves in a draft slot that would have been coveted. That likely would have meant trading Dion Waiters and James Johnson at or before the trading deadline, which would have compromised what could possibly come next for the team.
Q: What does the lowering of the cap do to the Heat? -- Taylor.
A: It makes the margin of error that much trickier when it comes to free agency, especially if they ultimately opt for a $30 million prime free agent. In that case, it becomes an effort of how to potentially create more cap space to round out the roster, whether that means a stretch-provision waiving of Josh McRoberts or a trade of an asset such as Tyler Johnson. If it becomes a matter of simply trying to satisfy the needs of James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Willie Reed and Wayne Ellington, then I think it will be easier to work around the $2 million lower cap projection, perhaps by getting slight salary concessions for all involved. It's when the Heat looks to outside help that it could get more complex with the 2017-18 cap at a projected $99 million, instead of the expected $101 million.
June 22, 2017
Q: Ira, can you see the Heat trading someone if Donovan Mitchell or Zach Collins isn't available at No. 14? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
A: First, I'm can’t be totally sure of who the Heat are targeting, so it would be foolish here to say those are the only names that could trigger a deal. What I can say is that if the Heat have a player they had targeted who they believe can be a game-changer for the franchise, then I believe there will be ample opportunity to trade up to a more favorable position (should they prove to have the needed assets). Already loaded with youth and with a win-now coach in Tom Thibodeau, I believe the Timberwolves, at No. 7, would be willing to step aside if properly enticed. From there, Sacramento's No. 10 pick certainly could be in play, especially if they snag their needed point guard at No. 5. From there, Stan Van Gundy has made it clear that his team needs a veteran boost, so Detroit's No. 12 assuredly can be had. With all of this, it's a question at what price and how strong the desire and commitment to a targeted player. The contrasting view would be that if the Heat bring back James Johnson and Dion Waiters, would there even be a rotation spot available for a first-round pick, when factoring in Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Waiters, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder and possibly Wayne Ellington (or even Josh McRoberts)?
Q: Do you think the best move for the Heat would be to ignore James Johnson and Dion Waiters and possibly implode the roster to shoot for a pair elite talents in the free agency period or via trades? -- Chadwick, Boynton Beach.
A: Not "ignore" but rather "slow play," so the Heat can see what else might be doable, while leaving open the option for picking up where they left off with their 30-11 run during the second half of the season. It will be fascinating to align the rhetoric with the actions when the Heat are visiting with prime free agents such as Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap, while also stressing a commitment to Johnson and Waiters. Then again, Johnson and Waiters likely will be doing the same while seeking offers larger than could be coming from the Heat. It's all part of the annual July dance.
Q: Any chance Miami looks into acquiring Lou Williams? -- Tom.
A: Rather than address Williams or any potential housecleaning by the Rockets, it's probably better to put it this way: just as the Heat can use cap space to sign free agents, that space can also be used to accommodate players that other teams make available in salary dumps. And that list could prove extensive, possibly, for example, with the Spurs looking to move Danny Green to create max cap space of their own. So when considering potential offseason acquisitions, don't limit that study merely to the free-agency list.
June 21, 2017
Q: The Lakers wanted a lottery pick for D'Angelo Russell. Why wouldn't the Heat take Russell? He's better than anything we would get at No. 14. I mean this is the former second pick of the draft. He's 21, can shoot and score. He's better than Dion Waiters, with much more upside and much cheaper on his rookie scale. I'm not sure I understand. -- Kirk.
A: Because there was far more to the deal with the Nets than merely securing the Nets' No. 27 pick. It was about getting a large contract with only one year left (Brook Lopez) in exchange for the hideous contract of Timofey Mozgov that runs through 2019-20, when it calls for a $16.7 million payout. I can't fathom, even at securing Russell at the cost of No. 14, the Heat would have been willing to take on that monstrosity. The Heat simply did not have the mechanism of Lopez's $21.2 million expiring contract to throw into such a deal, their expiring contracts basically limited to Josh McRoberts' $6 million and Wayne Ellington's $6.3 million. The math didn't work.
Q: At $23.8 million it's not a surprise that Dwyane Wade opted back in. The Bulls then can buy him out later and then he can go to Cavs to join LeBron James for playoffs. -- David.
A: It will be interesting to see how it plays out with the Bulls. First we have to see what type of roster the Bulls field and whether Chicago can remain in playoff contention, in which case Dwyane isn't going anywhere. Even if the Bulls falter, it would be prudent to hold on to his contract until the trading deadline, in case a team might be willing to part with prospects for an expiring contract. But it will get interesting if there is a buyout and if the Heat and Cavaliers are both in playoff contention.
Q: Any chance that Goran Dragic, No. 14 and Tyler Johnson could get us No. 5 for De'Aaron Fox. This guy is a star, Ira. I just know that when we look back on this draft, people will say he should have been a lock for No. 1. -- Christian, Miami.
A: I can't fathom a rebuilding Kings team would want to trade for a 31-year-old point guard and a problematic contract (even with Tyler Johnson being from Northern California). Now, if you're asking whether I would do it? Sure. But there's a lot of trades that can't or won't happen that I would do.
June 20, 2017
Q: How does the Celtics-76ers trade affect the Heat? Reportedly, the Heat and Celtics are the two teams most likely to go after Gordon Hayward. Does this move make the Celtics more likely to go for him, or less likely? How else do you see this trade affecting the Heat? -- David.
A: It all depends if there is a Part B for Boston. Should the Celtics add Jimmy Butler or Paul George for some of their assets, then it could convince Hayward of a far more likely path to the conference finals than alongside what the Heat might have to offer. But the Celtics have also been very good at zagging while some are zigging, as they did last year with Al Horford while so much of the focus was on Kevin Durant. So if Boston does land a veteran wing, perhaps they turn toward Blake Griffin in free agency, leaving the Hayward possibility to others.
Q: The trade market for Paul George will be limited since teams know he might leave as a free agent next year. Would you trade Goran Dragic for Paul George straight up? Their salaries are close enough. Would you throw in Justice Winslow to get it done? -- David.
A: First, I'm sure the Pacers would want more than a 31-year-old player for George, especially if the possibility to otherwise land Kevin Love is in play. Plus, if the Heat would make such a move, it would leave them barren at point guard, unless the position is addressed in the draft. Either way, that hardly would be a roster that would sway George from his Lakers intention. The Pacers' offers would have to be significantly limited for the Heat to get their foot in that door.
Q: I think one of the biggest reasons for the Warriors' success is that they have multiple guys who can shoot, pass, and get to the basket. With the Heat's current roster, they could have multiple guys who have those same strengths, especially if Justise Winslow can develop an outside shot. Goran Dragic, Justise, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Dion Waiters/James Johnson (should either or both return) can all score inside and pass, and they can mostly score consistently from outside. Add in some good defensive play, and this could still be a team that goes far, under a similar structure as the Warriors.
-- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: But there's a difference between having good players and great players in those roles, with this a league about premier talent. Bottom line is Stephen Curry is better than Dragic, Klay Thompson better than Waiters, Kevin Durant better than Winslow, Draymond Green better than James Johnson, with a case possibly to even be made about Shaun Livingston over Tyler Johnson. And beyond all of that, this is a team built around Hassan Whiteside, which demands a different approach. The Warriors win because they play to their strengths. The Heat are built from a different structure.
June 19, 2017
Q: Well, you've hinted at it for a while now: a disgruntled star becoming available. There is no question Paul George will be traded during this offseason, if not by Thursday's draft. He has said he wants to play for a contender yet he "prefers" the Lakers, a team far from championship contention (barring a LeBron James arrival). I believe there are a few teams he would sign an extension with outside of the Lakers. You know Pat Riley will make a call but won't make any moves without a commitment of an extension. What works in our favor is that the Pacers have no leverage. They'll take the best offer, which will be well below his actual value. Would Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, and Josh McRoberts' expiring contract be a good offer? This is a great draft and would stink to trade out of it. Ideally, it would be preferable to keep no. 14, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, considering our lack of future picks. -- Jarrod, Miami.
A: First, I doubt Paul would at this stage commit to an extension with any team, considering his preference for the Lakers. So any consideration of a trade for George has to be done in the vacuum of an extension, with the hope of showing over the coming season that there is a world beyond the Lakers. Because of that there are three components that would make a deal for George worthwhile for any team: 1. The opportunity to go for a championship in 2017-18 (perhaps the Cavaliers scenario). 2. The confidence/arrogance of eventually signing him to an extension regardless of his Lakers affinity (this certainly could be where the ego of the Knicks, Clippers or even Heat could come into play). 3. Trading pieces that would no impact the long-term mission of the acquiring team if it proves to be only a rental. That's where a Heat package centering around Tyler Johnson could make sense, if only because of the ability to offload the back-loaded final two seasons of that contract. But that also would saddle the Pacers with that cap hit. So, yes, I would offer Johnson, Ellington and McRoberts. Then the Pacers would decline. So the question then becomes whether you would be willing to sweeten such an offer with Winslow.
Q: With the Lakers desperate for cap space for Paul George and the Celtics previously willing to send six picks for Justise Winslow, what are your thoughts on the Heat trading Winslow and the No. 14th pick to move up for Josh Jackson or Jason Tatum? -- Brian, Boca Raton.
A: I would find it shocking if the Heat did not re-engage the Celtics when it comes to Winslow, if only because of the trove of picks now belonging to Boston. But it has become somewhat obvious that the Celtics are thinking bigger, perhaps a trade for Jimmy Butler, certainly a free-agency offer for Gordon Hayward, as they look for the type of scoring that Winslow does not appear ready to offer. And as much as the Lakers covet George, it will not come at a cost of trading out of No. 2.
Q: Does Boston's trade with Philly make it more likely that Gordon Hayward joins the Heat? Boston would not pass on Markelle Fultz to draft another point guard at No. 3. Last year they drafted the talented Jaylen Brown whom everyone said was untradeable and a big part of their future. This leaves their choice of Josh Jackson or Jason Tatum who play the same position as Brown. I understand that you can't have enough wings, but Hayward would give them three wings. Boston either knows they are getting Blake Griffin and their cap is spent or that Hayward is coming to South Beach. -- Joe, Jupiter.
A: Or staying in Utah, which is a Hayward option that I believe many are underplaying. Personally, I believe the play for the Celtics is to add a pair of veterans this offseason, knowing they are loaded with draft picks going forward, with plenty of developmental players still on their roster, including Brown. In many ways, I think Boston's ongoing machinations could make it more likely they go all in for Hayward.
June 18, 2017
Q: Is any prospect aside from Zach Collins really that much better than Luke Babbitt? If it was about hitting the 3-pointer, we can stay status quo. -- Juan.
A: And the Heat could well do that, considering they hold Babbitt's Bird Rights and would only have to set aside a $1.5 million cap hold to revisit the Babbitt option after utilizing their cap space. But the draft is when you also take a forward-thinking approach, and I'm not sure that anyone has Babbitt down as the Heat's power forward of the future. You could make an argument at several positions that the Heat would be set through free agency, including at shooting guard if Dion Waiters is retained. Or, for that matter, at either forward slot if James Johnson can be brought back. I know this sounds trite, but when picking at No. 14, you select the best player and work from there, hoping someone you projected higher falls. If that doesn't happen, the best option might be to take someone with all-or-nothing upside, be it Harry Giles with his knee issues or the unknown with a prospect such as Terrance Ferguson. No matter who the Heat draft, it is possible that the entire starting lineup, and perhaps even the entire base eight-man rotation, will be returning players.
