2018 Free Agency Update: LeBron lays low during early morning madness, as do Heat

Cleveland’s LeBron James during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics on May 27, 2018. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

As LeBron James’ private plane was tracking from Anguilla to Van Nuys Saturday, backroom deals were being struck all over the NBA landscape.

The frenzy started minutes before the ball dropped on the NBA New Year at midnight and continued well into the morning. Within hours about 20 players reportedly agreed to deals, with most not allowed to sign before noon on Friday.

One team sitting out the madness: the Miami Heat. The Heat’s lack of flexibility makes it very difficult for Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg to become a major player this summer, other than through the trade market.

The biggest names – Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City’s Paul George, Houston’s Chris Paul, Denver’s Nikola Jokic – are returning to their old teams. The four will re-sign on deals ranging from two to four years and totaling more than $500 million. (And this is a summer in which the theme is fiscal responsibility.)

The most intriguing names on the move so far are DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers to Dallas, Trevor Ariza from Houston to Phoenix and two players who obviously do not Trust the Process in Philadelphia, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who will sign with Milwaukee and San Antonio, respectively.

Other than that, few names will tilt the needle as we enter the week, with, of course, one exception.

James spent most of last week holed up in the Caribbean, weighing his options. Saturday morning, he and his financial team boarded his jet for Southern California, where, let’s face it, all signs point to him ultimately staying put as a member of the Lakers. But on Sunday, James’ agent, Rich Paul, reportedly was set to meet with a high-level Sixers contingent in Los Angeles.

Before meeting with Philadelphia, the only reported contact James had with any team after midnight was a phone call with Cleveland general manger Koby Altman. James owes the Cavaliers nothing after delivering on his promise to bring Cleveland a title after returning four years ago but perhaps he learned from the embarrassing way he left his hometown team the first time with a poorly-planned, hour-long infomercial in which he declared he was “taking his talents to South Beach.”

James is not holding this free agent season hostage as he did eight and four years ago, when he bolted Miami and returned to Cleveland. A sign that many believe James’ decision has been made is so many deals being reported in the early hours of free agency. If James had a long list of teams he was considering, everything would have been on hold, much like it was two years ago for Durant and last year for Gordon Hayward.

But James has been trending toward the Lakers for weeks and that narrative become stronger Friday when James informed Cleveland he would opt out of the final year of contract, which realistically narrowed his choices to the Lakers, Cavs and Sixers. The biggest question now is who rides James’ coattails to L.A. With George staying put in OKC, the Lakers (and likely James) have targeted New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins.

Despite the early rush, this will be a tight market for free agents. Just eight teams have cap space of any significance and already two of them, Dallas and Phoenix, have made their big moves. Of those remaining teams, just the Lakers, Philadelphia and Indiana appear willing to hand out substantial contracts. The others – Atlanta, Chicago and Sacramento – could sign mid-tier players and/or use their space for trades.

Many teams are looking back at the summer of 2016 when spending got out of control and some of the worst contracts in league history were handed out, and ahead to next summer when the cap will rise to a projected $109 million and the market will be deeper with Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker and Kevin Love among those all likely to be available.

As for the Heat, the first bit of news likely will involve free agent guard Wayne Ellington. Miami would like to retain the franchise’s record holder for the most 3 pointers in a season, but at what price? The Heat have Ellington’s early Bird rights and can pay him as much as $10.9 million next season but that could put them above the new luxury tax line, which was revealed last night as $123.733 million, unless other salary is shed through a trade.

Ilyasova, Belinelli and Doug McDermott (Indiana) are long-range shooters like Ellington and their contracts were in the $6-$7.3 million per year range. Ellington will receive interest as the market settles but expect him and the Heat to have several conversations.

[Miami Heat swingman Rodney McGruder’s contract guaranteed for 2018-19]

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2018 Free Agency Primer: We bring you the top five players at each position

LeBron James speaks to the media after Cleveland was swept by Golden State in the NBA Finals. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Free agency starts at 12:01 Sunday. Barring any significant trades that allow them to shed salaries, the Miami Heat lack cap space to become a major player this summer.

