Time for another Miami Heat mailbag.
If you were not able to ask a question this time, send them along for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at email@example.com.
From @ChrisHypeTrain: Has Danny Ainge passed Pat Riley as an executive?
Riley, the Heat’s president, and Ainge, the GM and president of basketball operation for the Celtics, have a rivalry going that took an ugly turn five years ago. That’s when Ainge called it “almost embarrassing” that the Heat’s LeBron James complained about hard fouls and Riley responded in a statement by saying Ainge needs to “shut the f— up” and that he was “the biggest whiner” as a player.
The two have gone head-to-head a few times with Riley signing free agent Ray Allen away from the Celtics in 2012; Ainge helping the Cavaliers clear cap space in 2014 by being a part of a three-team trade that allowed Cleveland to dump three contracts and re-sign James away from the Heat; and last summer when the Heat and Celtics were after Gordon Hayward and the free agent chose Boston.
Both have been highly successful with Ainge putting together a Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that won one title and Riley putting together a Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh that won two titles. But lately, it’s Ainge who has been the best executive, perhaps in the entire league.
Starting with the 2013 trade with the Nets when the Celtics netted four first-round picks for Pierce and Garnett, Ainge is putting together a team that will be contending for titles for many years to come.
That trade was the foundation to the Celtics’ rebuilding plans and Ainge has been on a roll since. Some of his highlights: hiring coach Brad Stevens; signing Hayward; and pulling off two-more one-sided deals that netted Boston Kyrie Irving from the Cavs, and an extra first-round pick from the 76ers for swapping the first pick for the third pick in last year’s draft and still getting their man, Jayson Tatum.
The Celtics are three-wins from returning to the NBA Finals and have not had Hayward or Irving for one minute during the playoffs. In addition, Boston could have three first round picks in 2019: Sacramento’s, the Clippers’ if it is No. 15 or later, the Grizzlies’ if it is No. 9 or later.
Riley has built three championship teams in Miami and will go down as one of the greatest executives in NBA history. But after losing James in 2014 he has been scrambling to turn the Heat into a contender again mainly because of circumstances beyond his control. … Bosh’s career coming to an end because of blood clot issues just a couple of years into a five-year contract. Still, some have questioned Riley trading away so many draft picks and handing out long term contracts to good, but not great, players.
Meanwhile, with the Celtics are situated to contend for several years. Ainge clearly has had the upper hand of late and not just on the Heat but on most of the league.
From Randy, Sunrise: Whose contract is more of a burden on the Heat, Hassan Whiteside or Tyler Johnson?
Whiteside is due $52.5 million the next two years while Johnson is owed $38.5. Both are a major drain on the Heat’s salary cap but which one is more of a burden? That depends on which Whiteside you are getting. If the 7-foot center is the player who has led the league in blocks and rebounding and averaged 17.0 points, though not ideal, the Heat could live with his large contract. But if he’s the player we saw much of last season and into the playoffs, then no question that is the one contract the Heat would love to shed. As for Johnson, you know what you are getting, someone who will average from 12 to 15 points, shoot about 44 percent, 37 from on 3-pointers and bring energy. Johnson, though, is a player you would rather have coming off the bench, which should be the case with Dion Waiters returning, and $19 million a year for a reserve is not ideal either.