Q: Justise Winslow's shooting percentage would indicate a player who struggled offensively last season. While it's hard to argue against statistics, I recall being surprised by his ability to create space. He had open shots and layups, but he wasn't converting them. It actually seemed like he was pressing, trying to prove that he was the franchise's next star (his comments at the time seem to confirm that was his mindset). Besides that, perhaps he was injured while playing. Assuming he stays with the Heat, I think people will be surprised by his offense next season. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: The question is whether there is enough athleticism to score at NBA wing requirements. Justise is skilled, but sometimes I believe that gets mistaken for athleticism (Michael Beasley was the same way). I believe if you get too caught up with Justise's offense you're missing too many of his possibilities. If he can facilitate, rebound and defend, he will have a long and prosperous NBA career. It just might not be as a starter. And it might not be as a wing.
Q: It appears Chicago may deal Jimmy Butler to Boston for a bunch of draft picks. Do you think even this would cause Dwyane Wade to opt out of his player option? -- Brian.
A: I doubt, at this stage, anything would cause Dwyane to opt out of $23.8 million for next season with Chicago, with likely less than half of that available elsewhere. And at that salary, forcing a trade might even be difficult. But I do believe Dwyane would be miserable with the Bulls if Butler left.
June 17, 2017
Q: With a deep draft this year, the lack of picks in the next few drafts and the Warriors displaying the importance of retaining drafted players through Bird Rights, would the Heat be foolish to not buy/trade their way into at least one more additional draft pick this year? -- Chadwick.
A: I'm not sure the Heat have the assets to trade for a pick, considering the very point you raise, that they don't have many picks going forward, including no second-round pick at their disposal until 2022. But what the Heat do have is $3.1 million to spend on a trade by June 30, an allowance that then is extinguished. Last year, $2.4 million enabled the Warriors to purchase the No. 38 pick from Milwaukee, which they then used on Finals contributor Patrick McCaw. Look, it's easy to spend someone else's money, but it certainly would seem like money well spent, considering the Heat were able to land someone like Josh Richardson at No. 40 in 2015. With all this franchise has been through regarding the luxury tax in recent years, it would seem like cash well spent on Thursday night. But, again, easy to say when it's not my money.
Q: Do you think the Heat could snag the Nets pick (No. 22) for Tyler Johnson and cash? There's are some compelling players that could be available in that range, including Semi Ojeleye, D.J. Wilson, Terrance Ferguson. Wouldn't this be a better strategy than buying into the second round, since we can get out from Tyler's massive increase and grab a talented player? -- Myles.
A: First, there are several rules and timing elements in play with Tyler, especially when it comes to the Nets, due to last summer's restricted free agency, so it would have to be Brooklyn first drafting for the Heat and then completing a deal later. But the real question is what means more for the Heat: cap space or Tyler Johnson's contribution? Yes, the cap hit will be onerous going forward, but would the talent added at No. 22 offset that, even if the Nets were willing to partner?
Q: Can you see any way the Pacers trade Paul George on draft night? -- Juan.
A: Absolutely. It is one thing for both the Pacers and Paul to say they are not thinking that way. But this is essentially last call (save, perhaps, for next season's trading deadline) for Indiana to control George's situation before he heads into free agency in the 2018 offseason. As for Paul, it also is understandable to downplay the possibilities with the Cavaliers, since that could put him in a tough spot if he ultimately insists on bolting for the Lakers in 2018. For all the denials, it will be difficult not to keep an eye on Paul George and Jimmy Butler on draft night, with each of their teams having reason to potentially move sooner rather than later. As for the Heat's ability to get involved, it would appear that the Pacers could get better forward-thinking assets (young players, draft picks) elsewhere.
June 16, 2017
Q: The scuttlebutt around the league is that after next season, LeBron James is likely to depart Cleveland. The interesting part is the speculation that the two possible destinations are either to the Lakers or back to Miami. It seems likely Dwyane Wade will be back by then in a late-career Ray Allen kind of role. How realistic is LeBron's return? And how much should that possibility be factored into the team's moves this summer? (Most permutations of this summer's moves leave the team capped-out next year). -- David, Plantation.
A: I wouldn't put much stock into any "scuttlebutt" a year out when it comes to free agency, LeBron or the Cavaliers. There still is way too much in play, including what the Cavaliers might do in the interim to appease LeBron. Because if Paul George is convinced to accept a trade to the Cavaliers, then there clearly would have to be some type of longer-term assurances from LeBron. And at this point, I think LeBron might be willing to put aside any relocation options in order to have George alongside. As for the Heat, the lesson from both LeBron's arrival and departure is to not dismiss any possibilities. But after the way Riley was treated during LeBron's departure, there is no way he puts anything on hold because of the longest and most unlikely of return possibilities. Besides, if there becomes even an iota of a chance, it’s not as if Riley couldn't sell off contracts, as needed. Still, it's not as if this is a Plan B or C or even Z. Of all of Riley's permutations for Heat possibilities, none at the moment include a LeBron No. 6 jersey being part of anything other than an eventual rise to the AmericanAirlines Arena roster.
Q: Is Justise Winslow the anti-Michael Beasley? Pat Riley drafted Justice Winslow over Devin Booker, opting for defense/rebounding/maturity over a polished offensive player following the Beasley experience. Do you think Riley will now turn back to offense or will he select another Winslow-like player? -- David.
A: What I don't believe would happen is drafting a perimeter defender at the cost of offense. Those days have left the building in the NBA. And by the way the draft is shaping up, with Luke Kennard rising on so many boards, it has become clear that shooting these days trumps just about all. Still, the way Riley has stood by Justise, particularly at his season-ending media session, the Heat very much will try to make this work, and make sure it doesn't turn into another Beasley-type situation.
Q: Would a trade package of Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts' expiring contract put us in the conversation for Paul George? -- Greg, Miami.
A: Yes, but not if Cleveland enters the equation with Kevin Love. And even then, the Heat might have to throw in the player selected at No. 14 in the draft.
June 15, 2017
Q: I know it's against the Pat Riley philosophy, but would taking one of Portland's bad big contracts of either Allen Crabbe or Evan Turner or perhaps a package of a couple of smaller contracts like Meyers Leonard, Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu be worth it if we can take all three of their first-round draft picks this year? -- Chris Miami
A: That all comes down to which you value more: prospects or cap space? The constant during the Riley reign has been about veteran talent. With Portland selecting at Nos. 15, 20 and 26, I doubt the Heat would go out of their way to accommodate such an acquisition at the loss of cap space. As it is, the greater question might whether the Heat might not themselves utilize the draft pick as a means of shedding cap space, to be packaged with perhaps Josh McRoberts or Tyler Johnson.
Q: The sleeper of the draft is Semi Ojeleye. He's strong, explosive. He's got the size. He has the tools to be a great defender. He's shown some playmaking ability and he can shoot it. This could be the next Draymond Green. I can't believe he isn't projected higher. Ira, what would it take to grab the late first-round pick (No. 25-30) to grab this kid? Is Tyler Johnson or Wayne Ellington worth a first rounder? -- Greg.
A: I have him at No. 21 in my mock draft, so I'm not sure he would last long enough to be able to buy into his range. I doubt Ellington could get you, without cash being added, a first rounder. I think if the Heat buy in, it will be into the second round, with the $3 million they still have to spend in a trade for this cap year.
Q: I appreciate the NBA market being inflated, but could James Johnson really score a contract for $15 million or more this offseason? He was one of my favorite players to watch this past season, but it was the first time he's shown any sort of consistency in his career. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: And that will be part of the fine line the Heat will have to walk to James and Dion Waiters (and perhaps even Willie Reed), as far as allowing the market to set the parameters, while also not coming off as being indifferent during the early stages of free agency. Again, it only takes one team to set the market, but the Heat's hope has to be that continuity would matter to Johnson, Waiters or Reed (as the Heat all the while explores other options). Again, their cap situation would apparently preclude the possibility, but James Johnson would sure seem like a good fit to bolster the Cavaliers (handling when LeBron is out, defending perhaps even when LeBron is in).
June 14, 2017
Q: So LeBron James is saying he never played on a "super team" after playing on the Heat with three Hall of Famers? That's a slap in the face of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen. -- Juan.
A: To refresh, when asked after Monday's NBA Finals loss to the Warriors, LeBron was asked about "super teams" and replied, "I don't believe I've played for a super team." That came after praising Golden State to the hilt. First, players probably are not best positioned to reflect on legacy teams just minutes after their season comes to an end. So there probably should be a degree of getting a pass in that respect. But LeBron also is one who has been quick to take stock of such matters. While the three former Heat championship teammates you mentioned might not have been at the peak of their careers in Miami, they still afforded him as good a support system as any in the NBA. Put it this way, while Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are assuredly headed to Springfield, can we, at this moment, be as sold on Hall of Fame credential for Klay Thompson or Draymond Green? Chris Bosh sacrificed a ton for the Heat. Ray Allen put up with a ton, like Durant, for his if-you-can’t-beat-'em-join-'em move to the Heat. That 2012-13 Heat championship team in many ways as a super as it has gotten in the NBA in years.
Q: Hello, Ira. I enjoy following your "Ask Ira's", though I think you're a bit snarky when it comes to Dion Waiters. I hear you when it comes to three shooting guards of the caliber (and cost) of Don Waiters, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson, but that problem largely disappears if you play Richardson at small forward. I think we all appreciated the role played by Rodney McGruder, but a healthy Richardson would shoot the three and defend better than McGruder. As for your latest, I think you’re dead wrong suggesting that Dion's position on a discount is like James Johnson's. The latter is 30 years old and looking for that last big contract. Dion, who wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Miami, is still a youngster at 25. He's got plenty of time to capitalize on his talents. If I were Pat Riley, I'd offer Dion $10 million with an option at $11. My guess is that he’d take it in a nanosecond, which would leave enough money on the table to bring most everybody back (unless James Johnson cost $15). Holding that team together seems like the smart move to me. When Dion was playing, the Heat were one of the best teams in the NBA. I know you're thinking about how many games he missed due to injury, but I think, or at least hope, they were "one off" injuries. He’s built like a brick [bad word] house and he's never had physical problems before. -- Ray, New York.
A: At a $10 million starting point, I would figure it would be a done deal -- unless Riley is able to lure one of the biggest fish in free agency. But I'm not sold that last season's final roster plus a first-round pick and mid-level exception is enough to get to the East finals. But if your "nanosecond" reasoning is on point, and a two-year deal is acceptable to Dion, then I very well could see starting free agency there, especially with the lack of shooting guards on this summer's market.
Q: How come the Heat are cap-strapped to be able to re-sign Waiters, Johnson and Willie Reed, but we have teams in the NBA going over the cap? Is it an issue with Micky Arison not wanting to pay the luxury tax? -- S.M.
A: No, it's a matter of Bird Rights, which allow you to go over the cap, and potentially into the tax, for such re-signings. If those players had been with the Heat or under their previous contract for three years, then the Heat would have such flexibility. Until then, they must be paid out of available cap space or with minimal cap exceptions. So if Waiters, James Johnson and Willie Reed were willing to bide their time for two more years, then they Heat could pay them, too, into the stratosphere. Common sense, however, dictates otherwise for each.
June 13, 2017
Q: Rudy Gay is now a free agent. Don't you think he would be a better move as far as keeping our depth and having better value than Gordon Hayward? Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Rudy Gay, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside would be a very good starting five who can all shoot and defend and create shots for each other. -- Denier, Miami.
