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ASK IRA: Could Josh McRoberts reemerge as a Heat catalyst?

Sun Sentinel writer Ira Winderman addresses the Heat's issues of the day.
Submit your questions in the form below


Aug. 4, 2015

Q: Why have we heard so little from Josh McRoberts? Is he excited about next season? -- Herb.

A: The one constant with McRoberts since the middle of last season, when he was injured, was a preference to stay out of view until he again could be his post-passing self on the court. The expectation is that will be the case come the start of training camp. Josh, by nature, tends to be reserved publicly, seemingly preferring to let his play do the talking. That is something his knee injury prevented him from doing for most of last season, except for that encouraging flash in December, between his foot and knee injuries. He remains an intriguing possibility going forward. And the fact that he has been around the team this summer, including training sessions with the team in Las Vegas during summer league, is an encouraging sign. For all the Heat concern about the luxury tax, Josh has the type of mid-level contract that could prove cost effective going forward. The question, however, remains where he fits into a frontcourt with Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh, and whether he can be efficient if played as a sixth man.

Q: Did the Heat feel the performance ceiling for Shabazz Napier and Zoran Dragic was just not as high as some of their other options? -- Bruce, Boca Raton.

A: I think it came down to the thought that at any price point those were not directions they wanted to go long term. So when they found an escape hatch, they took it. Scouts have told me they were not sold on Zoran as an NBA talent. Napier, by contrast, did show enough for at least another season, but the Heat also faced a decision at the start of the season about whether to pick up his option for 2016-17. Because of their cap plans for next summer, they almost assuredly would have bypassed that option. So they basically just moved up that timetable by a year.

Q: The Heat's 2006 championship team was Dwyane Wade surrounded by a bunch of veterans who were hungry to win their first ring. It's time to duplicate that. -- Aura.

A: But this also is not the same Wade. That 2006 team had Shaquille O'Neal and Wade. So the question is whether these leading men, Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic, are up to such a challenge, let alone whether this supporting cast is as good as Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, James Posey and Jason Williams were in 2005-06.

Aug. 3, 2015

Q: Why is everyone trying to trade Chris Bosh? Ever since he's been here people have wanted to get rid of him. Yet he is one of the most consistent shooters in the league, a top defender, decent rebounder, great playmaker and a two-time world champion. He has improved his game every year he has been a Heat. And in my opinion, if he was a free agent this year, he would've been the top free agent available, above LaMarcus Aldridge, above DeAndre Jordan. Every team would've tried to make room for him. -- Yunasi, Miami Beach.

A: "Everyone"? Not sure I've heard that. But if you're asking about increased expectations with Chris, health permitting, heck yeah. Whether you consider the contract a burden or not, Chris again will be the Heat's highest-paid player. He can't just be good. He can't merely be only a contributor. This has to become his team. Dwyane Wade was willing to defer early last season, and Goran Dragic has visions of greatness when it comes to the pick-and-roll with Bosh. Plus, Chris now has a defensive backstop and rebounder alongside in Hassan Whiteside. What I will say is that the rebound totals might not be up to expectation, but that could be a factor of Whiteside's full-season presence alongside. But Chris has to be what his contract says he should be. Health permitting. Period.

Q: Ira, Pat Riley has always adapted with the times. From the fast-paced Lakers, to a big-man lead Knicks team to a smallish, defensive-minded Heat team. Do you think he continues this trend and starts Justise Winslow over Luol Deng? -- Raul, Naples.

A: No. Nor is there a need. But what both he and Erik Spoelstra need to do is see whether they can fast-track Winslow, with Deng to be a free agent next summer. But the last thing you want to do with a rookie is force-feed him those defensive matchups against LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler. Let the kid learn from Deng, and spot him in some of those situations. Winslow is only 19, and this is a man's league. Deng is a man, and still a significant part of the Heat's equation. Plus, Deng's game works better as a starter, since he's not exactly instant offense off the bench.

Q: If the Heat really think they can win the East, are they being short-sighted by not using mid-level exception to sign a decent player? -- Jeffrey.

A: Remember, it's not as if the mid-level expires at the end of the offseason. It could be used at any time during the season (for a free agent, not in a trade). In fact, it is a significant mechanism when it comes to the buyout market in March, when it could sway a player otherwise limited to the minimum elsewhere. Based on the Heat's current tax situation, I would not expect it to be in play at the moment. And based on the Heat's tax situation, the full mid-level can't be put into play. So you keep it in your back pocket and see whether the investment would produce a tangible upgrade down the road.

Aug. 2, 2015

Q: Ira, I think the Heat drafted Justise Winslow because they felt he would become a star NBA player, ready to replace either Luol Deng (next year) or Dwyane Wade in two or three years. You don't draft a player with the 10th pick, especially one projected to be in the top 5-6-7, without believing that you've just landed a young stud and potential star. The thought of Heat management has to be that Winslow will turn into one of the leaders and faces of this franchise in the years to come. The Heat lack high picks over the next five years, so a pick this high has to come up big. I don't think anybody would be satisfied with a Shane Battier-level player. Not with the 10th pick. -- Matt.

A: I think Winslow is a lot like when Caron Butler fell to them at No. 10 in 2002, that only now are the Heat fully taking stock of what is there, Erik Spoelstra delving into his laboratory of possibilities as we speak. And the reality is that Butler was dealt two years later. It all comes down to what the Heat believe they can cultivate. You don't project a player becoming a Wade or even a Deng; they prove it to you. With this roster, Winslow should get ample opportunity in coming seasons. A "steal" of the draft becomes a steal only when he reaches the level of expectation when people call him a "steal" in the first place. For his part, by enduring so long. Caron Butler has done that. As for your overall assessment, Winslow becoming the next Shane Battier would be just fine, too.

Q: It would be nice to use the first half of the season as sort of a veteran training camp while "stashing" James Ennis. -- Darren, Coconut Grove.

A: There is no "stashing" of a player if you cut him before the end of training camp (or any other time, for that matter). Ennis might have shown enough that if he is cut by the Heat at any point, he might be able to find a contract elsewhere. It is among the reasons I believe the Heat have an obligation to carry the regular-season maximum of 15 players, to maximize the possibilities of their overall roster.

Q: Is Carlos Boozer still out there for the Heat? He could be a bench scorer or a backup big man. -- Webb.

A: You mean like the Lakers thought he would be last season? There generally is a reason a player lasts deep into free agency. I'm just not sure what Boozer has left. Now, if you're talking the minimum, then I could see possible Heat interest if the power rotation (Chris Andersen, Josh McRoberts) is thinned out in the name of luxury-tax savings. The given in the equation is Boozer's longstanding desire to spend his winters in South Florida. 

Aug. 1, 2015

Q: My question is at point guard. Can Dwyane Wade play backup point? I understand Erik Spoelstra likes players that can play multiple positions, but I don't see Goran Dragic enjoying playing shooting guard. -- Bryan, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Goran only has to play point guard. It's what the Heat do in the minutes, or even games, when he is off the court. And I do think that Dwyane will get plenty of time as a ballhandler when Goran is off the court. That is one way of opening minutes for Gerald Green (who is a shaky ballhandler) and also could open minutes at shooting guard to experiment there with Justise Winslow. In fact, I could see the Heat utilizing a pattern where when Goran goes out that Dwyane moves to ballhandler. That would further reduce the need to go with untested Tyler Johnson or unproven Josh Richardson in such a ballhandling role.

Q: If we are in win-now mode, let's go all in. I'm hearing that the Knicks would trade Carmelo Anthony, so why not try this" Luol Deng, Justise Winslow, Mario Chalmers, Birdman. I think the money works. I hate to give up Winslow, but if it meant a starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Melo, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside plus Amare Stoudemire, Gerald Green, Josh McRoberts, etc., on the bench I feel that team is the equal or better than Cleveland. What do you think? -- Bernard, Cheektowaga, N.Y.

A: First, you may want to do something about those things you are "hearing," because I'm not sure such voices are registering to the rest of the NBA. I'm also not sure that Phil Jackson would see such a deal as a step forward. If not Carmelo in New York this season, then who as the face of the franchise? Now, if Kristaps Porzingis pans out quicker than expected, then I could see the Knicks moving to their next reiteration. But for the moment, I can't fathom such a fire sale. And I'm also not sure that the value of a Winslow rookie contract should be moved in such a regard.

Q: The Heat should sign Mike Miller just so fans can watch him shoot during warmups. That was one of the funnest things about going to a Heat game, to watch Miller shoot. -- Stuart.

A: Got to agree, that was a hoot. I miss the "early shooters" club, with Ray Allen, James Jones and Mike. It's not quite the same watching Chris Andersen hoist 3-pointers.

July 31, 2015

Q: What's your best pro comparison for Josh Richardson. The best one I've come up with is a more offensively gifted Thabo Sefolosha. They are both very good lockdown defenders, especially on the perimeter. They both have a decent 3-point stroke, and they both have a knack for taking a play apart and comprehending it in its entirety. Only difference I see is that Josh has a better grasp on an all-round offensive game. -- Andy, Miami.

A: It's a stretch to go that far with Richardson, considering he has yet to play his first NBA game. But the potential looks like it could be there. And his ballhandling and playmaking, which were refined during his time at Tennessee, give Richardson an advantage over other 3-and-D prospects. But summer league is summer league. We still need to see what Richardson can do against real players in real situations. Far truer tests await in the preseason, when I expected he will receive plenty of playing time.

Q: It seems to me we have a sufficient amount of veterans on the team. Any available or potentially available roster spots should be saved for new blood with upside, which can be kept in the last two or three seats at the end of the bench and get invaluable practice time with the veterans or maintained in the D-League. These last two players should be in the eyes of the coaches for 2017 and beyond. -- Joaquin.

