A rundown of eight big questions entering NBA offseason: What will happen with LeBron James, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard?

In this Tuesday, May 9, 2017, file photo, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) walk upcourt during the second half of Game 5 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Houston Rockets in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

MIAMI — The Warriors have been crowned NBA champions, and just like that the most exciting offseason in sports has begun.

There are plenty of intriguing storylines entering the summer like LeBron James’ future, the Kawhi Leonard-Spurs situation and Paul George’s impending free agency. Here’s a rundown with the eight biggest questions of the 2018 NBA offseason, including our predictions for how each will play out. Continue reading “A rundown of eight big questions entering NBA offseason: What will happen with LeBron James, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard?”

Mailbag: If Raptors blow it up can Heat swoop in for Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan?

Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan wait for a free-throw during the second half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Cavaliers Monday in Cleveland. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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 tdangelo@pbpost.com.

Don, Fort Lauderdale: If the Raptors blow it up could the Heat jump in and trade for some of their players?

Many believed the Raptors should have blown up their roster a year ago but they gambled, handed out several long-term contracts, and brought back most of their players (sound familiar?). Now, after president Masai Ujiri said, “we need a culture reset here” a year ago, where does he go from here after being swept in the conference semifinals for the second consecutive year by the Cavaliers? And this time as the No. 1 seed?

If you think the Heat are in salary cap hell, take a look at the Raptors who have three players eating up $80.4 million next season: point guard Kyle Lowry, $31.0 million; shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, $27.7 million; power forward Serge Ibaka, $21.7 million. Add center Jonas Valanciunas’ $16.5 million option and that puts the Raptors just $4 million shy of the projected $101 million salary cap.

If Toronto is looking for that “culture reset” it’ll probably start in the backcourt. DeRozan and Lowry are coming off All-Star seasons before once again wilting in the postseason. Lowry was an All-Star for the fourth consecutive season although his scoring dipped more than six points to 16.2 per game and he’s 32. DeRozan is four years younger and averaged 23.0 points per game.

DeRozan would bring the biggest return but he’s the player the Raptors may want to attempt to rebuild around. Toronto could look at one of the other teams looking to unload their All-Star point guard, like the Wizards (John Wall) or the Hornets (Kemba Walker), in a Lowry deal. Those options are more attractive than pursing Goran Dragic, who also recently turned 32. But if Toronto is looking for more young players perhaps they would be willing to expand the deal.

Of course, the Heat may not want to stop there, but the question is who else would they want? (Please, not Ibaka). The Raptors have some nice young players, some of whom like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby they’ll want to hold onto. But in the Heat followers quest to trade Hassan Whiteside would the Raptors think about moving Valanciunas and making this a much larger deal?

Why not? But remember, any deal with a team like Toronto or even Washington or Milwaukee reeks of two desperate teams just hoping to push their problem onto another team.

Which leads us to another possible trade question …

@vfraumeni3: Any chance if Whiteside is moved that the spurs would take him? A move involving Hassan and Dion and a future 1st for (Kawhi Leonard) and (Patty Mills) could work well i think

So, Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters for Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills? Pat Riley would drive to San Antonio in August with no air conditioning and the windows stuck in the up position if that’s what it took to get that deal done.

Whiteside will not end up a Spur unless the teams agree on a blockbuster. In fact, I’d put the chances of Leonard being to Miami next season better than Whiteside wearing a San Antonio uniform. But that would take the Spurs being rejected by several other teams before having serious talks with the Heat regarding a Leonard deal.

[Mailbag: Would expiring contracts be enough for the Heat in a Hassan Whiteside trade?]

[Erik Spoelstra says there’s a storyline that hasn’t drawn much attention, and it involves Rodney McGruder]

[The number of head coaching changes in NBA since Erik Spoelstra’s first season is staggering]

[Heat to participate in Sacramento summer league before heading to Las Vegas]

[Kelly Olynyk thrives in Heat system; says he’s ready to expand role]

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

 

Tonight’s matchup: Heat look to stay hot vs. surging Raptors

MIAMI HEAT VS. TORONTO RAPTORS

When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto

TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun/WAXY 790AM, WAQI 710AM (Spanish)

Records: Miami 22-17, Toronto 28-10

Line: Raptors favored by 4 points

Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson shoots over Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan in Heat’s loss Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS

Heat

F: Josh Richardson

F: Kelly Olynyk

C: Hassan Whiteside

G: Tyler Johnson

G: Goran Dragic

Raptors

F: OG Anunoby

F: Serge Ibaka

C: Jonas Valanciunas

G: DeMar DeRozan

G: Fred VanVleet

Scouting report: The Heat will be without Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery), Okaro White (left foot surgery), Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) and Justise Winslow (strained left knee) against the Raptors. … Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry will not play Tuesday after suffering an acute back spasm in Monday’s win in Brooklyn. Lowry had to be carried off the floor in overtime after a hard fall. … The Raptors will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back after defeating the Nets 114-113 in overtime in Brooklyn on Monday. … Toronto is 3-2 on the second night of back-to-back sets this season. … The Raptors own the top home record in the NBA at 14-1. … The Heat are 11-8 on the road. … Heat small forward Josh Richardson is averaging a team-high 17.5 points on an efficient 54.1 percent shooting from the field and 46.1 percent shooting from 3-point range in 18 games since Dec. 1. … Miami is averaging 31.3 3-point shot attempts per game, which is the fifth-most in the league. … The Heat have posted an 11-4 record over the past 15 games.

[Game-winning basket just part of why Josh Richardson has emerged as Heat’s best player … budding All-Star?]

[Mailbag: Will crowded Heat frontcourt continue to limit rookie Bam Adebayo’s playing time?]

[Heat 3-point specialist Wayne Ellington was crucial part of Josh Richardson’s game-winner. … as decoy]

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Miami Heat have balancing act to consider early in free agency

 

President Pat Riley and the Miami Heat will start chasing free agents at 12 a.m. Saturday.

MIAMI – Every season, the anticipation for midnight July 1 builds. Every team is poised with a big board of free agents that most years tops 100 names, phone numbers are programmed into cell phones and meetings have been arranged.

Nothing – not the start of training camp, the regular season or even the Finals – has executives, coaches, players and fans more lathered than the start of free agency.

The Miami Heat hit the open market with one thought: To never experience another season like last, which ended with the team missing the playoffs because of tiebreaker. And if you think coming from 19-games below .500 to finish 41-41 was celebrated? Think again.

“I’m not all goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired. That’s not my makeup,” Riley famously said days following the end of the regular season. “I was pissed off. I was upset.”

Now, to see that does not happen again, Riley and GM Andy Elisburg have some work to do.

[Mailbag: Will James Johnson really give the Heat a hometown discount?]

[2017 Free Agency Preview: What mid-level free agents should the Heat pursue?]

First up is trying to squeeze lemonade out of a free agency class that mostly is filled with lemons. Okay, it’s not that bad, but with the biggest names (Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry) re-upping with the Warriors, and the Clippers’ Chris Paul already being traded to the Rockets, this is not a stellar class.

Who does that leave? Utah’s sharp-shooting forward Gordon Hayward, Clippers multi-faceted forward Blake Griffin, Toronto’s ever-improving Kyle Lowry. When it comes to max free agents that should do it.

Not exactly LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade now, is it?

The next tier – Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Toronto’s Serge Ibaka, Denver’s Danilo Gallinari, New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday – certainly will help but are not exactly foundational pieces for a super team.

The Heat find themselves in a precarious spot. They will have at least $35 million in cap space once Bosh is released, a number that can be increased by sign-and-trades and stretching Josh McRoberts’ contract.

Miami has set up a Saturday meeting with Hayward, according to reports, and likely will kick the tires on Griffin, although their level in interest in the power forward is unknown.

But the sticky part is the timing. Miami remains interested in bringing back its top two free agents, Dion Waiters and James Johnson, but they essential play same positions as Hayward and Griffin (wing, power forward), though different styles.

Will the Heat be burned if they put Waiters and Johnson on hold while gauging the chances of signing either Hayward or Griffin or both? And do other teams swoop in and try to steal Waiters and/or Johnson Waiters early?

“We hope we’ll have some information on that first night,” Riley said last week.

This balancing act is key even though Waiters and Johnson have said all the right things. Both credit the organization for putting them in this position to cash in for the biggest payday of their careers. Johnson is 30 and looking at tripling his career earnings of about $16 million in one contract. Waiters is 25 and likely will do the same after making about $20 million in his first five years.

And while Waiters and Johnson likely are not at the top of too many teams’ shopping list, they still will be wooed early. Heat free agents Luol Deng and Joe Johnson were not close to the top of the list a year ago – some didn’t even have them among the top 30 free agents – and both agreed on the second day of free agency, Deng with the Lakers and Johnson with the Jazz.

If Waiters and Johnson are scooped up early, that could leave Miami in the case for Ibaka or Sacramento’s Rudy Gay.