A: First, with $37 million in cap space, I'm not sure there necessarily would be enough left over for Rudy Gay after re-signing, in your paradigm, James Johnson and Dion Waiters. And that would almost assuredly mean casting aside the 3-point shooting of Wayne Ellington. And beyond Whiteside and Dragic, you are basically filling out a roster with journeymen, while leaving yourself capped out for years to come. I'm just not sure there is enough perimeter firepower in such a lineup beyond Dragic. At this stage of his career, is Rudy Gay that much of an upgrade on Josh Richardson, let alone the minutes it would take from Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder? I guess with Gay it could come down to how much of a salary sacrifice he would be willing to take. Because, yes, at the right price point, he could make the Heat better.
Q: I propose the following trade: The Heat acquire Paul George from the Pacers, sending Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington and the selection at No. 14 or Josh Richardson to the Pacers. Obviously the teams would have to work something out, so that Tyler could be traded when he's eligible and the Heat would have to select for the Pacers at No. 14. That way, the Heat would still have a lot of money to play with after the trade. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: A few factors would be in play with any Paul George trade. 1. First, would it be enough to sate the Pacers, amid their hope of eventually retaining him? 2. With only one year left on his contract, would George simply bolt for the Lakers in 2018 free agency, leaving no return on the assets dealt? 3. Would the Heat eventually be willing to offer the maximum salary it would require to keep George, a contract that would pay him through his 34th birthday? In order: While such a package lacks the type of star power the Pacers could receive elsewhere (Kevin Love?), it at least restocks their talent pool. It certainly would be intriguing to see if Showtime Pat Riley could keep George from Showtime Magic Johnson. But if George is not elite, the eventual contract requirement could set the Heat back at a time when Whiteside's next contract could come due.
Q: I'm glad to see the Gordon Hayward talk quieting down. Spending $30 million on that is not a wise investment. It would create the same problem as the Chris Bosh contract. -- Walter.
A: Again, don't get too caught up in the number, because that is the new price of business in today's NBA, just as it was when the Heat re-signed Bosh after LeBron James' departure. Instead, look at it this way: In two years, the Heat will be paying Tyler Johnson $19 million for consecutive seasons. Is Gordon Hayward 50 percent better than Tyler Johnson? If the answer is yes, then the new math works.
June 12, 2017
Q: If we sign Dion Waiters for $12 million-plus a year and next season Josh Richardson gets $10 million a year on his extension, and the Tyler Johnson contract jumps to a $19 million, that's roughly $40 million for three shooting guards with zero combined All-Star appearances. That is way too much. The logjam could be a hindrance to their development, too. Pat Riley has to decide who is best for us moving forward. Who has the most potential? I think it's definitely Richardson. He could be an All-NBA defender and a lights-out shooter at the very least. -- Steve.
A: Which is why I've been wondering how far the Heat would go with Dion, considering the best player available at No. 14 could possibly be a shooting guard, as well (Donovan Mitchell, Luke Kennard, Terrance Ferguson). I guess part of the equation is whether you believe Tyler Johnson or Josh Richardson could be a point guard going forward. Of those two, I would probably lean toward Richardson in that respect. I'm not sure Josh does as well as you project on his extension, and it is possible that he instead reaches free agency, where the market will determine his value. But your overall point is cogent and again gets back to the Tyler Johnson contract. I wouldn't overstate the two $19 million seasons on Tyler's contract, because Dion could possibly come close to the $12.5 million average on Tyler's contract. And it's not necessarily who is the better player, but rather which is the better fit. That's where it would have been beneficial to see Dion over a greater sample size of games, especially under playoff pressure. Overpaying for Tyler Johnson is something you can work around in today's NBA. Overpaying for both Tyler and Dion could be where you get into trouble.
Q: Should the Heat fail to attract two elite free-agents and all the cap-clearing purges that would come from such a move, should/will the Heat offer Dion Waiters (if he should be willing) a two-year deal to acquire Bird Rights over him? -- Gabriel, Miami.
A: Based on the fact that Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic both have opt-outs for 2019-20, the perfect world for the Heat would be to go beyond that stage with as few contracts as possible, to allow for a potential roster reset. But considering Dion turned down a lucrative two-year deal elsewhere last summer, I doubt he is even considering a short contract. And with James Johnson aware that this could be his final shot at a major payoff, I doubt he is thinking short term, either. Again, that's where missing the playoffs hurt so much this past season -- not being able to take measure of Waiters or James Johnson in the moments that matter the most. If anything, I could see the Heat try to create three-year packages with perhaps some sort of partial guarantees or trigger milestones for the third season (games played, stats reached, etc.). Whether that is palatable to the players is another story.
Q: I don't think the Heat really want Gordon Hayward. I think they will make teams think they want Haywood in order to make some team overpay. -- Stuart.
A: There is no need for such pretense. Some team will undoubtedly overpay for Hayward. And for Paul Millsap. And for Kyle Lowry. It's what today's NBA does.
June 11, 2017
Q: Leave the whales for next year. Gear up this team to compete this year. If it doesn't pan out, Whale hunt next year. -- Skip.
A: Except, unless Tyler Johnson is dealt either now or later, that can't be the case, which is why this summer most likely has to be the offseason of decision. To refresh: Because of how Tyler Johnson's contract was structured with his offer sheet last July from the Nets, his salary on the Heat's 2017-18 cap is $5.9 million, but it goes up to $19.2 million for the 2018-19 cap year (as well as the following cap year). That's a net difference of more than $13 million in cap space. Plus, the contracts of Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic each have at least two more seasons to run, so it's not as if the cap softens up elsewhere. Beyond that, if the Heat re-sign Dion Waiters or James Johnson, or sign any outside free agents of note, those contracts will assuredly be for more than one season, further clogging the cap. So there essentially are two options: 1. Plan to move forward with Tyler Johnson and re-set the future this summer. 2. Move patiently this summer, with plans at some point of shedding Tyler's contract. As odd as it may sound, Tyler Johnson holds the key to the Heat's future.
Q: Once upon a time the Warriors were drafted. Let's be patient. Pat Riley is going to have to wait. -- Marcus, Washington.
A: Only they can't (sorry to be Mr. Pragmatic today). The Heat most likely will be without their first-round pick next year, with that pick due to the Suns as part of the 2015 Dragic trade (protected for the top seven, otherwise unprotected to Phoenix in 2019), as well as without their 2021 pick due to that trade. So that leaves precious little margin for drafting error, without first round picks in two of the next five years (and no second-round picks over that span). The Heat approach rarely has been predicated on draft picks, with that direction (or lack thereof) practically dictated by the Dragic trade.
Q: I want to see Michael Beasley back where he belongs with the Heat. He's another year more mature and he can fill in as the starting (stretch) power forward. -- Sirron, Guam.
A: Presented for old time's sake. (And, yes, Super Cool Bease will be a free agent this summer.)
June 10, 2017
Q: Ira, I think you're being a bit short-sighted by neglecting to mention that the Heat can sign a max-level player (Gordon Hayward) and still have money for another good player by trading Tyler Johnson, Josh McRoberts and maybe even Justise Winslow. That would leave you with about $19 million. If you can convince a player to take $2 million less (Hayward at $29 million), that leaves you $21 million. Serge Ibaka? Paul Millsap? Zach Randolph and Dion Waiters? It's difficult, but not impossible. -- Gabriel, Miami.
A: Yes, if you were to sign Hayward at about $30 million, then you could create, with the moves you described, upwards of another $23 million in cap space. But let's start here: The Heat were unable to give away McRoberts' contract last summer, before he missed more than half a season, so offloading him is no cinch. And if you do try to sweeten a McRoberts deal, do you really want to give up a player on a reasonable rookie scale contract such as Winslow? Yes, I could see the Heat and Pat Riley moving for a top-tier free agent. That's who they are and who he is. But to double down would mean no Dion Waiters, no James Johnson, no Wayne Ellington, no Willie Reed, and, with your example, no Tyler Johnson or Winslow. Still, if we must finish off your exercise, I would guess that would leave you with something along the lines of Hassan Whiteside at center, Serge Ibaka at power forward, Gordon Hayward at small forward, Goran Dragic at point guard and perhaps the No. 14 pick in this year's draft at shooting guard (or Josh Richardson). Good enough to contend for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals? Possibly. But no margin for error when it comes to depth.
Q: If a Jazz core of George Hill, Gordon Hayward, and Rudy Gobert can finish as the No. 5 seed in the West, then a core of Goran Dragic, Hayward, and Hassan Whiteside could easily contend in the East. I would take Dragic over Hill any day, and Whiteside/Gobert is a tossup, though I think Hassan is better offensively. Add in some untapped potential in Justise Winslow, and perhaps Josh and Tyler, plus a draft pick, and that's a pretty scary team. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: Which is why I believe Pat Riley very much is still fishing for "whales." It's what he does. That said, Riley also has spoken of the risks of getting caught with huge contracts. Still, he's heavily invested in Whiteside and Dragic for at least two more seasons, so it's not as if a huge four-year deal for Hayward or another elite free agent would necessarily complicate the short-term approach.
Q: Ira maybe I'm on an island with this but I'm not really sold on Gordon Hayward. I realize Hayward was an All-Star this year, but seeing how the Jazz beat some of the elite teams without him and how he struggled against the Warriors in playoffs, I don't think he's a guy you pay a big contract to hoping he leads you to the promised land. I think Miami needs to really focus on bringing back Dion Waiters and James Johnson. -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
A: To me, it's all about getting a value contract. That's what the Heat did with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh when those three first came together. That, you could even argue, is what they did with Bosh on Bosh's second contract (in light of the inflated contracts since) and certainly was the case with Dragic's contract. To this point, the greatest risk has been on Whiteside's deal in this age of ever-shrinking lineup. So is a $30 million starting point for a Hayward all that unreasonable when Whiteside will be topping out at $27 million (well, of course it's unreasonable, but that's just where we are in today's NBA, and you either play by those parameters or can't play)?
June 9, 2017
Q: I was watching an old Pay Riley-coached Knicks-vs.-Michael Jordan Bulls game recently and it was pretty amazing to see Riley's intensity on the bench. Seeing it, I don't see him waiting for the Cavs/Warriors reign to end. He won't back down from any challenge. I think he is all in this summer and he is going after two stars -- even if it means trading our untouchables to do it. How do you see things? -- C.C., Key Biscayne.
A: I'm not sure about getting two stars, because the price points this offseason might make that impossible, and might not deliver value. But to your greater point, it is a bit absurd that we're getting all this talk of teams simply capitulating to ongoing Golden State dominance. When the going gets tough . . . you quit? I guarantee you that's not the Riley approach. Even as the Warriors stand one victory from sweeping through these playoffs, all it takes in the NBA is one injury at the right time (or wrong time, if it involves your team) to change everything. So what if next time around Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry are banged up? What if Zaza Pachulia lands on one of those two ankles instead of Kawhi Leonard's ankle? To simply write off the possibilities of a season is absurd, especially when you're in the opposite conference. Sometimes are it takes is a puncher's chance, like the haymaker the Mavericks landed on the Heat in 2010.
Q: The East should be wide open next season and Heat should be right in the thick of things. Thoughts? -- Douglas.
A: Look, it's not as if the Cavaliers still aren't in their own class in the East. But if it does end ugly, with a sweep, and losses in two of the past three Finals to the Warriors, then Cleveland well could shake it up. And amid that readjustment, there could be an opening for a challenge, especially if the Warriors return intact and the Cavaliers return with a why-bother attitude. But that doesn't mean that the Bucks or Wizards, or No. 1 pick-bolstered Celtics wouldn't be there to pounce (the Raptors could be another story if Kyle Lowry moves on in free agency). The best thing to happen to the other teams in the East could be the Warriors.