More than 125 players are free to sign with any team, although several are restricted. Here is our list of the top players at this time at each position.

POINT GUARDS

Chris Paul, Houston: The Rockets will try to find a way to bring back Paul – he can sign for $205 million over five years – and add LeBron James or Paul George.

Isaiah Thomas, Lakers: Thomas’ timing could not have been worse. He insists he is a max player but he won’t get close to that after a season in which his production fell and questions still persist about his hip.

Rajon Rondo, New Orleans: Rondo is no longer the player he was in Boston but he has rehabilitated his image in Chicago and New Orleans and continues to be a solid floor general.

Elfrid Payton, Phoenix: The Suns acquired Payton from Orlando at the trade deadline hoping he would be their point guard of the future. Not so and they are moving on from Payton.

Fred Van Vleet, Toronto (R): Van Vleet had a breakout year last season, his third in the league and will receive a nice pay raise from the $1.3 million he made in 2017-18.

SHOOTING GUARDS

Zach LaVine, Bulls (R): LaVine returned from ACL surgery and looked good in his half season in Chicago. If teams are not scared off by the injury he could get close to the max.

Tyreke Evans, Memphis: Evans had a solid year averaging 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists. At 28 he is looking at his last big contract.

Will Barton, Denver: An underrated player who has steadily improved the last four seasons had his best season heading into free agency. Mostly a reserve but proved last season he can be productive starting.

JJ Redick, Philadelphia: Redick made the most of his one-year, $23 million deal with the 76ers, averaging 17.1 points. Now, he is on the market again.

Marcus Smart, Boston: Smart has been a valuable reserve for the Celtics the last two years and helped his cause in the playoffs. One of the top defensive guards in the league.

SMALL FORWARDS

LeBron James, Cleveland: Everything is on hold until James decides where he is headed – he first must decline his player option for $35.6 million. The Lakers appear to be in the lead but the Cavaliers are holding out hope he returns.

Kevin Durant, Golden State: Durant is expected to decline his player option for $26.2 million after signing a two-year deal last summer and re-signing with the Warriors. Durant said he’s ready to ink a long-term deal.

Paul George, Oklahoma City: The Thunder were hoping to retain George after the gamble it took last summer to trade for him and put together a team that could compete for a title. George opted out and will field offers, which doesn’t look good for OKC.

Trevor Ariza, Houston: The Rockets will make an attempt to somehow land James but that will take creativity and certainly would mean losing Ariza. Otherwise, the Rockets are in play.

Rudy Gay, San Antonio: Gay declined his player option for $8.8 million to test free agency for a second consecutive season. He averaged 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in his one year in San Antonio.

POWER FORWARDS

Aaron Gordon, Orlando (R): Gordon is going to get paid – he is seeking a max deal – and the Magic have a big decision as to whether they match an offer to keep him, let him go or try to work out a sign-and-trade.

Julius Randle, Lakers (R): Randle’s future is as murky as anybody’s on the market depending on what happens in L.A. The Lakers are trying to land some combination of LeBron, Leonard and Paul George – or even all three – and how it unfolds will determine whether Randle returns.

Derrick Favors, Utah: Favors is an under-the-radar free agent who will be a nice pickup for somebody if he leaves Utah. The Jazz want him back but his future will have everything to do with how much money is left after the big names move.

Jabari Parker, Milwaukee (R): Parker struggled this season playing just 31 games after returning from a torn ACL. Not sure the Bucks are eager to give him a large contract which could limit his offer on the open market.

Montrezl Harrell, Clippers: Another underrated player who played an important role on the Clippers after being acquired last summer in the Chris Paul trade. An explosive player with great energy who is a tough matchup at 6-8. Can also play center.

CENTERS

DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans: Cousins’ torn Achilles came at a bad time. He would have been a max player but likely will have to take less after suffering the injury in late January. The big question is if the Pelicans really want him back?

Clint Capela, Houston (R): The Rockets love Capela and matching an offer would be a no-brainer if it weren’t for their pursuit of LeBron. Ideally, Houston retains Chris Paul and Capela and somehow lands LeBron, but that will be difficult.

DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: Jordan could exercise his player option and be traded to Dallas before free agency kicks off. He is a capable scorer, one of the best rebounders in the league and a huge asset defensively.

Jusuf Nurkic, Portland (R): Nurkic improved during his first full season in Portland but he remains an inconsistent player. The Trail Blazers will have a decision to make when he receives an offer.

Brook Lopez, Lakers: Lopez has expanded his game, making 246 threes on 34.5 percent shooting the last two years. He made just three threes in his first eight seasons. A return to L.A. is unlikely.

2018 Heat Offseason Preview

[Monday’s question: LeBron James could be on the move again, do the Heat have a chance of bringing him back?]

[Tuesday’s question: Will Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem return for a 16th NBA season or retire?]

[Wednesday’s question: Will 3-point specialist Wayne Ellington return to Heat?]

[Thursday’s question: With no cap space, can Heat turn to trades to improve roster?]

[Friday’s question: Does Hassan Whiteside’s contract make him untradeable?]

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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?”

Should Heat make a play for Paul George if Thunder blow up their Big Three?

So far, putting Paul George together with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony is not working for Oklahoma City . (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

When Oklahoma City acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to go along with MVP Russell Westbrook, it was rolling the dice that this ‘Big Three’ could challenge Golden State in the West.

Even after winning 6-of-8, the Thunder remain at .500 and the experiment of putting three of the top isolation players in the league in the same lineup is not working.

So now what?

If this doesn’t turnaround fast, OKC will have no choice but to start listening to offers for George and several reports say executives around the league are watching the situation closely. Trading George would be the logical choice for the Thunder considering he is just 27 years old, a four-time all-star who averaged more than 23 points a game and about six rebounds his last two seasons in Indiana and OKC will have no chance of re-signing the 6-foot-9 small forward if this season continues to go south.

Which brings us to the Miami Heat.

The Heat, like the Thunder, have hovered around .500 all season. Miami is 14-14 – as is OKC – entering tonight’s game against the Clippers. Although the record is disappointing, the Heat actually is about where they should be considering the schedule and playing 13 games without center Hassan Whiteside. Still, Pat Riley never rests and if there is a way to acquire a star and even though it would come with a risk he’s going to kick the tires.

If Sam Presti is on Line 1, Riley certainly will pick up. And as of Friday, Miami’s pool of tradeable assets got much deeper with James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk among those now eligible to be dealt.

The biggest question for anybody looking into acquiring George – and the one OKC had to consider in June when it made the deal with Indiana – is, he is set to become a free agent following this season. And it is no secret the Southern California native desires to return home and play for the Lakers.

So, could the Heat pull off a trade for George? Should they?

First, the Heat would assume George’s ‘Bird Rights’ in a trade, meaning they could exceed the salary cap to re-sign him to a contract that could be as long as five years. Another team looking to sign George would be capped at four years.

George’s starting salary as an eight-year veteran can be up to $29.7 million.

Trading for a player entering free agency is a risk, though with high reward, considering the Thunder will not get full value in return because of the threat he’ll leave at the end of the season. Then it would come down to the Heat gauging George’s interest in returning to Miami before making the deal. Or making the trade believing they could convince him to return.

George is making $19.5 million this season. He has one year remaining on the five-year contract he signed before the 2014-15 season, but with a player option, he is expected to opt out of that final year.

So what does Miami have to offer? Plenty now but what would OKC want. Would the Heat just part with Whiteside, who is making $24.8 million this season, the second of a four-year, $98.4 million deal, to get out from under that deal? Or would it be some combination of James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Olynyk and Justise Winslow?

One thing to remember: Being located in the No. 41 media market in the country, OKC isn’t exactly a top free agent destination. In fact, the biggest free agent movement in franchise history was when it lost Kevin Durant, who signed with Golden State in 2016.

So while some teams are looking for expiring contracts, the Thunder may be looking for players under contract to play alongside Westbrook, who they locked down with a five-year, $205 million extension in September.