A: That is a somewhat tough call. On one hand, the Heat should have enough proven veterans to cycle through without having to rely on anyone beyond their top 10. On the other hand, when you do have so many older players, it increases the possibility of time lost to injury, and therefore the need for more ready-to-go talent in support. Based on what the Heat found during summer league, I'm of the thought that young talent can be mined when necessary. Beyond that, this offseason showed that with proper enticement, proven talent can be added at the minimum, as has been the case with Amare Stoudemire and Gerald Green.

Q: LeBron James is a horrible actor. He should stick to losing in the Finals. Lord knows he's good at that. -- Layla.

A: Yes, I saw Trainwreck. And, no, I don't think the scenes with LeBron added anything to the storyline. In fact, the one scene with the "intervention" was beyond innocuous, and practically painful when it came to both Marv Albert and Chris Evert. While the movie itself was way too formulaic, there were enough performances to make it a worthwhile expenditure of time (Colin Quinn was excellent). But I'm not sure anyone should include that of LeBron in the mix. Hopefully there is more from him in Space Jam II, or whatever they choose to call it when it gets made.

July 30, 2015

Q:  I know a team is allowed to include up to $3.4 million in cash with player trades for 2015-16. How does this affect the team's salary cap? For example, if the Heat trade Mario Chalmers and give the receiving team $1 million, is that $1 million counted against the Heat salary cap? The gaining team's salary cap? Or neither? -- Malcolm, Atlanta.

A: No, that figure is not computed as part of the cap, just a separate total that can be worked out for bookkeeping matters, like the total you can spend getting a player out of an overseas contract. For the Heat it could be a factor in play if they need to convince teams to take on the contracts of Mario Chalmers or Chris Andersen. The issue, however, is the Heat included $1.5 million in the trade of Zoran Dragic to the Celtics to pay off his contract and a bit over $1 million in the trade of Shabazz Napier to the Magic to pay off his contract. So precious little remains, which could limit the ability to purchase a second-round pick in next year's draft, with the Heat currently without such a selection. And it's not as if the Heat take money back in an ensuing trade that they can increase the amount that can be spent on a deal. That number only declines, now about $700,000 remaining.

Q: That pick for Shabazz Napier was to please LeBron James. Don't fault the Godfather for that? That's on LBJ's talent evaluation. -- Hugo.

A: And I still don't think it was a mistake by any means. In fact, one scout told me that Napier nearly was one of the first 15 selections in the 2014 draft. So it's not as if Riley took a player in the 20s who was projected in the 40s or 50s. Many teams had Napier in the range where he was selected. But if the Heat now feel they have three better options at point guard than Napier, it also means the Heat scouting staff has done something right. There still will be plenty of time to evaluate Napier before his NBA career is over.

Q: Pat Riley gave one player too much power. Lesson learned. -- Vladi.

A: And yet because Dan Gilbert gave LeBron James such power, he is now back in Cleveland and remained in the NBA Finals. Now, whether that approach continues to work is another story, especially if Kevin Love feels like he is being held hostage in the offense or if Kyrie Irving doesn't get his requisite touches. Even the Bulls didn't play this let-him-have-it-all type of game with Michael Jordan. But these are different times, and LeBron is a different type of athlete. Riley simply wasn't ready for the NBA's first player-coach-executive-owner.

July 29, 2015

Q: Hello, Ira. So Miami have traded Shabazz Napier and Zoran Dragic. And with the August 1st deadline already handled, more deals or moves will be made. One I would love to see the Heat make is an offer (whether it be a camp invite or some sort of partial guarantee) to Greg Whittington. I saw him make 3-point shots, post up his man and score, beat his defender and drive to the basket, get open on backdoor cuts, run the floor, defend and rebound during summer-league play. I know it was against summer-league competition, but he was making polished basketball plays. Plus, he has the length that Miami has long coveted at the wing position. With Justise Winslow in tow, Luol Deng in the last year of his contract, James Ennis looking like more of a project than expected, Gerald Green on a one-year deal, and Kevin Durant likely to stay in OKC or choose to take a job in his home city, should the Heat make an offer to Whittington? This would mean the end for Ennis, but I, also, believe it would up an offensive upgrade. -- Nikki.

A: For the moment, I think the priority changes to what will be done with Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen, when it comes to the luxury tax. I could, however, see the Heat offer a small guarantee to Whittington to funnel him to their D-League affiliate. But even then, that would not stop another team from stepping in and signing him before the start of the season, should he be productive during training camp.

Q: I'm really caught off guard by the trade of Shabazz Napier to the Magic. Why? If anything I thought he would be a piece they would package given his youth and rookie-scale contract. Napier's contract was very small, so the only way this ends up being a salary dump is if they don't retain a 15th man on the roster, which I would think is ill-advised given we already have a shortage of roster spots to give to the young guys that performed well in the D-League. I know Pat Riley always has a plan, but it's hard to see what he gained here in the grand scheme of things. He didn't release a big contract to lower the tax nor get anything in return. Can you even trade Mario Chalmers now without a viable true backup at point guard? All I see is that the Heat are trusting their development of Tyler Johnson and/or Josh Richardson to be a solid backup. Your thoughts? -- Robert, Miami.

A: My thought is that the primary reason the Napier trade was made was because of the belief in Johnson and Richardson, and the possibility of otherwise having to carry Napier as a fourth point guard. The reality is that Shabazz did not seem all that content as a third point guard last season. I think the Napier deal came down to the Heat deciding to move on. But I agree that this team, with so many aging veterans, is in no position to try to go with anything less than the regular-season maximum of 15 players, especially considering how injuries derailed last season.

Q: Mike Miller leaves Miami and LeBron James quits on the team. Mike Miller leaves Cleveland and LeBron is fine with it. Explain. -- Allan.

A: Relatively simple: LeBron thought Mike Miller still could help him win in Miami when the Heat made the decision to use the amnesty provision. This past season it became clear that the current rendition of Miller is far less valuable to LeBron in Cleveland, so the friends parted on the best of terms. Time and place. LeBron still thought it was Miller's time in Miami. Then it became clear before and during the playoffs that it wasn't the case for Miller in Cleveland.

July 28, 2015

Q: Mike Miller, all of the sudden, is pretty much a free agent. The Heat have to jump on this, at what will likely be the minimum. I don't care. Just do it. Get rid of (not supposed to sound as harsh as that) Mario Chalmers, Josh McRoberts, and possibly Chris Andersen. We need a wing shooter we can count on more than having to rely on production from multiple young players. Mike Miller was misused last year, one of many on that Cavs team. He played all 82 games the year before in Memphis. He obviously would fill our need, while still keeping those young guys on the roster. -- Zach, Miami Beach.

A: A few things: One of the major problems for the Heat last season was the inability to keep veterans on the court. So the health (and age) issue has to be studied. Beyond that, the best use of Miller at this stage of his career could be as a fifth wing, behind Luol Deng, Justise Winslow, Dwyane Wade and Gerald Green. After being buried on the Cavaliers' bench, that might not be the type of role Miller envisions. Then there is the argument of youth vs. experience. If Miller takes a roster spot, it likely would be at the expense of a James Ennis or possibly even a Greg Whittington. And if you are going to consider a Miller, then do you also have to go back and consider a Dorell Wright?

Q: So trading a couple of third-string players for nothing in return will save the Heat about $11 million. Wonderful! Heat fans shouldn't lose sleep over either player departing. But can these be the last purely cost-cutting moves? If we trade Mario Chalmers, we would need to add a solid backup point guard to replace him. If we trade Chris Andersen, we would need another big man, in case our previously injured frontcourt players become often-injured front players. Ditto if we trade Josh McRoberts. Will the Heat front office really keep cost-cutting at the risk of gutting our bench? -- Abel, Miami.

A: I agree that the departures of Shabazz Napier and Zoran Dragic hardly impact the core of the roster. But I also agree that any further cuts could create deficits in the rotation. Yes, you could possibly get an Andre Miller at the minimum to step in for Chalmers in a tax-cutting move, or even a Carlos Boozer as a replacement in the power rotation. But you also would be downgrading the overall product in the name of tax savings.

Q: Could the Heat have slapped Shabazz Napier any more? They sent him to the D-League, then summer league for a second year and then traded him for nothing. Come on. --Dwight.

A: Or you could look at it that they gave him, and themselves, every chance to make it work. I can tell you that Dan Craig worked with Shabazz during the summer league in a fashion of trying to get Napier ready for the coming season. This was not a case of the coaching staff bailing on Shabazz's possibilities.

July 27, 2015

Q: With the trade of Shabazz Napier, you raised the question of whether the Heat were finished with their overhaul at point guard? I think you know the answer to that one. By Saturday, I believe the Heat will partially guarantee Tyler Johnson’s contract, and use the second-round pick from Orlando as an enticement to unload Mario Chalmers. I think James Ennis will be released, as well. As you suggested, Josh Richardson will be on the Heat's 15-man roster. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.

A: I agree that the Heat's depth chart at point guard soon could read: 1. Goran Dragic. 2. Tyler Johnson. 3. Josh Richardson. And on those nights Dragic doesn't start, it wouldn't surprise me to see Dwyane Wade emerging as the primary ballhandler, possibly starting alongside Justise Winslow. Of course, it's still early. In addition, these moves could also possibly get the Heat to re-visit Josh McRoberts as point-power-forward.

Q: Pat Riley continues to give LeBron James his "other" ring finger. -- Will.

A: Look, the Napier trade has nothing to do with LeBron at this stage. But it does have a lot do with moving on. Every front office makes mistakes, if you want to term the Napier selection as such. But the best front offices don't look back. If Riley decided after summer league that Napier was not among his three best options at point guard, then the right move was to move on, no matter what had been spent to acquire Shabazz. I still think the kid can play, but I also appreciate that Johnson and Richardson might have shown more promise.

Q: I'm glad to see Napier's being moved. Other point guards on the roster have more upside, with better defense and size. -- Lynne.

A: And that's why you can't discount the LeBron impact on the selection of Napier. The one thing we have learned about Riley is that he is not necessarily big on small point guards. With Johnson and Richardson, the Heat would have more length behind Goran Dragic, as well as players better built to defend on the wing. Napier's size is one of the reasons why I've always wondered whether he truly was Riley's selection of choice.