Q: One more question about Josh Mc Roberts being of any value to this team, and I will re-grow all the hair I have pulled out waiting for him to offer any kind of contribution to this team. Let's just accept the fact that he was a bust for the Heat and move on. -- J.T., Miami.
A: But this has become more about cap space than necessarily the player. So if an extra $4 million to spend this offseason can be definitely utilized on a roster upgrade, then I would have to believe that the "stretch provision" would be utilized to waive Josh. However, if the Heat are without a backup center should Willie Reed leave, then the Heat will have to decide whether McRoberts, at a cost $4 million above stretching him, would be a better value. The Heat appeared intent on going into last season with McRoberts getting minutes behind Hassan Whiteside. Now we wait to see if there truly was a commitment in that direction.
June 8, 2017
Q: Rumor has it the 76ers trying to trade the third pick in the draft. Do you see the Heat exploring the idea of trading the No. 14 pick and a player(s), possibly Justise Winslow, to move up in the draft? -- Matt.
A: Not if you take Pat Riley at face value, when he spoke after the season of not regretting his team's playoff push because the leading draft candidates were point guards. So, to that end, it's not as if the Heat would be trading up for De'Aaron Fox or Dennis Smith, with Goran Dragic still under contract. Of course that doesn't mean there wouldn't be other intriguing prospects at No. 3, starting with Josh Jackson. But remember that the Heat have limited chips to put into play, so I'm not sure that pairing Winslow and No. 14 would be the move for a team that has dealt away two of its next four first-round picks. And yet, all of that said, Riley has a way of saying something and then explaining how circumstances change. So it's better probably to look at it from the 76ers' perspective, and whether they would get more elsewhere if they were to move out of No. 3. And they probably could.
Q: On one hand, we're so desperate for young talent that we kind of have to take best player available regardless of fit. On the other hand, if we draft a center we're essentially throwing the pick away because we have Hassan Whiteside. Would you rather take best player available even if it's a center who's best-case scenario would be get used as trade bait or take a player who might fit better? -- Nico, Charlotte.
A: Unless the center prospect is an overwhelmingly better selection than the next best option, I still believe there are enough gaps that you'd have to consider other positions. Under your scenario, I'm not sure how you then would showcase a prospect as a potential trade chip if you were featuring Whiteside 38 minutes a night. What you would like to find is some type of insurance in case James Johnson, Dion Waiters or even Wayne Ellington can't be retained in free agency due to salary-cap constraints.
Q: With the changes to the CBA that allow teams to keep their top players by hugely overpaying them over what an outside team can offer, while initially making it easier to keep your top talent which is a good thing, would it not create a situation in which a franchise is salary capped out and dead if that player's performance dramatically drops or he becomes injury prone as those contracts will be impossible to trade? There has got to be a mechanism in place for teams to drop bad contracts. -- Peter, Miami.
A: The mechanism is foresight and forethought, which is why during last summer's free agency Pat Riley said teams would live to regret certain contract offers and why he has downplayed pursuing "whales" this offseason, when the result well could be overvalued contracts for many of the leading men in free agency. But you also can't avoid the process out of fear. If there is someone you like at the moment and see potential enduring success, then you pay that price. Even with the Chris Bosh contract, if not for the blood clots, an argument could have been made for that as a value contract.
June 7, 2017
Q: Will the Heat consider letting Dion Waiters walk and making Tyler Johnson the starting shooting guard? It would give Tyler the chance to continue expanding his game. I love his grit and tenacity. -- Eric, Boca Raton.
A: The Heat could wind up being in a position where their backup (Johnson) earns more than their starter (Waiters), depending how much of a multiplier Dion gets on his $3 million from this past season. Considering the chemistry Tyler Johnson had with James Johnson this past season (and, for that matter, the chemistry Waiters had with Goran Dragic), that just might be the cost of creating the best possible rotation. But after such a significant commitment to Tyler last summer, with that $50 million deal over four seasons after matching the Nets' offer sheet, some hard choices will have to come at shooting guard. I don't think you bypass Dion simply because you have Tyler, but you may have to play one of the two in Dragic's backup minutes in order to receive the needed return on such a dual investment. Of course, if the Heat move toward a guard at the draft, that could send other signals about the direction of their backcourt going forward.
Q: Ira, assuming Dion Waiters returns, do you think his comments about taking a little discount could influence James Johnson and Willie Reed to do the same? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.
A: No. First, I don't think there will be much in the way of a discount from Dion when you consider that most players believe they are worth more than others perceive, anyway. So Dion's idea of a discount could be what the Heat believe is market value in the first place. As for James Johnson, at 30, this could be last bite at the apple when it comes to a lucrative extended contract. Even with Willie, it is unlikely that any team can position him as well for free agency as the Heat did, so he, too, might well consider this time to strike for as large a deal as possible.
Q: Why does everyone label Kyrie Irving a superstar? Didn't he lead the James-less Cavs to three straight lottery picks? Please explain. -- Rob, Palm Beach.
A: Because we've run out of delineations at the top of the rating scale, which also is why Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap are positioned for max contracts this summer, even though few would have them as uber-elite in the NBA's pecking order. When it comes to the superstar label or max-salary delineation, you probably should stop somewhere around LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and perhaps Anthony Davis. Kyrie would fall somewhere in the next tier, of a player who needs another to lead him to a championship. And there's nothing wrong with that, either. It's just we're so quick to push everyone into the ultimate tier, which is probably why the Hall of Fame in so many sports has become diluted.
June 6, 2017
Q: Ira, you know who would work for the Cavaliers to help them avoid messes like this? James Johnson. Tell Pat Riley to watch out, LeBron James is coming for him. -- Michael.
A: Well, unless James Johnson is willing to play for exception money, the Cavaliers are capped to the hilt next season, already standing at $125 million against the cap. And because Johnson is an impending free agent, the Heat are not in position to dictate terms of a trade. But you do bring up an interesting possibility for what could help Cleveland, at least as far as offering versatility, another defensive wing and someone who could play a LeBron-like role (without having to be LeBron) for limited minutes. And Johnson showed this past season he could thrive in a reserve role, with the type of skill set to enter for either LeBron or Kevin Love. Considering how LeBron has shown a knack for getting what he wants (be it Love with Cleveland or Ray Allen with the Heat), perhaps the Heat should heighten their awareness of James striking again with another wish list.
Q: The Dion Waiters "discount" means that if team-X offers him $15 million a year, he'll take $14 million from the Heat. Don't expect him to accept $10 million. Let's be real. -- Manny.
A: Agree. But sometimes small amounts can make all the difference. What the Heat and Pat Riley have to do with Dion and James Johnson is appeal to the two that if they make a certain concession then the Heat also could get "Player X." That, of course, requires Riley to already have such a commitment from Player X. As with so many recent Heat offseasons, 2017 free agency will be about several moving pieces, with the Heat needing to be agile and nimble through the process.
Q: There's not a lot of talk about retaining Luke Babbitt, but when you look at his shooting percentage and his attitude, where else are you going to get that combination at that price? I say the Heat need to lock him up. What do you say? -- John, Boca Raton.
A: I don't know if they "need" to lock him up, but there certainly remains the chance that he yet could emerge again as a smartly priced option at power forward, at least to buy time if the approach is to have (re-signed) James Johnson coming off the bench. I think the Heat's approach in the draft will go a long way toward determining Luke's future with the team. Either, way, I'm not sure that an offer will be much in excess of the minimum salary or leftover cap space.
June 5, 2017
Q: A healthy Josh McRoberts is a great value for the team. I hate to see the team commit to keeping him to this point, only to lose him later. -- Juan.
A: That's where you have to get down to the math. If the Heat utilize the "stretch provision" on McRoberts, they could save $4 million in cap cash this summer by waiving him, while taking a $2 million cap hit for next season (and $2 million for each of the following two seasons). So the question is whether they then could find a backup center for less than the $4 million saved (Willie Reed likely will be offered more than that elsewhere), or whether McRoberts should be given another shot at the role the Heat forecast before last season. The difference is Josh was sidelined at the point last offseason, and for most of the offseason. So is he healthy now? Healthy-healthy? In that case, an argument could be made the one more season of McRoberts, and no lingering cap hits beyond, might be the best resolution. If. He. Can. Stay. Healthy. That, in many ways, is the $6 million question.
Q: In your opinion, are the Heat making the re-signing of Dion Waiters a high enough priority? I read a lot about not wanting to "overpay" him. That's reasonable. However, as I see it: (a) Waiters is an elite athlete with lots of additional upside, especially given that he's only 25 (the same age as Tyler Johnson and just two years older than Josh Richardson), (b) Goran Dragic is a much better player when alongside Waiters, and (c) In a market where the salary cap rises pretty consistently, a "big" contract today looks very moderate in two years. -- Bill.
A: Actually, the cap is about to flatten out, so a big contract today still will look like a big contract tomorrow. The compromise might be some sort of contract where the final year or years vest based on games played during previous seasons, a way of the Heat insuring themselves against a repeat of the injuries of this past season. Of course, Dion would be under no obligation to agree to such a partial guarantee if he could get equivalent, fully guaranteed dollars elsewhere. That's where we'll see how far Dion is willing to go to continue this relationship. As for your other points, I agree that the Dragic factor should not be understated.
Q: Hey Ira, I was wondering if you think the Heat should get Danilo Gallinari to fill the Luke Babbitt role for next season. Is this a possible move to make while still re-signing Dion Waiters and James Johnson? -- Joshua.
A: No. Again, the working number for the Heat is about $37 million in cap space with Josh McRoberts still on the roster. So you're not talking about being able to sign a $20 million-plus free agent such as Gallinari (and, yes, that is the market). After taking care of James Johnson and Dion Waiters (if that is to be the approach), then the Heat might not have much more to spend on the Luke Babbitt spot than perhaps Babbitt himself.
June 4, 2017
Q: Hey, Ira. Let's say an anonymous player is 21 years old while already a thick 6 feet 7, 225 pounds and likely still growing. He has a below-average jump shot and does not appear adept at creating his own shots. However, he's strong and scrappy around the basket, and will fight his way to victory with effort and basketball sense, and is an excellent defender on anyone from a small forward to a center. Wouldn't you assume I was referring to a developing power forward? So, why do we keep viewing Justise Winslow as a small forward despite the fact that he likely is on his way to being the type of power forward whose game would be perfectly complimented by splitting time with a scorer/shooter like James Johnson? -- Sean, Naples.
A: Two thoughts. First, it is quite likely that if James Johnson departs elsewhere in free agency that Justise very much could be the Heat's opening-night power forward next season. But second, and more significant, forget about positions, especially with position-less Erik Spoelstra. If Justise were to start alongside James Johnson, either could work their way into the post and either could defend the opposing small forward or power forward. The issue is that when you start a post-based center in Hassan Whiteside whether you can get the needed spacing without four other 3-point threats on the floor. That's why there has been so much focus on Justise's shooting. It's not that small forwards need to make 3-pointers in today's NBA, it's that there is a similar expectation of power forwards. That changes when you have an outside-shooting center, but I'm not sure Whiteside will get to that stage or whether you even would want him away from the basket. The question with Justise should come down to whether the Heat feel comfortable with him in their primary eight-man rotation. Then you can work the positional designations and rotations from there.
Q: I love that Udonis Haslem loves this team and wants to be back. But is there room for him? -- Paul.