James Johnson, Olynyk and Waiters (although OKC isn’t likely to want Waiters back after he played there before coming to Miami) are under contract for three more seasons while Tyler Johnson has two more years left on his deal.

Then there is the flip side of the gamble when dealing for an expiring contract. If the Heat trade away, say, $25 to $30 million in salary, and George comes to Miami but walks in July, are the Heat OK considering they now would open cap space.

With the current roster, Miami’s projected payroll for next season is about $120 million. The salary cap is projected to be about $108 million. Even though Miami would not be getting the full value, opening up $10 to $20 million would give them some flexibility this summer.

Something the Heat would have to seriously consider if they decide to make a move for George.

[Five takeaways: With another big effort from the bench, Heat hold on against Hornets for another road win]

[MRI on Justise Winslow’s left knee negative, Heat  confirm; no timetable on return]

[Could two-big look continue when Hassan Whiteside returns?]

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Our Miami Heat reporters’ predictions for the 2017-18 NBA season

The Palm Beach Post’s NBA playoff bracket. (By Adam Hirshfield)

The NBA season kicks off tonight with Golden State looking to become the first team since the Miami Heat in 2012 and 13 to repeat. With everybody returning and Finals MVP Kevin Durant even more comfortable after a year in the system, the Warriors could be even better than the team that won 67 games last year and defeated the Cavaliers in five games in the Finals.

But some of their biggest challengers loaded up with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joining league MVP Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and Houston gambling on a James Harden-Chris Paul backcourt.

The East underwent changes, too, with Cleveland and Boston pulling off the stunner of the summer by swapping point guards Kyrie Irving (to the Celtics) and Isaiah Thomas (to the Cavs). LeBron James also convinced Dwyane Wade to join him in Cleveland and the Celtics added Gordon Hayward.

Our Heat writers, Tom D’Angelo and Anthony Chiang teamed up to make The Palm Beach Post’s playoff and postseason awards picks.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Boston Celtics

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

3. Washington Wizards

4. Toronto Raptors

5. Miami Heat

6. Milwaukee Bucks

7. Philadelphia 76ers

8. Charlotte Hornets

Eastern Conference playoffs

First round

Boston over Charlotte

Cleveland over Philadelphia

Washington over Milwaukee

Miami over Toronto

Second round

Boston over Miami

Cleveland over Washington

Conference Finals

Cleveland over Boston

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. Golden State

2. Oklahoma City

3. Houston

4. Minnesota

5. San Antonio

6. Denver

7. Portland

8. L.A. Clippers

Western Conference Playoffs

First round

Golden State over the Clippers

Oklahoma City over Portland

Denver over Houston

Minnesota over San Antonio

Second round

Golden State over Minnesota

Oklahoma City over Denver

Conference Finals

Golden State over Oklahoma City

NBA FINALS

Golden State over Cleveland

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on while playing the Chicago Bulls during a pre season game at Quicken Loans Arena on October 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Cleveland

If nothing else, James will be motivated more than ever thanks to the Irving drama and losing to the Warriors in the Finals. And without Irving, he will take on more responsibility. Let’s face it, LeBron can pick his number when it comes to scoring and he will pick a number that is enough to earn him his fifth MVP Award.

Dennis Smith Jr. #1 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after a basket against the Charlotte Hornets during their game at Spectrum Center on October 13, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas

The No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft has been compared to players like Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Damian Lillard just because of the athleticism he brings to the point guard position. With the Mavericks not expected to make the playoffs this season, Smith should get plenty of opportunities to rack up big numbers.

D’Angelo Russell #1 of the Brooklyn Nets drives to the basket against Josh Richardson #0 of the Miami Heat in the second half during their Pre Season game at Barclays Center on October 5, 2017 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Most Improved Player: D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn

Russell has not lived up to being the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, getting lost in the Lakers rebuilding/tanking mode the last two years. He was traded for two reasons: To make room for Lonzo Ball and as incentive for the Nets to take Timofey Mozgov’s contract. But Russell is skilled and he will become one of the Nets’ top options, which should result in his production soaring.

Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets reacts during a game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center on February 23, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon, Houston

Gordon won this award last season and he’ll win it again this year. He flourished in his first season in Mike D’Antoni’s system, making a career-high 3.3 3-pointers per game at a 37.2 percent rate. Gordon will get even more open looks this season with Chris Paul joining James Harden in Houston.

Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors in action against Nemanja Bjelica #8 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors as part of 2017 NBA Global Games China at Mercedes-Benz Arena on October 8, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Golden State

Golden State finished with the NBA’s second-best defensive rating last season. Want to know why? Just look at Green play defense. He can guard every position on the floor. The Warriors’ defense will be one of the best in the league again and Green will win this award for a second consecutive season.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts during the game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors as part of 2017 NBA Global Games China at Mercedes-Benz Arena on October 8, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota

The Timberwolves are headed in the right direction after adding Jimmy Butler to the improving Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Minnesota had the third-worst record in the West last season (31-51) and we predict a big jump to around 48 wins.

All-NBA

First team

G: Russell Westbrook, OKC

G: Stephen Curry, Golden State

F: LeBron James, Cleveland

F: Kevin Durant, Golden State

C: Anthony Davis, New Orleans

Second team

G: James Harden, Houston

G: Kyrie Irving, Boston

F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee

C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota

Third team

G: John Wall, Washington

G: Chris Paul, Houston

F: Draymond Green, Golden State

F: Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers

C: Hassan Whiteside, Miami

[Anthony Chiang’s Miami Heat predictions: Josh Richardson will have a breakout season]

[Tom D’Angelo’s Miami Heat predictions: Hassan Whiteside will be recognized as one of the league’s best]

 

 

Mailbag: Should the Miami Heat have pursued Carmelo Anthony?

Carmelo Anthony, shown backing down the Heat’s Rodney McGruder during a game in December, was traded to OKC on Saturday. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Heat are back.

Media day is behind us and training camp starts today at Florida Atlantic University.

And a new season means plenty of changes around the league. On Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a second blockbuster deal of the offseason, this time acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks. Could the Heat have gotten involved? We answer that and more in our latest mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question, send them in for future mailbags via Twitter to @Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44.

From ChrisHypeTrain: OKC didn’t give up much for Carmelo Anthony or even Paul George. Why didn’t the Heat go after either player?

In July, the Thunder acquired George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. On Saturday they parted with Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick for Anthony. And although it doesn’t seem like much, it would have been difficult for the Heat to get involved with either player.

Remember, Miami is limited when it come to trades, at least for the next few months. Any free agent that signed this summer is not allowed to be traded until Dec. 15 at the earliest which took James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk among others off the board.

Pat Riley then had to weight putting together a package of two or three of his primary players for George, who likely would have been a one-year rental considering his desire to play with the Lakers (George will be a free agent next summer) or 33-year-old Anthony whose style would not have fit into what the Heat preach and is owed more than $54 million the next two seasons.

The Heat probably are looking to move Tyler Johnson, who after making $5.8 million this year is on the books for $18.8 million and $19.6 million the next two years. But teams like the Pacers and Knicks do not want that contract cutting into their cap, either, so it would have been difficult trading Tyler. The Heat were not looking to move Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic for players who would have been such a short-term fix.

The Heat made the right move by moving on from both players.

From @ifotomedia: Do you think Olynyk can make a big difference for the Heat?

The Heat certainly think so, jumping on Kelly Olynyk and signing him for $50 million over the next four years after losing out on Gordon Hayward.

Olynyk should be a solid addition. First, the Heat love the way he competes, seeing it three or four times a year while he was with the Celtics. But he’s also a versatile player, one who is 7-foot and has averaged more than eight rebounds per 36 minutes in his career and also made 254 threes in four years. Olynyk is athletic and although he’s never been known for his defense the Heat believe he will be just fine defending stretch fours and centers.

Here is what coach Erik Spoelstra had to say this summer about Olynyk.

“He’s a very skilled big that can do a lot of different things. He fits well into our positionless style of basketball because he can play with basically any combination of players. I think what he does highlights a lot of the strengths of guys that we currently have.”