July 26, 2015

Q: I could not help but notice Phil Jackson's comments on Duke players in the NBA.  In his words, "Also, if you look at the guys who came to the NBA from Duke, aside from Grant Hill, which ones lived up to expectations?" While the comment was made in reference to the Knicks passing on Jahlil Okafor, I could not help but think about the sudden and unexpected drop of Justise Winslow in the draft to the Heat at No. 10 and the feeling that maybe he is not the steal we all think he is. I know what you are going to say, the Heat are in "win now" mode and you don't "win now" with players that haven't won at this level yet. But considering this was still a lottery pick, Winslow does a lot of things really "well," but he really is not "good" or "great" at any one thing.  He is basically Dwyane Wade without the talent and explosion, Luol Deng (yes I know, another Dukie) without the skill. He hustles. I will give him that. But, at the end of the day, he is basically Battier without the veteran savvy and without the ability to hit an open three. Do we really want to take a player whose best skill is the ability to flop for a charge? Because that's all Duke players know how to do. My feeling is the Heat let one get away with Devin Booker, I know it was summer league, but Booker showed the scoring explosion that is missing from this Heat team. Booker seems poised to play significant minutes in Phoenix; Winslow seems poised to play significant minutes in Sioux Falls.  When is Pat Riley (Kentucky '69) going to put his foot down and pull the plug on Nick Arison's Duke obsession? -- Luis, Miami Heat.

A: My first disagreement is with the "Duke" generalizations, especially when so many of these players only spend a single season there under Mike Krzyzewski. If anything, that makes the players molded more by their scholastic and AAU experiences. I do agree with your general assessment of Winslow not necessarily having a definitive area of excellence, although he has shown such signs with his dribble penetration. And I also agree that Booker might do one thing better in the pros than Winslow might ever accomplish. But this wasn't the top of the lottery, it was at No. 10, to a team, as you mention, in win-now mode, led by someone in Riley who did not view his team as a lottery team. With Winslow, the Heat got someone who can help make Wade, Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic more efficient. That's why Justise is here. That's why he should fit. Did the Heat get a star of the future? Quite possibly not. But this is not a team at the moment taking the long view.

Q: I think is becoming clearer and clearer that the only way for Heat's owner not to pay the "repeater tax" is to get rid of Mario Chalmers' and Chris Andersen's contracts. But Miami has very few assets to sweeten a potential salary dump. So, could Justise Winslow become part of any potential deal?  -- Chris, Italy.

A: Look, it is tough enough to deal with trading off contributing talent for nothing in return. But that's also where you have to draw the line. If the Heat have to "sweeten" any salary dumps (and the Winslow notion is preposterous), that is where you have to draw the line. Because, as you mention, the Heat have so few assets going forward, the last thing they should be doing is involving them in a process that is about cash, and nothing more.

Q: So next year now will not be Samuel Dalembert's 11th straight year when he might sign with the Heat? He owns a house in Boca and he signs with Dallas? -- Pablo.

A: The latest chase, if there ever was one, obviously ended with the revelation that is Hassan Whiteside. But even before that, once Chris Andersen arrived, it basically made the issue moot. The one thing I will say is that I'm not sure Sam ever was a Heat or Pat Riley player. His motor just seemed out of tune with the Heat's from the outset of all such speculation.

July 25, 2015

Q: Ira, who do you think will or should make the roster out of Zoran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, James Ennis and Josh Richardson? Also, do you think there is any chance Heat bring back Michael Beasley? -- Ken.

A: First "will" and "should" are two different issues. Who do I think will make the roster? Zoran is a lock because of Goran. And I think Josh Richardson's combination of price point and potential have him well positioned. Who should make the roster? I'm not sure that this roster has many places available for potential, especially while in win-now mode. With that equation, I'm not sure I would have anyone beyond Josh from the group you mentioned, with his four years at Tennessee making him more polished than some of the Heat's incumbent younger players. As for Beasley, I wouldn't rule it out. The Heat simply were not in a position to guarantee his 2015-16 salary by the end of June, just as the Heat might have to bypass some guarantees at the Aug. 1 deadline. If Beasley is willing to come in without a guarantee, I think there still could be an opportunity there. Based on his Instagram account, Michael clearly is trying to work his way back to an NBA return.

Q: Are we jumping the gun on trading Mario Chalmers? I would think with Pat Riley's not-so-secret disdain for inexperienced players, you would think Mario would be a huge asset. It seems like he is ready to transition to a backup role going into his eighth year. Wouldn't it be a huge advantage to have a four-time NBA Finals starter running second team? At $4 million a year is it doable? -- Steve, Plantation.

A: Look, at the moment, Mario still sets up, along with Gerald Green, as one of the Heat's four best options in the backcourt. And you're right about his salary, that it certainly should be a manageable for a player cast in a rotation role. But when you have so many high-end salaries, with players such as Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, sometimes compromises have to be made. Ultimately, Mario could be caught in such a taxing situations.

Q: As Mikhail Prokhorov is proving, I don't think there are any owners who don't consider the consequences of the luxury tax.  Instead of just lessening the tax in 2016, do you think the Heat will try to get under that line completely, so that they can wipe the slate clean and avoid the repeater tax in 2017? -- Rich, West Palm Beach.

A: Absolutely. The tax is not as much of an issue as moving into the "repeater" tax. The way everyone this side of Dan Gilbert is working to avoid the tax, it's almost as if the owners have collectively decided that the "repeater" tax is where the line will be drawn. Collusion or common sense? We'll leave that up to others.

July 24, 2015

Q: The Heat were grooming Tyler Johnson to play backup point guard behind Goran Dragic. Does that continue? -- Nikki.

A: We'll know more on or before Aug. 1, which is the current deadline for the Heat to guarantee Johnson half of his 2015-16 salary (although such dates and such terms certainly can be modified). Much, of course, depends on what the Heat do (or don't do) with Mario Chalmers, with numerous NBA types saying they've heard the Heat are attempting to offload that contract. I'm still not sold on Tyler as a true backup point guard, a player who could move into the starting lineup should Goran be sidelined. I think, if anything, the grooming was more about having Tyler available to play as a swing guard, perhaps playing alongside Dwyane Wade in an alignment where either could run the point. If Chalmers is dealt, Shabazz Napier could be the player more likely to be cast as a starter in an emergency role should Goran be unavailable. Of course, if Chalmers and Napier are both dealt . . .

Q: Go James Ennis. I've always like him. He'll be good again. -- Teri.

A: I'm just not sure with this roster, with Luol Deng back and with Justise Winslow drafted, that the door remains open for James, especially if Josh Richardson becomes the latest youthful project of the moment. The Heat are loaded with prospects at a time when it again seemingly all will be about the moment. It is why Aug. 1 could be so interesting with both Johnson and Ennis, who also has that deadline for a guarantee of 50 percent of his 2015-16 salary.

Q: Heat ownership didn't seem to complain when the Big Three took less to play in Miami, but they sure cut corners when they got rid of Mike Miller and Joel Anthony on teams that were playing for a championship. How can you put a twist on ownership being willing to spend only when they have a legitimate shot at winning it all? They had a legit shot for four years, and they blew it. That's why that guy left last year. They keep trying to control players, rather than to pay them. Do I make any sense? -- Ernie, Los Angeles.

A: You certainly raise valid points. But you also have to look at the situation going forward, and how being in the repeater tax could impact future decisions. Look, there is no guarantee the Heat will be able to avoid the tax. So just going by the roster itself, the question becomes whether Chalmers and Chris Andersen should be considered essential for the coming season. That's where all decisions should rightfully start.

July 23, 2015

Q: Ira, it's nice that we will have our core back this season. However, we really don't have any 3-point proven shooters who will stretch the floor. We really can't rely on Goran Dragic for that as his game will be to run the floor and penetrate to the basket. That really just leaves Luol Deng and Chris Bosh to hoist up most of those three. Is that what the Heat really want them doing? We will not be a complete team, primed to compete for a championship, if we shoot below 30 percent from the 3-point line. Your thoughts on the subject? -- Mike, Miami.

A: You have to play to your roster. Gerald Green certainly will help with a traditional approach. But if Bosh and Josh McRoberts can make 3-pointers, why wouldn't you have then playing to their strengths? And if they can draw their defenders out on the wing, it's more room for Dragic to operate in the lane, for Dwyane Wade to get back to those rim cuts that were so productive when alongside LeBron James, would allow Deng to get back to more of his off-the-ball movement, rather than spotting up in the corners as he did all too often last season. I'm just not sure with this roster that Erik Spoelstra would play a specialist with any extended period of time when he otherwise could play a more complete player.

Q: You mentioned that this year's roster might not be good enough to beat Cleveland and they might be a year away. I am just wondering how we will get better next year (unless we get Kevin Durant)?  Dwyane Wade will be older. Chris Bosh will be older. This year may be our best chance to beat Cleveland and get to the Finals. -- Jeffrey.

A: But Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow also will be a year older. And even if it's not a Durant, the Heat will have a full season to see what additional piece might work alongside Dragic. Sometimes you have to grow into who you are. Perhaps that does happen this season. Or perhaps the Heat, like many teams, might always wind up a year away. I'm just not sure the leap from 10th worst in the league to one of the final two teams playing is a logical progression or assumption.

Q: What are Josh Richardson's chances of making the team? Normally players who are taken later in the draft stick it out through the summer league and preseason but not the regular season. -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.

A: There is no reason for Josh not to be on the team. He is a mature four-year college presence who arrives as a man. He has the ability to make plays, play defense and drain 3-pointers. Why stash someone like that overseas? And, to be honest, if the Heat offer a qualifying offer, as they are required, Richardson should simply sign it and force the Heat's hand. Because if the Heat do winding up lacking the roster space, then another team, based on Josh's summer-league play, likely would swoop in with a contract or claim him off waivers. Sorry, but there is no logical reason for him not to be a 2015-16 Heat, even if it means having to give up his summer-league No. 14 to allow Gerald Green to claim his preferred number. 