A: It helps that the Heat will be able to have a pair of developmental prospects on two-way contracts, which eases the need for developmental roster spots among the primary 15. And considering your 14th and 15th men rarely play, it’s not as if you're sacrificing a rotation role. But if U.D. does make it back for another season, this time there is an increasing possibility of spending some game nights in a suit, potential as one of the two required inactive players when there otherwise are not injuries to the roster.
Q: I bet the Cavaliers wished they had Waiters instead or J.R. Smith -- Marc, Pembroke Pines.
A: If that's what LeBron James wanted, then the Cavaliers never would have dealt Dion. With J.R., they have a veteran who appreciates his place, which is getting out of the way of LeBron and Kyrie Irving. Waiters wasn't (and still might not be) at a time in his career where deferring was in his vernacular.
June 3, 2017
Q: It is bittersweet news about Chris Bosh but such a relief knowing this is behind us now in time for free agency. -- T.M.A.
A: To be honest, the bittersweet part with Chris was his frightening hospital stay in 2015 when his first blood clot traveled to his lung, and then at midseason in 2016 when he had a relapse. By the time he failed his preseason physical before this past season, there was a sense that his career already was at a crossroads. I think bittersweet nonetheless is the correct phrasing, because of this bitter blow to his career, but also the sweet spot he found himself in with his guaranteed contract and the access to top medical professionals. When you look back at it, it is remarkable what the Heat have been able to accomplish with Chris' salary hit remaining on the books until this latest agreement. As it is, this is the second time that Pat Riley's Heat have had to endure such a run amid such a sizeable cap hit, when you go back to Alonzo Mourning's kidney illness. If Chris can find a safe way back to the court, then all the better. And this agreement does not preclude such a possibility. With the Heat now with their cap relief, whether Chris returns or not should be of no concern beyond the possibility of a good man getting the opportunity to pursue a passion. And, yes, No. 1 will one day be waving in the rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Q: Couldn't Dion Waiters have bypassed his opt out and gotten to Bird Rights to help the Heat? -- Alan.
A: That only would have taken him to Early Bird Rights in 2018-19, which would have meant playing for his $3.2 million option this coming season and then about $8 million the following season. No, the only way for Dion to cash out and cover himself for injury, was to put the ball in the Heat's court when it comes to something at least triple his option-year salary. This is of far less impact to the Heat than Willie Reed opting out of his 2017-18 salary. The Heat knew this was coming from the moment Dion began having an impact on the team's fortunes, with Dion making it clear at season's end that he was heading to market.
Q: Ira, could the Heat trade Josh McRoberts and his one year remaining to a team with a player that might be able to contribute more for us but has multiple years left on his contract? -- Mike.
A: Absolutely, but doing so would reduce the Heat's amount of available cap space. If cap space is the priority, than the "stretch provision" and $4 million of immediate extra cap space might make the most sense. Of course, it also would be possible to trade Josh for a player who makes less, provided the acquiring team has cap space, which also would be a way of boosting the Heat's bottom line when it comes to space of their own. Then again, with Willie Reed opting out, there also might be a chance of simply riding out Josh as the backup center next season, therefore not having to replace Reed or his cap space.
June 2, 2017
Q: Ira, is Willie Reed overstating the importance of a backup center in today's NBA? Or does he believe he could start somewhere and wants starting money? -- Ted.
A: Willie's decision to opt out of the $1.6 million on his contract makes sense simply because of today's NBA economy, that even a backup center, with a $102 million salary-cap, should be able to muster something close to one of the three mid-level exception categories, which, at the least would double the figure that Willie is to bypass. But I'm also not sure the Heat necessarily will hold cap space or an exception aside for Willie. Instead, as was the case last summer, the Heat will spend on their primary core and then cycle back to fill in the cracks. With so many teams going small, I'm not sure that teams necessarily consider a backup center part of an eight-player core. As for Willie looking for a starting role? There is nothing wrong with a player seeking more. But I recall last summer a scout telling me that Willie was viewed as a third-string center, so I'm not sure that such a jump is foreseen by league executives. About the only way Willie could have assured himself a Heat roster spot next season was to take the $1.6 million option (which he still could backtrack and do). Otherwise, I'd say it might be less than 50-50 that he returns.
Q: What do you believe would be more important to the Heat in the draft: a player who could jump in and play right away, or a player with more long-term potential? I believe, with the Heat's development program, that they should go with potential, perhaps even if it's a shooting guard (not an area of need). -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: I go the other way, only because if you're going to develop a player and take time, then there are probably enough prospects beyond the draft to cultivate, as the Heat did with Tyler Johnson and others in their developmental program over the years. When you lack first-round picks in 2018 and 2021, because of the Goran Dragic trade with the Suns, you have to consider low-priced talent that also could fill rotation spots. All of that said, if there is a raw prospect who has breakout potential at No. 14, then go you all-in. But if we're talking about a prospect who "could" develop, that's another story.
Q: Ira, could there possibly be any market for Tyler Johnson? After reading your list of free agents and salary-cap analysis, it seems like the only way to land one or even two elite players seems to be by purging almost everyone short of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. -- Gabriel, Miami.
A: I'd put it this way, Tyler Johnson is by no means an untouchable. But I'd qualify that by adding I'm not sure anyone on this roster is, even including Whiteside and Dragic. That said, the only way an outside team jumps in for Tyler (and his trade bonus) is if they view him as a starter over the final three seasons of his contract. And at this stage, I'm not sure that even the Heat view him in that light.
June 1, 2017
Q: Correct me if I'm wrong here, but currently we have $37.6 million in cap space after Chris Bosh comes off the books, but we could add another $9.1 million if we renounce Udonis Haslem and Luke Babbitt (we could still re-sign them, just not with Bird Rights and likely for the minimum). Then we could bypass Wayne Ellington's team option which would add another $6.3 million. So, theoretically, we could have around $53 million in cap space this offseason. -- Michael, Melbourne, Australia.
A: OK, I'll correct you, since this and many other estimations have overstated the Heat's potential cap space. The Heat have about $37 million in cap space, based on the 2017-18 cap of $102 million, and that's already removing Haslem, Babbitt and Ellington from the equation (as well as impending free agents Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Willie Reed). You get to that figure, when only counting the 2017-18 salaries of Hassan Whiteside ($23.8M), Goran Dragic ($17M), Josh McRoberts ($6M), Tyler Johnson ($5.9), Justise Winslow ($2.7M), Josh Richardson ($1.4M) and Rodney McGruder ($1.3M), the player drafted at No. 14 ($2.5M), plus four "cap holds" to fill out a minimum 12-player roster. While Richardson and McGruder do not at the moment hold guaranteed contracts, their value at their 2017-18 salaries simply is too much to bypass. So that's not even counting Wayne Ellington's $6.3 million team option (which would reduce the cap space to about $31 million) or the $1.5 million cap hold for Luke Babbitt (which would take the cap-space figure below $30 million). And that's not even getting into Haslem. So when you're doing your cap math, you can work with about $37 million or $38 million in realistic Heat cap space, when starting with a returning core of Whiteside, Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Winslow, Richardson, McGruder, the incoming first-round pick and, yes, McRoberts. If you waive McRoberts through the "stretch provision," you can open with a working number of about $41 million or $42 million, max. Sorry.
Q: Not sure if you have already answered this question. But what do you think is more likely, the Heat trade up to get a player or are they more likely to stay with the pick they have now and hope someone they like will fall to them? -- Parker, Canyon, Texas.
A: I'm not sure they have the resources to move up, considering their lack of future draft choices. To move up, they would have to really, really like a player, because it could cost them someone like a Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder or Justise Winslow (the Heat, because you cannot trade impending free agents, do not have much in the way of players to offer, with Josh McRoberts or Okaro White about the only other possibilities, when you consider that the draft is not when you broach a Whiteside or Dragic deal, I don't think). So the question is whether the Heat will fall in love with a prospect over the next three weeks and simply have to have him.
Q: What are the Heat looking for in the 50 or so workouts of draft eligible players? Does a one-on-one workout really tell you anything pertinent to an actual NBA game with 10 players on the floor? -- Jack, Fort Myers.
A: To be honest, not really. But the Heat do like to measure a player's hunger, when it comes to fitting into their culture. And I believe those interviews, in a more relaxed setting than the speed dating at the Chicago combine, help. Often the most telling aspect is whether the Heat summon a player for a repeat workout closer to the draft. So if you see a draft prospect at 601 Biscayne in the days before June 22, feel free to drop me a line.
May 31, 2017
Q: So what happens with Justise Winslow, if, of course, we keep him? If the team stays the same where does he fit: as a starting small forward or a backup power forward to James Johnson? In my opinion, unless he can start shooting better he is only a defensive specialist off the bench. -- Gil, North Miami.
A: That sort of is a loaded question. There are two ways to approach this with Justise: Establish him in a definitive role and then build around him (which I do not believe the Heat are ready to commit to). Or: Fill out the rest of the roster and then see where he best fits (which is the more logical approach, with his ability to play multiple roles). For example, if James Johnson does not return, Justise yet could be the starting power forward. If the Heat don't make a move at small forward, he certainly could supplant Rodney McGruder there. And if Dion Waiters is not retained, there will be a void at shooting guard. If Johnson and Waiters are retained and start, then an argument could be there would be enough floor spacing to open with Winslow. But with James Johnson's ability to defend on the perimeter, it might make more sense for Justise to come in off the bench as a relief defender. But the ball also is in Justise's court. If he makes strides with his shooting, he could force the Heat's hand when it comes to the starting lineup. This is a big, big summer for Justise, a summer that could influence the Heat's approach going forward. The more shots Justise converts in July, August and September, the more opportunities he might realize during the following six months.
Q: Could the Heat trade Josh McRoberts and cash to unload McRoberts? How much money can be sent back via trade to minimize the McRoberts' salary? Aren't expiring contracts still valued by teams not looking to compete this year? -- Gabriel, Miami.
A: Actually, this goes to a somewhat bigger and more intriguing issue. The Heat still have $3.1 million they can spend on trades. They'll likely first explore utilizing some or all of that figure at the NBA draft, to potentially buy a pick, But if that doesn't happen, would a team take on the $6 million final year on Josh's contract with a $3.1 million sweetener, essentially a $3 million gamble that something still could be harvested from Josh (hello, Hornets)? That $3.1 million disappears after June 30, so it's either spend it or lose it (or of course, not spend it and save $3.1 million).
Q: Ira, the Pistons are shopping their pick. Think shedding Tyler Johnson's $19 million salary bump now for the 12th pick is a good trade for both teams? -- Davldo.
A: This will be one of the more intriguing stories of the offseason, how Tyler's money will be viewed going forward. Remember, Tyler cannot be dealt without his permission for one year from last July's signing, so this will be something to monitor beyond the start of the free-agency negotiating period. In other words, it will be difficult for the Heat to make such a trade on draft night, since it would mean having to get Tyler's consent for the destination. And that's not even getting into his trade kicker.
May 30, 2017
Q: Don't spend your cap space at that position on Dion Waiters. He's a value at $3 million not $15 million-plus. -- Marcus, Washington.
A: First, everything about what Dion Waiters might (or might not) realize on the free-agent market at this point is speculation. And the NBA types I have spoken to believe that some of the speculation is at a far higher rate than Dion might realize, considering the limited market last summer and the small sample size this past season due to injury. But often none of that matters, since it only takes one suitor to set the market, with plenty of cap space available around the league. Ultimately, it could come down to Dion's preference of cash or contention. While the money might be available somewhere such as Sacramento, would that push him back out of the spotlight just when he finally appears to have arrived? I'm not sure that $10 million or $12 million as a starting point might not even prove to be an overestimation. What the Heat have to do is come out with an offer that is viewed as fair, but one that also maximizes their possibilities.
