MIAMI — The Heat’s regular-season schedule is set.
The NBA released the full 2017-18 schedule Monday evening and, as always, there are plenty of intriguing matchups to be excited for. For the Heat, there are two home games against Dwyane Wade and the Bulls, an early-season game against Gordon Hayward and the Celtics, and even an international contest against the Nets that will be played in Mexico City.
The Miami Heat will have a lottery pick for just the third time in the last 14 years, but what will they do with that pick if they remain 14th or by some miracle move up in the lottery?
We answer that today in our mailbag. Keep those questions coming. Send via Twitter to @Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44.
From @BryanIsTheKing: Will Miami try and trade up in the draft?
From @Tealman12: Trade down/out of draft right?
The Heat enter with a 1.8 percent chance of moving up into one of the three spots, including 0.5 percent of moving into the top pick, 0.6 percent of getting the second pick and 0.7 percent of securing the third pick.
Let’s take these separately: If the Heat remain 14th, the most likely scenario, forget trading up. Miami has just one player that could get it a top 10 pick and Pat Riley is not trading Hassan Whiteside for a pick. Trading down would be an interesting thought. Miami has very few picks going forward. Already it has traded away its 2018 and 2021 first-round picks in the Goran Dragic trade. The 2018 pick is top 7 protected, in which case it would keep that pick and lose 2019. Also Miami has traded its next five second round picks.
After about the 10th pick this year the thinking is there are about 10 or more players who are pretty evenly grouped. So if the Heat’s desire is to recover a pick or two and believes any one of those players remaining on the board can help when we get to the 14th pick, perhaps they think of trading down in the first round and pick up a second rounder. Also, do not rule out the possibility of buying a second round pick.
If the Heat defy the odds and win the lottery, that means they will have a top three pick, which means at least two players among the following will be available to them – Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Duke’s Jayson Tatum. The Heat would then be in a very enviable spot: Plan to pick one of these supposed can’t-miss guys or start conversations with teams like the Bulls for Jimmy Butler or the Pacers for Paul George.
From @NikoDevlin: how long until Miami can give more money to Tyler Johnson?
Here is the breakdown on Johnson’s contract: The Heat matched a four year, $50 million offer last summer he was extended by the Nets. Johnson made $5.628 million last season and will earn a little more than $5.881 million next year before the big money kicks in.
The number jumps to a little more than $18.858 in 2018-19 and about $19.631 million in 2019-20.
Kammerer believes this could be a “special draft” for a select few at the top. Not quite 2004 special that saw four future Hall of Famers – LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade – go in the first five picks. But special nonetheless.
The top four – Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Duke’s Jayson Tatum – are on level of their own. The next tier takes us to about the ninth or 10th pick. Then there is the group of about 10 players that the Heat, who most likely will pick 14th, are most interested in.
“I don’t know if the players at the top of the draft are going to make a huge difference their first year or two because they’re so young (but) down the road this could end up being really a special draft,” Kammerer said.
“There’s so much potential and so many boxes you check off from their character, their skill level, their athleticism. They have combinations of players high in the draft that are going to be really good NBA players.”
Kammerer believes the draft could produce about 20 rotational players but beyond that he believes this crop is typical when it comes to the second round.
“I’m not sure the second round is going to be any better than previous drafts,” he said. “When you talk about depth you talk about second round guys I would say ‘OK, not bad.’
“These guys (at the combine) are mostly second round. There’s some good players but I don’t think this is one of those drafts you’re going to say, ‘Oh, man, there’s 10 guys in the second round that are going to be really good NBA players.’”
As for the positional breakdown: Kammerer agrees with the consensus that the point guard position is loaded and he likes the power forwards/centers. The weakness: wings.
The Heat are expected to be looking at a power forward or combo big man and several could be available at that spot including Zach Collins, Wake Forest’s John Collins, UCLA’s TJ Leaf, Cal’s Ivan Rabb and Texas’ Jarrett Allen.
The Heat do not own a second round pick but could make a trade to acquire one. This season, more teams could use the second round to identify a player or players to sign to the new two-way contract, which allows a team to control two players it believes needs seasoning in the D-League.
Each team with be allowed to have two additional players beyond the 15-man limit on a two-way contract.
“In the past the best 60 guys didn’t get drafted because people didn’t have two slots for them,” Kammerer said. “So they would take some European they’re stashing because they see their roster and they don’t have spots for two or three guys.
“Now I think you’re going to see teams stash some guys that maybe aren’t ready but have a lot of upside. He really isn’t ready but we’ll put him in our D-League for a year. Now there’s more of a chance for them to stash an American than to stash a European.”
Miami will have three means of adding players next season: Draft, trade, free agency. Those decision will determine how long it takes the Heat to once again become a contender.
We will explore all three along with some of the options. But things have changed since the season started and with a new CBA agreed upon the Heat may have to reevaluate its game plan when it comes to fast-forwarding this rebuilding process.
Free agency: The quickest way to a fix has worked well for the Heat in recent years, most famously in 2010 when Riley convinced LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwayne Wade.
But the new CBA will make it more difficult for the Heat to sign a transcendent talent. The agreement, which was reached Dec. 14, gives a player much greater financial incentive to remain with his existing team.
Players with 10 or more years of service now can sign a five-year deal starting at $36 million and totaling $209 million. The most another team can sign that same player for is $133 million over four years. A difference of $76 million. In addition, teams can extend two veteran players for six years, adding more guaranteed money to their coffers that other teams cannot.
Which means instead of thinking Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and maybe even Gordon Hayward, the Heat may be forced to focus on the next tier of players that include Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari and Rudy Gay.