July 22, 2015

Q: Taxes are a normal cost of life, you know the joke about death and taxes. What is disingenuous is Micky Arison flaunting his lavish, cruising lifestyle on Twitter and then saying he does not want to spend money on the Heat's payroll. The Heat cannot afford paying the NBA taxes, yet pictures of yachts and luxury liners abound the Heat's social media channels? I do not want to pay taxes or for that matter pay any bills, but paying the piper is part of life. It seems like complaining about spending money has become a fixation with Heat Nation. Nothing in life is free. -- Leonard, Aventura.

A: Look, how an owner lives or how he chooses to express himself is separate from the business side. This team had gone deep, deep, deep into the tax in championship mode, especially during the Big Three years, and before that during the Alonzo Mourning-Tim Hardaway era. And the mantra from Pat Riley has always been the same, that Arison will pay to win a championship. So when it comes to this season's payroll, what you really have to ask, and honestly ask, is whether this roster, at this time, against this competition, is in championship mode. If you believe that to be the case, then the Heat definitely should pay whatever it takes. And if Micky believes that (or if Riley convinces him to believe that) then I believe he would. But is this Heat roster better than LeBron James and the Cavs, better than the best of the West? Or is the reality being a season away. Those are the questions Pat, Micky and their bookkeepers have to resolve. And it doesn't matter whether Micky does it on a yacht or in a penthouse or a sunny beach. What matters is that the spending equates with the reality of the moment.

Q: Is it possible Shabazz Napier and Mario Chalmers might be in play to get traded to the 76ers? They need a point guard and we need them off the books, and I'm sure we could get a pick out of it. -- Trey, Lithonia, Ga.

A: I doubt you would get anything out of it. In fact, quite the opposite. The 76ers would likely want you to pay in order to be able to use their cap space, which also would generate the benefit of trade exceptions for the Heat. I'm still not sure why, with such a benign salary, Napier would be such a priority when it comes to a trade. That is, of course, unless the Heat don't think he's good enough. But if the Heat think that way, why would anyone else think otherwise?

Q: I am afraid we might lose Josh Richardson to another team if we don't act soon. I like having a defensive minded guard on the roster. -- Jesus, Miami.

A: The Heat can't lose Richardson to another team as long as they make the required qualifying offer, which they assuredly will. The question is whether the Heat want to make more than the minimal offer, in order to lock Josh up for more than one year. The delay in his signing likely is more of a product of getting the rest of the roster (and payroll and tax) in order before addressing Josh. It's safe to say that he will be viewed as a keeper. 

July 21, 2015

Q Hello, Ira. Teams are still working out free agents and/or are trading for centers, power forwards, and point guards but no team seems to be interested in the players that Miami has been rumored to be dangling for weeks now as "available" via trade at these positions. Did the Heat overvalue their players or is it that these particular players do not fit into the culture or schemes of teams that are still looking for roster help at those positions? -- Nikki.

A: When it comes to taking players into space, teams first want to see what else might be available. It's just July. There is plenty of time. This is a delicate dance. The Heat do not have many "sweeteners" at their disposal, such as draft choices or prospects they can throw into deals. And the tax hit of a player is not calculated until season's end, so the Heat can still utilize some of the playing value of Chris Andersen or Mario Chalmers and still deal them by the trading deadline in February. Plus, arguments can be made that Birdman and Chalmers still are the best options for the Heat at their positions, at least until the Heat get a better read on the alternatives.

Q: I know you have already addressed this, however with last season's historic amount of injuries and the Heat's lack of draft picks moving forward, wouldn’t it make sense to load the back end of the roster with young inexpensive future talent? -- Chet.

A: Not when you're in win-now mode. And after last season, the Heat have to win now. And that means, especially with so many older players in the rotation, making sure you have viable, ready-to-go veterans in case those older players are not ready to go. The problem last season was when the likes of Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng weren't ready, you had to go with the likes of Tyler Johnson and James Ennis. I think this time around, the goal is to have someone a bit more ready for the moment.

Q: It seems that you need an MVP-caliber player to win a championship, and I fail to see such a player with the Heat. Granted Wade used to be such a player. -- Michael, Hollywood.

A: Based on what they're paying him, and the contractual obligation they made to him, Chris Bosh has to be that player for the Heat. He is a perennial All-Star who had to step aside for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade during the championship years. Now, health allowing, his time has come. And has to come.

July 20, 2015

Q: Do you think the Heat would try to get underneath the repeater tax by carrying 14 players instead of 15? -- Steel, Miami.

A: Could they try? Sure. Especially if it would mean the $1 million difference to potentially get under the luxury tax. From a financial standpoint it might make sense, but it is a terrible, terrible idea from a basketball standpoint and hardly sends the best message of trying to win and also develop players. That's what those spots at the back end of the roster are about, developing players without getting in the way of winning. Even a team like the Heat already has more than 15 qualified roster candidates, let alone having to trim to 14. If you're going to squeeze the roster like that, then all bets should be off with Zoran Dragic and Udonis Haslem. And what would that do for team morale? For years, Chicago has taken such a limited approach with its roster, and it is not something that has sat well with many Bulls observers. Yes, carrying 14 is cheaper than carrying 15. But what does that make the priority?

Q: I am worried about the way these teams are dishing out money on players. This is not a good thing for the Heat with Hassan Whiteside. Basically if he doesn't make any improvement or is injury prone this year, we still have to pay him close to max money to keep him. Not to mention there are not many good centers out there. I'm not sure that he would be willing to take a discount like Goran Dragic did. -- Craig, Marco Island.

A: That is one of the most intriguing elements of the Heat's forecast overhaul in the 2016 offseason. It's probably safe to say that with so much salary-cap space available next summer around the league, Hassan will get paid by someone, practically no matter what he does this season. And remember, the Heat have no Bird Rights advantage, since he will have only been with the team for two seasons. It is why it is possible that Hassan becomes a potential trade chip to a team with more potential cap space than the Heat next summer. That way, it is possible the Heat could upgrade this season and then use Dwyane Wade's Bird Rights to bring him back next summer. Otherwise, it is likely that just about any and all of the Heat's 2016 cap space will have to go to Hassan . . . unless a player with a big-number salary on the Heat is dealt. Stay tuned.

Q: It's interesting that many of the players commented on how they can play an up-and-down game along with halfcourt basketball if needed. I know Erik Spoelstra has wanted to play a fast style for a long time. You always see him gesture to push the ball up court. I'm really anxious to see that type of game from them. We haven't had a point guard like this since Tim Hardaway. I'm wondering how this will work though with Chris Bosh (lung capacity 90 percent), Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng getting up there in age, and a low-post center. Is this a pipe dream? -- Richard, North Miami Beach.

A: NBA teams almost always say they want to run. Then their roster basically makes the decision for their coach. When Goran Dragic is on the floor, you can bet he will be pushing the tempo. The question then becomes who is running alongside. I think Bosh, Wade and Deng all are capable of such effort. But they're also seasoned veterans who know their body and how deep into the season the Heat might be playing. Ultimately, I think it is those three, and perhaps a few others, who will dictate the terms of the tempo.

July 19, 2015

Q: I like Josh Richardson, but the Heat usually aren't kind to rookies. If they send him to the D-League does he count against the 15-man roster? Or do we lose our rights to him? The only suggestion I've heard is to ship him overseas. -- Alex, Hialeah.

A: First the clerical matters: If a team wants to retain rights to a player, so that he cannot be plucked off their D-League roster by another team, then they must count him against their 15-player NBA-roster limit. And it's not as easy as just telling a draft pick to go to Europe and keeping his rights. First a rookie tender, basically a non-guaranteed one-year contract, must be offered. If the player bypasses that offer, then he can go overseas with his drafting team maintaining his rights. However, the player also can say, "Sure, I'll take the tender." In that case, if he is not retained by his drafting team, he is free to be signed by or sign with any other NBA team. I'm just not sure where all the talk of "stashing" Richardson is coming from. He only would cost the Heat the NBA minimum and displayed enough skill in summer league to at least merit consideration for a roster spot in camp. He is one of those players who is probably as polished now as he is going to become. That's not a negative. That's a reality. He's ready.

Q: I've always been intrigued by the tale of the Dragic brothers. There does seem to be a wide chasm in their abilities, and I've felt that the Heat have been carrying Zoran Dragic on their roster so as not to upset Goran Dragic while his future with the Heat was uncertain. Now that Goran has been signed long term, isn't it time for the Heat to evaluate Zoran on his own merit? As they try to craft the best 15 man roster for the season, do you think Zoran has the ability and/or promise to merit a spot? -- Bob, Coral Springs.

A: The one thing I've learned about NBA roster construction is that it rarely is as simple as lining up the 15 best players. The salary cap certainly weighs heavily. But so does chemistry and cohesion. Beyond that, the final two or three players on the roster rarely play anyway, so other factors enter into that portion of the roster. It's all a long-winded way of saying that while Zoran probably is not among the 15 best roster candidates, his presence plays both toward the Heat "family" approach, as well as a nod to how significant it is to make Goran feel at home. I've said this all offseason: When calculating the Heat's final 15, start with Zoran and Udonis Haslem as the givens for the back end of the roster, and then go from there. Short answer: It's just the way it is.

Q: I'm sorry I have to be realistic here. People are predicting third or fourth seed for the Heat in the Eastern Conference. I even read some put them in the Eastern Conference finals. Really? Yes it looks good on paper, but they have not played with each other and are injury prone. Right now, the Heat are a sixth seed at best. The Bucks are the team to watch out for. This year to me is a project to see what pieces mesh well together. Then we trade the rest who do not fit our plans. -- Josue, Miami Lakes.

A: But beyond Cleveland, every team in the East goes into the season with chemistry question marks, including the Bucks. And while Milwaukee's youthful core is intriguing, it is the Heat who have proven commodities in their starting lineup such as Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade and even Luol Deng, let alone Hassan Whiteside. When in doubt, I would go with the known quantities, which is why I think the Heat are getting so much respect when it comes to a possible quick-turn resurrection.

