ASK IRA: Could Heat trade assets prove more valued than believed?

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Sun Sentinel writer Ira Winderman addresses the Heat's issues of the day.

 


July 23, 2017

Q: The timing of Kyrie Irving's trade request certainly doesn't come at an optimal time for us with our newly signed players not being eligible to be traded until Dec. 15. I expect the Cavaliers to move him, though, before the season begins because it's just a bad situation. How can LeBron James and Kyrie continue to play with each at this point? You could make the argument that Kyrie has felt this way for a while and they've made it work, but everything changes once it's made public. The Heat don't really have the chips right now. A deal should obviously begin with Goran Dragic and I think the Cavs should want him. Irving and Dragic are similar players in what they do. Tyler Johnson could be their scoring punch off the bench that they need. Dragic and Tyler Johnson for Kyrie might get you hung up on, but it all depends on how the Cavs view those players. Maybe they love Goran Dragic just as Kevin Prichard loved Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. We have to keep Winslow because we don 't have a small forward. We don't really have the sweeteners to get it done. -- Michael.

A: I believe the Pacers deal is a reasonable analogy. But we also now have to find out what the new management team in Cleveland prefers. In other words, the Pacers might not have made the George deal with the Thunder under Larry Bird. But Kevin Pritchard clearly felt comfortable enough in taking back Oladipo and Sabonis. As for your concerns about including Winslow, it reminds me of when some had reservations about the Heat including Caron Butler in the Shaquille O'Neal trade in 2004. There were several similarities between what the Heat had then in Butler and now in Winslow. But Pat Riley has often spoken of giving "a nickel more" when it comes to making a deal you want to close. In this case, he again could be tempted to include "a nickel more" in the form of Winslow. (But, again, to those who point out how often Winslow is mentioned in this space, it is not a sign of disrespect, but rather quite the opposite. I believe Justise very much has value in this league, a lot of value, be it to the Heat or a potential suitor.)

Q:  If we somehow got Kyrie Irving, do you see him and Dion Waiters working? I think there was history with them in Cleveland, something about Waiters saying he felt he was better than Kyrie and he felt they were favoring Kyrie? Do you see them working well together? -- Sebastian, Lake Worth.

A: The two certainly did not mesh in Cleveland. And we're all probably getting ahead of ourselves at this point. But this is just another case where the timing could be all wrong. Had the Irving trade request been made in advance of the start of free agency, and if the Heat knew they had favored status, I am sure there would have been an alternate approach to their spending, just as there was a pullback with Willie Reed after drafting Bam Adebayo and then signing Kelly Olynyk. I'm not saying that Dion wouldn't have been signed back, but there would have been an additional element to the equation.

Q: Here's a scenario: Goran Dragic/Hassan Whiteside for Kyrie Irving/Tristan Thompson/Channing Frye. We would have our bona fide star to build around. We could hold on to Tristan until Bam Adebayo is ready. We could use Frye's expiring and some combination of Dion Waiters/Kelly Olynyk/James Johnson to fetch another star that becomes available later on. This would allow us to keep Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Bam, and allow them to grow around stars. Plausible? -- Alec.

A: So you're basically talking about giving up the Heat's leading men for the Cavaliers' supporting cast behind LeBron James? That is where I believe the Heat might draw the line. And, again, this whole thing came to light so recently that there is no read yet on how much reciprocal interest there would be from the Heat, even with Kyrie's interest. Yet, if you're asking me if the Heat believe that Hassan is an untouchable franchise building block, I'm not sure I would be willing to go there at the moment.


July 22, 2017

Q: Just because a player wants to be traded, I think it's rare for a star to be, especially when he has three years left on a bargain contract. And unless he has a no-trade clause, his demand to location is meaningless. -- Martin.

A: The revelations of Kyrie Irving demanding a trade and having the Heat on his list of preferred destinations is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, to even have the opportunity to bid for someone of Irving's talents is something that cannot be ignored. On the other hand, it does leave the Heat open again to a sense of opportunity lost, after failing to beat similar longshot odds for Gordon Hayward. This, however, is not like those free-agency pushes for Kevin Durant or Hayward. In those cases, you only had to appease the player. In this case, you need to be able to close a deal with attractive assets. The Heat had the cap space for Hayward, but may not have the assets to get into this bidding -- if that turns out to be the case. Still, in the wake of Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul being dealt, I wouldn't ignore any possibility. And with Irving having the right to opt out after two more years, he still could have some destination leverage.

Q: Bring this man to The Culture! -- B.J.

A: And that's the thing, by having the Heat, Spurs and even Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves on his wish list, Irving showed that culture still matters to players. It got the Heat in the room with Durant and Hayward. It got LeBron James in a reflective mood recently on Instagram. And it had Willie Reed forlorn to no longer be a part of it. Most of all, it shows that Pat Riley still carries plenty of sway, and that Erik Spoelstra is emerging in a similar vein.

Q: Dan Gilbert hates Miami. Don't see a trade happening. If so: Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow now or Dragic and Bam Adebayo on Aug 2, when Bam becomes trade eligible. Otherwise close door and walk away. The Heat are good to go as is. -- Skip, Tampa.

A: I doubt either of those two-player packages gets you in the door, and it could require the Heat to find a third team to obtain a first-round pick to sweeten the pot. But this reminds me of the Shaquille O'Neal trade, when Riley cobbled together what was needed, when it was needed. As for Gilbert's history with the Heat, this is when we will see if his management team truly has free reign in making the best possible basketball deals.


July 21, 2017

Q: As a diehard Heat fan, I want to see Dwyane Wade end his career back home in Miami. Since Tyler Johnson's contract will balloon, is there a mechanism in the NBA for Chicago to partially buy out Wade's contract while trading him for some package including Tyler Johnson? That would give Chicago a high-upside young prospect (and help our cap position next year and help us re-sign Josh Richardson). I love T.J.'s game, but we are already deep at guard and he's not yet point-guard material, which is what we all hoped. Thoughts? -- Mark, Chicago.

A: I've been asked a bunch about dealing Tyler for Dwyane, if only for the cap relief. The irony is that if Tyler was into the big-money final two years of his deal, then the dollars would work in a trade for Dwyane's expiring contract. The problem now is that Tyler goes out at such a low number that it does not offset Dwyane's $23.8 million for 2017-18, with the Heat lacking the space to make up the difference. And it's not as if the Heat are positioned to add bigger-money assets into such a deal (remember, players signed in the offseason cannot be dealt until Dec. 15, at the earliest). On the face of it, it might have made sense to deal away the end of Tyler's contract in such a move, with Dwyane's deal expiring, likely to then be replaced at a far lower number going forward. But, no, you cannot buy out a player and then still use him as a trade asset. Once a player is bought out, he goes to waivers and then becomes a free agent. And, yet, I don't think the Dwyane drama is by any means over.

Q: "We go hard"? Yet you bench your starters last game of the season? -- Matteo.

A: For those late to this game, "We Go Hard" is the motto of the Brooklyn Nets, the team that decided not to go at all in their season finale against the Bulls this past season, a victory that left Chicago with the playoff tiebreaker, after the Heat and Bulls both finished  41-41 in a tie for the No. 8 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. The reasoning then was not to get players injured in case something was in the works over the short term. As it was, two months later the Nets did trade center Brook Lopez (who sat out that night in Chicago) to the Lakers for D'Angelo Russell at the start of their rebuilding process. So you could actually make an argument for the approach, at least in hindsight. But, yes, the marketing pitch should ring a bit hollow in South Florida. Still, they probably weren't going to go with the alternative of "We Got the Bulls into the Playoffs," so you take what you can get.

Q: Last year Erik Spoelstra coaxed major growth out of every player on the roster. Can he do it again with the same group? Most pundits seem to think we have seen the best they've got, that they may even regress to the mean. -- Jack, Fort Myers.

A: I agree that making a second quantum leap is something that is particularly difficult for most players considered candidates for Most Improved Player, as some thought James Johnson and Dion Waiters were last season. But keep in mind that the Heat did not pay either, or any of their signed free agents, with star salaries, but rather at the tier just below (which says something about how out of whack the entire contract structure has grown). But here's what matters as well: Johnson and Waiters insist that they have more to show, room for growth and are receptive to instruction. That is an essential if additional steps are to follow. Often the group of players who have stopped growing after making strides with the Heat have been those who signed elsewhere in free agency. The Heat's motto last season was "one percent better," that the growth can be incremental, but also continuous. One percent on a steady basis by even a small group of returning players could make a major difference the second time around.


July 20, 2017

Q: During Miami Heat summer league games, Bam Adebayo was visibly directing players on sets. It was very impressive that he is vocal at such a young age and I'm assuming he must have a strong basketball IQ to be directing his teammates' movement on sets. What are your thoughts on Adebayo's intangible assets? -- Kevin, Coconut Creek.

A: My thoughts are the Heat must have definitive rotation expectations with Bam for this coming season considering the way things played out with Willie Reed. Unless the Heat believe that Bam can play backup-center minutes behind Hassan Whiteside or even start if Hassan is sidelined, then it seems the Heat had available the perfect option in Reed. Yet it appears that even at the same salary he accepted with the Clippers, that Reed did not anticipate minutes being available from the Heat. And this is not about A.J. Hammons, who, by no means, has a guaranteed spot with the Heat. So Bam or bust? Without Willie Reed, and with what remains of the power rotation, it sure seems like it is setting up that way.

Q: Ira, can you see Erik Spoelstra making Justise Winslow into a backup point guard? Justise was ranked highly as a distributor and made a lot of advanced reads in the pick-and-roll, throwing skip passes to the corner, lob passes to the roller, and dimes to cutters. Come to think of it, Winslow was always a great playmaker, and if he had the ball in his hands more he could become more of an on-ball threat and find himself more as a player with Miami's new three-and-spacing style of play. -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.

A: As Pat Riley said, position-less means still having the defensive end covered. So it comes down to whether, on a consistent basis, Justise would be able to keep up with fleet point guards defensively. I agree that his playmaking skills often get overshadowed by his lack of shooting -- which still matters very much in the pick-and-roll game. Actually, that could be a good reason to have him and James Johnson on different units, to have a ballhandling forward with both the first and second teams. Of course, there also have to be accommodations to the need for Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters to have the ball in their hands.

Q: If Pat Riley is saying it can get a little tedious watching a team jack up 60 threes, and you have commentators announcing how layups on fast breaks are passed up for 3-point shots, isn't it time for the NBA to look at this? The 3-point shot was never put in place to dominate the game (it was to keep the games interesting or closer at the end), but it now dominates the game because of probability and expectation theory. -- Stuart.

A: But the ship has sailed, with teams structuring their payrolls to accommodate 3-point shooters. Wayne Ellington, for example, would not be a $6.3 million player for the Heat if the 3-pointer wasn't such a huge part of the Heat's and the NBA's approach. Even in summer league, it became clear that the Heat offense has come to revolve around the long ball. My suggestion, as extreme as it sounds, would be to put a limit on 3-point attempts per team per game. After that limit is reached -- say 20 such shots -- then any shot attempted would count two points, no matter the distance. That, in turn, could have teams saving those attempts for later in games to facilitate comebacks. With teams maintaining the threat of the three (as long as their allotment is not exceeded), it still would allow for needed spacing. And I would not count against that total any attempts in the final three seconds of a period when it comes to clock-beating heaves (those can be some of the most entertaining shots of the game, which I also would not count again a player's field-goal percentage). Also, that is not happening. The international game long has been about the long ball, with such shots opening the game to those beyond the tallest of prospects.


July 19, 2017

Q: Josh Richardson: four-year, $42 million contract extension in August or making him a restricted free agent next summer? He showed great promise before injury and was coming back to form at end of the season. Which is the best route for the Heat at this point? -- Skip, Tampa.

A: First, with the way contracts are going these days, the Heat might be left with no choice but to wait, with Richardson likely to find more on next summer's free-agent market, just like Tyler Johnson did on the 2016 free-agent market. That also will allow the Heat to get a read on where they are going with their backcourt when it comes to Richardson, Tyler Johnson and even Rodney McGruder. If one of those three can emerge as a point guard, it could be easier to make the math work, especially for when Goran Dragic plays out his current contract. But with so many unknowns about the current backcourt, including whether Wayne Ellington's early-Bird Rights will be utilized next summer, it might behoove the Heat as much to wait as it would Richardson.