Q: How bad a look is it that Pat Riley is getting more and more vocal about his LeBron James whining? I thought it was a bad look in that interview a month ago when he said he wanted to go on a Dan Gilbert-level rant but didn't because he got talked out of it, and now he's talking about how LeBron isn't better than Magic Johnson, which is clearly wrong. This can't be a good look for us. -- Jake.
A: First, that was a no-win proposition when TMZ caught Pat in that Malibu parking lot over the weekend. If he doesn't answer the question about LeBron, plenty would otherwise have been read into that. And anyone who knows Riley, many of his answers often include comparisons and analogies with a historical context, in this case LeBron's seven consecutive visits to the NBA Finals and eight over his career compared to Magic's. This was in no way a comparison of the bodies of work of LeBron and Magic. Actually, Pat handled the situation in a means far more subtle than what he likely believes. Losing a free agent is one thing. It happens. Being strung along by a free agent when alternate moves could have been made is another. LeBron didn't just leave. He seemingly sabotaged, as well, costing Dwyane Wade cash in the process and putting the Heat in a tough spot with Chris Bosh. (And that's not even getting into Shabazz Napier, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger.)
Q: Are the Heat considering buying into the early second round? As limiting as the salary cap will be in the next few seasons with impending player raises, this seems like the opportune time to add young cheap talent. -- Gregory, Miami.
A: It's probably best to defer to Chet Kammerer, the Heat's vice president of player personnel, who earlier this month told me, "I think it's very crucial for us to have our lists on draft night, for example if we have our one-to-60 as accurate as we really believe as an organization. Because what would cause us to probably become more aggressive that night is if we had someone picked in the late 20s and he's still there at 40 or something. That would be a major motivation for us to try to move in that direction." Short answer: The Heat will be poised to pounce, if they believe there is a reason to pounce. But it won't be just to take a look at a prospect. There's plenty of time to load up with those types of prospects for summer league.
May 29, 2017
Q: If Pat Riley is still Pat Riley, he wants to upset the Cavaliers, not in the future, but soon. After seeing them in the playoffs, what can the Heat do to make it to the Eastern Conference finals and compete next year? Land both Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward? -- Gabriel, Miami.
A: You ask two dissimilar questions, so I'll take them one at a time. First, I'm not sure that anyone in the East is that far from the Eastern Conference finals, if that, alone, is the goal. The Celtics could go through growing pains if they seize the top of the draft, the Raptors appear poised to take a step back with all their free-agency decisions, the Wizards are recovering from a harsh dose of playoff reality. But what, in the end, does that get you? It's not as if the Celtics are being celebrated for getting to an uncompetitive East finals. As for your second question, I'm not sure that $47 million gets you two elite free agents (or even $51 million if you stretch Josh McRoberts' contract). But I also would not understate the possibility of Riley and his staff showing up on the doorsteps of both Millsap and Hayward at the start of free agency, perhaps seeing if going all in for a pair of elite free agents (at the sacrifice of James Johnson and Dion Waiters). Yes, we all enjoyed the feel-good story at the end of the season. But there does remain -- albeit a longshot chance -- the possibility of augmenting Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside with something far more potent, and then complementing with the likes of the No. 14 pick, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson. Can it happen? Unlikely. Is it possible? I would be shocked if such a gambit is at least not being discussed at 601 Biscayne.
Q: Some new mock drafts have Lauri Markkanen close to No. 14. Is that a possibility? -- Rafael, Miami,
A: Until NBA executives are posting mock drafts, I wouldn't put too much credence into that part of the draft process, with all due respect to those culling as much information as possible to make informed projections. Generally, when players fall, it is the result of poor results in testing or the combine or at workouts or during physicals. The other element is that a player's style is not deemed conducive to the current state of the game, such as a post-up power forward. But I'm not sure how a deft outside shooter would "fall" at this stage, unless he never was as highly regarded as initially viewed, which is always a possibility. That said, players certainly do show up later than expected, as was the case with Justise Winslow and the Heat at No. 10 in 2015. So I'm sure the Heat will be monitoring and prepared to pounce. And it certainly would seems like a quality fit for what the Heat lack, particularly for a player compared to Ryan Anderson. Are there defensive concerns? You bet. But isn't that what the Heat development program is all about?
Q: James Jones is going to his seventh consecutive NBA Finals. -- Stuart.
A: Two more Finals appearances than Dwyane Wade. Go figure.
May 28, 2017
Q: Would the Heat draft a defense-oriented big man if that's how the best player available profiles? It seems like there are some mock drafts with the Heat doing just that, despite having Hassan Whiteside in the middle. I can't necessarily see two big men clogging the paint, especially with Erik Spoelstra's inclination for small ball lineups. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: As much as Heat personnel man Chet Kammerer stressed the best-player-available philosophy by the organization, I'm not buying when it comes to a defensive-mind center, particularly when Willie Reed can likely be retained at a nominal cost. In fact, with the way today's game is going, I'm not sure I would over-invest in a post-bound big man with limited ability to defend at center. Because if the Cavaliers go small with Kevin Love in the middle or the Warriors with Draymond Green at center, then what? It is one thing to have a big man that might overwhelm, such as Whiteside. Otherwise, you have to remain cognizant of where the game is trending.
Q: First, I would love to know if this No. 1 pick Boston got from the Nets was included in the package Danny Ainge offered for the Justise Winslow pick. Second, I think Boston really needs a rim protector, a real big man. Who would have to entice who in terms of packaging that No. 1 pick for Hassan Whiteside, and what do you think would be interesting for both parties? -- Mike, Miami.
A: The pick that turned into this year's No. 1 Celtics pick was not offered in a Boston package for Justise Winslow at the 2015 NBA draft. And after falling to the Cavaliers in five games, it is clear that adding a perimeter scorer is much more of a priority for the Celtics than a shot-blocking big man. Beyond that, the Heat are not ready to move on beyond Whiteside, which such a trade only leading to a glaring hole in the middle. Yes, Markelle Fultz could prove to be a game-changer, but that also would lead to an entire reset of the Heat approach going forward, including a corresponding trade of Goran Dragic. From where the Heat ended this past season, it would represent a 180-degree turn from 30-11 over the second half of the season.
Q: Any chance we trade Josh McRoberts and our first-round pick to Sacramento? It would give them three early first-round picks and we could dump his salary. -- Nick.
A: As much as salary-cap space is to be valued, even more valuable is the lone first-round pick the Heat are expected to have over a three-year span. In some ways, a first-round pick, because of the rookie scale, goes hand in hand with maximizing cap space. As for McRoberts, if more cap space is needed, the "stretch provision" is a real and manageable option to open up $4 million in additional maneuverability. This is too good a draft to toss aside the option of adding low-cost talent.
May 27, 2017
Q: Hey if you were Pat Riley, would you waive Josh McRoberts to cut his $6 million dollars off the salary cap? He seems overpaid and the team rarely used him last season. Seems like dead money if you ask me. -- Stephen, Boynton Beach.
A: First, unlike the NFL or with some other contracts, Josh's salary is fully guaranteed, so if you straight out waive him, you wind up taking the same cap hit as if he was still on the roster, and therefore do not realize any salary-cap relief. The Heat essentially have four options with Josh: 1. Keep him on the roster and hope there will be a payoff in the final season of the four-year contract he signed in July 2014. 2. Trade him, either to remove all of his salary or at least some of it (such as if he was traded to a team with cap space, say for a player earning $2 million or $3 million, thereby saving at least half of his hit against the cap). 3. Waive him and take on his entire cap hit, if only as to free up his roster spot. 4. Waive him utilizing the "stretch provision," thereby stretching his salary-cap hit over three seasons at $2 million per cap season. The most likely approach will be to wait to see how much, if any, of Josh's cap space the Heat need to free up to complete their offseason shopping. That way, if the Heat can complete their remodel without touching McRoberts' salary, that $6 million still could be used to balance a trade any time before the February NBA trading deadline. Ultimately, in the short term, it comes down to whether $37 million in cap space will be enough to complete the Heat's offseason work, or whether McRoberts' salary will be needed for additional cap space.
Q: Ira, any chance we could see players like Rudy Gay or Derrick Rose signing with the Heat? Both guys could come here for decent contracts and we improve both of them. We don't need big name free agents. We just need guys who can come in and complement with our current roster. -- Daniel, Miami.
A: First, I'm not sure that either Rudy or Derrick at this stage of their careers are looking to be "improved." They sort of are what they are. As with the discussion of McRoberts' cap space above, I think it comes down to where the Heat stand after their primary work their offseason, be it chasing a leading free agent or merely sating James Johnson and Dion Waiters. At that point, the Heat then will see where they stand from a cap perspective and fill out the roster accordingly. I would doubt that Rudy Gay or Derrick Rose (who doesn't appear to make much sense for this roster), would be offseason priorities for the Heat.
Q: This is the first time in NBA history two teams will meet three consecutive years in the NBA Finals. Even during the Celtics-Lakers run in the 1960s, they never met in three consecutive NBA Finals. It is ironic that after the last two collective-bargaining agreements, there appears to be less parity in the NBA. If you are the NBA front office, what do you say to the other franchises, when it looks like there could even more Warriors vs. Cavs in the NBA Finals for the foreseeable future. Other franchises just want a shot. Is there a best-interest-of-basketball clause? -- Stuart.
A: You mean like David Stern voiding Chris Paul's trade from New Orleans to the Lakers? No, at this point there's not anything a commissioner can do. But I do agree that it is not a good look for the league, with the exception of the two weeks every season of the Finals. To me this is not about the Cavaliers or Warriors, but rather about the lack of playoff competition. Even during the Heat's Big Three era, the Celtics and Pacers stood ready to challenge every postseason. And with the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, there were postseason threats from the Blazers and Kings. That's the problem. It's not that the Warriors and Cavaliers are championship worthy on an annual basis, it's that there is not a competitive elite to at least pose a challenge, and perhaps an upset threat.
May 26, 2017
Q: Ira, could Chris Bosh be picked up by the Cavs? -- Julian.
A: No sooner was word out about this negotiated settlement that will wipe Chris Bosh's salary permanently off the Heat's salary cap (while assuring Chris the full remainder of that salary), then the speculation began of where Bosh would resurface, that he would sign on in Cleveland alongside LeBron James, or in Chicago with Dwyane Wade. Um, whoa. Amid the ongoing negotiations about the money trail in the wake of Chris' blood-clot episodes, no one has come out with any sort of timetable about a Bosh return, let alone about whether that even is possible. It's not as if even Chris, himself, has offered any such definitive insight. Again, if there was minimal or no risk, then the Heat, assuredly, would rather move forward with Chris rather than move on. Put it this way: Who would you rather have at this point, Bosh at his salary or Paul Millsap at $5 million more? For that matter, it will be interesting to see what teams would be willing to take such a risk from a health perspective. I'm not sure, though, it will be much of a gamble from a financial standpoint, since dollars hardly figure to be a factor, with Bosh collecting on all of his remaining Heat deal.
Q: If Willie Reed is offered more money I can't be mad at him for moving on. I would like to see him back, though. -- Y.S.
A: As would the Heat -- at the right number, namely their number. With a defense that now funnels opponents into shot blockers, it is far simpler to maintain continuity with Willie's length off the bench to spell Hassan Whiteside. But this also is a league that is trending toward smaller, floor-spacing lineups. So how much is too much when it comes to paying for a backup center that might not play? It could come down to whether another team views Willie as a potential starter. And I'm not sure he is there yet with his game.