One variable from a year ago, fewer teams have cap space and fewer dollars are available this summer than last. The cap rose about $15 million last summer. This year it will increase by about $5 million.

Still, the Heat have a “plan A. … a plan B” according to Riley, and those plans have worked out more often than not.

“We’ll attack it the way the Miami Heat typically does and well see what happens,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.

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Pat Riley is looking for major upgrades to Miami Heat roster but he warns free agency movement could be limited

Miami Heat President Pat Riley thinks teams might be more disciplined during free agency this year.

MIAMI – Heat President Pat Riley has said several times he is not expecting mass movement during free agency this summer. And if he’s right, it won’t be because he and GM Andy Elisburg sat back and watched the big names come off the board without the Miami putting up a fight.

The free for all starts July 1 and the Heat are major players with around $35 million in cap space, a number that was reduced by about $3 million this week for all teams when it was announce the projected salary cap will be $99 million. And although we saw a frenzy last summer with inexplicable contracts being offered that many teams now have come to regret, Riley believes many hard lessons were learned.

“A lot of the business was done quickly over the phone with a lot of these players and some of the contracts out of whack,” Riley said about the summer of 2016. “I don’t know if you’re going to see that this year. I think there might be a little bit more discipline in how teams go about that whole process.”

Some teams started dumping those bad contracts in the last week. The Lakers dealt Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to the Nets and the Hawks peddled Dwight Howard (three years, $70.5 million) to the Hornets.

[Heat didn’t see anybody in second round worth spending money on]

[5 things to know about the Heat’s first-round pick — Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo]

Riley expects several of the max free agents – Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry – to re-sign with their existing teams because of the rules that allow those teams to offer their players longer, more lucrative deals. For some, staying put will mean up to $75 million more and for others up to $40 million more. Those numbers, though, are a bit misleading because players can sign for five years with their existing teams and are limited to four years if they jump ship.

“From what we understand most of the great ones will re-sign with their teams and I can understand why they would,” Riley said.

While that almost certainly is true for Durant and Curry, others appear in play, including Paul and Griffin, who could leave the Clippers under the right circumstances.

Even though most of the speculation has Riley making a serious pitch for Hayward – the seven-year veteran is coming off his breakout season (and first All-Star game) in which he averaged 21.9 points – he is bracing Heat fans for the possibility that the 2017-18 team closely will resemble the one that needed a 30-11 run during the second half of last season to finish .500.

Riley was asked if he would consider it a successful summer if he re-signed forward James Johnson and guard Dion Waiters and brought back guard Wayne Ellington.

“Yes, I would,” he said early Friday morning. “We’re working on that, talking about that. But now we can spend the next (eight) days getting that together.”

Bringing back all three likely would leave the Heat with $5 to $8 million to spend, along with two exceptions for $4.3 million and $3.3 million.

“We have a plan,” Riley said. “We have a Plan A. And we have a Plan B. There’s no D, E, F or G. We feel good about the plan. You never know what’s going to happen in free agency. We have great respect for the two guys, three guys, four guys that we have that are free agents. But, we’ll see what happens on July 1st. It’s always a pretty exciting time.”

Riley is hoping the Heat have some resolution on the first day – free agency starts at midnight. He believes a shorter moratorium – July 1 to July 6 – could speed up the process although last year Hassan Whiteside announced just hours into free agency that he was remaining with the Heat and Dwyane Wade’s decision to sign with Chicago came on July 6.

Riley referenced the crazy summer of 2010 when he landed LeBron James and Chris Bosh. James’ made-for-TV announcement was July 9, two days after it was reported Bosh was leaving Toronto for Miami.

“It’s not like it was in 2010 when you had a (longer) moratorium and guys are flying all over the place, taking meetings,” Riley said. “That was incredible the itinerary we had and the number of players we flew around in 36 hours to see.”

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Could Toronto Raptors free agents Kyle Lowry or Serge Ibaka be on the Miami Heat’s radar?

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka fouls Cleveland’s LeBron James during Sunday’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors are this week’s version of the L.A. Clippers.

The Raptors’ season ended Sunday when they were swept by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Toronto has been to the playoffs four times since Masai Ujiri started heading up basketball operations, being ousted twice in the first round, once in the second round and last year in the conference finals.

With several key players up for free agency, the Raptors must decide who they want back.

But something has to give. The Raptors, who signed shooting guard DeMar DeRozan to a five-year, $130 million deal last summer, need to do some creative cutting to bring back Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka and avoid exceeded the cap.