Q: Imagine Justise Winslow and James Johnson leading the break off rebounds and steals. -- Ryan, Denver.

A: But first you have to get those rebounds and steals, especially the rebounds. And we still have to get a better read on whether Winslow can finish and finish strong, in traffic. And that could be an issue for the Heat, finding more than just Goran Dragic as a definitive finisher (it seems like he finishes practically everything). Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson have shown signs of that ability, as well. Still, it's almost as if the Heat have been better at times in running to 3-pointers, which is not the preferred way for a transition team to survive.

Q: The Heat need a solid backup point guard. What are your thoughts on a younger guard like Trey Burke or Tyler Ennis? Do you think Miami will go more towards the veteran-style player? Obviously, the player would need to agree to veteran minimum or mid-level.  -- Anthony, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

A: I don't believe the Heat need to move toward a developmental point guard, because I don't know if there would be much of an opportunity to develop one with so many guards on the roster. I believe the Heat need a savvy veteran playmaker who would not take issue to being inactive for extended periods and then be willing to be summoned into service on short notice were Goran Dragic to be sidelined. That certainly was not the definition of Rajon Rondo, who wants to play to earn his next deal. And I'm not certain that Brandon Jennings is ready for such a limited role, either.


July 18, 2017

Q: What's the situation with Dwayne Wade? Any chance at a Heat reunion? -- C.J.

A: The situation with Dwyane is static, only because that's where most of the league stands these days. With offseason rosters at a maximum of 20 players, there is plenty of room and time for teams to sift through options before the start of the regular season. For now, the Bulls are saying all the right things when it comes to their guaranteed $23.8 million investment in Dwyane -- that he can help alleviate some of the scoring load as he also mentors Chicago's younger players. But not every player, especially one who remains highly productive, can shift into such standing. It certainly became problematic for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. What most likely will happen as we approach the start of training camp is that the Bulls will consider how much value Wade has as a player and a as a contract (possibly to be included in a trade). Then it could come down to how much of that contract the Bulls would be willing to eat in a buyout, or how much of a discount Wade might offer in order to relocate. All of that said, Dwyane has also spoken of how location also is a family function, and such deliberations likely will carry into his children's school calendar.

Q: Am I the only one who is disappointed that the Heat did not use their two best players vs. Memphis in the playoff loss in Las Vegas? Winning would have kept the team playing, giving those players more opportunity to show the world what they could do and given the fan base who have been through some tough years since the Big 3 something positive to cheer for. Summer league has grown in popularity and the Heat unfortunately dropped the ball. Okaro White and Bam Adebayo should have played, even if it was limited minutes. Heat fans deserved it. -- Peter, Miami.

A: What the Heat needed to see during summer league most was what they had with Bam Adebayo and Okaro White, and they saw plenty of it over two summer leagues, able to space out the games so as to not wear down players during a recovery stage of the basketball calendar. While the Las Vegas summer league has become a made-for-TV showcase, it is not necessarily the best format for what teams are trying to achieve. It is why you saw so many teams pare down their rosters by the end of the week. I take no umbrage, nor should fans, to the Heat's approach.

Q: The only thing I can guarantee about Kelly Olynyk is that he'll set hard screens, rack up a handful of flagrant fouls and rock the man bun. -- Justin, Pa.

A: But then reflect back to this stage of the offseason a year ago. What were the expectations with James Johnson? And that's the thing, with these types of signings the Heat tend to have a vision in place for players before they are signed. What James Johnson was before he arrived to the Heat was something far different than what we saw this past season (including something far less when it came to weight and body fat). In this case, with Olynyk, and other acquisitions, it's not as much at the moment of what Olynyk can do for the Heat, but what the Heat can do for Olynyk.


July 17, 2017

Q: Hi, Ira, now that the Celtics have waived Jordan Mickey, can we sign him? -- Hunrey, Cebu, Philippines.

A: I'm addressing this not as much about Mickey, but rather the fluid nature of the free-agent list at this time of year, as teams clear players who either had impending guarantee dates or need to clear the necessary salary-cap space in order to complete signings of other free agents. What the Heat have to decide is how many, if any, of the 15 regular-season roster spots they have available, beyond the 20 allowed during the offseason. Based on guaranteed money or potential promise, the Heat appear set at with least 11 roster spots, when counting Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder. Then there is the $1.3 million full guarantee to A.J. Hammons and the partial guarantee in place to Okaro White. Of those two, I'm not sure how enduring the commitment is to Hammons, based on uneven summer play. But that, otherwise, would have the roster with 13 players with salary due. Factor in Udonis Haslem, and that places the regular-season total at 14. So unless something dramatically changes to thin the roster, it is possible the Heat go into camp with only one regular-season roster spot open. As it is, the Heat still have their $4.3 million mid-level exception available, potentially for a player who slips through the cracks. So, in a long-winded response to your brief question, I'm not sure the Heat spend much time scouring the secondary free-agent list at this stage.

Q: The Heat summer roster had only one good, NBA-quality player, Bam Adebayo. -- Leo.

A: I'm not sure I would give up on Okaro White at this stage, considering the developmental time the Heat have already put into that project. Otherwise, I certainly could see players from the summer group competing for two-way contracts, or at least spots in the G-League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. I would put it this way, if the Heat previously gave a roster spot to Andre Dawkins, then I certainly could see them at least considering Matt Williams. And Gian Clavell has some Tyler Johnson in him, as far as promise, with Tyler earning his way onto the Heat roster through time in the developmental league.

Q: Can the Heat put on a mini-camp together in August for deeper look at possible players for camp ? -- Skip, Tampa.

A: The Heat never stop such efforts, cycling through prospects right up until the start of training camp, and sometimes even beyond, as do most teams. So there will be plenty of times between now and the start of camp that you will see the names of veteran free agents linked to the Heat without reading about actual signings. Typically, those are the players who are signed last, sometimes as courtesies to give such players preseason exposure while limiting the wear on veterans during camp and exhibitions. This year, through, could be different, with fewer exhibitions and a shorter camp due to the earlier start of the regular season in mid-October.


July 16, 2017

Q: Who do you think is in the lead for the two-way contracts out of our summer league? -- Luis.

A: First, I'm not necessarily sure that the Heat's two-way contracts will come from the pool of players on their summer-league roster. Such decisions have to be weighed against the breadth of options exposed to the Heat, from those who played in summer league for other teams, perhaps to those who had tryouts with the Heat before the draft. In a way, it does seem unfair for a prospect to go through a summer camp and then two weeks of summer play with the Heat and be treated like an outsider, but this isn't about fairness, it's about maximizing the organizational talent pool. And even with the Heat's summer roster, the options for those two spots seemingly was a revolving door. Early on, there was the playmaking two-way promise of undrafted Virginia guard London Perrantes. Then undrafted Central Florida guard Matt Williams stepped up with his 3-point shooting. From there, there was 5-foot-8 Monmouth spitfire Justin Robinson and then the not-to-be-denied spirit of undrafted Colorado State guard Gian Clavell. But remember, the two-way contracts don't just have to be from this draft class. They also can be for young players who previously played overseas or in the D-League, perhaps someone like University of Miami product Trey McKinney-Jones. The good thing is that the Heat summer roster gave Pat Riley and the Heat front office food for thought, which is really all you can ask for.

Q: Wow, Ira, Donovan Mitchell has looked so good this summer. He has a game that resembles a young Dwyane Wade. A Mitchell-Heat marriage looked to be destined on draft night as the Nuggets had no reason to take him with their 13th pick, but the Jazz come out of nowhere and scoop him up. Do you think that there is any saltiness or even regret from the Heat that they didn't find a way to get him? I know that it is far too early to grade draft picks. Of course, Bam Adebayo has looked very talented and fits the culture, too, but Mitchell just seemed like the perfect fit. Every time I watch Donovan Mitchell, I might shed a tear at what could/should have been. -- Shaun.

A: He might be this year's version of Devin Booker to the Heat. The difference is that Booker was one that got away, with the Heat positioned to select him in 2015. The problem with Mitchell is that the Heat had precious few chips to put into play on draft night to even move up one spot. The Jazz threw Trey Lyles into the deal with Denver. I'm not sure the Heat would have been as willing with Justise Winslow just to swap picks.

Q: Can Rodney McGruder play point guard? -- Luchey.

A: Look, any player can play any position. It's just that it doesn't necessarily mean they can play it efficiently. The one thing about the Heat coaching staff is that the longer they have to work with a player, the more they have been able to draw out of them. But to me, point guard in an innate mindset. You either are or you aren't. That doesn't mean you can't advance the ball, run offense, beat pressure, it just means that at the moments you need to be at your creative best, there might not be a creative best. As we've seen in summer league, when you look at Lonzo Ball, you see a point guard, because of the way he sees the court. I'm not sure McGruder or any of the Heat's guards outside of Goran Dragic have that innate point-guard awareness.


July 15, 2017

Q: Mario Chalmers is healthy again. How about making him Goran Dragic's backup? Rio knows the system, can play one or two, is now more mature. He is a winner and champion and a decent scorer and great defender. -- Jocelyn, Miami.

A: I've been asked a lot about Chalmers recently, with the Heat likely not to go beyond the minimum if they do, indeed, add a veteran backup at point guard. First, you never know about where a player stands coming off a torn Achilles until you know. But it also has now been more than a year since Chalmers has been out. Still, he almost exclusively played as a combo point guard during his Heat tenure, whether it was alongside Dwyane Wade or LeBron James as the primary ballhandler. But with so much about Heat Family, and with so many players returning over the years, would this be any different than bringing back Bimbo Coles or Eddie House? At worst, perhaps there could be a camp invitation, if only to allow Chalmers to show other teams during the preseason that he is all the way back.

Q: Not sure if it was my imagination, but so the refs in summer league allow for more contact? This makes the game more enjoyable without stops every time there is slight contact. -- Rick, Miami.

A: Actually, there have been games where the whistles have been constant. Much of that was a factor of players allowed a maximum of 10 fouls until the tournament round in Las Vegas, which is an abundance when you consider the games are only 40 minutes. But as the weeks have gone on, I believe there is an appreciation that these are mostly raw players making raw plays, and that it is important to maintain a certain level of flow, especially with the games being televised.

Q: Excuse my bluntness, but what is everyone's fascination with Udonis Haslem? As a Heat season-ticket holder since 2000, I have enjoyed many seasons and have many fond memories of my favorite players through the years including U.D. But at this stage of his life/career, why do we continue to pay him a player's salary when he does not and will not play? Why not transition him to a mentor or coaching position so that he may continue to be a part of the team without taking a valuable spot on the 15-man roster? -- Chris, Coral Gables.

A: For the same reason that the Thunder just re-signed Nick Collison: Because sometimes the best way for a veteran to have an impact in the locker room is to be in the locker room. The Heat will be able to have 17 players under contract this season because of the new two-way contracts. If ever there was time for mentorship from within, this is it.


July 14, 2017

Q: Ira, Chris Quinn has taken an 0-5 team from the Orlando summer league and gotten them to 4-1 in Vegas. Is he the real gem of summer league? -- Phil.

A: It does seem like this is a continuation of the story of the Heat -- slow start, fast finish. Now, there's obviously no comparison between real games and what is going on in the "tournament" in Las Vegas, but you can't help but notice the similarities when the Heat move to a drive-and-kick game and start making 3-pointers. It was interesting how Pat Riley earlier this week spoke of 3-pointers, when he said, "Sometimes it can get a little bit tedious when you watch a team jack up 60 threes. I just shake my head. Some nights they are going to make 35 and 35 is like over 100 points. Some night, a team is going to get 200. It's probably going to be Houston or somebody like that. They're going to get 200 some night." And yet that essentially is who the Heat became at the end of this past season, what they have become in summer league (shooting 15 of 37 on threes in Thursday's Vegas victory over the Clippers), and what they might need to be this coming season. It is why it is not out of line to question whether the Heat can find minutes and make it work for wing players who don't have 3-point range. Anyway, I digress. What Quinn has shown is the commitment to the improvement of his players, which is why he also carries a developmental title. As with previous Heat summer-league coaches Dan Craig and Juwan Howard, he has shown the ability to manage a roster.