Q: How much does Hamidou Diallo going back to school hurt the Heat? -- Remy.
A: Probably not much at all, since it is highly unlikely, based on his decision to return to Kentucky, that Diallo would have been selected either earlier than the Heat's No. 14 selection or in the Heat's range. Had the Heat had a pick late in the first round or possessed a second-round pick, it might have been a different story. But the decision likely was the correct one, with Diallo now with the chance to put himself into the 2018 lottery, with a class not nearly a robust as this upcoming draft.
May 25, 2017
Q: Tuesday night's playoff game was another example of superstars win NBA playoff games. Kyrie Irving's game was a reminder of Dwyane Wade early in his career. Nice teams are nice, but superstars win on the big stage. Irving took over the game and carried the Cavaliers, as he made one great play after another. So don't be surprised if or when the Heat's nice package of players is parlayed into a superstar, unless Pat Riley truly believes Dion Waiters can do what Irving did, in May or June. -- Stuart.
A: I doubt the Heat's belief goes that far with Dion, and believe that certainly will become evident based on the Heat's contract offer to Waiters, which will be fair but not in the superstar level. Obviously, getting a star to shake free is not the easiest of tasks, and it probably is even more difficult to mine one from the draft (which is why many were imploring the Heat to pursue a tank-a-thon this past season). So the question becomes whether Goran Dragic is capable of mirroring what Kyrie provided on Tuesday night, or whether Hassan Whiteside can become unstoppable in the post. The most realistic way might be a player tiring of being part of an ensemble (perhaps someone like Klay Thompson) and instead seeking their own, individual glory.
Q: Am I the only one thinking this whole Chris Bosh situation will come back and bite us? Medical advancements are happening every day. What if he is actually able to play while on blood thinners? Could you imagine what this team could be like, with the addition of a draft pick and Chris Bosh? -- Smitty.
A: Only it wouldn't be "this team," and that has been the issue all along, the continued counting of Chris' salary against the cap while he has been unable to play, with no relief in the interim. To your point, if the Heat were to keep Bosh on their books in the hopes of some sort of medical breakthrough, it would mean his $25.3 million 2017-18 salary continuing to count against the cap. In that case, instead of the Heat having about $37 million in cap space, they would have only about $12 million, which might get you James Johnson or Dion Waiters back, but wouldn't get you both. And that also likely would mean moving forward without Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed. The Heat would have embraced an option where Bosh could remain with the team either until the expiration of his contract or a definitive way to play without endangering his health. But with the breakout seasons or Johnson and Waiters, they no longer would be on the type of low-end salaries that would allow the Heat to continue to carry Chris on their cap. And that's the part of this deal that stinks: Chris loves it in South Florida, has made it his home, has remained close to many Heat players, but the rules do not allow the Heat to bide their time in the situation because of the ongoing cap charge. That's why this latest agreement had to be brokered, one that ends Chris' Heat career. And it's why the NBA should take stock of this situation in case of similar situations going forward.
Q: Ira, do you see the Heat retiring Chris Bosh's number? I'd love to see that happen. -- Mika.
A: I guarantee it, just as they will LeBron James' number and Dwyane Wade's number. When you help lead your team to four consecutive NBA Finals, your number goes to the rafters no matter how the end with the franchise came. And with the impending agreement, it would be nice to see Chris Bosh back at AmericanAirlines Arena, where he belongs.
May 24, 2017
Q: The Chris Bosh report just made my day. I was beginning to get worried about this. I'm glad to see them start this now before free agency. -- T.M.
A: And that timing certainly could help, with the Heat possibly to have cap space available to utilize in a trade at the June 22 NBA draft or before the July 1 start of free agency. When it comes to players who have trade kickers, that could be especially handy, being able to deal with them in 2016-17 terms, instead of 2017-18 costs. But, most importantly, it allows the Heat to move into free agency with a clear mind, without concerns about whether Bosh's cap hit could resurface, possibly in the luxury tax, down the road. Considering the process with Bosh has impacted three seasons, and considering the Heat went through three similar seasons after Alonzo Mourning's kidney diagnosis, if any team deserved a break and closure, it is the Heat. And with the agreement that is being finalized, it makes a possible return by Bosh elsewhere not something to be rooted against, but embraced if it does not compromise his health.
Q: Look, I'm not happy that Josh McRoberts opted in, but he doesn't owe you, me, Heat fans, the Heat organization or anyone else anything. He's an athlete with a small window to make the money he's gonna have for life. He owes it to himself and his family to maximize his earnings to help take care of them for as long as he can. Every one of us would do it. too. -- Dennis.
A: And that's why Tuesday's confirmation from agent Mike Conley to the Sun Sentinel was fully expected. It also was fully telling, that in a league where the mid-level exception will be $8 million for next season that McRoberts felt it best to opt-in for his $6 million. Now the ball is in the Heat's court, having unsuccessfully attempted to deal Josh for cap space last summer. If the Heat need an additional $4 million in cap space, utilizing the "stretch provision" might make the most sense, even if it does mean $2 million cap hits for each of the next three seasons. That decision likely will come down to where the Heat's power rotation will stand. But with Hassan Whiteside, Willie Reed, James Johnson and possibly Luke Babbitt and Justise Winslow, I'm not sure a need will be there even if Josh is finally healthy.
Q: Ira, what is your take on the 2016-17 Miami Heat still practicing and working together? Taking this in context with the upcoming draft and free agency, there are a lot of questions about pending free agents and whether the Heat should make a run at them. Granted that Blake Griffin or Gordon Haywood may take a Miami discount and sign a contract, but in your opinion, does the existing teamwork and chemistry of the 2016-17 Heat players factoring into the equation? Does the chemistry between Tyler Johnson and James Johnson equate to keeping the two players vs. a free-agent signing to replace Tyler with a friendlier long-term contract? Does keeping Dion Waiters and retaining existing chemistry with Goran Dragic equate to more than bringing in someone to replace Dion? Or does keeping this team more or less intact mean at most a No. 5-8 Eastern Conference playoff spot? -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.
A: In a perfect world, the preferred approach here would be short-term re-ups with Dion and James Johnson, to get a read on exactly how much of this could carry over from the second half of the season. But such short-term deals obviously are not in the players' best interest. So I first would go to them with two-year offers, and if both take them, go from there. But if they are looking for something lengthier or more substantive, then I think you cast the widest net and yet again reboot the roster. While you can't linger at the bottom of the playoff race in perpetuity, it certainly would be fun to give this team a season-long chance to pick up where they left off.
May 23, 2017
Q: If the Brooklyn Nets are willing to take a bad contract in return with a young piece, is there any chance they take Josh McRoberts and Tyler Johnson for their No. 27 pick? That way we save around $12 million and bump the cap space to $49 million. -- Jordan.
A: First, Tyler, by NBA rule, cannot be dealt to the Nets for a year from last summer's offer sheet, so any such deal would have to wait until July, meaning, in your scenario, that Brooklyn would have to draft for the Heat and then finalize the detail later. The question with Johnson is whether he or his cap space is more valuable to the Heat, and that comes down to how such cap space can be spent. Remember, for this coming season, Tyler still is relatively cheap against the cap, at $5.9 million. So the greater issue is when his cap hit rises to $19 million the following two seasons. But keep in mind, based on this summer's machinations, the Heat likely will capped in those offseasons. The case for moving on from Tyler comes down to whether the Heat would have enough in their backcourt with Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters (assuming he returns), Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder (who likely swings to more of a backcourt role with Justise Winslow back). I do agree that getting Waiters under a long-term deal somewhat mitigates the need for Tyler, but it also is important to appreciate the chemistry Tyler Johnson created with James Johnson last season. So, in many ways, Tyler's place going forward could come down to the direction of the Heat in free agency.
Q: Ira, the Heat have plenty at shooting guard, but not a lot at small forward, with you saying James Johnson and Justise Winslow could play power forward. Shouldn't we swap someone out for Rudy Gay. -- Robert, Falls Church, Va.
A: Well, if you do open cap beyond what is required for Dion Waiters and James Johnson, then small forward certainly could be a facet to target. But do you go for Rudy's uneven shooting at the cost of Wayne Ellington? Much of the speculation with Gay likely will come down to how much Rudy wants to be with the Heat and how much he is willing to sacrifice. If the Heat do move in that direction, it would be yet another case of the Heat targeting a former Heat killer, just as they did last summer with Ellington.
Q: Paul Millsap? -- Peter.
A: This is another all-your-eggs-in-one-basket decision, because with Millsap opting out of $23.1 million for next season with the Hawks, he, like many of the prime free agents in the upcoming class, will be looking for something close to $30 million for next season as the starting point for a new, long-term deal. So with the Heat working with roughly $37 million in cap space, you're basically talking about Millsap, Wayne Ellington and, maybe, Willie Reed and then being done with free agency. So does one Millsap equal more than a combined Dion Waiters and James Johnson?
May 22, 2017
Q: Hey Ira, after doing some of my own research (not that I'm a scout that knows how to do actual research), I am convinced that the Heat should take Harry Giles out of Duke. I understand the injury risk, but the ceiling on the reward is too high to pass. He is a game changer when fully engaged (which coming off an injury, seems like it's just more conditioning than anything). The offense and defense are there and he has the Spo-ism's down already: He shows toughness, grit, not afraid to get down and dirty, hustles. And all this from a talented guy is not always normal. That is what separates him from the pack to me. I can see an All-Star power forward in him. Thoughts? -- Ricky, Dallas.
A: The first thought is for the Heat medical staff to feel confident, after surgeries on both knees, that Giles is healthy enough to both contribute and endure in the NBA. But the reality is that if other NBA medical staffs come to that conclusion, as well, then Giles likely goes before the Heat's No. 14 selection. The Heat, by and large, since taking a shot with Dorell Wright, have gone mostly with more ready-to-contribute types, such as Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Justise Winslow, and, as some thought, Shabazz Napier. This would be the type of pick the Heat would have to finesse, basically putting it out there that they are not interested . . . until they can pounce. If that, indeed, is to be the play. I have no issue with a high-risk, high-reward type of gamble. There always are enough journeymen free agents available to fill holes and something close to the minimum salary.
Q: Why am I not hearing about any Miami Heat workouts? -- Salo.
A: The Heat have taken a varied approach to the process over the years. This year they are declining to announce their workouts, are not making prospects available for media interviews, and do not plan to post workout videos on their website. Naturally, many agents are more than willing to share the workout status of their clients, so such visits tend to become public, anyway. But also be careful of reports of player visits with players who may not have visited, as some attempt to create first-round markets, or at least interest, for their clients. The whole "visit" discussion tends to become overstated, anyway, with prospects also working in group sessions organized by agents that are open to any team, with the Heat maintaining regular presence at such sessions.
Q: Pat Riley is up to something. -- P.K.
A: Always. Especially, I'm sure, as he watches one player that got away in 2014 (LeBron James) go up in the NBA Finals against one he courted last summer (Kevin Durant). That's why I'm not buying him putting his harpoon into storage, not where a gettable whale could yet surface.
May 21, 2017
Q: OK, I know this is gonna sound crazy at first, but hear me out. There's no way Justise Winslow ever becomes as good as LeBron James, but with Winslow's playmaking ability and defensive instincts, if he can ever find his offensive game, can you see Erik Spoelstra ever using Winslow the same as he used LeBron or at least run some of the same plays? -- Justin, Colerain, N.C.
