Mailbag: With no cap space or draft picks, can the Heat really improve this offseason?

Andy Elisburg, Pat Riley and Nick Arison celebrated the Miami Heat’s championship in 2013 (Getty Images)

MIAMI — It’s time for another Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). You can also email me at achiang@pbpost.com.

Ajith, Miami: The Heat are capped out, have a bunch of bad contracts and don’t have a draft pick. How does anybody expect Miami to improve this summer?

Anthony Chiang: It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. But don’t ever count out the Heat, especially with Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg working to improve the roster behind the scenes. The fact is they are facing some big obstacles, though. Miami has 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due $120 million. That puts the Heat way above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line. This does not include re-signing Wayne Ellington or bringing back Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, a sequence of moves that will put the Heat over the tax line if other salary can’t be shed. With all of that being said, the only way Miami can really improve its roster this offseason is through trades. Without cap space, the free agency path is out. Without a pick, the draft path is out. That leaves the Heat looking to make a deal. What attractive assets does Miami have to include in a deal? Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic and a 2019 first-round pick are the Heat’s top trade assets entering the summer. The question is, will that be enough to land an All-Star caliber player or will these assets just be used as sweeteners to dumb a few of their bad contracts?

@mcLoveHer: Can Phoenix trade our pick back to us?

Anthony Chiang: Nice try. The Heat currently don’t have a pick in this year’s June 21 draft. Miami’s 2018 first-round selection belongs to the Suns — the first of two first-round picks owed from the 2015 acquisition of Dragic. The Heat also still owe the Suns an unprotected 2021 first-round pick to complete that transaction. The good news is the 2021 first-round pick is now the only future first-round selection the Heat have committed elsewhere.

[Heat president Pat Riley explains why he’s not ‘a draft pick guy’]

[List of familiar faces on Phoenix Suns just got longer for Goran Dragic after coaching hire]

[What is next in the evolution of Heat’s Justise Winslow?]

[Dwyane Wade surprises Waffle House hero James Shaw Jr. during Ellen Show]

[What are the Heat’s chances of acquiring Kawhi Leonard this summer?]

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What are the Heat’s chances of acquiring Kawhi Leonard this summer?

Injured San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard on the bench during a game against Indiana in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Outside of whether Pat Riley can move Hassan Whiteside, perhaps the biggest question surrounding the Miami Heat entering the offseason is if they have a chance to acquire Kawhi Leonard, if the Spurs decide it’s time to trade the 6-foot-7 forward.

Leonard and the Spurs have been in a bizarre standoff most of the season over a quad injury with coach Gregg Popovich having given up on Leonard playing by the end of the season.

All of which has led to speculation that San Antonio is ready to move on from the 26-year-old who has twice been named All-NBA first team and Defensive Player of the Year.

If the situation is irreparable, and the Spurs put Leonard on the market, can the Heat get in the conversation?

One Las Vegas book does not think so. In fact, the Heat aren’t even on their board.

Bovada still has San Antonio at the top of the list of teams Leonard could be on when next season starts. But if Leonard is moved eight teams appear on the board with the best odds going to Philadelphia and the longest to Charlotte and Milwaukee.

Here is the list:

San Antonio Spurs: 5/8:

Philadelphia 76ers: 9/2:

Los Angeles Lakers: 13/2:

Los Angeles Clippers: 7/1:

Boston Celtics: 11/1:

Cleveland Cavaliers: 12/1:

New York Knicks: 14/1:

Charlotte Hornets: 15/1:

Milwaukee Bucks: 15/1:

The Heat’s issue is most of the teams mentioned have young, budding talent or a perennial All-Star or an attractive draft choice to offer the Spurs. With Riley saying that nobody is untouchable this summer, the Heat might be able to get into the game by offering a combination of their top young players – Bam Adebayo, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow – or perhaps all three, along with their 2019 first-round pick. But that still probably isn’t enough.

If the Spurs trade Leonard, it has been reported they prefer it would not be to a Western Conference team. But that only knocks out the Lakers and Clippers.

Leonard, who is owed $21 million next season and $21.3 million in 2019-20, played nine games last season because of a mysterious quad injury that Leonard’s camp is saying is a contusion and not a long-term issue.

