MIAMI – Heat fans are starting to look ahead and wondering how their team is going to add enough pieces to once again become a contender.
Two of our questions this week deal with restocking this team, one through what would be a blockbuster trade and the other through the draft.
If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send them in for future mailbags via Twitter to @Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44. It’s a long season and we are sure there is a lot on your mind concerning the Heat.
@ChrisHypeTrain: You think the Heat have a chance of trading for Jimmy Butler?
Tom D’Angelo: This has become an interesting development in Chicago. The Bulls were listening to offers for the 6-foot-7 Butler last summer but decided to rebuild around the 27-year-old forward by adding Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade.
Well. … that has not worked out so good. The Bulls are No. 9 in the East at 19-20 and Rondo has been benched, I mean, really benched. He went from starting to not even playing in five consecutive games.
Now reports are the organization could blow it all up and deal Butler, who is averaging 25.0 points and 6.7 rebounds. The Bulls are denying all reports they do not feel they can build around Butler and are looking to move their best player. But who knows what will happen if Chicago does not make the playoffs or it sneaks in and flames out in the first round. Chicago clearly was kicking the tires on a Butler trade last summer.
Would the Heat include their draft pick (it would have to be swapped or they would have to select the player and trade him) in a deal for Butler? Good question and it likely depends on where the pick lands. But this we do know: Heat president Pat Riley is on that never-ending quest to land a “whale” and Butler would be that whale. Butler on the wing with Hassan Whiteside in the middle, possibly Goran Dragic as the point guard and whoever remains from the young core is a great start to getting this team back into contention.
Another from @ChrisHypeTrain: How does James Johnson fit into the Heat’s long term plans?
Tom D’Angelo: JJ has been the team’s best off-season signing. He has settled into a bench role and become one of the bright spots in a season in which there have not been many.
Johnson is aggressive. He’s a solid defender and the biggest surprise has been his offense and he is hugely popular with his teammates, especially playing the role of unofficial enforcer (remember: Johnson is a second-degree black belt). He is averaging 11.7 points while shooting just under 50 percent and, most surprisingly, has made better than 38 percent of this threes. He entered the year a .266 career three-point shooter with 97 3s in seven seasons. He already has 47 in just 35 games with the Heat.
Johnson, 29, signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Heat last summer. He is saying all the right things about the organization and appreciates the opportunity he has received. If something can be worked out (Johnson is playing himself into a substantial raise), the Heat would love to have Johnson back as a valuable bench piece on a contending team.
@HeatMilGrau: What draft prospect do you think is going to fit?
Tom D’Angelo: A lot of questions lately about the draft and with Miami sitting at 11-29 after Tuesday’s 107-95 loss at Golden State and with the second-worst record in the NBA, rightfully so.
With every loss, the Heat get closer to the top of the draft so, for now, we can start focusing in on the top prospects.
First, we know the Heat can use some outside shooting, this is obvious from a team that is 26th in the league with a .437 field goal percentage, we know they do not need a center barring a blockbuster trade involving Whiteside and we do not know if Dragic will be on this roster next season.
So with that, the top four prospects on nbadrart.net’s board – 6-8 Josh Jackson of Kansas, 6-4 Markelle Fultz of Washington, 6-10 Jonathan Isaac of Florida State and 6-6 Lonzo Ball of UCLA – could all fit.
Jackson is a two-way player who can handle the ball as well as play down low and guard several positions.
Fultz is a combo guard who could play alongside a point guard like Dragic. He is an elite athlete.
Isaac has the size and runs the floor like a guard. He can handle and shoot the mid-range jumper.
Ball’s strength is as a floor general and will be better suited as a point guard but has range on his shot (and, yes, the shot looks awkward). Pat Riley was at Ball’s game Sunday night in L.A.