July 18, 2015

Q: With Hassan Whiteside, everyone, including you, treats him as a done deal, a starter this year who's probably going to cash in on a big contract for '16-17. It seems to me that's getting far ahead of the game. He had two good months with the Heat, sure, but before that he spent three years in limbo, signed twice by the Kings, and dropped, hung around the D-League. What changed to give him his new status? What's to guarantee that he doesn't revert to where he was, with the same problems that kept him out of the NBA for those years? Was there some miracle cure from Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra? I'd love to see him make it, but just think some realism is in order. -- Hanan, Tel Aviv.

A: Oh, I think there is plenty of realism involved, that Hassan needs to show he can do it over an entire season, and postseason, and not just in selected games over part of a season. But there also are plenty around him telling him how much is at stake, well beyond the team-success influences of Riley and Spoelstra. What Whiteside has that few others have had before him is the type of length and athleticism that gives him a chance to go to several next levels. I, too, am not sure I'm ready to put Hassan into the class of a maximum-salary player next summer. But I also recognize that the NBA will be flush with new cap cash next summer, and that someone likely will up the ante no matter what happens with Hassan this coming season. What we'll get to see next is how much the Heat can make out of Hassan, and how much Hassan can make out of himself. To use a cliché that works in this case, the ball is in his court.

Q: I think the luxury tax is an excuse for fans who want to get rid of Mario Chalmers, and you can count me among them.  Chalmers was a good fit when LeBron James was here, but I'd rather see Josh Richardson, Shabazz Napier and Tyler Johnson compete for those minutes. -- Rich, West Palm Beach.

A: I think all of this has gone too far. Chalmers is a better player than Napier and Johnson at the moment, and Richardson certainly can be expected to go through growing pains. Beyond that, Richardson is practically a utility player, someone who can be utilized at all of the wing positions. More than anything, there is a glut at point guard. That is among the reasons Mario could get squeezed out. But at the moment, Chalmers is more of a tangible NBA commodity than Napier or Richardson. And the goal is to win now.

Q: What do you think about a potential Heat trade for Ty Lawson? He seems to be on sale right now. Perhaps Chris Andersen, Chalmers, Henry Walker and some second-rounders. -- Niko.

A: First, I think it would require far more to get Lawson, even with his recent contretemps. But beyond that, with Goran Dragic locked in as a starter, I'm not sure it would be a destination of choice for Lawson. And Pat Riley has never necessarily been big on small guards.

July 17, 2015

Q: Do you think the Heat bring Joshua Smith, Gabriel Olaseni and Greg Whittington to the 20-man roster, then dump them in the D-League affiliate? -- H.N.

A: I think they take the approach they did last year, where they entice two or three D-League candidates to camp with small partial guarantees and then move them through the system directly to their D-League affiliate, which I again expect to be the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The risk with such an approach is that once waived by the Heat during or after camp, those players could then be claimed or signed by any other NBA team. With some of the better summer prospects, such as Whittington, I could see other teams stepping in with more significant contract guarantees this summer, thereby preventing the Heat from even getting such players to training camp. That already has happened with Willie Reed. I do not think, with their roster glut, that the Heat will offer fully guaranteed deals to any of their summer prospects beyond those already under contract. As one of the members of the team's staff told me, summer league also is about developing relationships with players (and their agents) and getting a book on them in case the team circles back to them at a later date. That was part of the reason the Heat moved on from some of the prospects they worked with both last summer and then last season in the D-League. Summer league often is about casting a deep net and then deciding later who to try to reel in, to mix a metaphor or two.

Q: Hey Ira, hasn't Shabazz Napier proven with his performance in summer league that he deserves to be in a Heat jersey come next season? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.

A: There clearly has been an evolving comfort with the NBA game, at least at this summer level, and a clear indication that he is an NBA player going forward. But you also would like to see the shot evolve, so that he at least maintains the respect of the defense coming off the pick and roll. Still, I think it would be a stretch to yet view him as a rotation player, considering that when Goran Dragic goes to the bench it is very possible that Dwyane Wade moves over as the primary ballhandler. For now, Shabazz is most likely to be used as a third option, and has yet to become an essential roster component.

Q: What does your gut tell you that our final roster will be? -- Daniel.

A: My gut reminds me that this roster still is in the process of evolving and will continue to do so throughout the offseason and possibly beyond. But if you insist I list 15 players from who is under contract at the moment, I would go with: Hassan Whiteside, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Andersen at center; Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Udonis Haslem at power forward; Luol Deng, Justise Winslow and Zoran Dragic at small forward; Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers and Shabazz Napier at point guard; and Dwyane Wade, Gerald Green and Josh Richardson at shooting guard. But, for the moment, I only would list Chalmers and Birdman in pencil.

July 16, 2015

Q: I am very pleased the Heat got both Gerald Green and Amar'e Stoudemire for these two reasons: Green has played with Goran Dragic. He knows his style of play. They mesh very well together. And Amar'e was great alongside Steve Nash when they both played for the Suns, and Goran is the closest thing to a Steve Nash the NBA has right now. I feel the new additions would take very little time to get accustomed to the team. -- Bert, Miramar.

A: And I would not be surprised if Pat Riley consulted Dragic about both additions. That's the advantage of having a quality point guard, a true point guard. Goran naturally makes his teammates better, something he particularly showed when he played alongside Green in Phoenix. As for Stoudemire, he knows if he gets open that Goran will find him. While Amar'e isn't the runner he was when he played alongside Nash, it is possible the presence of Dragic motivates him to at least pick up his pace. When you're talking about the Heat's 2015-16 roster, you certainly could make an argument that Dragic is the Heat's most significant catalyst, that he has to be the engine to get all the motors going. And he has proven he is capable of addressing such a challenge, even in his limited tenure with the Heat to this point.

Q: What would your thoughts be about a Jason Terry addition, similar to Ray Allen from years before? -- Patrick.

A: It all comes down to who wants to play for the minimum. After getting Green and Stoudemire to take the minimum, it could create an uncomfortable situation if Riley then goes out and signs a comparable veteran to something beyond the minimum. It is not something I would expect to happen. I'm also not sure that Terry would see the Heat as a fit, or at least as good a fit as he had last season in Houston.

Q: FYI, I think you make a typo on your list. Somehow James Jones and Landry Fields were listed as top remaining free agents. -- Frank.

A: It is remarkable how quickly we've reached this point of NBA free agency. I can't recall another year when we've reached this level of who's left this early in the process. Even for the bargain-hunters, there's not necessarily much left. I have my current list of best remaining free agents as: Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), J.R. Smith (Cavaliers), Glen Davis (Clippers), Josh Smith (Rockets), Norris Cole (Pelicans), Jason Terry (Rockets), Matthew Dellavedova (Cavaliers), Kevin Seraphin (Wizards), Dorell Wright (Trail Blazers), Alexey Shved, (Knicks), Andre Miller (Kings), Tayshaun Prince (Pistons), Carlos Boozer (Lakers), James Jones (Cavaliers), Darrell Arthur (Nuggets), John Jenkins (Hawks), Landry Fields (Raptors), Tyler Hansbrough (Raptors).

July 15, 2015

Q: Could the offseason have played out any better? Luol Deng opts in, Goran Dragic takes less and Dwyane Wade agreeing to one-year deal sets the Heat up nicely this upcoming season and next offseason particularly. Your thoughts? -- John, Erwin, Tenn.

A: The real question is not about those three; we know who they are. It's about the supporting cast, which emerged as such a considerable issue last season. For now, Gerald Green and Amare Stoudemire are just names. Will they fit? Will they be able to offer the needed stability (Green?) and health (Stoudemire?) that was lacking last season in the rotation? Too often last season, when the Heat went to the bench, they found themselves at a deficit. In fact, you could make an argument that there's precious few known commodities in the reserve rotation, when considering that Justise Winslow is a rookie and that Josh McRoberts is coming off his December knew surgery. For now, that face of stability in the Heat reserve rotation is Mario Chalmers, and he reportedly is on the trading block.

Q: Mario Chalmers played in the NBA Finals for four straight years and I'm pretty sure you can't take away his experience and not to mention he played great when Wade was down for a couple of days. -- Eldridge, Philippines.

A: Something surprising has happened in recent weeks, something I never would have expected based on the opinions of Chalmers in recent years: a groundswell of support. I think when the other option is mere tax savings, fans have come around to the reality that Chalmers has served a purpose since his arrival and could yet prove beneficial to this latest Heat roster. And I agree. Based on what currently is on the roster, the dumping of Chalmers could create a deficit. Now, if Shabazz Napier continues to show improvement, if someone else in the backcourt starts hitting 3-pointers, if a combo guard can be mined from the existing depth (perhaps second-round pick Josh Richardson), then such an offloading could prove more palatable. For the moment, though, Chalmers still sets up as a member of the primary eight-man rotation, when considering his ability to play both point guard and shooting guard.

Q: I know Miami is limited on cap space. Very limited. But what if the Heat choose to use their mid-level exception, what are some realistic options that could help out our bench? -- Try. Lithonia,, Ga.

A: Because of the tax, and because of hard-cap possibilities, I don't see the Heat, at least for the moment, spending anything more than the veteran-minimum level they spent with Amare Stoudemire and Gerald Green. I think it would be difficult to convince those two to come in at that number and then turn around and spend mid-level money on another player who would be cast in a similar bench role.

July 14, 2015

Q: Any chance the Heat will pull of a trade for Steve Novak? He seems like a good fit and it would be a nice reunion for Dwyane Wade from his Marquette days. -- Chris, Chicago.