ESPN reported the Spurs believe Leonard’s group is trying to get Leonard moved to a large market like Los Angeles or New York or Philadelphia.

[With no commitments to national team, Goran Dragic looks forward to quiet summer, returning better and fresher next season]

[At 73, Heat’s Pat Riley not thinking retirement: ‘Something sucks you back in’]

[Heat’s Dwyane Wade to Sixers’ Ersan Ilyasova: ‘Who are you?’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Everything Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had to say on exit interview day: ‘We see progress, we see growth. Expectations do not scare us’

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra directs his team in the first quarter of play against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Saturday, April 21, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

MIAMI — After Heat players and coaches met for the final time as a group Friday, head coach Erik Spoelstra spoke to the media before heading into the offseason. Here’s what Spoelstra had to say … Continue reading “Everything Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had to say on exit interview day: ‘We see progress, we see growth. Expectations do not scare us’”

The achievers and the underachievers for the Heat in their series with the 76ers

Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow, drives up the court against Philadelphia 76ers’ Robert Covington during the first half of Tuesday’s Game 5 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Miami Heat’s stay in the 2018 playoffs was brief. The Heat were bounced from the postseason by the upstart Philadelphia 76ers in five games in a series that was both one-sided and competitive, depending on which half you are referencing.

While the Heat either led or were tied at halftime of all five games, the Sixers outscored them by an average of 15.6 points in the second half of the five games.

Not the recipe to win in the postseason.

The Heat, like every team, can look back and point to some things that worked and some that didn’t.

So, we bring you the achievers and the underachievers for the Heat in this series.

Achievers

    Justise Winslow: Winslow has been a maligned player throughout his career in Miami, many wanting for more from a No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 draft. He was trending in the right direction the last couple of months of the season and continued that direction in this series.

Winslow averaged 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds. He didn’t shoot well (.357) but he left an imprint on every game, especially the Heat’s Game 2 win when his defense overshadowed in 2-point performance. And just as importantly he played with confidence and aggressiveness, showing an ability to knock down the 3-pointer, though not settling for the outside shot, and attacking the rim. That said, are the Heat now more apt to trade the 6-foot-7 forward or do they view him as a more important piece to their future?

Dwyane Wade: This goes without saying. Some believe this was Wade’s swan song after 15 seasons but that is something we will not know for months. What we do know is Wade proved he still can play and could be an important piece both on the court and as a locker room leader if he decides to return for a 16th season.

Wade’s value to this team since returning Feb. 8 was huge. He became the centerpiece to a solid bench and made the most of his limited minutes, especially in crunch time. He had two vintage performances in the series – 28 points in Game 2 and 25 points in Game 4 – and finished as the Heat’s second leading scorer behind Goran Dragic, averaging 16.6 points while chipping in with 4.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

Others who had their moments: Dragic led the Heat with 18.6 points and added 4.6 assists per game. And while his scoring was important for a team that at times found it difficult to score, the Sixers shut him down the fourth quarter of the entire series, limiting him to just 10 points in the five fourth quarters combined.

James Johnson was active, aggressive and he relied on his versatile skills give the Heat some offense. Johnson averaged 12.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists, while shooting 54.8 percent. The biggest disappointment was his defense, allowing Ben Simmons to shoot 58.3 percent against him.

Underachievers

    Hassan Whiteside: You can’t start the list of players who were non-factors in this series with anybody other than the Heat’s embattled 7-foot center. Whiteside averaged 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds while logging just 15.4 minutes per game. And while some would blame coach Erik Spoelstra for giving up on Whiteside, the truth is throughout much of the season Whiteside never gave Spoelstra any reason to trust him. Twice in this series, including the Sixers’ Game 5 clincher on Tuesday, Whiteside came out early in the second half and never returned.

Now the Heat have a serious issue moving forward. Their highest paid player – Whiteside is due $52.5 million the next two years, the final two of the $98 million deal he signed two summers ago – is unhappy and is not shy about venting his frustration through the media – he was fined once by the organization this season for doing so – but his value on the trade market is at an all-time low.

Wayne Ellington: The Heat’s long-distance threat had a terrific season setting the franchise record for 3-pointers in a season (227) and the NBA mark for the most threes while playing as a reserve (218).