Q: Although other teams in the East have All-Star talent, The Heat have great depth. Is there a chance the Heat can be able to be dominant by wearing down other top-heavy teams? -- Alain.

A: During the regular season? Sure. But this still is a league about star talent in the playoffs. What the Heat have to do, as they attempt to build their team resume, is also define moments for individual growth, to see who the go-to player can be when the games mean the most. We know Dion Waiters wants to be that player, but it has to be more than one shot against the Warriors and a few more against the Nets.

Q: Can players under two-way contracts be offered guaranteed deals from outside teams? Are two-way players treated like restricted free agents in the sense that teams can match any outside offer?  -- Gerry.

A: No, once a player signs a two-way contract, he is bound to that team for the balance of that contract. He cannot be poached, even if another team offers a full-scale NBA contract. It is why some players have been patient in the process, to not get themselves locked into a deal that maxes out at $275,000 per season, rather than the rookie minimum on an NBA contract of $816,000.


July 13, 2017

Q: I ask the same thing I've asked 10 times: What is going on with Udonis Haslem? -- J.R.

A: The reason I've stayed away from Haslem questions is because of the sense I've gotten from the team that an agreement to return is imminent, to the degree that these questions would be answered before I could get around to addressing them. Udonis Haslem will be offered a contract for a 15th season with the Heat. Pat Riley has already gone on record with that. But as long as the Heat hold their $4.3 million exception, there remains the chance of more than the $2.3 million veteran minimum Udonis is eligible for by virtue of being in the league 10 or more years. Then there is the question of whether the Heat believe they will or will not be operating with cap space next summer, which could factor into whether more than one season could be offered.

Q: Ira, could Beno Udrih be the solution to the Heat's point guard "issue" behind Goran Dragic? He played really well for them a couple of seasons ago and I watched him play really well in Detroit last year. I'm sure the veteran's minimum would be enough to bring him back. -- Gabriel, Miami.

A: That's why I floated that name Wednesday. There also is a chance that he returns to the Pistons, or that he even moves into coaching, of which he has expressed a desire. What the Heat need behind Goran is an open-in-case-of-emergency option to step in as a starter when needed (so as not to disrupt the rotation) or run offense when players such as Tyler Johnson or Josh Richardson struggle against pressure. It clearly would be a role that would include plenty of inactive games in a sports coat. The question is whether the Heat could afford a Haslem and a Udrih on the 15-man roster.

Q: I like the NBA's rules changes. The end of games can just drag on because of so many timeouts called by both teams if the game is close. -- Robert.

A: Totally agree, and that's the point that Adam Silver made in his media session after Wednesday's announcement of the reduction of timeouts. It's not so much about shortening games as it is about maintaining a game flow. Now the players play, have to play. There also will be an impact that will require an adjustment from veteran players; now when they get trapped or are unable to inbound, they can't simply burn a 20-second timeout. There are no 20-second timeouts anymore. And each emergency timeout could compromise a team at crunch time.


July 12, 2017

Q: I feel good about the Heat competing with the roster they put together. I also respect the view that we may be locked into contracts that will handcuff personnel moves for years and we do not have an elite star player. With the depth of talent the Heat have put together, I think there is a great opportunity to really beat up on other teams' second units.  In addition, the Heat have the option to go 10 or 11 deep in a rotation on back-to-back nights especially against the lower-echelon teams. This would make for well rested and healthier players come playoff time. Do you think this could give the Heat an advantage that could allow them to finish higher in the regular season and go deeper in the playoffs? -- Gary, Boca Raton.

A: You could be on to something when it comes to the regular-season portion of the equation. When you so equally rely on so many players, an injury to a single player, or the need to give occasional rest to starters, can be easier to overcome. This very much could be a roster built for the regular season. But the playoffs always have been about stars, multiple stars, and that's where the Heat might not measure up. I could see the Heat having the type of regular season the Celtics did last season or the Hawks in 2014-15. What that translates into in the playoffs is another story. But in order for the depth to matter, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson had to step up with their games, move past the injuries. To me, they are the swing votes in the referendum on this season.

Q: Ira, let's say Erik Spoelstra starts Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and James Johnson. How would it work having three primary ballhandlers in the same lineup? Tyler Johnson isn't a point guard, and if James Johnson were to come off the bench, he could become the primary ballhandler. -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.

A: First, the Heat can stagger the substitutions to still have two of those three on the court at just about all times. And don't forget how efficient Justise Winslow can be as a ballhandler and playmaker. Yes, it would instill confidence to see Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson step up their ballhandling and playmaking, but there are ample alternatives. When it comes to playmaking, I would put the Heat hierarchy at Dragic, James Johnson, Winslow and Waiters. So I don't believe it's a cause of concern if much of it is concentrated in the starting unit.

Q: Do you sense the Heat want to trade Tyler Johnson? -- Brian.

A: No, and I never have. Now, what they might want (or need) is to trade that contract. It is the structure of the contract and not the player that is the concern. I merely pointed out that he became trade-eligible on Monday because that marked the one-year anniversary of the Heat matching his offer sheet from the Nets. He now can be put into play. That doesn't mean he will.


July 11, 2017

Q: Do you think Pat Riley will use the exception money on a remaining free agent, or do you think he'll wait until players start to get bought out? It seems like the right move might be to wait, so that the right player can be signed in case of injury.  -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: Riley often talks about waiting, keeping such flexibility in his back pocket, even going with an open roster spot to start seasons. And then, almost always, he winds up living in the moment. A year ago, he also said he would hold off on using his mid-level exception, and then Dion Waiters dropped to the Heat's price. I would expect the same this summer, that a player who falls below his expected threshold drops into the Heat's laps. I would be very surprised if the $4.3 million mid-level exception is not spent by early August. The Heat still have roster space and flexibility. Just about all of the Heat's moves this offseason have been about living in the moment. I would suspect that would continue with the exception.

Q: Now that the relationship between Chris Bosh and the Heat has mended. Do you believe he can come back and sort of mentor Bam Adebayo, maybe help him expand his game to the perimeter? -- Robert.

A: Based on Bam's skill set and athleticism, I believe that would be a perfect mentor, perhaps one who could work with him on the court, as, say, opposed to Alonzo Mourning, with that bit of generational differences. I think it would be wonderful to see Chris back on the Heat practice court. He has been away for too long, as it is. As long as it would be medically viable, Chris working with Bam could be win-win for all involved.

Q: I said before and I say it again, the kid Matt Williams could easily become a Stephen Curry 2.0 for the Heat.  -- V.P.

A: Chris Quinn, who is coaching the Heat's summer-league team, had an interesting quote at the end of the Heat's camp leading to summer league, when he said the players who play early might not be the ones who play late in the process. That proved to be the case with Williams because of an ankle sprain in that camp. But since finding his legs at the end of the Orlando summer league, he has found his 3-point stroke as well. Now the undrafted guard out of Central Florida is doing it in Las Vegas from distance. I wouldn't go all the way to Steph Curry at this point, but shooters will always be valued in today's NBA. I recall the value the Heat placed on Duke shooting star Andre Dawkins a few years back and could see Williams translating summer league into something going forward from the Heat, perhaps a two-way contract.


July 10, 2017

Q: I still believe Miami had a greater need for a small forward than a power forward. Without Kelly Olynyk, the Heat had Bam Adebayo added to what could have been last year's power rotation. They would've had the money to bring back Willie Reed (a player other general managers don't seem to be overly impressed with). That would've left the team with a power rotation of Hassan Whiteside, Willie Reed, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt and what will most likely an improved Okaro White. Additionally, Justise Winslow is capable of playing minutes at power forward. That appears to be a pretty deep power rotation when compared to small forward, where you have a player (Justise Winslow) the Heat cannot be sure will be able to shoot well enough to be a starting wing in today's NBA, and a shooting guard (Rodney McGruder)  forced to play small last year. I agree with you about the potential of switching Josh Richardson to small forward. With that power rotation, I understand there would be some similarities with Reed, but in signing Olynyk to a four-year contract, and the same for James Johnson, you have to wonder where Bam fits in, this year or in the foreseeable future. How are they going to develop his game? Where will the minutes come from? You expect the No. 14 player in the first round to be a rotation player in his first year, and contend to start in year two or three. -- Matt.

A: Just as the Heat go into the draft with a best-available-player approach, that appeared to be the same process with their last significant salary-cap chip. With Erik Spoelstra's position-less slant, Olynyk stood to them as the best bang for the buck, at least for their system. You certainly can make a case for Rudy Gay, but his move to the Spurs was more indicative of a desire to win now, not to necessarily grow with a program. And part of the flexibility with James Johnson is that he can defend on the wing. That, in fact, was his role with the Raptors when it came to games against LeBron James. And as long as you can account for coverages defensively, it doesn't really matter the positional delineations. You are going to see a lot of switching on pick-and-rolls, with Adebayo showing enough foot speed to defend on the perimeter. And now you have big men such as Johnson, Olynyk, Adebayo, and, dare we say it, Hassan Whiteside, who can bust it out on the dribble off a defensive rebound. If your argument is that the Heat have taken an unconventional approach, you are correct. This will not be a team where the small forward will load up on shots and iso attempts. This will -- at least it's the hope -- remain equal opportunity.

Q: Reports last summer indicated that the Heat were desperately trying to open up more cap space to pay Dwyane Wade what he desired but were unable to find a taker for Josh McRoberts. A year older and an injury-plagued season later they are now all of a sudden able to trade McRoberts for cap space? It doesn't add up.  -- Herbert.

A: Actually, it does. When the Heat were attempting to move McRoberts last summer, it was with two years remaining on his contract at nearly $12 million total (and, as we know now, with a broken foot, which would have had to have been revealed in any trade). Now the price was cut in half, with the Heat having the ability to send cash and a draft pick along with McRoberts. This time, McRoberts also stands as a tradable contract for Dallas at the 2017 trading deadline. The scenario with McRoberts last summer compared to this summer was apples and oranges.

Q: I know Chris Bosh might want to continue his NBA playing career, but if he can't find a team willing to take him on, or be unable to do so, he should return to the Heat and be a part of Erik Spoelstra's coaching staff. It would be such an advantage to have his mind and experience on the bench again. -- Robert, Miami.

A: It was sad and unfortunate that Bosh wasn't around last season, even as he remained close to so many players on the roster. Based on Chris' open letter over the weekend, I would think that would change. I would doubt that Chris would want to take on anything official, but it would be nice to have him around at times, just as Alonzo Mourning spends time with players. The Heat need to extend an open invitation to Chris, perhaps including some time on the team's broadcasts.


July 9, 2017

Q: Do you have a sense if Plan B of free agency was something the players brought to Pat Riley (and Heat management) or Heat management would have done regardless? The Heat could have let these players walk and hope a whale or big-name player(s) shake free in February. What prevented Riley from playing the short game for another season? Are you surprised Riley didn't play the short game to try to set up for a whale? -- Stuart.

A: While I don't believe the players dictated the Heat's approach, per se, I do believe that their enthusiasm to keep it together and work together created an infectious optimism in the Heat front office. It's interesting, among the elements cited for Dion Waiters' success has been his irrational confidence. I do believe there was a certain irrational faith in the front office when it came to bringing back last season's core. You could see it with James Johnson's embrace of Pat Riley and in Riley's words in the announcement of Waiters' return. That can wind up going one of two ways: It could instill faith in the players for continued growth and even greater success, or it could result in the Heat's -- dare we say it? -- own irrational confidence overcoming common sense. I have never, in the time doing this, seen a Heat roster so intent to keep it together. Typically, players talk about expectation of change. This was different. So I do believe the Heat somewhat stepped out on a ledge with these deals. Now either the players again take flight. Or . . .

Q: Ira, based on James Johnson's comments, do you see him emerging as a captain or a leader with the Heat? It sounds like it. -- Mike.