A: I doubt the Heat would trade for any contract above the minimum at this stage, unless it is a way to take in decidedly less salary than is traded out. It's why Steve Blake wasn't in play for the Heat when he was dealt from Brooklyn to Detroit. And it's probably why even if the Thunder do sell off Novak and his 3-point shot and $3.8 million salary that he likely would be headed somewhere other than Miami. Ditto for why the Heat were not the destination for Blake and his $2.2 million salary. I think the Heat would be more in play for players who are traded and then released, making them minimum-salary possibilities. And, again, such bargains tend to be available later in the game, which is why patience might be prudent at this stage. Come August, or even later, there could be a few ready-to-go veterans still looking for work.

Q: Why not trade with the Dallas Mavericks for future second-round picks? I mean Dallas needs a point guard and they need another center to help the newly acquired Zaza Pachulia. Wouldn't that help everyone? -- Derrick, Phoenix.

A: And that's certainly a possibility. As would trades with other teams left with salary-cap space. Again, for as many free agents who signed within the first week of the signing period, it doesn't mean that everything in the NBA has to be concluded by mid-July. Your point is well made, but is also about more than the Mavericks. As the summer progresses, teams with cap space or trade exceptions could recognize that players such as Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers, players both entering the final years of contracts, could be perfect fits. As with the question above, I think answers will come into clearer focus for many of the Heat's ongoing issues by the end of the summer.

Q: Hi, Ira. It would be a shame if the Heat were to need to put Josh McRoberts into play to get below the tax. That would leave the Heat with a truly old and not very athletic power rotation. Micky Arison's desire to get under the tax is understandable, but how much quality depth is he willing to sacrifice? Is he willing to trade the team out of truly being contenders for the East? He's already received numerous tax breaks, with Goran Dragic taking considerably less than anticipated, with Dwyane Wade not getting a one-year max, and with both the salary cap and luxury tax threshold unexpectedly being more friendly than anticipated. If none of the aforementioned had occurred, he would've had to strip this team to minimum wage players, after the starting five, to get below the tax. -- Matt.

A: Your point about sacrifice is well made. And with Dwyane and Goran making their sacrifices, it again could come down to Arison's turn, although I'm sure his thought is he has paid plenty already. Ultimately, the Heat still could go into the season with a roster with plenty of veteran depth, and possibly also go into the season tax free, with moves yet to be made. Again, as with the previous two questions, what is required at this stage is the type of patience that tends to be in limited supply with fans.

July 13, 2015

Q: Perhaps I'm crazy, but I see the problems for the Heat right now and no one has mentioned the one solution I see working. I'm not saying I like it (I don't), but here it goes: Problem 1) Micky Arison wants us out of the tax, particularly as repeaters and we are around $13 million over last I looked. Problem 2) We are offering Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers for nothing, but that only clears out $9.4 million (still in the tax and repeaters here) and with Willie Reed no longer an option we have only two true centers and we are trying to dump one with that move. Problem 3) No one wants Chalmers for $4.5 million anyway, so he needs an incentive to package a deal and we are low on draft picks to use as bargaining chips. Solution: Package Luol Deng and Chalmers. It's the only way to get out of the tax, clear another two seats on the bench and may even aid Goran Dragic in playing a more full court offense if we install a young, fast player. If the player could shoot threes reliably (Gerald Green), then it would also help our spacing which I see as a problem with Deng's style of play. Sadly we would lose huge on defense, but this being business, could Micky have Pat Riley look in this direction?? -- Mark, Miami.

A: I have mentioned the possibility of Deng being an tax answer, but I have two issues with that approach. First, he is by far the best answer for this starting lineup, for the exact reason you mentioned: to have a perimeter defender on the floor with the starters. Second, isn't this whole tax thing overstated considering the broadcast money to enter the equation in 2016-17? Surely that massive injection of revenue would offset one more season in the tax. But if you insist on getting under the tax, then I still think Birdman-Chalmers-McRoberts is the way to go, rather than with Deng.

Q: If Miami is looking to move Birdman, and Amare Stoudemire is expected to play power forward, why didn't Pat Riley offer Willie Reed the $500,000 guarantee? At worst, if they can't move Bird, they are only paying $1.5 million for Reed when you include the tax. -- Joe, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Because for all he showed during summer league, at least one Heat personnel executive did not consider Reed anything more than a third-string center. And with his limited mobility, Stoudemire well could wind up playing plenty of center, as could Udonis Haslem. Plus, there still are plenty of backup-center types on the NBA's free-agent list who likely would come to camp without any guarantee.

Q: Ira, how is it possible that both Zoran Dragic and Justise Winslow are ahead of James Ennis on your depth chart. -- Doris, Marathon.

A: Because Zoran and Justise have guaranteed contracts. And in these taxing times (see above), that means plenty. 

July 12, 2015

Q: Is Birdman's contract eligible for a buyout? I like Bird, but it was evident last year that he was running on fumes. -- Joe, Miami Gardens.

A: Chris Andersen has one year left on his Heat contract at $5 million, and I doubt he would want to walk away from any of it, or want to walk away at all. If he is moved, it would be to discard his salary. If a player receives a buyout (which has to be agreed upon by both parties), that still would leave the remaining salary on the Heat's books. The biggest question is whether there is a market at $5 million for Andersen out there in the NBA's current salary climate. Beyond that, such a departure would leave the Heat without a true center in reserve behind Hassan Whiteside, with the team instead left to play a power forward in the middle, such as Amare Stoudemire or Udonis Haslem, or even putting Chris Bosh back at center.

Q: After last season seeing Shabazz Napier struggle, why don't the Heat look to trade Josh McRoberts and Mario Chalmers for someone like Jarrett Jack to mentor Napier? McRoberts would be replaced by a cheap option like Carlos Boozer and Chalmers would be immediately replaced by Jack. Chalmers gets the starting job he wants and McRoberts would be a great player off the bench behind Thaddeus Young in Brooklyn. -- William, Miami.

A: Your suggestion shows you put thought into your question. But it doesn't address the reality that the Heat are not looking to trade salary for salary, but more likely looking to discard salary to possibly get under the tax line. Taking on Jack's $6.3 million salary doesn't address that concern. And I'm still not sure the Heat are ready to bail on McRoberts, whose halfcourt game could have benefits if the running game fails to gain traction. I believe if the Heat move veterans, it would be for draft picks or cap space.

Q: Since the luxury tax hit isn't calculated until after the season, what are the chances Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra and (most importantly) Micky Arison wait until the trading deadline to see how the rotation has fallen into place? That will give us a chance to see these new teammates on the court together before deciding who is superfluous. -- Cristiano, Bethlehem, Pa.

A: I'm all for that. But I'm also all for spending whatever it takes to win. The problem with waiting is that the opportunities could be far more limited, with teams in February operating closer to the cap than during the offseason. The safest way to dump salary (and clear tax obligations) is to move sooner rather than later. I do believe we will see Heat trades before the end of the summer, possibly before the end of July. 

July 11, 2015

Q: Is there any room left at the inn? -- Teri.

A: Well, the available room on the Heat roster certainly is filling up fast, and it could be the kids who get squeezed unless the Heat shed some veteran salary. Basically, the depth chart at the moment shapes up with Hassan Whiteside, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem at center; Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Amare Stoudemire at power forward; Luol Deng, Justise Winslow and Zoran Dragic at small forward; Dwyane Wade, Gerald Green and Josh Richardson at shooting guard; and Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers and Shabazz Napier at point guard. And that's the 15-player regular-season limit right there, with no room left for James Ennis, Tyler Johnson, Henry Walker or any of the other players on the summer roster. The logical resolution would be, in light of the Heat's tax issues, to move Birdman and Chalmers out. That would re-open the door, say, for Johnson and Ennis. The other issue is that Zoran and Udonis as somewhat untouchables, so you have to get creative otherwise. But the 15 I initially mentioned probably give the Heat the best chance to win, if money wasn't an issue. Which it always is.

Q: Wade also wrote "one more year" on his Instagram. Does that mean he's planning on leaving? -- Ariel.

A: I think we all need to take a step back from reading something into everything once a player puts pen to paper. No matter what happens next, Dwyane is in for the coming season. And I think he meant the phrase in a good way, that after all these years with the Heat, there again will be one more. I truly believe that Dwyane essentially agreed to a one-year lifetime contract, that accommodations will be made for at least another season after this, and as many more as he chooses with the Heat down the road. There could be a time when Dwyane Wade stops bristling about being referred to an old man with the Heat, because he just might grow into one on this roster. For now, it's all good.

Q: Must you always mention the fire extinguisher when referring to Amare? -- Rich.

A: Don't worry, there is no fire-extinguisher outside the Heat locker room. So this time, it's all good.

July 10, 2015

Q: What do we do about Mario Chalmers? It would be nice to keep him as long as possible as insurance in case Shabazz Napier struggles. Which way would you go with it? -- Raul, Miami.

A: I've received a bunch of these questions in recent days, about how long the Heat should hold on to Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers or even Josh McRoberts before letting them go because of the Heat's position against the luxury tax, especially now that the Heat are facing the extra-punitive "repeater" tax. I even went as far in my story on the signing of Gerald Green to mention how Luol Deng could possibly become a tax hit. But the reality is that the tax merely is a money issue, a fiscal concern primarily for Micky Arison. Based on the current roster, the Heat are a better team with Mario Chalmers still around. The same with Birdman. And certainly that is true with McRoberts and with Deng. While the offseason has plenty to do with accounting, the regular season is all about depth and talent. Selling off talent makes for less-reliable depth. If winning is what matters most, keep 'em all. Then, next summer, when some of the current salaries could get in the way of free agency, simply let those with expiring contracts walk. But, as I always note, it's also not my money.

Q: With the addition of Gerald Green, it seems that while our starting lineup (with the exception of Goran Dragic) is best suited to play halfcourt basketball, our bench (with the exception of Chalmers) is best suited to play up-tempo. Does it make sense to run two distinct offenses depending on who is on the floor? Assuming Chalmers stays, does it make sense for Dragic to get minutes with the second unit at different points throughout the game (like LeBron James used to) and Chalmers to get minutes with the other starters? -- Abel. Miami.