But Ellington never could get on a roll in the playoffs and although he shot 40 percent on threes he really was a non-factor. Ellington made 12 threes in the series, but just one coming in the fourth quarters, which the Sixers controlled the entire series. Wade said before Game 5 his biggest disappointment as the leader of the second team was never being able to get Ellington on a roll in the series.

Team defense: The Heat lean on their defense as the centerpiece of their culture. But that defense certainly let them down in this series. Miami’s surrendered 114.2 points per game and had a defensive rating of 109.6 in the five games compared to giving up 102.9 points with a rating of 104.0 during the regular season.

The Heat allowed the two highest scoring games in their playoff history, 130 in the opener and 125 in Game 3, while Philadelphia converted 18 3-pointers in each game. And the Sixers blitzed Miami for 74 points in the second half of that Game 1 blowout. Philadelphia had four players shoot at least 50 percent in the series.

Other disappointments: Tyler Johnson played hurt after injuring his thumb early in Game 3 but Miami needed more than six points per game from their starting shooting guard, especially with Whiteside struggling. Whiteside, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson combined to give Miami fewer than 20 points per game.

The Sixers led the league in rebounding during the regular season but the Heat were pounded on the boards the entire series. Philadelphia had a 250-205 rebounding edge for the series, including 18 more offensive rebounds. That advantage led to the Sixers totaling 81 second chance points.

[Heat’s Dwyane Wade a finalist for NBA Cares Community Assist Award; voting open to fans]

[How does Pat Riley fix this Miami Heat roster?]

[Five takeaways: Heat season ends as Sixers close out first-round series in five games]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

Why did the Heat’s season end in the first round of the playoffs? A look at the reasons

Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers fights through Kelly Olynyk #9 and James Johnson #16 of the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Miami’s playoff run didn’t last long.

The Heat enter the offseason after being eliminated in five games in the first round by the Sixers. Philadelphia earned the series-clinching win Tuesday.

Here’s why the Sixers ended the Heat’s season … Continue reading “Why did the Heat’s season end in the first round of the playoffs? A look at the reasons”

Heat mailbag: Does Whiteside have trade value? Who starts Game 5 if Richardson cannot play?

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Bam Adebayo react during the fourth quarter of the Heat’s Game 4 loss against Philadelphia Miami on Saturday. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA – Time for another Miami Heat mailbag. … Playoff edition.

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 tdangelo@pbpost.com.

From @shanethompson: After such a bad season will Hassan Whiteside carry any real trade value for the Heat? Or will Spo and Whiteside eventually have to make this work?

Whiteside’s trade value is at an all-time low. The Heat’s highest paid player is due $52.5 million the next two years, the final two of the $98 million deal he signed two summers ago. And while that value declined this season it has nosedived during the playoffs as he is averaging just 6.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in the first four games against the Sixers.

But that does not mean Pat Riley will give up on trying to move the 7-footer. Whether it takes adding a sweetener to the deal – perhaps Josh Richardson or Justise Winslow – or taking back another team’s disgruntled high-priced player or even a bad contract, the Heat will do all it can to trade Whiteside. And it might even mean just packaging him for the purpose freeing up some cap space. But Miami would have to trade more than just Whiteside to gain any significant money seeing it enters the summer about $17 million over the cap.

As for Whiteside and coach Erik Spoelstra co-existing, you make a great point. My feeling is the last thing Spoelstra wants is another year of dealing with Whiteside’s inconsistent play and his immaturity especially Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk capable of filling that hole, more reason for Riley to do everything he can to move on from Whiteside.

From @ChrisHypeTrain: What happens if Josh Richardson cannot play in Game 5?

The Heat are listing Richardson as questionable for  tonight’s do-or-die game in Philadelphia because of a sprained left shoulder. My gut says Richardson will play and if he plays he will start.

But let’s look at a couple of scenarios. If Richardson cannot play then Spoelstra has a decision to make with his starting lineup. Does he start Rodney McGruder for his defense or does he break up that second unit he has been going to late in the first quarter by starting either Wayne Ellington or Justise Winslow? But there is one more possibility here. Tyler Johnson has not played well and regardless of Richardson’s status, we may see a change in the starting lineup. If Richardson can go, I think McGruder would be the choice if Spoelstra decides to bench Tyler. If Richardson is out, we still could see McGruder in the starting lineup along with either Ellington or Winslow.