A: I doubt the Heat make any move with the captaincy, other than leave it in the hands of Udonis Haslem. But it has become clear, especially with Haslem's minutes being negligible, that James has become the emotional on-court leader of the team. Goran Dragic, while a floor leader, does not necessarily have the temperament to get in teammates' faces. Dion Waiters often is dealing with his own emotions. But Johnson has continually rallied his teammates, and has proven to be an adept towel waver, as well.

Q: Ira, is the only contract left right now that the Heat could trade, other than Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson's? -- Gabriel.

A: No, although you are somewhat correct, since players signed in the offseason cannot be dealt until Dec. 15 at the earliest, with an earlier timetable with signed draft picks. Since Wayne Ellington had a conditional contract that was guaranteed, he can be dealt immediately. The Heat also can now trade Justise Winslow, Okaro White, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder at any time, as well as A.J. Hammons, as long as he is not packaged with another player in a deal. But this generally is not the time of year that features trades beyond those involving free-agency (sign-and-trades, etc.).


July 8, 2017

Q: Say the whole thing at point guard doesn't go well with Josh Richardson. If he can put on that 10 pounds of muscle that he wants along with his shooting, especially if he develops a good mid-range game, he could become a very good wing player. Agree? -- Chris.

A: I've thought that from the get-to, that Josh as a small forward could conceivably be his NBA landing spot. First of all, shooting guard and small forward are virtually interchangeable in today's NBA, So that part of the equation comes down to defensive assignments. But pairing him with Justise Winslow would offer plenty of versatility on that end. For the Heat, decisions could have to be made soon with Richardson, who will be eligible for an extension starting in August. That only makes it prudent to explore all of his possibilities, including whether rotation minutes at small forward might be in his future. While he played point guard at Tennessee, he has not shown NBA-level ballhandling and playmaking skills against pressure defense.

Q: I don't envy Erik Spoelstra having the task of figuring out the chess pieces for success as we have just enough changes to make his job nearly impossible especially the first 20 games or so. -- Brian, Fort Lauderdale.

A: And that's what can't happen again, digging the type of 30-11 hole the ultimately proved too much to surmount. The risk when you add too many new pieces is that chemistry takes time to evolve. Face it, who knew what the Heat had in James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Luke Babbitt and Willie Reed at the start of last season? And who knew what they didn't have in Derrick Williams? By bringing back so many of last season's components, it merely becomes a case of working in Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo, who might not even be a rotation player at the start of the season. And yet, the most intriguing challenge for Spoelstra could be finding a role for Justise Winslow that meshes with the successful style the Heat utilized in his absence over the second half of last season.

Q: Ira, I watched Boston's Game 7 against the Wizards. Kelly Olynyk's game was huge on the biggest stage of a series. Do you think that if the Heat knew before the draft they would acquire Olynyk, who handles the ball well and moves quickly down the floor, that they still would have drafted Bam Adebayo? -- Tim, Carey, N.C.

A: Which is exactly why I would have preferred the NFL system of free agency, the draft, and then more free agency. The Heat stressed at the draft that at No. 14 they were committed to the best player available. So perhaps there is no need for revisionist history. But considering that Pat Riley also prefers to live in the moment, as evidenced by the Heat's free-agency decisions, you certainly could have made an argument that a wing or point guard would have made more sense with Olynyk onboard (not that there was much left at those positions). For now, with James Johnson's versatility that includes the ability to play as a point center, it could very well be that Adebayo starts the season out of the primary rotation.


July 7, 2017

Q: The Heat are capped out with "above average" talent for a few years. Is the plan to tread water as No. 6 seed, a la the Memphis Grizzlies? -- Evan.

A: Are we actually sold on "above average"? Put it this way, the mailbox was overrun Thursday with questions about three $50 million-plus contracts to Kelly Olynyk, Dion Waiters and James Johnson. All are nice players, but none likely to emerge as an All-Star. Of course, some of that simply is the price of doing business in today's NBA, as evidenced by Tim Hardaway Jr. getting 50 percent more than these three Heat deals on his offer sheet from the Knicks. Then again, there was plenty of scoffing last summer when the Heat added Johnson, Waiters, Luke Babbitt, Wayne Ellington and, yes, Derrick Williams. The difference is these are four-year deals as opposed to those one year deals. The Heat not only locked themselves in for 2017-18, but also for '18-19 and '19-20, at the least. And all of that with Tyler Johnson going up to $19 million on the final two years of his deal starting in 2018-19. So you're talking $200 million in contracts for Olynyk, Waiters and a pair of Johnsons. With last summer's signings, the evaluation period was for a year. Now? This is your team going forward. And, frankly, it seemingly would have to overachieve for a quality seed. We shall see.

Q: Ira, I understand I shouldn't be emotionally attached to last season's team, and that I should want to win at all costs, even if it meant jettisoning fun to watch players like Dion Waiters or James Johnson. But I'm sorry, I just don't. As a fan, as a team, as a town, we've been there. Yeah, we won a couple of championships. That was great. But we've done the super-team thing. Now I'd like to do the basketball-team thing. I'd like it not to be about someone's ego (LeBron James). Last season I saw 15 guys formed into that rarest of commodities in the NBA -- a team. And they pretty much kicked the butt of everyone in their way during the second half of the season, until one unfortunate injury to Dion Waiters. Call me naive, but I'd like to see how far we can ride this.  -- John, Boca Raton.

A: And now you will get your chance. But I've got to say, of the questions I've received this week, you are in the minority. The overall reaction is that the Heat maxed out last season and should have moved on. Now we get to see if there is another level. Based on what has been spent, going back to last summer's $98 million agreement with Hassan Whiteside, there had better be.

Q: I can see why Gordon Hayward ruled the Heat out. First, great organization/coaching staff, but as far as the roster, nothing really too enticing to lure a "whale." This is the flip side to being the best team in the league for four years. -- Matthew, Weston.

A: Actually, it's totally tied into that, because of one of the Big Three components. What people tend to overlook, even in this situation, is how much the Chris Bosh situation impacted the Heat not only in the standings the past three seasons, but in a situation like this. Put a healthy Chris Bosh in that room with Hayward and the equation changes. Yes, the lure was the cap space created by Bosh's release, but there also might not have been ancillary moves in the interim to free up other space. Bosh would have been the perfect complement to Hayward, a stretch four who could help space the floor and help defensively with his ability to switch on the pick-and-roll. So much of what has impacted the Heat in free agency since LeBron James' departure can be tracked to the illness that has removed Bosh from the Heat's equation. Would Bosh have swayed Kevin Durant? Not likely. Would he have swayed Hayward? If the decision was as challenging as Hayward wrote, who knows?


July 6, 2017

Q: Can the Heat pay Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson starter's money when only one can start? -- David.

A:  I'm not sure I would draw the line at starting, but rather whether both will be big-minutes rotation players. If that's the case, then in this $100 million salary-cap NBA universe, the math should work, especially with so many low-end salaries at the back end of the roster. The difference is that Dion's contract is relatively flat, while Tyler's takes that crazy jump to $19 million in each of the final two seasons because of the offer sheet that was matched last summer. This doesn't mean the Heat have to do something at the moment. But if they want to create cap space in the 2018 offseason, then Tyler's deal could leave them in a tenuous position. Actually, if they wind up extending Josh Richardson this season, then they  won't be able to even sniff cap space in the 2018 offseason unless there is a roster implosion, anyway. As long as small ball continues to rule the day in the NBA, then there should be ample opportunity to create minutes for both Dion and Tyler.

Q: Although Heat fans recognize the amazing things Riley has done for the Heat in 20-plus years, you can't deny he’s been in a slump recently. Strikeouts include losing LeBron James,  drafting Justise Winslow (a player they didn't work out and other teams passed on) over Myles Turner/Devin Booker, giving up future picks for Goran Dragic, not tanking after starting 11-30, and missing on Gordon Hayward.  Granted, last season was the most exciting 41-41 year you can find, but a sub-.500 year could have meant more for long-term success than one season did for in-the-moment excitement.  -- Sergio, Dallas.

A: OK, let's start with the revisionist thinking on the tanking aspect (since it sure seems like plenty of people were having a good time over the final months of the season). Unless the Heat were going to reach unfathomable depths, they still might have wound up as no better than in the middle of the lottery pack. That would have gotten you Lauri Markkanen, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith, Zach Collins. Transformative players? I'm not sure that is anyone's projections. With Winslow, are you really ready to slam the door after one season and two months? And that gets us back to the free-agency situation. Would it have been easier to stomach had the Heat not even been able to meet with Hayward? I think that's where a lot of the sting comes from. And as LeBron has shown, nobody controls his decisions other than himself. As for the Dragic deal, I'm not sure either of those picks to the Suns will match what Goran will have given the Heat over the course of his contract, which actually turned out to be somewhat of a bargain. The problem with all things Riley is the ridiculous standard that he has set. Sometimes life puts you in the middle of the pack. The Heat motto lately has been "one percent better." And it, indeed, looks like the Heat will be better next season. So that's something, right, even if incremental progress?

Q: We are thin at center. -- Dustin.

A: Yes, Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo are relatively lean. As far as depth, I would think with Udonis Haslem expected back that they will be covered in the middle, especially with the expectation of plenty of small ball from Erik Spoelstra.


July 5, 2017

Q: Assuming that Gordon Hayward signed with Boston over Miami because Boston is  "closer" to challenging Cleveland, if Miami can get back Dion Waiters and James Johnson do you get the feeling the Heat players can and will play with a chip on their shoulder next season?  -- Stuart.

A: A chip on your shoulder only gets you so far in the NBA; talent takes you much farther. We were talking about this at the Orlando summer league, about where the Heat without Hayward would stand in a diminished East where Atlanta lost Paul Millsap, Chicago lost Jimmy Butler and Indiana lost Paul George. The thought was that Boston and Cleveland would battle for the top two seeds (many forget that Boston won the East No. 1 seed last season). The next two seeds appear to be the Raptors and Wizards, with Toronto keeping its talent and the Washington apparently willing to fend off the poaching of Otto Porter. Beyond that, don't forget that the Bucks will have Khris Middleton for a full season and will be getting Jabari Parker back from his knee injury. So the ultimate upside for the Heat? You've likely looking at sixth place, with the hope of avoiding the Cavaliers and Celtics in the first round. If you want to take the reverse approach and simply make it to the playoffs, you have to define seven teams who won't make the postseason in the East. I'd say Brooklyn, Orlando and New York are good places to start, with Chicago, Atlanta and Indiana showing little playoff inclination. That would mean two more teams would have to be out, say, among the grouping of Detroit, Charlotte, Philadelphia, for the Heat to be in.

Q: I don't have a problem with Pat Riley & Co. missing out on Gordon Hayward after swinging and missing on Kevin Durant last year. After all, the Heat were one of the few franchises granted an audience with each of those guys despite not having a playoff roster or even a single All-Star. Clearly, top players still view Miami as a prime destination. -- David.

A: But sometimes when you're swinging for the fences you miss out on opportunities to set the table. The question this year is whether waiting on Hayward kept the Heat from moving their money elsewhere, perhaps to Danilo Gallinari, Paul Millsap or Serge Ibaka. Of course, James Johnson and Dion Waiters were kind enough to wait. So if that was the plan, then something ventured and still something gained.

Q: In the end Gordon Hayward turns out to be as selfish and uncaring as LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He left Utah with nothing. The Heat deserved better, as well. He should have manned up Monday night and told them. Guess he learned that from LeBron, as well. The Celtics, Danny Ainge and Hayward deserve each other. Good riddance. Move on. -- Skip Tampa.

A: Nah, free agency means being able to control your destiny. Actually, compare that to the grief Paul George got when he was candid enough to let the Pacers know he would be leaving in a year. George got pilloried for that move, but at least Indiana was able to get something in return (as meager as that haul from the Thunder turned out to be).


July 4, 2017

Q: I'm not going to lie. I questioned Bam Adebayo at No. 14, but John Calipari certainly kept his kids within his system. Unless you were present for Bam's private workouts, you didn't know he had this in him. Yes, he has the body of Dwight Howard, but Bam has the potential to be the offensive threat that Dwight never became. Talk about versatility -- the Heat might be able to defensively switch everything when he's in the game. Very excited about his future.  -- Hanson.