But the question is do the Raptors want to move forward with both players on their roster, or even one? And if not, or if either decides to move on, could Heat president Pat Riley and GM Andy Elisburg make a play for either?

The Vertical ranks Lowry, 31, as the third best point guard on the market this summer behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry and the Clippers’ Chris Paul, and it has Ibaka, 27, as the third-best power forward behind Atlanta’s Paul Millsap and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin.

Lowry has a player option for $12 million next season but confirmed to reporters today he will decline that option to become a free agent. Toronto can offer Lowry a five-year contract for about $205 million. If he leaves, he can sign for a max of four-years and about $158 million. Either way, his contract would start at about $36 million.

But the Heat have Goran Dragic under contract for three more seasons, the last being a player option. And Dragic’s $17 million price tag for 2017-18 is a bargain considering the marketplace. Miami would have to determine Lowry (or Paul for that matter) would be worth playing twice as much as what Dragic is making, and then find a way to deal Dragic, to make a run at one of the elite point guards.

Right now, the Heat are happy with Dragic and unless he is included in a blockbuster deal, Miami is not in the market for a point guard.

Ibaka’s situation, though, is more interesting. Although Ibaka has played for three teams in the last year – being traded from OKC to Orlando last June and from the Magic to Raptors in February – the 6-foot-10 power forward is expected to command around $20 million a year.

Ibaka averaged 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds between Orlando and Toronto this season. Although his numbers were slightly lower in the playoffs – 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds – he was not impressive in the postseason.

The Heat’s need for a quality power forward depends on if they can retain James Johnson. Miami has expressed a desire to bring back the 30-year-old Johnson, who had a breakout year after signing a one-year contract with Miami last summer, and he will come in at a much lower price than Ibaka.

But if Johnson receives an overwhelming offer the Heat decide is more than they are willing to pay, Ibaka could be in play for Miami this summer.

[Chris Bosh being sued by company that produces erotic videos]

[Miami Heat Mailbag: Better chance Bulls trade Jimmy Butler or Dwyane Wade turns down $24 million?]

[Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra named NBCA co-Coach of the Year]

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Erik Spoelstra: Heat would be ‘much different basketball team’ with healthy Justise Winslow, Josh McRoberts

Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat follows the play during the first half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 3, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat follows the play during the first half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 3, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

ORLANDO — It’s been a painful week in the NBA.

This week’s NBA news included some injuries that will force a few big names to miss extended time. Toronto guard Kyle Lowry (wrist), Golden State forward Kevin Durant (knee) are expected to — at least — miss the bulk of the remaining regular-season games, and Philadelphia center Joel Embiid will miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. Continue reading “Erik Spoelstra: Heat would be ‘much different basketball team’ with healthy Justise Winslow, Josh McRoberts”

2016 NBA playoffs: Erik Spoelstra won’t foul late when he’s ahead

Erik Spoelstra is against fouling when the Heat have the lead late in a game. (Getty Images)
Erik Spoelstra is against fouling when the Heat have the lead late in a game. (Getty Images)

The Heat had a choice late in the fourth quarter of Game 1. They were up 90-87 with 3.3 seconds left and Toronto inbounding the ball from under its own basket. They could either allow the Raptors to hunt for a game-tying 3-pointer or immediately foul the ball handler and send him to the line for two free throws.
Continue reading “2016 NBA playoffs: Erik Spoelstra won’t foul late when he’s ahead”

2016 NBA playoffs: Amazing shot by Kyle Lowry, but was he out of bounds?

Kyle Lowry and the Raptors squandered home-court advantage by losing Game 1. (Getty Images)
Kyle Lowry and the Raptors squandered home-court advantage by losing Game 1. (Getty Images)

Toronto’s Kyle Lowry is having a pretty rough start to the playoffs and that continued in Game 1 against the Heat, but give him credit for this: His buzzer-beating shot to tie the game at the end of regulation was incredible.

Here’s the video:
Continue reading “2016 NBA playoffs: Amazing shot by Kyle Lowry, but was he out of bounds?”

2016 NBA playoffs: Chris Bosh at center of Heat’s Game 1 win

Bosh helped spur Miami to an overtime win Tuesday. (Getty Images)
Bosh helped spur Miami to an overtime win Tuesday. (Getty Images)

The Heat keep saying how important it is to have Chris Bosh on the bench with them in the playoffs, and that continues to sound like more than just talk.
Continue reading “2016 NBA playoffs: Chris Bosh at center of Heat’s Game 1 win”