[2018 NBA playoffs: 76ers know what to expect from Miami Heat in Game 5]

[Mailbag: What adjustments can Heat make vs. Sixers in Game 5?]

[In a series that Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid have thrived, Heat pleased with progress from their own young duo]

[Heat must finish vs. Sixers, or season will be finished]

[Was Heat’s Game 4 loss Dwyane Wade’s final game in Miami? Wade: ‘I don’t want to answer that right now’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

Mailbag: What adjustments can Heat make vs. Sixers in Game 5? Plus, should Rodney McGruder play a bigger role?

From left, the Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Bam Adebayo react as the Philadelphia 76ers lead late in the fourth quarter in Game 4 of the first-round NBA Playoff series at the AmericaneAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, April 21, 2018. The Sixers won, 106-102, for a 3-1 series lead. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

MIAMI — It’s time for another Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). You can also email me at achiang@pbpost.com. Continue reading “Mailbag: What adjustments can Heat make vs. Sixers in Game 5? Plus, should Rodney McGruder play a bigger role?”

Heat’s Justise Winslow mum on 15k fine for stepping in Joel Embiid’s mask

Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers drives to the basket while being defended by Justise Winslow of the Miami Heat during the first quarter of Game 3 at American Airlines Arena. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

MIAMI – Justise Winslow isn’t reacting to his $15,000 fine for intentionally stepping on a part of Joel Embiid’s mask during Game 3.

“I’m not going to even talk about it right now,” the Heat forward said before today’s Game 4. “My focus is on the game. It is what it is but I’m still out there playing.

“I didn’t get suspended so I’m going to do what I can to help my team win. I’m not concerned about it right now.”

Winslow, who is making $2.8 million this season, was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct. The incident occurred with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter of the Heat’s 128-108 loss to the Sixers on Thursday in Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Winslow spotted the lens attached to the inside of Embiid’s mask on the floor and clearly intentionally stepped on it before picking it up as a time out was being called.

Embiid had to come out of the game as the Sixers repaired the mask. He was wearing the mask to protect his fractured orbital bone, which forced him to miss Philadelphia’s previous 10 games.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he spoke with Winslow about the incident.

“We talked to him about it, we accept that fine,” he said. “It doesn’t add a distraction.”

Spoelstra then downplayed the significance of Winslow’s act.

“Adds to the side stories to what’s really going on,” he said.

Embiid joked about the situation.

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands, but little does he know, I have about 50 of them,” Embiid said after Game 3. “So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of this series. I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.”

Embiid finished Game 3 with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in his playoff debut.

Winslow had his playoff career high 19 points in Game 3, all in the first half.

[Behind the numbers: Should Heat’s Dwyane Wade get more playing time in playoff series vs. Sixers?]

[With thumb ailing, Heat’s Tyler Johnson not worried about offense; says team’s defense must improve]

[Dwyane Wade on physical nature of Heat-Sixers series: ‘It’s the playoffs, baby, let it go’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Heat’s Justise Winslow fined $15,000 for stepping on Joel Embiid’s mask

Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow (20) attempts a 3-point basket as Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (21) defends during the first half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Thursday, April 19, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — Heat forward Justise Winslow has been fined $15,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct for intentionally stepping on and attempting to damage the face mask of Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, the NBA announced Friday night.

The incident occurred with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter of the Heat’s 128-108 loss to the Sixers on Thursday in Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Embiid was wearing the mask to protect his fractured orbital bone, which forced him to miss Philadelphia’s previous 10 games.

When asked about his run-in with the mask, Winslow said following Thursday’s game: “[Embiid] kept throwing [the mask] on the ground. So I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what. But I was talking to JoJo. We were smack talking, trash talking, going back and fourth. But no love loss.”

Embiid didn’t seem too bothered by the incident because he has more masks in reserve.

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands, but little does he know, I have about 50 of them,” Embiid said after Game 3. “So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of this series. I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.”

Embiid finished Game 3 with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in his playoff debut. The Sixers lead the first-round series 2-1, with Game 4 set for Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

[Heat know getting Hassan Whiteside back on track is ‘a game-changer.’ But is it possible against Sixers defense?]