A: I would put it this way, enjoy these moments, because they've certainly been fun in Orlando. But also appreciate the level of competition -- or lack thereof. Most players can thrive in lead roles. But that's not going to be Bam's role with the Heat, certainly not at the outset. So for every Euro-step in transition, track the defensive rebounding and screen setting. But being fleet afoot certainly helps, and, as you note, presents intriguing defensive options when it comes to being able to switch defensively alongside Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Josh Richardson. It's not as sexy, but Adebayo being able to defend on the perimeter matters in today's stretch-four, pick-and-roll NBA.

Q: Ira, what do you think about what Kevin Durant did? Got to give him props for taking less to keep the core together. -- Bev.

A: Just like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh did during their Big Three tenure with the Heat. And that's what makes it all the more of a shame that Wade and the Heat allowed such a small sum to get in the way last summer. For all the loopholes and exceptions in the NBA salary cap, it's a shame that players with long tenures with team or icons of the sport can't be granted some sort of exemption.

Q: Ira, after the decimation of Eastern Conference stars moving to the West, when will the NBA go to a Nos. 1-16 seeding for the playoffs? The Eastern Conference playoffs will be a solution for insomnia in the coming years. -- Rob, Palm Beach.

A: Actually, I believe that's the exact reason it won't happen. For teams in the East to know they would then go into the playoff buzz saw of the West at the start of the playoffs, it might only increase the likelihood of tanking. At the moment, a No. 7 or No. 6 seed in the East actually could see hope of winning a playoff series or two. And by keeping it conference only, it guarantees the league of dynamic playoff series from the outset of the postseason, when considering the possibilities in the West.


July 3, 2017

Q: Ira, if the Heat don't sign Gordon Hayward, they still are in need of a starting small forward who can consistently hit the three and spread the floor. We had a shooting guard starting at small forward after Justise Winslow went done, and for all his toughness, and improved outside shooting as then moved along, Rodney McGruder is not tall and big enough to guard the larger small forwards in the league. And to count on Justise Winslow improving his shot to where he can play the type of offense the team showed the second half of the season is seemingly very risky. -- Matt.

A: The lesson in early July is not to make lineup assumptions about November or January or March. Teams and rosters evolve, just as the Heat's did, in finding what proved to be enduring success with McGruder starting at small forward. Until we see Winslow back in the gym shooting and getting instructed on jumpers, we won't know until we know. And at this time last summer, no one was mentioning James Johnson, Dion Waiters or Luke Babbitt until they happened. What this time of year is about is talent accumulation. Then, when given a roster, you mold the rotation accordingly. And, as we've learned with Erik Spoelstra, you don't get caught up in positional designations. Who the Heat have at small forward on July 3 just doesn't matter all that much. Instead, what matters is the overall talent quotient. And that is why Hayward matters so much.

Q: If the Heat don't get Hayward, I think it might be wise to sign James Johnson and little else. Save the space for next year. Dion Waiters is too injury-prone. -- Eric.

A: Have to be honest, I have been waffling on Waiters because of the small sample size and question of whether the Heat already have seen his best. But this is not about saving cap space for next summer, because the only way the Heat could get back into the space race would be to jettison Tyler Johnson and that contract that balloons to $19 million next summer. This is the summer that has been two years in the making because of the salary relief for Chris Bosh.

Q: Excluding Bam Adebayo and Okaro White, it's safe to say that nobody is going to get a roster spot or a two-way contract from the Heat's summer-league team . Let's just say it hasn't been pretty. The addition of two-way contracts has to be exciting for the Heat because they have been great at using the "farm system." so I'm excited to see what the Heat come up with. Summer leaguers that haven't been drafted/under contract are free to sign with any interested team, correct? Do the Heat have scouts watching every summer league game, searching for a diamond in the rough?  -- Matthew.

A: You bet, and that's exactly why they're playing in both the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues. For years, prospects have been signed away from Heat summer teams, including Willie Reed and Ian Clark. This could be a year when it works the other way. When you watch these summer-league games keep in mind that it essentially is a secondary form of free agency, save for draft choices and the few signed veterans who are participating. Even teams not participating have scouts in Orlando.


July 2, 2017

Q: What is to prevent the Heat from getting Luol Deng-ed and Joe Johnson-ed on free-agent contracts with Dion Waiters and James Johnson? -- Stuart.

A: Absolutely nothing. Because that's the way the Heat have always done business -- they draw a line at financial prudence and if a player gets an outside offer exceeding that figure, they wish him all the best. That's what happened last summer with Luol Deng going to the Lakers and Joe Johnson moving on to the Jazz. This year, they have decided that Gordon Hayward is worth the max, and that everyone else has their limits. The fact that James Johnson was at the Heat's meeting with Hayward (and Waiters wasn't) tells me that Johnson remains open to working within the Heat parameters. And if neither Johnson nor Waiters returns? The Heat will survive, as they set out to find the next Johnson and the next Waiters.

Q: I'm confused, the Celtics won the East (OK, regular season), have Gordon Hayward's college coach (Brad Stevens) and have all those first-round picks (the Heat have almost none). So why would he ever pick Miami over Boston? -- Chip.

A: Have been trying to reason that one out, as well. And that made me wonder whether the Heat would go to the point of negative recruiting ("Isaiah Thomas doesn't give up the ball." "All those first-round picks mean a lack of roster stability." "Too much overlap at your position.") Frankly, I doubt it; it's just not the Heat way. But I also believe that's why the Heat remained so private about their presentation, so they wouldn't open themselves to counter-arguments. The intrigue continues . . . beneath all those banners in Boston.

Q: Rate Bam Adebayo's first game. -- Zep.

A: To me it's all about context, considering how Earl Barron rates as one of the all-time legends of the Orlando Pro Summer League. What he showed, with his scoring, rebounding and defending is that there is no lack of confidence, and that matters. But just as the game is faster and rougher in summer league than college, the regular season is a whole other story. To me, considering what the Heat are asking of Bam, the most important element to see is how long he can keep the motor revving at a rate similar to what we witnessed Saturday.


July 1, 2017

Q: Why didn't the Heat trade for Paul George? We could have offered a way better deal then what OKC did. -- Daniel, Miami.

A: Or could they? Look, I can't sit here and say I'm not stunned about how little it took for the Thunder to land George, at the mere cost of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. For days, the thought here was the Heat couldn't get into the George bidding because they didn't have draft picks to offer. As it turns out, no draft picks were involved in the deal. So the untold story becomes how much, if much at all, the Heat were willing to offer. Clearly, the overriding concern in the process was that any detour for George was going to be for a single season, eventually to land with the Lakers a year from now. Against that backdrop, it well could be that the Heat were not willing to put Justise Winslow into a deal, as Pat Riley insisted during his season-ending media session. So if you're not dangling Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Winslow, and if you're unable to deal your impending free agents, such as James Johnson and Dion Waiters, what exactly was left for the Heat to package? For as limited as the Thunder package was, it still trumped anything involving Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and any other Heat spare parts. So, in the end, it could be argued that the Heat chose not to offer as much as the Thunder, and that Pat stood pat.

Q: Why couldn't these NBA moves happen last season? The Heat would have definitely made the playoffs.  -- Stuart.

A: Well, unless Dwight Howard revitalizes the Hornets, then a bunch of teams are headed south in the East based on these recent moves, from the Bulls dealing Jimmy Butler, to the Pacers trading George, to Toronto faced with losing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka in free agency, to Atlanta already without Dwight Howard and possible losing Paul Millsap. But there still are the Cavaliers, Celtics, Wizards and Bucks, who appear to be a team on the rise. So I'm still not sure that a Heat team without further bolstering can position themselves for homecourt in the first round of the playoffs. That said, the No. 5 seed certainly is there for the taking.

Q: Did the Heat even want Blake Griffin? -- Ian.

A: I'm not sure. There was no meeting set up before Blake hastily cancelled his interviews and re-upped with the Clippers. I think suitors knew from the outset that they couldn't compete with a five-year, $175 million offer from the Clippers. So it came down to whether the Clippers were going to make that offer. They did. Case closed. With Blake injury history, the Clippers opted for the ultimate gamble. I think outside teams had concerns about durability.


June 30, 2017

Q: Who do you think the Heat would rather bring back if they sign a marquee free agent, and can only afford one other free agent: James Johnson or Dion Waiters? James seems to provide more versatility at a position of less depth. He also seems to embody "the culture." That said, Dion is only 25 (five years younger than James), and probably has the higher ceiling; he also gives the Heat a playmaker at the end of games, and has a longer track record of some sort of success. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: It also comes down to the alpha male the Heat might (or might not) add as their free-agent priority. If it is Gordon Hayward, then James Johnson might make more sense for the power rotation. However, if it is Blake Griffin, then an argument could be made for Dion. There also could potentially be preferred fits if the outside addition comes from the likes of Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay or Paul Millsap. But that's only part of the equation. The other part is whether Johnson or Waiters is willing to wait, and which one might be willing to return from a home-team discount. And then there is Plan C, that neither come back, because the Heat ultimately prioritize other players ahead of both. Because it will take cap space to bring back Johnson or Waiters, they essentially will be paid out of the same Heat pool as any other free agent. So when you get down to it, they basically are just two of more than 100 free agents for the Heat to consider.

Q: Ira, say the Heat strike out this offseason. You mentioned the Heat will then pivot to Waiters and J.J. I can't imagine that Pat Riley would give them multiyear deals and lock into being a non-contender for three or four years. I can see them both getting one year in the $10 million to 15 million range and then filling out the roster with more one-year deals.  -- Kevin.

A: I don't see that happening, because I don't see James or Dion taking such a risk. For Johnson, at 30, this could be his one chance at an extended payday. And for Dion, after bypassing more money last summer for essentially a one-year deal, years could count as much as money this time around. Remember, it is not only about what the Heat want during free agency, it is also what the players want. And in free agency, it is the players who brandish the hammer.

Q: I am a huge Tyler Johnson fan, although I am not a fan of his contract. Starting in 2018-19, he's slated to make an All-Star level contract. With that being said, it is time to let T.J. shine as a starter. I'm ready to see Tyler Johnson as the starting shooting guard. -- Anthony, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

A: You make an interesting point, since no matter what Dion Waiters negotiates from the Heat,  it likely will be less than Tyler will count against the salary cap in 2018-19 and '19-20. But you also can't operate your roster and rotation based on salary. Dion had considerable chemistry with Goran Dragic in the starting unit, just as Tyler Johnson did off the bench with James Johnson. Of course, if James Johnson were to start . . .


June 29, 2017

Q: Where is the Blake Griffin to the Heat chatter coming from? Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka and even Danilo Gallinari would all be a better fit for the Heat than Blake Griffin. Heck, even Ersan Ilyasova and James Johnson is better at a cheaper contract. -- Gabriel, Miami.

A: That is where free agency will get interesting for the Heat, whether they will turn to the second tier, players such as Ibaka or Gallinari, or immediately pivot to their own free agents, such as James Johnson and Dion Waiters. It could come down to whether such secondary free agents and their teams would be amenable to sign-and-trade agreements, which would therefore reduce the amount of cap space required. I do believe there may be too much fixation on both the top of free agency and the Heat's own free agents. When you're working with cap space (as opposed to Bird Rights with your own free agents), I believe it is incumbent to consider every and any possibility on the entire free-agent market. While loyalty to players means plenty, loyalty to winning has to mean even more.

Q:  What are the Miami Heat plans with Josh McRoberts? Are they going to be keeping him on the roster for next season? Is there any way to trade him at some point? Once his contract is up, do you think the Heat will try to re-sign him or just let him walk?  -- Alex.

A: McRoberts is sort of in a holding pattern, similar to the Heat's waiting game with Chris Bosh. They will open up his salary-cap space in a potential stretch-provision move if and when necessary. In other words, if the Heat have to have an extra $4 million in cap space immediately, then he gets waived. Or they could see if his entire $6 million could be sent out in a trade. I have not gotten the sense of any ongoing commitment to make one last stab at making it work. But the situation due to the injuries has been so uneven that even now, it's still unclear exactly what his possibilities could be with this team.