A: Bingo. That's exactly what I think will happen. Erik Spoelstra even mentioned it at Goran's media conference that it is essential to play different styles. I think the Heat will have a speed game and have a deliberate attack. The players, with the proper depth (see the question above), then can be mixed and matched. As Spoelstra said, you need to show multiple looks. It looks like the Heat finally could have such flexibility with their roster.

Q: With DeAndre Jordan changing course so late, like LeBron did to sabotage the Heat last summer, it almost makes you feel sorry for Mark Cuban, doesn't it, Ira? -- Leo.

A: As I said Wednesday night, we've actually hit a moment when Mark Cuban has become a sympathetic figure. We've also hit a moment where something has to be done about the NBA's moratorium, which even gets worse next summer, when the moratorium doesn't end until July 12. There has to be a better way.

July 9, 2015

Q: Three-point shooting. Three-point shooting. Three-point shooting. Did I mention 3-point shooting? Is there anybody they can get, or is it only via trade? -- Fazal.

A: I agree that the concerns are legitimate and that there hasn't exactly been anyone who has consistently overwhelmed from distance during summer league. My question, though, is whether Erik Spoelstra would play someone who is only a 3-point shooter, at the cost of defense and perhaps ball movement. For example, he hardly went out of his way to get James Jones into games, must to the disappointment of Jones and others on the roster at the time. And while I know many Heat fans sigh when the 3-point shooting of Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts is raised, there is something to be said about such an approach. If those two take their games outside (and take opposing big men with them), it opens the lane for the rim attacks of Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, perhaps even Luol Deng, as well. As for free agency, there always are the remaining likes of Wayne Ellington, Marcus Thornton, Dorell Wright, Jason Terry, Rasual Butler and Luigi Datome, but the tax and concerns about the other aspects of their games could be factors there.

Q: With Willie Reed, the Heat would have two young big men, which would be a nice alternative to small ball. -- Chet.

A: And Reed could provide insurance, with Whiteside to be a free agent next summer (as well, as, perhaps if there are any more ejections or suspensions for Hassan along the way). If the Heat are looking to establish their defense around having a rim protector like Whiteside on the floor, then it makes sense to have another on call, especially should Chris Andersen be moved (or even get injured, if retained).

Q: Are the Heat grooming Tyler Johnson in summer league to be the backup point guard behind Goran Dragic because they're looking to trade Mario Chalmers and Shabazz Napier? -- Nikki.

A: I think there's more to it than that. Under Erik Spoelstra, unless you start at a specific position (and sometimes not even then), the preference is to have versatility, just like Josh McRoberts can play the four or five, Justise Winslow the three or four, and Mario Chalmers the one or two. So, yes, by being versatile, Johnson could set up as a replacement for Chalmers (if not this year, then possibly the season after, with Chalmers to be a free agent in July 2016). But, more than that, it's about creating opportunities for yourself when minutes might available somewhere other than your natural position. By contrast, Napier is purely a point guard, because of his stature, and that's it. And that can be limiting.

July 8, 2015

Q: So is the Miami Heat roster completed for the '15-2016 done at this point? I was hoping for some bench additions. -- Tre, Lithonia, Ga.

A: No, it is way, way, way, too early to start thinking that way, or even to be putting together any type of regular-season depth chart. Over the years some of the Heat's most intriguing personal moves have come toward the latter stages of the offseason, from Dan Majerle to Gary Payton, even to, for what it was worth, Greg Oden. These days, with elements like the "stretch provision," even those with guaranteed contracts are not necessarily guaranteed roster spots. That said, the Heat currently have 11 players with fully guaranteed contracts: Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, Luol Deng, Justise Winslow, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers, Zoran Dragic and Shabazz Napier. I think you also can factor Hassan Whiteside in as guaranteed, even with his partial guarantee, so that brings that number to 12. Beyond that, the partial guarantees for Tyler Johnson, James Ennis and Henry Walker are minimal and don't kick in for a while. And that's not even getting to second-round pick Josh Richardson or the promise of summer-league contributors such as Willie Reed. Essentially, there are at least three roster spots currently in play, and trades could certainly create even more. This is a roster story far from being written.

Q: Is not making a significant addition evidence of the Heat's lowered stature post-LeBron James? -- Daniel.

A: No, only because this summer never was going to be about outside interest, due to the Heat's limited salary-cap resources. This was mostly about bringing back Wade, Dragic and Deng. But the fact that the Heat still got a foot in the door with LaMarcus Aldridge and at least sparked interest with David West spoke volumes. The Heat very much remain relevant post-LeBron. Even without an iota of salary-cap space, they still made noise in 2015 free agency, which, when you get down to it, is kind of remarkable.

Q: There’s something about Willie Reed’s game! What do you think his odds are of making the Heat’s roster come November? -- Casey, Miami.

A: I think it comes down to whether Birdman is dealt, simply because Reed is viewed as a center by the Heat and, when counting Haslem, the Heat are three deep there. I do think the Heat will do everything possible to try to keep Reed as long as possible, to see if they can thin out that position. With Whiteside to be a free agent in 2016, it certainly would be advantageous to have youthful depth at the position.

July 7, 2015

Q: I hope Goran Dragic, unlike me, isn't wondering about the up-tempo game the team was going to institute this coming season. In my view, unless there are some present roster changes, particularly the starting five looks primarily like a halfcourt-offense-oriented team. Here are some ideas: Reduce the minutes of Dwyane Wade, maybe eventually coming off the bench. Trade Chris Bosh, he has the most value if the question mark of the blood clot is negated, for faster, younger players at both forward positions and maybe a first-rounder. Trade Mario Chalmers, Shabazz Napier and Chris Andersen for picks and choose only the quicker and most effective players from the summer league and training camp. Perhaps it's all easier said than done. -- Joaquin.

A: This is an excellent question from your primary perspective. Watching Justise Winslow through the start of summer league, it appears as if he is more comfortable sizing up his man in the halfcourt. Wade certainly is the same way. And one of Bosh's strengths is playing in the halfcourt off the pick-and-roll. But you can't change out your entire roster because of your point guard. A happy medium could be utilizing a "speed" unit at times. But when factoring in Hassan Whiteside it sure seems as if the Heat are more geared to the halfcourt. Then again, Dragic is locked in for five years, so the Heat coaching staff again has the upper hand.

Q: Watching Winslow play, I see a lot of positive, but I don't like the form on his shot. At his size, he needs to shoot well from at least mid range. Your thoughts? -- Joel.

A: At this stage, he appears to be more scorer than shooter. And that's a concern, because when the real games start, the big men he's attacking in the paint will be bigger, faster, stronger and a whole lot longer. The shot is going to be essential. In Monday's summer-league victory over Detroit, there we plenty of clanks. I was surprised that Stanley Johnson's stroke was far truer.

Q: Josh Richardson looks like a Bruce Bowen type. He's a pest and I love it. He's going to frustrate a lot of players. -- Todd.

A: Although I continually caution with all such observations at this time of year that, "it's only summer league," I have to admit that he is one of the Heat's more intriguing second-round additions. While he can be out of control at times, he's less out of control than James Ennis. In Josh's case, all of his effort appears to result in productivity. I'm just not sure what his position is, and I don't necessarily think it's point guard.

July 6, 2015

Q: Although so much money is now tied up by the core players, the offseason signings of last year are still limiting Heat going forward. Chris Andersen's two-year deal, Josh McRoberts' long contract, and possibly even the deals of Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers' are contracts and ultimately roster spots that could be better utilized on/by other players. -- Nikki.

A: But it's all about the context of those deals. With Birdman, it was making good on a follow-up to the request of first having him play on two years of minimum salaries. With McRoberts, the acquisition was about utilizing him in a halfcourt offense, with the Heat now looking to play at a tempo possibly faster than his natural speed. With Haslem, it also was about making up for previous salary sacrifice, or at least restructuring his money in a more advantageous fashion for the team. And with Chalmers, it was about stability at a time when there was so much change. When the deals were signed, they were prudent for the moment. Now, everything has changed, which is why it makes sense for the Heat to be reconsidering everything that came before.

Q: If the Heat push a power rotation player out of the picture to alleviate some tax woes, do you think that Willie Reed will finally get a chance to play? His summer-league play has certainly been up to par. Or do you think the Heat would be better off with a veteran? -- Josh, Atlanta.

A: It depends whether the Heat think they need to add to the power rotation from a developmental standpoint or a win-now standpoint. Based on minimum salaries, or at least how they count against the cap and tax, Carlos Boozer basically would come at the same price as Reed. We know Pat Riley prefers veterans, but Reed's length could be an advantage. I also think we should reserve judgment on Reed until all three weeks of summer league are complete.

Q: Dear Ira, I am thrilled that Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade signed and Luol Deng opted in. Still, there is only one addition to a team that failed to make the playoffs.  He is a 19-year-old rookie, albeit very talented Justise Winslow. I know that we had a lot of health issues, but health and one 19-year-old will not get us to the Finals. Is this, and minimum salary vets no one else wanted, all we are doing to go from the lottery to the Finals? -- Jeffrey.

A: But this never was about additions. It was about Chris Bosh and the rest of the ailing players getting healthy. It was about having Goran and Hassan Whiteside in a training camp together for the first time. It was getting all these pieces together for the first time.

July 5, 2015

Q: Miami fans are going hard for Lou Williams on Twitter. He lives in Miami and seems to be interested. Any chance Miami could be interested and do a sign-and-trade to get him? Since Toronto needs a power forward, Josh McRoberts would be the perfect fit. Right? -- Tre, Lithonia, Ga.

A: I will say this: I like your thinking. I'm not talking specifically about Williams, although he would be quite a get, but rather the notion of a sign-and-trade to land a shooter while also excising potential duplication and unnecessary salary. While adding a player at the taxpayer mid-level could prove onerous against the luxury tax, a sign-and-trade could instead just shift salary to better use. Lou earned $5.4 million last season with the Raptors, so a sign-and-trade with McRoberts or even Chris Andersen could work. There are permutations where you could also do something involving Mario Chalmers. The good thing with the latter two is that Birdman and Chalmers would be on expiring contracts next season. But beyond all of that, the only way a sign-and-trade works is if the other party is interested in what you have to offer. But I do believe the Heat have players with sign-and-trade value.