[Dwyane Wade on physical nature of Heat-Sixers series: ‘It’s the playoffs, baby, let it go’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Dwyane Wade on physical nature of Heat-Sixers series: ‘It’s the playoffs, baby, let it go’

Referee James Capers gets in between Justin Anderson of the Philadelphia 76ers and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat during the second quarter of Thursday’s Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Double technical fouls were called. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

MIAMI – The Heat’s Dwyane Wade knew what to expect when Philadelphia’s Justin Anderson, who had played about a minute and a half in the first two games of the series, came off the bench.

“He came into the game to be a tough guy,” Wade said. “So, the refs didn’t do nothing about it so I did.”

Anderson was in the game 94 seconds when he and Wade tangled, Wade grabbed Anderson’s right wrist and Anderson swung his left fist connecting with the back of Wade’s head.

Both players were hit with technical fouls, the first of three sets of double technicals that would be called in one of the more physical Heat games in recent memory.

“They hit us in Game (2),” said the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Anderson, whose role was compared to a hockey enforcer after Wade’s 28-point performance in Game 2.

“They were physical from the start. I’m appreciative and take whatever opportunity that I am given. After watching the first two games from the bench, I have recognized the physicality is real high and I just mentally prepared myself for that if I go in.

“I have to hit first or else they’re going to hit me.”

The Sixers responded, out-muscling the Heat in a 128-108 victory, taking a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven opening-round series and regaining homecourt advantage. The game was a throwback to the 1990s when Heat-Knicks series saw bodies flying all over the court, but with about 80 more points on the board. Miami and New York played 24 postseason games from the 1996-97 season to 1999-00, and just twice were there more fouls called than the 56 between the Heat and Sixers on Thursday and once were there more than the 72 free throws that were taken on Thursday.

The combined fouls equals the season high for a Heat game this season and the free throws is the most in any game.

“It was pretty physical both ways,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who team was whistled for a season-high 30 fouls, 10 of those drawn by Sixers center Joel Embiid, who was playing for the first time in the series. Embiid missed the 10 previous games (eight regular season) after suffering a fractured orbital bone.

Sixers point guard Ben Simmons heard for 72 hours how the Heat’s blueprint to slow him down is to bump and bang him, the entire 94 feet if necessary.  Justise Winslow was his main antagonist in Miami’s Game 2 victory, at times frustrating Simmons, who was not as impactful in that game as he was in Philadelphia’s Game 1 victory despite an impressive stat line.

Simmons, who at 6-10, 230, attacks the rim mainly because of his poor outside shot, welcomes that type of play.

“I love it when guys are trying to throw elbows or whatever it is,” he said. “Being from Australia, I played Australian football, so I’m used to it. It makes me play better.”

Wade and Covington started the double-technical trend. Later in the second quarter James Johnson and Simmons were chirping and each received a technical. In the third quarter Marco Belinelli intentionally fouled Goran Dragic, who made the shot and then flexed in Belinelli’s face, drawing technical fouls.

“I was proud of our team as we accepted the physicality in a way that was technically fundamental,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

The Sixers did more than accept the Heat’s physical play. They punched back and still played their game. For the second time in the series the Sixers had 18 3-pointers and shot better than 50 percent from long distance.

“We don’t want to be in shootouts with this team, so we got to find ways to be more physical and control their shooters and their scoring,” Winslow said. “I think for three quarters, we did a good job.”

Philadelphia led by two entering the fourth quarter before outscoring Miami, 32-14, in the final 12 minutes.

And according to Wade, do not expect anything different than an old fashioned Eastern Conference postseason throwdown moving forward. Game 3 is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“It’s the playoffs, baby,” Wade said. “I wish the whistle didn’t blow as much as it did. We’re fine with it. Let it go, man. Nobody wants to get into fights. But there’s going to be some body-on-body. There’s going to be some man-on-man combat in this series.

“This is what competitors love to play in. The physicality doesn’t matter. We want them to be physical and we’re going to be physical.”

[Heat’s Hassan Whiteside on his disappearing game: ‘Coach wants me to just be in the corner and set picks’]

[Heat’s Dwyane Wade says he and actor Kevin Hart ‘are not friends right now. I don’t like him’]

[Heat’s Erik Spoelstra, Dwyane Wade shocked, saddened by death of Erin Popovich]

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