Q: Let's not mortgage our future just to allow Dwyane Wade a very expensive retirement year in uniform. -- Gary.

A: That will not happen, because it didn't happen last summer. Any return at this stage, after collecting all or at least most of that $44 million from the Bulls, will come at an amount that does not impact personnel decisions. And with the new two-way contracts for developmental prospects, it makes it easier to hold a roster spot for such a moment.


June 28, 2017

Q: Ira, based on all the rumors coming out recently, it seems that Gordon Hayward might not be a real option for the Heat. However, it seems Blake Griffin is more realistic. Do you think the Heat and Erik Spoelstra can rehabilitate him to fulfill his potential? Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters, Blake Griffin can make some noise in the East. -- Victor, Pembroke Pines.

A: As you point out, these situations are not solely about teams deciding who would be the best fit; the players, as free agents, are ultimately in control of their destinations. Now, if you asking about all thing being equal which would be the best fit, then I would work off this premise: The only givens with the Heat roster (or at least the most likely scenarios) are that you will be moving forward with Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic. So then you ask which of the two, Hayward or Griffin, would fit best with that group. For now, I would go with Hayward. However, the entire question with Griffin is whether he is the same explosive presence or whether injury has debilitated that aspect of his game. This is a reason that Hayward has put himself at the head of this class, with outside shooting and health two of the primary factors. But, yes, a Heat team with Whiteside, Griffin and Dragic could nonetheless do damage in the East, provided they are surrounded with the proper spacing.

Q: Ira, Gordon Hayward is an All-Star but he isn't worth a max contract. All these "super teams" with multiple All-Stars that win championships do so by not having all these players on max contracts. They all take less to make it work. The Big Three of the Heat all took less and now in Golden State, Kevin Durant is reworking his deal to make less. -- Chadwick, Boynton Beach.

A: You are correct. In fact, the hast been a staple of the Heat's free-agency approach, to first get commitments and then try to encourage those recruits to make the math work. I would almost guarantee that the slant will be the same this time around, convincing any players added to first consider the overall impact of their salary on the roster. It is the means the Heat have been able to add Mike Miller and other complementary pieces over the years, as well as retain Udonis Haslem.

Q: I don't mean to disrespect Mike D'Antoni, who's a great coach, but I don't quite understand how he blew away Erik Spoelstra in Coach of the Year voting. The Rockets were already a playoff team with a well-known, nearly perennial MVP candidate. Miami nearly made the playoffs with a bunch of players who appeared to have overachieved. The fact that Miami was able to win with former second-round picks, undrafted players, and players who were never really given a chance -- almost all of them showing improvement, by the way -- is a testament to Spo and his staff. I wonder if he would've won with Miami grabbing that eighth seed. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: Yes, playoffs matter, especially when 16 of 30 teams make the postseason, and particularly when all it takes in the Eastern Conference is a .500 record and a tiebreaker. All of that said, to me the coaches who were slighted were Brad Stevens and Gregg Popovich.


June 27, 2017

Q: Can't the Heat propose some kind of three-team trade with Cleveland and Indiana for Kevin Love? Cleveland will get Paul George, we get Kevin Love and Indiana gets whatever the package of picks and young players they desire from us and Cleveland. And then try to sign Gordon Hayward. It might be at the cost of some beloved people here in Miami such as Dion Waiters and James Johnson, maybe even Tyler Johnson, but I believe Goran Dragic, Hayward, Love and Hassan Whiteside is as strong a core as any. -- Marc, Pembroke Pines.

A: I usually send most of the trade concoctions into the wastebasket, but I'll address this not so much because of the Kevin Love suggestion, but rather because of the trade element, itself. As I've often been reminded by NBA  personnel types, including those within the Heat, don't only associate cap space with free agency. There is nothing to stop the Heat from utilizing the space in a trade. For example, in the suggestion you offer, the Heat would be positioned to take in more salary in a trade than they send out, something the Cavaliers are not positioned to do. Now, as for your proposal, I'm not sure the Heat have the type of youth the Pacers are seeking (and they certainly don't have the draft picks), but you could make an argument that the Heat could offer more potential (Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson) to Indiana than some of what was mentioned from the Nuggets in that three-team rumor.

Q: Can the Heat engage in a sign and trade with Utah to obtain Gordon Hayward? If so, what would that look like and would it possibly allow the team to sign James Johnson and Dion Waiters?  I could envision Justise Winslow, Josh McRoberts and Tyler Johnson moving. -- Howard, Stuart.

A: Yes, that is another avenue open to the Heat. The first element is to convince the Jazz they are in dire peril of losing Hayward for nothing in return. The next element is to convince Utah that the Heat have enough pieces to help restock a franchise that generally does not lure free agents. Then, of course, you have to get Hayward's signature on such an agreement. If all that works, it is possible the Heat could send back nearly $10 million in contracts (or more), utilizing cap space to take Hayward into the difference. Such a scenario could leave the Heat with $15 million or more in cap space, potentially for James Johnson, Dion Waiters or another combination of free agents (Wayne Ellington? Willie Reed?).

Q: Ira, it would not be a good idea to use the stretch provision on Josh McRoberts, even if the Heat land a max player. His contract is more valuable as an expiring one, than one of less value, and could make it easier to trade a player like Tyler Johnson, if the Heat needed, not only now, but before the trade-deadline when teams are looking for these types of deals. -- Gabriel.

A: It all comes down to how much $4 million would make a difference this offseason. If it means closing a deal for a meaningful player, you do it. If not, I agree that it might net you quality in return at the trading deadline, at a time it looks like the Heat will be operating above the cap going forward.


June 26, 2017

Q: Hi, Ira. If the Heat are able to sign Gordon Haywood, how do you envision the rest of the team will play out? Is there any scenario that will allow them to keep James Johnson? Will it force the Heat to trade Tyler Johnson to make it work? As much as we like T.J., his weirdly constructed contract is going to be a burden down the road. -- Steve, Dandridge, Tenn,

A: Free agency very much is a first-things-first proposition. So if a big-ticket free agent such as Gordon Hayward (or Blake Griffin or Paul Millsap) is the priority, then you fill in the boxes from there. I would expect that as Pat Riley attempts to close such a deal, he also explores just how low he can go with the 2017-18 salary. But if it is for the maximum at $30 million, then I would expect the Heat to attempt to create as large a secondary slot as possible as they start with the remaining $5 million. The first step could be utilizing the "stretch provision" with Josh McRoberts, to up that total to around $9 million. At that point, the Heat could go to James Johnson, Dion Waiters or even Rudy Gay to see if that is enough. If it isn't, that's when they can get a read of what it will take, and consider shedding salary from there.  Then, once there is a big-ticket free agent signed, and a secondary free agent taken care of, the Heat can consider the final step with their remaining room mid-level exception. Or, for that matter, they might decide that $30 million might be better spent than on a single big-ticket item.

Q: Ira, are the Heat really going to try push the envelope, putting Bam Adebayo and Hassan Whiteside in the same lineup and ruin the drive-and-kick style that had them on a 13-game winning streak? If Hassan Whiteside and Willie Reed never played in a lineup together why should Bam and Hassan? -- Christopher, Hollywood.

A: Actually, there were two games when Whiteside and Reed played together last season, albeit for less than one minute total. But that's besides the point. Reed and Whiteside clearly were too similar to play together, both mechanical with their post play, limited with their ball-handling skills. Even from the limited sample size Adebayo offered at Kentucky, there appears to be more from an offensive standpoint than what Reed displayed during his season with the Heat. For now, as he has insisted with all roster combinations, Erik Spoelstra is merely being open to all possibilities. There remains a chance that the Heat yet could have James Johnson, Luke Babbitt, Josh McRoberts and Justise Winslow available to play in power roles, which would limit the opportunities for Whiteside-Adebayo. First you have to know your roster. Then you can begin to assess the possibilities.

Q: No thanks on Dwyane Wade returning. Goran Dragic's chemistry with Dion Waiters added to both of their values. Growing that is key. -- Esteban.

A: First, anything about Dwyane Wade getting out of his Bulls contract at any point over the next year is nothing more than speculation. He already is guaranteed his $23.8 million for next season and his roster spot certainly isn't an issue at the moment, with teams allowed to carry up to 20 players during the offseason. Even your Heat concern is premature. What, for example, will be the chemistry concern if Dion Waiters signs elsewhere in free agency? For that matter, could Wade at season's end make it easier for the Heat to move on from Tyler Johnson's contract? This is speculation that's way premature for June, let alone July, August or September.


June 25, 2017

Q: With the changes in Chicago, I see a buyout for Dwyane Wade and a Miami Heat and D-Wade reunion in the future. While it's easy to think D-Wade will join LeBron James in Cleveland, at this point in Wade's career I don't think Cleveland sees Wade as helping them close the gap against Golden State. I see Miami making him fit for the minimum post buyout. -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.

A: There is so much at play here, foremost complete control by the Bulls, which Dwyane ceded by opting into his $23.8 million salary for 2017-18. Just as Dwyane took a business-like approach by assuring himself of the salary he negotiated for a year ago, the Bulls also likely will take a similar approach. Even with a move toward the youthful cast they acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with the Timberwolves, Dwyane represents an asset, if only for his salary. Unless Dwyane is willing to accept a buyout for most or all of his contract (which I'm sure the Bulls would gladly accept), Chicago benefits more by seeing if Dwyane's contract could potentially provide value until the late-February trading deadline. At that point, it could be possible that a team with extended contracts opts to deal for Dwyane's expiring salary. But if there is a buyout, there also could be chemistry issues with an acquiring team, even the Heat. That's when management would have to determine whether a 36-year-old impending Hall of Famer could cut into playing time of developing players. Beyond that, if there were to be a Heat reunion, would the likes of Goran Dragic or Dion Waiters instinctively defer to a player they hold in such high esteem? But that's more of a later issue. For now, Dwyane has his guaranteed 2017-18 salary and the Bulls have time to consider a course of action in the franchise's best interests.

Q: Ira, we draft a guy who can't shoot in a league that's spreads the floor. Do they blow the whistle once you rebound so the offensive team can then come in? Where's the offense? For a coach that innovated the position-less approach, how the heck are we going '90s in our approach? They're building the '90s Knicks. Who's playing the role of John Starks? -- Marcus, Washington, D.C.

A: Dion Waiters, of course. But that's beside the point. I doubt the Heat's offense, at least for the coming season, was going to be predicated by their 2017 first-round pick. And, to be honest, there weren't any sure things on the wing after the Heat's No. 14 selection in Thursday's draft. The Heat's offense likely will be determined by free agency, as well as the growth of players such as Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson.

Q:  Did Miami draft Bam Adebayo knowing Willie Reed wouldn't be returning? -- Marco, Fresno, Calif.

A: There has barely been any mention by the Heat of Reed since season's end, which appears to a sufficient hint. The Heat clearly created a salary-cap monster, at least when it comes to their resources. Now the question could come down to whether exception money is enough, or whether Adebayo was the insurance policy the Heat purchased at the draft. The shame is that teams are not left with some type of mechanism to cover themselves (and fairly reward the player) after undertaking such a successful reclamation project. There should be some sort of league-provided funding pool that if a team sufficiently upgrades the metrics of a player with three or fewer seasons of experience that they be able to retain his services at equitable wages. Because creating quality players is something that makes the NBA better as a whole.


June 24, 2017

Q: I think Bam Adebayo is he's more like Dwight Howard. Shawn Kemp had upper-tier coordination, agility and quickness for his size. But being like Dwight Howard is good. -- Lex.

A: It is interesting that you offer such a takeaway in the wake of Pat Riley's comment of how much Adebayo reminded him in Shawn Kemp. As I was sitting at Friday's media conference at AmericanAirlines Arena, and after watching more video of Bam, I, too, had the same Dwight Howard takeaway. Now, that's not to say that Adebayo has the same projected upside as Dwight, but that's the type of game I could envision: rebounding, shot blocking and offense played with such force that no one is questioning the lack of post play or outside shooting. Then I thought back to that 2004 draft when Dwight went No. 1 and remembered that Emeka Okafor went No. 2. And while Okafor had his moments before injuries got in the way, it became apparent early on that the offensive limitations would become a liability. I know the comparisons for Adebayo have been all over the place, Riley with Kemp, some with Tristan Thompson or Serge Ibaka, Bam preferring Kevin Garnett. But if we have to go through the exercise, then I'm keeping an eye on the Howard possibilities, while also wondering whether Howard's game from the outset of his career would have transferred to today's NBA.