[Despite lingering pain from sprained ankle suffered in March, Dion Waiters expects to be ‘full-go’ for camp]

[With arena deemed safe after earthquake, Heat game in Mexico City in December still on]

[As Heat wait on Dwyane Wade’s decision, Udonis Haslem says a Wade return ‘would be a dream come true’]

[Heat forward Justise Winslow says President Trump has ‘damaged’ honor of visiting the White House]

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

 

Analysis: The best fit for Dwyane Wade is not with Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade is a free agent once again but instead of returning to Miami the best fit would be to join his good friend LeBron James in Cleveland. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

 

Now that Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls have reached a buyout agreement, the former Miami Heat guard will have a whirlwind day or two trying to figure where to play this season.

All eyes are on a handful of teams, including the one where he spent his first 13 seasons.

But are the Miami Heat the best fit for Wade?

Wade, 35, is looking for two things: Playing time and a chance to compete for a fourth title.

With those as the overwhelming factors, the Heat likely will be on the outside looking in.

First, of the reported teams on Wade’s list – Miami, Cleveland, San Antonio and possibly Oklahoma City – the Heat are the farthest from a title.

Late Sunday, Wade  told the Chicago Tribune, “I want to be competing for a championship.” He told the Associated Press he will make a “pure basketball” decision.

“I’m going to take (Sunday night and some of (Monday) and speak to the teams or players that are on my list and go from there,”  he told the AP. “My decision is a pure basketball decision and I’ll make the one that fits me best at this point in my career, and with what I feel I have to offer a team that needs what I have to offer.”

Wade averaged 18.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 60 games with the Bulls last season. So he still has something left to contribute whether as a starter or in a reduced role off the bench.

The Cavaliers clearly remain one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and to most the favorite to return to the Finals for a fourth straight season. The Spurs and Thunder are positioned to possibly challenge the Warriors out West, but are not in as good a position in their conference as the Cavs are in the East.

The Heat? Despite bringing back virtually every key player from their 30-11 finish a year ago, Miami’s ceiling appears to be sneaking into the top half the Eastern Conference and grabbing home court for the first round of the playoffs. Realistically, the Heat are looking at a No. 5 or 6 seed.

And although Miami is fourth among those four teams, Wade might have more difficulty finding minutes in Miami than he would on any of the other teams.

The Heat are loaded in the backcourt with Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters as the starters and a group that includes Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder all competing for minutes.

Even without Wade, many are wondering how coach Erik Spoelstra is going to find playing time for everyone.

Wade would fit into the roster of any of the other teams with much more ease, but none as easily as Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are entering the season with JR Smith and Iman Shumpert at shooting guard. Sign Wade and he immediately moves into the starting lineup and is reunited with his buddy, LeBron James.

San Antonio’s starter at shooting guard is Danny Green and Manu Ginobili is its sixth man. Even if he didn’t start, Wade would find his way into the rotation. Although Andre Roberson is the starter in OKC, the issue would be personnel. Although Wade would be in the mix to start or be a sixth man, by acquiring Carmelo Anthony over the weekend OKC now has three of the top 10 isolation players in the league to go along with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. There just would not be enough basketballs to make Wade happy.

The only check mark for the Heat is money, but that will be the last priority for Wade.

Wade is giving back approximately $8 million for his freedom, but that still leaves him with a $15.8 million paycheck from the Bulls this season. Miami can offer Wade its $4.3 million exception, but he still can make $3.3 million from the Spurs, $2.5 million from the Cavs and $2.3 million from the Thunder, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Add it all up and it’s probably not enough for Wade to bring his career full circle and return to Miami.

TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW CONTENT

[5 burning, really hot questions facing the Heat entering training camp]

With start of training camp days away, Pat Riley believes Heat are ‘one step away from being a very good team’

A look at each player on the Miami Heat’s 19-man training camp roster

Goran Dragic: If Slovenia can win European Championship, Heat can win World Championship, ‘Why not?’

Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Centers

Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Power forwards

Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Small forwards

Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Shooting guards

Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Point guards

Miami Heat 2017-18 schedule: 10 games on their schedule you won’t want to miss

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.