Q: Were the Heat better off not striking a deal with LaMarcus Aldridge? His game is similar to Chris Bosh and Bosh is a better defender. I would have hated to give up Bosh or, worse, Justise Winslow to Portland for his services. I think the Heat are better off not having him at that price. -- Rodney, Sarasota.

A: Count me in the minority (at least based on the majority opinion out there), but I also would rather have Bosh because of his defensive tenacity, and the fact that he is not as much of a ball-stopper. Of course that could all come down to Chris' health, with that full story likely not to be told until training camp. But Chris fits for the Heat. And with the Heat's approach, that's meaningful.

Q: I was really impressed with Winslow in the summer-league opener. I didn't see one mental error on offense or defense. He always made the right basketball play. He looked for his teammates. It's going to be nice to see him with the vets. -- Todd.

A: As I always say: It's only summer league. But good habits should translate to any level of the game. But you could also see in the summer opener how an adjustment is required for any newcomer to NBA speed and force. I think that is among the reasons Justise went without a rebound in his debut.

July 4, 2015

Q: The West has better players, but teams keep getting diluted. Besides the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, the West is not great. -- Jeffrey.

A: I would beg to disagree, including with what the Mavericks did Friday with DeAndre Jordan, and even how the Rockets managed to keep everything together. Plus, you will have a healthy (presumably) Kevin Durant coming back for the Thunder and a locked-in Anthony Davis for the Pelicans. And don't sleep on the Jazz, who began a significant revival by the end of last season, or the muscle of the Grizzlies. Yes, the Clippers have been stung, with the same potential fate for the Trail Blazers, but an argument could be made that the West still has six of the seven best teams in the NBA, maybe more. Actually, the way free agency has gone probably has been a relief to teams in the East, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo from the Blazers to the Knicks are about the only significant West-to-East moves so far in free agency, and it's not as if the Knicks suddenly have the look of a contender. Beyond the Cavaliers, there are no locks when it comes to seeding in the East, or even that many teams, beyond perhaps the 76ers or Magic, that are locks for the lottery.

Q: My two reactions once I heard of Dwyane Wade's signing were relief and a little bit of sorrow. I didn't want the Heat to commit to a multi-year contract. It must be sobering for a player of Wade's stature to receive such little attention in free agency. So that Wade could save face, aren't you surprised the Heat didn't offer the full $23.5 million? -- Rich (West Palm Beach)

A: I wouldn't be surprised if the missing money was Wade's making sure Udonis Haslem will stay, as well, and not be sold off for luxury-tax savings. Similarly, it could be that Goran Dragic taking a bit less was to assure that his brother, Zoran Dragic, would remain alongside.

Q: Ira, who within the Heat family is being groomed to be the next Don (Riley)? The organization markets itself as a family that hires from within and we have seen individuals being groomed for other positions. Riley is getting older and I don't see any one obviously being groomed that would have the same cachet going forward in making the deals. Who is someone who can come to the table with multiple championship rings and has been proven to be as ruthless as Pat Riley? -- Henry.

A: I don't think there is a succession plan or even thoughts of one. I think this is a franchise very much living in the moment, thus the willingness to trade away three upcoming first-round picks, and the reluctance to take a package of first-round picks from the Celtics at this year's draft in exchange for the No. 10 pick. When Riley moves on, it all will change. For now . . . it's about now.

July 3, 2015

Q: Who can the Heat get with the midlevel? -- Art.

A: If might be a question of "will" rather than "who." The Heat are so hard up against the luxury tax that any player signed at the $3.4 million could cost at least three times that amount when accounting for the luxury tax, perhaps even more. By contrast, players signed for the veteran minimum would cost less than $1 million against the cap and only a modest amount in the tax. So the question becomes whether a player available at the taxpayer mid-level is a significant upgrade from what can be obtained at the minimum. The use of the mid-level could come down to the Heat's ability to sell off some of their excess pieces, especially ones earning well beyond the minimum or over the taxpayer mid-level. It is quite possible that teams unable to utilize their cap space might come to shop at the Heat's bargain bin. Usually you can find one-dimensional shooters on the minimum market. Heck, Jason Kapono was on such a tryout for the Warriors last preseason. The question is whether Erik Spoelstra would ever utilize such a player. So the long, long answer to your short question is that it will come down to where the Heat stand against the tax and whether such a mid-level addition truly could emerge as a rotation player.

Q: Will this be Dwyane Wade's last year with the Heat?  I assume Pat Riley's plan is to re-sign him for much more modest amounts in future years. But if he's going to take a big pay cut, Wade might decide to team up with you-know-who in Cleveland. -- David.

A: I can almost guarantee that this one-year deal is the start of a series well-delineated, pre-orchestrated future contracts with Wade that the Heat never will talk about. The money will keep flowing to Dwyane as the Heat maneuver through various payroll scenarios in coming years. In some ways, he signed a one-year lifetime contract. As long as the contracts are individual, Wade can take this current $20 million one-year deal, take a minimal one-year deal in 2016-17 in order for the Heat to add a free agent, and then take a max deal in 2017-18 once the roster is set. He could wind up being a very, very well-paid 40-year-old.

Q: You think the LaMarcus Aldrich meeting is Riley's way of saying that "I'm not waiting around like I did last year"? -- David.

A: I think the whole league isn't waiting around like it did last year for LeBron James. This year, the fireworks come before July 4. I actually might get to watch summer league at summer league.

July 2, 2015

Q: Ira, I'm not worried about the price of Goran Dragic's contract. I am concerned that he will not be able to play his style with this Heat roster. Why should I believe otherwise? -- Thom.

A: Why? Because when given the opportunity to synthesize a system in the offseason, Erik Spoelstra has shown time and again an ability to develop a system that works for his entire roster. The problem last season was that two of the added components, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, arrived unable to immediately contribute. Then Hassan Whiteside emerged to change the dynamic. And when Goran arrived at the Feb. 19 trading deadline, the Heat were losing Chris Bosh for the season. The Heat never got to Goran's game, because they never got to anyone's game last season. Now Dragic and Whiteside will go to their first Heat training camp, Bosh will be back, and the Heat will have a sense of identity. Between Whiteside either triggering the break with rebounds or running to the rim in transition, with the ability for Bosh to drag and hit jumpers, and with Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng able to play on the secondary break, there should be no reason for the Heat not to play at Dragic's tempo of choice. This time the Heat not only can talk about running, they actually can do it.

Q: I know Pat Riley has said we don't add by subtraction, but how much is Micky Arison willing to dip into the tax to keep our rotation players? -- Cristiano, Bethlehem, Pa.

A: The rotation players aren't the issue. It's determining whether the ancillary pieces are worth the extra cost. But before considering merely trading Mario Chalmers or Chris Andersen (or Zoran Dragic or Udonis Haslem) for draft picks, consider that with the Heat to operate above the salary cap, those contracts could come in handy down the road for trades. Indeed, if the 2016 free-agent market proves less than enticing in advance, there always is the possibility of packaging some of those pieces for a ready-to-go contributor before the February trading deadline. July is probably a bit too early to be selling off pieces because of luxury-tax concerns, on a bill that won't come due until next July.

Q: Good for the Heat getting Josh Richardson. Hopefully him and Justise Winslow can bring energy like the 2003 team had with Caron Butler and Dwyane Wade. when the Heat rose again. That for me was the most enjoyable year. -- Juan.

A: And there should be optimism with the energy, especially on the defensive end, that the Heat's two draft picks can deliver. The Heat just might find that needed balance between youth and experience this coming season. But I'm still not sure if Shabazz Napier will prove to be a fit with that mix.

July 1, 2015

Q: How possible would it be for the Heat to acquire new role players such as Gary Neal and Carlos Boozer if they trade Birdman, Mario Chalmers, or even Udonis Haslem? It just ­seems to me that the Heat should look into other options and trade the guys that still have a­ little value and can give the Heat somewhat of a return for them. -- Joe, Grand Rapids, Mich.

A: First, if Dwyane Wade comes back, the only reason to offload anyone would be to save against the tax. And if the Heat are looking to win, they are better off with Chris Andersen, Chalmers, Haslem, and players who know the system. Yes, there will be cheap alternatives, and I can't remember a time when Boozer hasn't been trying to get to the Heat. But the contracts of Chalmers, Andersen and Haslem all expire after this season, so there is no long-term concern with those deals. Now, if Wade leaves and the Heat want to try to carve out cap space, that is another story. Then anything and everything could be in play. But the more I think about it, the more I think Wade is returning, in part because of his lack of palatable alternatives. Beyond all of that, I'm not sure there is much of a market for Andersen, Chalmers and Haslem, and it's not as if such moves would be important enough for the Heat to sweeten the pot simply to offload the final year on those contracts.

Q: Would signing Rashard Lewis again be a good option? -- Michael, Melbourne, Australia

A: Let me preface this by saying I'm a big Rashard fan and that he came around to provide a significant boost in his most recent season with the Heat. But if the Heat are going to rely on Wade, Luol Deng and even Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic at their ages, then I think they have to think younger, whenever possible, with the balance of the roster. The lesson from last season is that all the name-recognition factor in the world doesn't help if the players aren't ambulatory.

Q: Please bear with me as I throw another Michael Beasley question your way. I don't understand how they can let him go yet again. Yes, they can redo his contract and bring him back, but would he really want to? He was great toward the end of the season, great scoring punch off the bench, improved on defense (though he did have a few lapses) and he even filled in at the five position when all our other bigs were out. -- Robert, Fayetteville, N.C.

A: Because it became clear he would not be a rotation player or even close, with the goal with the remaining spots either for specialists or developmental players. And the fact that picking up his option would have made him costlier than if he was released and later re-signed, well the writing was on the wall.

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