Q: Ira, now that I've watched all the tape I can find on Bam Adebayo, I wonder if the real play here is to now use Hassan Whiteside as trade bait.  He plays nearly as big as Whiteside with far more hustle, effort and elite athleticism and can guard from the perimeter down to the box.  Losing Whiteside's salary opens up the roster for two max players, does it not? And the Heat then could still keep either Willie Reed or Josh McRoberts as backups. -- Brian. Fort Lauderdale.

A: It's fascinating how some can go from Point A to Point Z with little consideration to the middle ground. If the Heat did not believe that Hassan had more upside than a 19-year-old neophyte, then the $98 million contract was a mistake from the outset. Of course, some wanted the Heat to move Goran Dragic after he got his big deal, only to appreciate last season's turnaround. And yet even if I were to buy your premise of salary-cap space better utilized elsewhere, it's not as if the league is knocking down doors for high-priced post players. The DeAndre Jordan speculation, after all, certainly quieted down in a hurry.

Q: Ira, you wrote about all the players who supposedly were available for trades, and that was before Kristaps Porzingis and LaMarcus Aldridge had their names floated. Did Pat Riley fall asleep at the switch? --- Peter.

A: Although this comes off as overly simplistic, it takes two to trade. And that means that teams seek out trade partners with the most attractive assets. While I pointed out that the Heat did have assets to put into play (from the No. 14 pick that became Bam Adebayo to Tyler Johnson's incredibly expanding contract to, possibly, Justise Winslow), there simply were teams operating from a superior position of strength. Beyond that, the fact that the Heat did not waive Chris Bosh to open immediate cap space to help facilitate such a trade was another sign of stepping back at least until the July 1 start of free agency. I can guarantee, though, that as soon as a name became available, the Heat went through the exercise just like every want-to-be general manager out there, figuring how to maximize their possibilities. Or, it could be as simple as the Heat feeling more comfortable with the assets they have in place and the cap space that soon can be put into play. Keep in mind, just because a trade doesn't happen on draft day, it doesn't mean it's not happening at all.


June 23, 2017

Q: Since the Heat drafted Bam Adebayo and have Hassan Whiteside, who also blocks shots, how does that work when the NBA game is played so far from the basket? Players don't take layups on fastbreaks, they run to the 3-point line. -- Stuart.

Q: You can get a backup center for the mid-level and we wasted a lottery pick. The Warriors, only when not destroying the rest of the league playing small, made a big-man rotation out of two guys on the minimum and we just wasted a lottery pick. Who even cares if he's good? He physically can't play with Hassan Whiteside, who we've banked $98 million dollars on. -- Henry, Miami.

Q: We have one first-round draft pick for three years and we waste it on a younger and worse Bismack Biyombo? -- Nico, Charlotte.

Q: Can you make sense of this pick for us? I'm struggling to understand it considering the direction the league is heading. -- Michael.

Q: With Adebayo at 242 pounds and 6 foot 9 and just 19, Whiteside Bam and Justise Winslow would be tough to deal with on defense. -- Willy.

Q: Adebayo reminds me of Serge Ibaka. -- Lee.

A: The opinions certainly were strong with the Heat's Thursday selection, so perhaps it's best to start with the reality of drafting at No. 14. For every Kawhi Leonard, most players selected in the teens tend to be career supporting players. That well could be what the Heat wind up with. As for the direction of the game, I agree that is what made it a curious selection. But that also is where the Heat development program enters the equation, that perhaps they can envision Ibaka-like potential. And, yes, there is the defensive, Heat-like element to the equation. When I spoke to one NBA insider prior to the draft, as I wrote in my story on the draft's power players, there is a thought that the best way to beat teams like the Warriors is to offer a dramatic contrast in styles. There hardly could be more of a dramatic contrast then muscling up with Adebayo and Whiteside. Again, if this move was made at the top of the lottery, or even in the first 10 selections, there certainly were alternatives that would have raised eyebrows. But we're talking No. 14 here.

Q: How you feel now about your no-tank season? The Heat could have used a decent draft pick this offseason to acquire a star. -- Joel.

A: I'm not going to lie, after you saw what the No. 1 pick fetched for the Celtics and then the ensuing frenzy for teams to trade up to No. 3 or at least somewhere into the draft's top 10. But even with tank-a-mania, I'm not sure the Heat, with Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, could have consistently played down to the level of the Nets or Suns or 76ers or Magic or Lakers to have positioned themselves in a draft slot that would have been coveted. That likely would have meant trading Dion Waiters and James Johnson at or before the trading deadline, which would have compromised what could possibly come next for the team.

Q: What does the lowering of the cap do to the Heat? -- Taylor.

A: It makes the margin of error that much trickier when it comes to free agency, especially if they ultimately opt for a $30 million prime free agent. In that case, it becomes an effort of how to potentially create more cap space to round out the roster, whether that means a stretch-provision waiving of Josh McRoberts or a trade of an asset such as Tyler Johnson. If it becomes a matter of simply trying to satisfy the needs of James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Willie Reed and Wayne Ellington, then I think it will be easier to work around the $2 million lower cap projection, perhaps by getting slight salary concessions for all involved. It's when the Heat looks to outside help that it could get more complex with the 2017-18 cap at a projected $99 million, instead of the expected $101 million.


June 22, 2017

Q: Ira, can you see the Heat trading someone if Donovan Mitchell or Zach Collins isn't available at No. 14? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.

A: First, I'm can’t be totally sure of who the Heat are targeting, so it would be foolish here to say those are the only names that could trigger a deal. What I can say is that if the Heat have a player they had targeted who they believe can be a game-changer for the franchise, then I believe there will be ample opportunity to trade up to a more favorable position (should they prove to have the needed assets). Already loaded with youth and with a win-now coach in Tom Thibodeau, I believe the Timberwolves, at No. 7, would be willing to step aside if properly enticed. From there, Sacramento's No. 10 pick certainly could be in play, especially if they snag their needed point guard at No. 5. From there, Stan Van Gundy has made it clear that his team needs a veteran boost, so Detroit's No. 12 assuredly can be had. With all of this, it's a question at what price and how strong the desire and commitment to a targeted player. The contrasting view would be that if the Heat bring back James Johnson and Dion Waiters, would there even be a rotation spot available for a first-round pick, when factoring in Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Waiters, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder and possibly Wayne Ellington (or even Josh McRoberts)?

Q: Do you think the best move for the Heat would be to ignore James Johnson and Dion Waiters and possibly implode the roster to shoot for a pair elite talents in the free agency period or via trades? -- Chadwick, Boynton Beach.

A: Not "ignore" but rather "slow play," so the Heat can see what else might be doable, while leaving open the option for picking up where they left off with their 30-11 run during the second half of the season. It will be fascinating to align the rhetoric with the actions when the Heat are visiting with prime free agents such as Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap, while also stressing a commitment to Johnson and Waiters. Then again, Johnson and Waiters likely will be doing the same while seeking offers larger than could be coming from the Heat. It's all part of the annual July dance.

Q: Any chance Miami looks into acquiring Lou Williams? -- Tom.

A: Rather than address Williams or any potential housecleaning by the Rockets, it's probably better to put it this way: just as the Heat can use cap space to sign free agents, that space can also be used to accommodate players that other teams make available in salary dumps. And that list could prove extensive, possibly, for example, with the Spurs looking to move Danny Green to create max cap space of their own. So when considering potential offseason acquisitions, don't limit that study merely to the free-agency list.


June 21, 2017

Q: The Lakers wanted a lottery pick for D'Angelo Russell. Why wouldn't the Heat take Russell? He's better than anything we would get at No. 14. I mean this is the former second pick of the draft. He's 21, can shoot and score. He's better than Dion Waiters, with much more upside and much cheaper on his rookie scale. I'm not sure I understand.  -- Kirk.

A: Because there was far more to the deal with the Nets than merely securing the Nets' No. 27 pick. It was about getting a large contract with only one year left (Brook Lopez) in exchange for the hideous contract of Timofey Mozgov that runs through 2019-20, when it calls for a $16.7 million payout. I can't fathom, even at securing Russell at the cost of No. 14, the Heat would have been willing to take on that monstrosity. The Heat simply did not have the mechanism of Lopez's $21.2 million expiring contract to throw into such a deal, their expiring contracts basically limited to Josh McRoberts' $6 million and Wayne Ellington's $6.3 million. The math didn't work.

Q: At $23.8 million it's not a surprise that Dwyane Wade opted back in. The Bulls then can buy him out later and then he can go to Cavs to join LeBron James for playoffs. -- David.

A: It will be interesting to see how it plays out with the Bulls. First we have to see what type of roster the Bulls field and whether Chicago can remain in playoff contention, in which case Dwyane isn't going anywhere. Even if the Bulls falter, it would be prudent to hold on to his contract until the trading deadline, in case a team might be willing to part with prospects for an expiring contract. But it will get interesting if there is a buyout and if the Heat and Cavaliers are both in playoff contention.

Q: Any chance that Goran Dragic, No. 14 and Tyler Johnson could get us No. 5 for De'Aaron Fox. This guy is a star, Ira. I just know that when we look back on this draft, people will say he should have been a lock for No. 1.  -- Christian, Miami.

A: I can't fathom a rebuilding Kings team would want to trade for a 31-year-old point guard and a problematic contract (even with Tyler Johnson being from Northern California). Now, if you're asking whether I would do it? Sure. But there's a lot of trades that can't or won't happen that I would do.


June 20, 2017

Q: How does the Celtics-76ers trade affect the Heat?  Reportedly, the Heat and Celtics are the two teams most likely to go after Gordon Hayward.  Does this move make the Celtics more likely to go for him, or less likely?  How else do you see this trade affecting the Heat? -- David.

A: It all depends if there is a Part B for Boston. Should the Celtics add Jimmy Butler or Paul George for some of their assets, then it could convince Hayward of a far more likely path to the conference finals than alongside what the Heat might have to offer. But the Celtics have also been very good at zagging while some are zigging, as they did last year with Al Horford while so much of the focus was on Kevin Durant. So if Boston does land a veteran wing, perhaps they turn toward Blake Griffin in free agency, leaving the Hayward possibility to others.

Q: The trade market for Paul George will be limited since teams know he might leave as a free agent next year.  Would you trade Goran Dragic for Paul George straight up? Their salaries are close enough.  Would you throw in Justice Winslow to get it done? -- David.

A: First, I'm sure the Pacers would want more than a 31-year-old player for George, especially if the possibility to otherwise land Kevin Love is in play. Plus, if the Heat would make such a move, it would leave them barren at point guard, unless the position is addressed in the draft. Either way, that hardly would be a roster that would sway George from his Lakers intention. The Pacers' offers would have to be significantly limited for the Heat to get their foot in that door.

Q: I think one of the biggest reasons for the Warriors' success is that they have multiple guys who can shoot, pass, and get to the basket. With the Heat's current roster, they could have multiple guys who have those same strengths, especially if Justise Winslow can develop an outside shot. Goran Dragic, Justise, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Dion Waiters/James Johnson (should either or both return) can all score inside and pass, and they can mostly score consistently from outside. Add in some good defensive play, and this could still be a team that goes far, under a similar structure as the Warriors.

 -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: But there's a difference between having good players and great players in those roles, with this a league about premier talent. Bottom line is Stephen Curry is better than Dragic, Klay Thompson better than Waiters, Kevin Durant better than Winslow, Draymond Green better than James Johnson, with a case possibly to even be made about Shaun Livingston over Tyler Johnson. And beyond all of that, this is a team built around Hassan Whiteside, which demands a different approach. The Warriors win because they play to their strengths. The Heat are built from a different structure.