Here are 10 games that you won’t want to miss from the Heat’s 2017-18 schedule Continue reading “Miami Heat 2017-18 schedule: 10 games on their schedule you won’t want to miss”

Miami Heat Mailbag: Is there a plan in place for Pat Riley’s successor? Can a star be acquired next year?

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

The dog days of the NBA calendar are around the corner so Heat fans are starting to look into the future, on and off the court.

We look at that day when Pat Riley decides to ride off to Malibu, the chances of the Heat acquiring a star player – either through a trade or free agency – next year and more.

If you weren’t able to ask a question, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter to @Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44.

From @Diehardheatfan1: What do you think Pat Riley’s big move will be moving forward down the road? Do you foresee him getting a superstar? If so, who?

Let’s put it this way, if there is one available Riley and the Heat will be in the conversation. The biggest reason is now he has the assets, even though that does not include draft picks. Riley has several more players on affordable, reasonable annual contracts since the James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk signings that could be used in a package for a star player or to open cap space to sign a big name free agent.

As to who will become available, that’s difficult to say. Two years ago nobody believed the Bulls would move Jimmy Butler and a year ago Paul George being traded from Indiana wasn’t even a thought. Right now the thought is possibly New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins, who will be a free agent next summer. But the chances are other stars will be on the market, too, by the end of the upcoming season or, if the plan is to pursue a player through free agency, Miami could make moves to open cap space.

From @abdrrhmnkyklk: If Riley were to step down today, who would replace him? Spo as a coach-president with Elisburg serving as GM or Elisburg as GM directly?

The question every Heat fans never wants to know the answer to because that means Pat Riley is retiring. We all know the day is coming. But when?

In September Riley said he and Micky Arison have talked about a successor plan and several names likely came up, one being Spoelstra who has been mentored by Riley since both arrived in Miami in the summer of 1995.

Spoelstra loves coaching and he has no desire move on just yet. But he did address the possibility of having a role similar to Riley’s one day during a podcast with The Vertical following the season.

“I’m a Pat Riley disciple,” he said. “He’s always pushed me and nurtured me for the next step, so yes. I would love to have that opportunity years down the line for the Arison family because I believe in them so much as human beings. They’re such good people and family oriented.”

The Heat hired Shane Battier in February to head the analytics department and some speculated Battier was being groomed to be Riley’s replacement. And of course there is Elisburg, the man Riley continually praises for his knowledge and ability to put together a deal.

“Whatever one day Micky or Nick (Arison) wants to do then I think they have a good blend of people,” Riley said last week. “One thing about that, now there’re a lot of opinions, there’re a lot of voices. As people begin to grow in an organization, they want more of a position, more say. Their opinions are stronger. They have more confidence, which I do like. Andy and I get in arguments all the time.”

So to answer your question: To be determined.

From: ChrisHypeTrain: Opinions on Lonzo and reboot of the lakers?

Tom: Ball has been impressive and will help the Lakers. He clearly has been the story of summer league but remember, it is just summer league. Ball is more of a pure point guard that any of the top picks in the draft and the young players around him seem to trust his leadership and passing ability. In that sense he will help a young team like L.A. His scoring has surprised me but his shot remains a concern and it will be interesting if he has success with it at the NBA level. The Lakers will be improved but they are a long way from the playoffs.

Anthony: The Lakers won’t be a playoff team next season, but Ball sure does look impressive in summer league games. If Ball can continue to impress when the real games start, he could be another factor that helps Magic Johnson attract a star to Los Angeles. Will it be LeBron James or Paul George? Or maybe both? The Lakers are clearly planning to make a big splash next summer. But this upcoming season won’t be full of wins. It should be full of fun, though, with Ball running the show.

[LeBron James is back in Miami and he seems nostalgic]

[Heat President Pat Riley’s unique solution to stop teams from tanking]

[Could the Miami Heat be holding onto their exception for Dwyane Wade?]e, where do the Miami Heat stand?]