Still, with anywhere between $40 million and $55 million available in cap space this summer based on the expectation that Bosh’s salary comes off the books and the possibility that Miami trades point guard Goran Dragic, Miami has some serious cash to throw around.
Miami no longer can afford two max contracts but if it believes Hayward (who, as a seven-year player would command a contract starting at $31 million) is one of those leading men and it adds another player like Ibaka that would be a nice start.
Otherwise, the Heat may be looking at signing a combination of Gallinari, Gay and Ibaka.
Draft: This may be the safest bet of them all. With each loss Miami gets closer to the top of the draft. With the second-worst record, the Heat are guaranteed a top 5 pick but more likely one of the top 3.
The Heat could trade the pick but they have restrictions. Because it owes a protected 2018 first-round pick to the Suns and the league prohibits teams to deal consecutive first-round picks, Miami either would have to swap its 2017 first-round pick in a trade or draft the player and then make the trade.
And the Heat picked a good year to return to the lottery, a place it’s been just once in the last eight years. The draft is loaded thanks to a 2016 crop of college freshmen that some called the best ever.
Miami is virtually guaranteed of coming away with a major piece, perhaps a player who will become part of the Heat’s next Big 3. The strength is in the backcourt and the Heat’s biggest need is scoring.
The top of the draft board generally includes 6-4 guard Markelle Fultz of Washington, the 6-6 Ball, 6-8 wing Josh Jackson of Kansas, 6-2 guard Dennis Smith of N.C. State and 6-10 forward Jonathan Isaac of Florida State.
The next tier includes Kentucky’s backcourt of 6-3 De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, Duke’s forward tandem of 6-10 Henry Giles and 6-8 Jayson Tatum and 6-5 Frank Ntilikina, who is playing in France.
The Heat’s need could shift if Dragic is traded but most of the top guards are combo guards that could play either position in the NBA. Think 6-4 Dwyane Wade coming out of Marquette 14 years ago.
Trade: This will take the most creativity considering teams aren’t in the habit of giving away franchise players.
But, of course, if anyone has a proven track record of rebuilding through trades, it’s Riley. This is a man who has acquired Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal by wheeling and dealing.
Miami would have to give up a lot to acquire a player who could be considered one of its leading men and Riley has rolled the dice before. But does Miami have enough assets to land such a play? And would Riley trade the draft pick? Unlikely but never say never.
The Heat say they are not shopping Hassan Whiteside but that does not mean if Riley is made an offer he cannot refuse and Whiteside is part of the deal they would not pull the trigger. The odds are, though, the Heat continue to build around their 27-year-old, $98 million man.
Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson all are considered cornerstones. But that also means all are assets that, if necessary, could help close a deal for a superstar. Remember: Johnson can veto any trade before the end of the season.
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?
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.
MIAMI – Tyler Johnson has been an invaluable piece to the Heat this season as a sixth man and energizer off the bench.
But just how good is he? That’s one of our questions in this week’s installment of the Heat mailbag. We answer that and more.
If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send them in for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). It’s a long season and we are sure there is a lot on your mind concerning the Heat.
@IDB1127: On a scale of 1 to 10, how good has TJ been this season?
Tom D’Angelo: Johnson has had a solid season coming off the bench, averaging 13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 turnovers while shooting 41.1 percent. Add in two other factors: He is in the first year of a $50 million contract and has been thrust into the role as a backup point guard, a position he still is learning, and he is doing this with a lot more on his plate.
Coach Erik Spoelstra loves Tyler’s energy and believes he is in the perfect role for this stage of his career. Where he needs to improves is his consistency and to avoid the uneven play we sometimes see. He has had slumps 7-of-29, 6-of-25 and 10-of-30 from the floor. But overall, the Heat are very pleased.
I would give him a 7.5.
@CPoTweetsStuff: Are you aware if any of the players have had contact with Chris Bosh?
Tom D’Angelo: First of all, just seven players on this roster ever have played with Bosh, so the number is limited. While we are sure there are more, two in particular have mentioned their conversations with Bosh, whose career with the Heat is over after failing a preseason physical because of recurring blood clot issues.
Udonis Haslem knows Bosh better than anybody on this roster, having played been a teammate since Bosh joined the Heat in 2010. UD said he frequently speaks with Bosh but those conversations, he says, have nothing to do with basketball but are more personal, about life and family.
Josh Richardson recently told Anthony that Bosh was the person who has helped him the most while Richardson was recovering from a knee injury that forced him to miss training camp and the start of the season. “I talk to Chris Bosh a lot,” Richardson said. “He’s kind of helped me be patient and not rush it. He’s been good.”
@GusPTY: Which Draft Prospect do u think fits the best for Miami? I like Lonzo lol hes more a passer than a selfish attacker
Tom D’Angelo: One thing is certain: 2017 is a very deep draft. And one thing is getting closer to being a certainty: The Heat will have a lottery pick. Put those together and Miami should add an important piece for its future.
We know the Heat can use outside shooting and we know they do not need a center (barring a blockbuster trade). What we don’t know is if Goran Dragic will be back or if they will need a point guard. But you mention Lonzo Ball, a 6-foot-6 point guard from UCLA, who is averaging 8.8 assists along with 15 points. He would be an instant impact player but the question is, will the Heat’s pick be high enough to get Ball who is being mentioned as the No. 1 overall pick?
Others that would be a nice fits include Kansas’ 6-8 Josh Jackson who also is in the mix for the top pick; FSU’s 6-10 Jonathan Isaac; and a pair of Duke freshmen, 6-8 Jayson Tatum and 6-10 Harry Giles. Another point guard expected to be taken at the top of the draft is Washington’s 6-4 Markelle Fultz.
Any would be a significant addition depending on trades but it’s tough to project where the Heat will fall in the lottery and who will be available.