June 19, 2017

Q: Well, you've hinted at it for a while now: a disgruntled star becoming available. There is no question Paul George will be traded during this offseason, if not by Thursday's draft. He has said he wants to play for a contender yet he "prefers" the Lakers, a team far from championship contention (barring a LeBron James arrival). I believe there are a few teams he would sign an extension with outside of the Lakers. You know Pat Riley will make a call but won't make any moves without a commitment of an extension. What works in our favor is that the Pacers have no leverage. They'll take the best offer, which will be well below his actual value. Would Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, and Josh McRoberts' expiring contract be a good offer? This is a great draft and would stink to trade out of it. Ideally, it would be preferable to keep no. 14, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, considering our lack of future picks. -- Jarrod, Miami.

A: First, I doubt Paul would at this stage commit to an extension with any team, considering his preference for the Lakers. So any consideration of a trade for George has to be done in the vacuum of an extension, with the hope of showing over the coming season that there is a world beyond the Lakers. Because of that there are three components that would make a deal for George worthwhile for any team: 1. The opportunity to go for a championship in 2017-18 (perhaps the Cavaliers scenario). 2. The confidence/arrogance of eventually signing him to an extension regardless of his Lakers affinity (this certainly could be where the ego of the Knicks, Clippers or even Heat could come into play). 3. Trading pieces that would no impact the long-term mission of the acquiring team if it proves to be only a rental. That's where a Heat package centering around Tyler Johnson could make sense, if only because of the ability to offload the back-loaded final two seasons of that contract. But that also would saddle the Pacers with that cap hit. So, yes, I would offer Johnson, Ellington and McRoberts. Then the Pacers would decline. So the question then becomes whether you would be willing to sweeten such an offer with Winslow.  

Q: With the Lakers desperate for cap space for Paul George and the Celtics previously willing to send six picks for Justise Winslow, what are your thoughts on the Heat trading Winslow and the No. 14th pick to move up for Josh Jackson or Jason Tatum? -- Brian, Boca Raton.

A: I would find it shocking if the Heat did not re-engage the Celtics when it comes to Winslow, if only because of the trove of picks now belonging to Boston. But it has become somewhat obvious that the Celtics are thinking bigger, perhaps a trade for Jimmy Butler, certainly a free-agency offer for Gordon Hayward, as they look for the type of scoring that Winslow does not appear ready to offer. And as much as the Lakers covet George, it will not come at a cost of trading out of No. 2.

Q: Does Boston's trade with Philly make it more likely that Gordon Hayward joins the Heat? Boston would not pass on Markelle Fultz to draft another point guard at No. 3. Last year they drafted the talented Jaylen Brown whom everyone said was untradeable and a big part of their future. This leaves their choice of Josh Jackson or Jason Tatum who play the same position as Brown. I understand that you can't have enough wings, but Hayward would give them three wings. Boston either knows they are getting Blake Griffin and their cap is spent or that Hayward is coming to South Beach. -- Joe, Jupiter.

A: Or staying in Utah, which is a Hayward option that I believe many are underplaying. Personally, I believe the play for the Celtics is to add a pair of veterans this offseason, knowing they are loaded with draft picks going forward, with plenty of developmental players still on their roster, including Brown. In many ways, I think Boston's ongoing machinations could make it more likely they go all in for Hayward.


June 18, 2017

Q: Is any prospect aside from Zach Collins really that much better than Luke Babbitt? If it was about hitting the 3-pointer, we can stay status quo. -- Juan.

A: And the Heat could well do that, considering they hold Babbitt's Bird Rights and would only have to set aside a $1.5 million cap hold to revisit the Babbitt option after utilizing their cap space. But the draft is when you also take a forward-thinking approach, and I'm not sure that anyone has Babbitt down as the Heat's power forward of the future. You could make an argument at several positions that the Heat would be set through free agency, including at shooting guard if Dion Waiters is retained. Or, for that matter, at either forward slot if James Johnson can be brought back. I know this sounds trite, but when picking at No. 14, you select the best player and work from there, hoping someone you projected higher falls. If that doesn't happen, the best option might be to take someone with all-or-nothing upside, be it Harry Giles with his knee issues or the unknown with a prospect such as Terrance Ferguson. No matter who the Heat draft, it is possible that the entire starting lineup, and perhaps even the entire base eight-man rotation, will be returning players.

Q: Justise Winslow's shooting percentage would indicate a player who struggled offensively last season. While it's hard to argue against statistics, I recall being surprised by his ability to create space. He had open shots and layups, but he wasn't converting them. It actually seemed like he was pressing, trying to prove that he was the franchise's next star (his comments at the time seem to confirm that was his mindset). Besides that, perhaps he was injured while playing. Assuming he stays with the Heat, I think people will be surprised by his offense next season. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: The question is whether there is enough athleticism to score at NBA wing requirements. Justise is skilled, but sometimes I believe that gets mistaken for athleticism (Michael Beasley was the same way). I believe if you get too caught up with Justise's offense you're missing too many of his possibilities. If he can facilitate, rebound and defend, he will have a long and prosperous NBA career. It just might not be as a starter. And it might not be as a wing.

Q: It appears Chicago may deal Jimmy Butler to Boston for a bunch of draft picks.  Do you think even this would cause Dwyane Wade to opt out of his player option? -- Brian.

A: I doubt, at this stage, anything would cause Dwyane to opt out of $23.8 million for next season with Chicago, with likely less than half of that available elsewhere. And at that salary, forcing a trade might even be difficult. But I do believe Dwyane would be miserable with the Bulls if Butler left.


June 17, 2017

Q: With a deep draft this year, the lack of picks in the next few drafts and the Warriors displaying the importance of retaining drafted players through Bird Rights, would the Heat be foolish to not buy/trade their way into at least one more additional draft pick this year? -- Chadwick.

A: I'm not sure the Heat have the assets to trade for a pick, considering the very point you raise, that they don't have many picks going forward, including no second-round pick at their disposal until 2022. But what the Heat do have is $3.1 million to spend on a trade by June 30, an allowance that then is extinguished. Last year, $2.4 million enabled the Warriors to purchase the No. 38 pick from Milwaukee, which they then used on Finals contributor Patrick McCaw. Look, it's easy to spend someone else's money, but it certainly would seem like money well spent, considering the Heat were able to land someone like Josh Richardson at No. 40 in 2015. With all this franchise has been through regarding the luxury tax in recent years, it would seem like cash well spent on Thursday night. But, again, easy to say when it's not my money.

Q: Do you think the Heat could snag the Nets pick (No. 22) for Tyler Johnson and cash? There's are some compelling players that could be available in that range, including Semi Ojeleye, D.J. Wilson, Terrance Ferguson. Wouldn't this be a better strategy than buying into the second round, since we can get out from Tyler's massive increase and grab a talented player? -- Myles.

A: First, there are several rules and timing elements in play with Tyler, especially when it comes to the Nets, due to last summer's restricted free agency, so it would have to be Brooklyn first drafting for the Heat and then completing a deal later. But the real question is what means more for the Heat: cap space or Tyler Johnson's contribution? Yes, the cap hit will be onerous going forward, but would the talent added at No. 22 offset that, even if the Nets were willing to partner?

Q: Can you see any way the Pacers trade Paul George on draft night? -- Juan.

A: Absolutely. It is one thing for both the Pacers and Paul to say they are not thinking that way. But this is essentially last call (save, perhaps, for next season's trading deadline) for Indiana to control George's situation before he heads into free agency in the 2018 offseason. As for Paul, it also is understandable to downplay the possibilities with the Cavaliers, since that could put him in a tough spot if he ultimately insists on bolting for the Lakers in 2018. For all the denials, it will be difficult not to keep an eye on Paul George and Jimmy Butler on draft night, with each of their teams having reason to potentially move sooner rather than later. As for the Heat's ability to get involved, it would appear that the Pacers could get better forward-thinking assets (young players, draft picks) elsewhere.


June 16, 2017

Q: The scuttlebutt around the league is that after next season, LeBron James is likely to depart Cleveland. The interesting part is the speculation that the two possible destinations are either to the Lakers or back to Miami. It seems likely Dwyane Wade will be back by then in a late-career Ray Allen kind of role. How realistic is LeBron's return? And how much should that possibility be factored into the team's moves this summer? (Most permutations of this summer's moves leave the team capped-out next year). -- David, Plantation.

A: I wouldn't put much stock into any "scuttlebutt" a year out when it comes to free agency, LeBron or the Cavaliers. There still is way too much in play, including what the Cavaliers might do in the interim to appease LeBron. Because if Paul George is convinced to accept a trade to the Cavaliers, then there clearly would have to be some type of longer-term assurances from LeBron. And at this point, I think LeBron might be willing to put aside any relocation options in order to have George alongside. As for the Heat, the lesson from both LeBron's arrival and departure is to not dismiss any possibilities. But after the way Riley was treated during LeBron's departure, there is no way he puts anything on hold because of the longest and most unlikely of return possibilities. Besides, if there becomes even an iota of a chance, it’s not as if Riley couldn't sell off contracts, as needed. Still, it's not as if this is a Plan B or C or even Z. Of all of Riley's permutations for Heat possibilities, none at the moment include a LeBron No. 6 jersey being part of anything other than an eventual rise to the AmericanAirlines Arena roster.

Q: Is Justise Winslow the anti-Michael Beasley? Pat Riley drafted Justice Winslow over Devin Booker, opting for defense/rebounding/maturity over a polished offensive player following the Beasley experience. Do you think Riley will now turn back to offense or will he select another Winslow-like player? -- David.

A: What I don't believe would happen is drafting a perimeter defender at the cost of offense. Those days have left the building in the NBA. And by the way the draft is shaping up, with Luke Kennard rising on so many boards, it has become clear that shooting these days trumps just about all. Still, the way Riley has stood by Justise, particularly at his season-ending media session, the Heat very much will try to make this work, and make sure it doesn't turn into another Beasley-type situation.

Q: Would a trade package of Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts' expiring contract put us in the conversation for Paul George?  -- Greg, Miami.

A: Yes, but not if Cleveland enters the equation with Kevin Love. And even then, the Heat might have to throw in the player selected at No. 14 in the draft.


June 15, 2017

Q: I know it's against the Pat Riley philosophy, but would taking one of Portland's bad big contracts of either Allen Crabbe or Evan Turner or perhaps a package of a couple of smaller contracts like Meyers Leonard, Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu be worth it if we can take all three of their first-round draft picks this year? -- Chris Miami

A: That all comes down to which you value more: prospects or cap space? The constant during the Riley reign has been about veteran talent. With Portland selecting at Nos. 15, 20 and 26, I doubt the Heat would go out of their way to accommodate such an acquisition at the loss of cap space. As it is, the greater question might whether the Heat might not themselves utilize the draft pick as a means of shedding cap space, to be packaged with perhaps Josh McRoberts or Tyler Johnson.

Q: The sleeper of the draft is Semi Ojeleye. He's strong, explosive. He's got the size. He has the tools to be a great defender. He's shown some playmaking ability and he can shoot it. This could be the next Draymond Green. I can't believe he isn't projected higher. Ira, what would it take to grab the late first-round pick (No. 25-30) to grab this kid? Is Tyler Johnson or Wayne Ellington worth a first rounder?  -- Greg.

A: I have him at No. 21 in my mock draft, so I'm not sure he would last long enough to be able to buy into his range. I doubt Ellington could get you, without cash being added, a first rounder. I think if the Heat buy in, it will be into the second round, with the $3 million they still have to spend in a trade for this cap year.

Q: I appreciate the NBA market being inflated, but could James Johnson really score a contract for $15 million or more this offseason? He was one of my favorite players to watch this past season, but it was the first time he's shown any sort of consistency in his career. -- Matt, Boynton Beach.

A: And that will be part of the fine line the Heat will have to walk to James and Dion Waiters (and perhaps even Willie Reed), as far as allowing the market to set the parameters, while also not coming off as being indifferent during the early stages of free agency. Again, it only takes one team to set the market, but the Heat's hope has to be that continuity would matter to Johnson, Waiters or Reed (as the Heat all the while explores other options). Again, their cap situation would apparently preclude the possibility, but James Johnson would sure seem like a good fit to bolster the Cavaliers (handling when LeBron is out, defending perhaps even when LeBron is in).

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