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UPDATE: Gordon Hayward’s Free Agency Tour ends Monday; Heat, Celtics, Jazz await decision

 

All that’s left for Gordon Hayward is The Decision. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

ORLANDO – Free agent Gordon Hayward had his final meeting Monday, sitting down with officials from the only team he has played for during his seven-year NBA career.

Hayward met with the Utah Jazz in San Diego for 3.5 hours, according to ESPN,  and left without a decision as to whether he will return to Utah or sign with the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. Included in the meeting was new point guard Ricky Rubio, who flew in from Spain.

Reports during the day indicated Hayward still laboring over the decision.

Hayward traveled to Miami and Boston during the weekend, but had the Jazz delegation travel to San Diego, where the Haywards have a home.

Most reports have Hayward making his decision Tuesday or Wednesday.

Utah’s pitch was different from those of Pat Riley and the Heat on Saturday and Danny Ainge and the Celtics on Sunday. The Jazz are attempting to retain a player who is very familiar with the organization, the coaches and players and the city.

     Miami and Boston pulled out stops to welcome the 6-foot-8 swingman, who is coming off his first All-Star season, and familiarize him with the organizations and the cities.

Hayward, 27, was greeted with a banner of his likeness as he and his wife, Robyn, drove up to AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. In Boston, they were taken to an empty Fenway Park where they were welcomed on the video screen and shown a video highlighting the franchise’s rich history.

The Jazz sent owner Gail Miller and her family, GM Dennis Lindsey, coach Quin Snyder, team president Steve Starks and a group of players to meet with Hayward in San Diego.

“We feel good because of the city and the organization, the level of the team, Quin, the development staff, Rudy,” Lindsey, referring to center Rudy Gobert, told the Deseret News prior to the meeting.

“We’re quite confident. We’ll see what that means. We’ll find out if that’s overconfident or appropriately placed.”

The Jazz did not have to convince Hayward that they have made significant strides. He has been a big reason the team went from 25 to 38 to 40 to 51 wins the last four years. Utah was fifth in the Western Conference last season and defeated the Clippers in seven games in the first round before being swept by eventual champions Golden State in the conference semifinals.

    Miami and Boston, meanwhile, spent a good portion of their meetings talking to Hayward about how he is a significant missing piece and how he will fit into their structure.

The Celtics attempted to sell Hayward how joining a 53-win team that advanced to the conference finals before losing in five-games to Cleveland could put them over the hump and into the Finals.

The Heat, meanwhile, had to convince Hayward they are more like the team that had the second-best record (30-11) in the league during the second half of the season – better than Boston – and not the one that started 11-30. Miami could also sell Hayward on the fact that he would be the No. 1 option and play with a point guard like Goran Dragic who is more apt to share the ball than Boston’s shoot-first point guard, Isaiah Thomas.

And both teams can gang up on Utah, pointing out how the West, already a much more powerful conference, got much stronger this summer with All-Stars Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap leaving the East either through trades or free agency.

Utah, with Hayward, could be at best No. 5 on paper in the West and even that could be debated. Put Hayward on Boston or Miami and both could have an argument they are No. 2 in the conference, the Celtics’ case being much stronger.

Hayward would be the lone Western Conference star to go to the Eastern Conference this summer if he joins Boston or Miami.

The wooing of Hayward has been played out in social media. Three star players, one from each team, became involved in an emoji war on Twitter over the weekend, each trying to promote his team.

Gobert kicked it off by suggesting the Heat are garbage, the Celtics are a pile of poop and the Jazz win trophies.

Boston’s Thomas countered by pointing out the Jazz have never won a title, the Heat have won three and Boston has 17 championships.

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside then limited that to titles won this century, of which Miami has three, Boston one and the Jazz none.

But emoji wars and fans’ takes on social media will not determine where Hayward signs. What will is everything he and his wife have heard in the last three days and soon they will share that with the rest of us.

[Miami target of a racist and ignorant taunt from Utah, Boston journalists]

[Could a weakened Eastern Conference push Gordon Hayward away from the Jazz?]

[Mailbag: Could the Miami Heat pull off a sign-and-trade if they land Gordon Hayward?]

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