A: I'm not sure about that. But based on LeBron's play in these Eastern Conference finals and the reality that his play is not dropping off any time soon, I believe there is another element of Winslow's possibilities that is being overlooked, namely Winslow's defensive possibilities. No, he's not a LeBron stopper, because there simply is no such thing. But his combination of size, instinct and tenacity certainly would give the Heat more of a fighting chance in such a matchup than these Celtics. In fact, by bringing back James Johnson, the Heat would be able to counter with dual defensive elements against LeBron, and therefore 12 fouls to spread between the two players. For all the concern about Justise's shooting issues, don't lose sight of the fact of how he yet could emerge as an elite perimeter stopper. And as long as LeBron also is in the East, such a counter is essential.
Q: Remember when Pat Riley said his goal was to add another first round pick? I know it was a while ago, but is he still looking to do that? For example, would picking up Wayne Ellington's contract, then trading him, secure a late first rounder? -- Matt, Boynton Beach.
A: Ellington's contract certainly provides such flexibility, since it does not have to be guaranteed until the end of the July 6 signing moratorium. But a team making such a move would have to, at this late stage of the cap calendar, be able to fit his $6 million contract under their cap (although the Heat could have a trade partner select for them and then complete such a transition at the moratorium deadline). It likely comes down to the cap element, since Ellington likely would be more valuable to the Heat than a player selected in the 20s.
Q: Can you change your "Ask Ira" column to "Ask Ira the Rules to Hockey"? I've got to start watching another sport until the NBA Finals start. Even LeBron's incredible play lately isn't enjoyable when the Cavs are blowing out their opponents. -- Tony, Costa Mesa, Calif.
A: Tony, you've come to the right place, having myself opted for Friday's ending of Penguins-Senators instead of what Cavs-Celtics deteriorated into. The Stanley Cup playoffs have run laps around the NBA playoffs in terms of drama. That said, I'm not sure anyone would even notice Preds-Sens going up against Warriors-Cavaliers (which I assume NBC would instead stream and replace with American Ninja Warrior reruns).
May 20, 2017
Q: Unless you honestly think Hassan Whiteside was a Top 15 player last season (which he absolutely was not) there's no reason you should be upset by him not making an All-NBA team. Not to mention with Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, he wasn't even a Top 5 center, in all honesty. I think DeAndre Jordan shouldn't have gotten the third-team nod, but I also don't think Whiteside should have either. -- Joseph.
A: First, I reported Hassan finishing seventh among centers in the All-NBA vote as fact not commentary. If the approach would have been as commentary, then I would have raised objection about Anthony Davis, a prototypic power forward, getting the nod as the first-team center. To me, Towns was hands down the best center in the league this season. I had no issue with Gobert on the second team, in light of the Jazz's success during the season. I do agree that Jordan somewhat gets grandfathered in with some of these votes, with his limited offensive game and free-throw liabilities. For Whiteside's time to come, it has to come from a better place in the standings. But even then, with the Heat's move to a perimeter-oriented attack, I'm not sure that he will come to be regarded as more than a defensive ace. I am curious to see how he grades out on the All-Defensive Team that will be announced at the NBA's June 26 awards show.
Q: Ira, I know I don't have the knowledge of picking players like NBA scouts, but from what I've seen and read about Ivan Rabb, I'm liking him for the Heat pick at No. 14. I was just thinking what is your feeling on that as a pick for the Heat? -- Malik, Brunswick, Ga.
A: This is another example of perhaps going for the safe pick over taking a risk on a player with less polish or an injury history. To me, going with a safe pick should be the result of having a glaring void that needs to be filled. Even with the permanent loss of Chris Bosh, I'm not sure the Heat simply have to have a power forward, not with the possibility of bringing back James Johnson or even having Justise Winslow in that role. Even without first-round picks in 2018 and '21, I still would go for upside in the draft, be it an athletic player still developing or a player viewed as an injury risk who otherwise would have been at the top of the lottery.
Q: The most excitement in the playoffs to date: Grizzlies coach David Fizdale showing some fight with, "Take that for data." -- Stuart.
A: What some are forgetting is how competitive that series was against the Spurs, just as Jazz-Clippers and Celtics-Wizards went seven games. The problem has been the lack of compelling games throughout most of these series. Then again, at least it has stopped the carping of that you only need to see the last two minutes to know what happens in an NBA game. So there is that.
May 19, 2017
Q: Will teams further down the draft be relieved when Lonzo Ball comes off the draft board? Is there a chance the Lakers will pass on him at No. 2 if he's available? In regards to the Heat, any chance the Heat could package the No. 14 pick with maybe Justise Winslow and either move up in the draft or back and get a pick later this year and maybe their No. 1 back next year? -- Thomas.
A: Well, since you grouped those two questions together, I'll first go with a combination answer. Yes, I could see Lonzo fall, but more for basketball reasons, including potential options more intriguing for the Lakers, such as Josh Jackson or De'Aaron Fox. Remember, there was a point when Jahlil Okafor was the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft . . . until he went No. 3, bypassed by these same Lakers. Which sidetracks us to what would happen if a LaVar Ball could somehow cross paths with Pat Riley. (No, he's not getting to No. 14, and the Heat seemingly lack the wherewithal to trade up high enough.) It would be a fascinating case study of old-school vs. new age. And I believe it would be someone such as Riley who could actually talk sense into this whole situation, first by embracing LaVar and then defusing. I believe that also will be Magic Johnson's approach. As for the Heat moving up or back, I could see some logic in trying to go two-for-one if possible, but I'm not sure that No. 14 gets you to that, unless a player remains available that a team further back covets. I do believe the Heat will be particularly elastic on draft night and would not overly fixate on No. 14.
Q: Worst playoffs ever? -- Tony, Costa Mesa, Calif.
A: No, worst sustained drama. Let's not forget about Game 7 of Clippers-Jazz or even Game 7 of Celtics-Wizards. Plus there have been several staggering comebacks, from what the Cavaliers did in the first round against the Pacers to what the Warriors did Sunday against the Spurs. There also have been several incredible scoring streaks by teams in the midst of games. The reason this has felt so deflating is the inevitability of what will happen on June 1, when Cavaliers-Warriors opens. You shouldn't definitively know on April 15 what will be happening on June 1. It has made the intervening six weeks feel almost like wasted time.
Q: Ira, if the Heat take a chance on Harry Giles there really wouldn't be a need to hold on to Okaro White, would there? -- Noah, Miami,
A: The lesson we learned before last season, with the release of Briante Weber, is there are no guarantees with the Heat when it comes to the end of the bench. No matter what transpires in between, Okaro White will have to earn his way onto this roster. And that might even be the challenge for Rodney McGruder, who could go from starter to contending for a spot as 10th man.
May 18, 2017
Q: How big of an impact will our draft be on re-signing Dion Waiters? If we are convinced that someone like Donovan Mitchell is the future, do we still sign Waiters at $12 million per year, or if so, do we try and trade Tyler Johnson? Either way, you know Riley is going to make some move. -- Joe, Jupiter.
A: Again, this is why I take issue with the NBA's approach of draft first and then free agency, as opposed to the NFL's approach of starting with free agency, having the draft in the middle, and then finishing off free agency. I appreciate that the length of the NBA season, the timing of the NBA Finals and then the start of summer league make it difficult to change the current order, but I believe such a shift would be beneficial to long-term roster construction. That said, Chet Kammerer, who is among those who take the Heat's lead in draft situations, went out of his way to insist to me that drafting the best prospect is the only way to go. And with teams needing depth, I can appreciate that perspective. But whether Waiters stays or goes, with the Heat already with Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder (and possibly Wayne Ellington, as well), guard is one position I'm just not sure makes sense at this stage for the Heat in the draft. But if you do draft a guard and then re-sign Waiters, where do the minutes come from? And once other teams know you have to shed a guard, what you get in return could be compromised. So, yes, if a guard is the Heat's selection, then you would have to figure there would be a corresponding Part B to that equation.
Q: The Heat should trade the No. 14 pick to the Lakers for D'Angelo Russell -- Mac, Toronto.
A: I'm not sure with Goran Dragic in place that the Heat couldn't address a more pressing need at No. 14. Yet if the Heat's approach is best available talent, then an argument could be made for such a consideration. But if the Lakers were to make such a move to accommodate the drafting of Lonzo Ball, then the thought might be to get a veteran in return, perhaps a veteran point guard to help acclimate Ball.
Q: The NBA should do away with the lottery. I am not saying that in spite of the No. 14 pick, but rather in spite of teams purposely tanking to assure a better pick. The NBA should also reward teams who attempt to put a good product out for the fans but fail just short of the playoffs (Miami and Denver). Award two of the top four picks to them and the other two to the bottom dwellers. Your thoughts? -- John, Rhode Island.
A: Interesting. Or perhaps give the final lottery seeds with better records as many lottery combinations as the teams at the top of the process. Perhaps something along the lines of any team that finishes within "X" games of the final playoff seed gets rewarded in the lottery for fighting to the finish.
May 17, 2017
Q: Well Mr. Smart[bad word], how does it feel now to be sitting home for a month without a playoff team and stuck at No. 14? I told you we should have focused on the lottery. What's Erik Spoelstra telling you now? -- Art.
A: First, for some reason, Erik hasn't been taking my calls since the end of the season, but he also hasn't been calling me "Mr. Smart[bad word]", either, so that at least there's that. The Heat knew well before Tuesday's lottery that No. 14 was their likely fate. All I know is that looking at all those logos on stage, it seems like there's a high degree of recidivism among teams that have made plenty of trips to the lottery over the years. Yes, the highest of high picks is still among the best ways to reinvent yourself in the NBA. I appreciate that. But I never saw the Heat as a team willing to dip to those depths. So even if the percentage of a top-three pick could have been higher than the Heat's 1.8 percent, I just didn't see Spoelstra or Pat Riley allowing the sinking to such depths. And you know what? The Heat didn't exactly come up a loser Tuesday. After sorting through this draft for weeks, I firmly believe that a rotation player can be cultivated at No. 14. I also believe that the No. 14 slot opens the doors to other creative possibilities. Instead of focusing on what didn't happen Tuesday, consider all the good that did over the final three months of the regular season -- unless you prefer ping-pong balls to basketballs.
Q: The basketball gods are blessing us with Hamidou Diallo entering the 2017 draft and not 2018 (a draft we won't be in unless it's Top 7). We can't mess this up. He's going to be good. It might take a few seasons, but that's OK. Please spread the word. Draft Hami. -- Tyler, Cooper City.
A: It is an interesting case being made, that if Diallo had played at Kentucky this season or would have next season, he likely would have slotted into the same range as so many of John Calipari's other top recruits. That's why the possibility of such a selection can't be summarily dismissed from the Heat's draft range at No. 14. And that, I believe, is the biggest decision the Heat face: 1. Whether to take more of a known quantity to slot in as a rotation player. 2. Or to roll the dice on something closer to all or nothing, be it on unproven athleticism such as Diallo or a medical risk such as Harry Giles. Some of Pat Riley's best work has come as a gambler. Is he ready and willing to roll the dice again?
Q: Things like Dion Waiters' comments on "First Take" give me some confidence that he's staying. -- Shawn.
A: That's interesting, because I took it the same way, the way he was defending the possibilities of Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson, stressing that the Heat don't need one of the point guards in this year's draft. This is one of those situations where if you could get Dion and his 2016-17 teammates into a room, alone, he probably could be convinced to return at a pay rate that also will allow the Heat to flourish. But that's not how these negotiations work. Agents take the emotion out of the equation, as they should. So for all the words, camaraderie and fellowship, it remains likely that money still will talk loudest.