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?]

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

 

How Cavaliers postseason domination of East last three years compares to Miami Heat’s

 

LeBron James went to the Finals each season he played with the Heat, but was Miami as dominant against the East in the postseason as James’ Cleveland teams have been? (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Cavaliers have won 12-of-13 games on their way to a third consecutive Finals appearance, a continuation of the three-year march through the Eastern Conference playoffs that, record wise, has surpassed LeBron James’ runs to the Finals as a member of the Heat.

But are his Cleveland teams more dominant than his Miami teams or have the Cavaliers taken advantage of weak competition?

Cleveland has steamrolled through the East in the postseason since James returned home, going 36-5 in three years. Included have been six sweeps, just two series that stretched to six games (none taken to a Game 7) and the five-game demolition of the Celtics in this year’s Eastern Conference finals in which Cleveland outscored them by 100 points.

Miami’s teams anchored by James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were 48-16 against the East in the postseason during its four-year run to the Finals with just two sweeps, both in the first round; Milwaukee in 2013 and Charlotte in 2014. Miami was pushed to a Game 7 twice in the conference finals, by Boston in 2012 and Indiana in 2013.

The argument is valid that the conference was much more competitive from 2010-2013 than the last three seasons. The Chicago team the Heat defeated in five games in the 2011 finals won 62 games and had league MVP Derrick Rose. The Heat had to go through the Celtics of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the 2011 conference semis and in an epic 2012 finals that went the distance with the Heat needing to win Game 6 (the ‘LeBron Game’) in Boston to force a seventh game. And the 2013 Pacers were a well-balanced team with Paul George that led the league in defensive rating.

To further illustrate the East’s lack of recent firepower: James is the only player to make the All-NBA first team from the East in each of the last three seasons. Every other player has been from the West, giving that conference  12 first team all-pros compared to three from the East.

In James’ four years with the Heat 12 players from the West were first team All-NBA and eight from the East, including James all four years.

All of which partly explains why the Cavaliers of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have not been challenged in the East during the postseason.

In the 2015 conference finals the Cavaliers swept a highly-flawed 60-win Hawks team. The next year they defeated Toronto after it needed seven games to get past a Heat team without Bosh and, for the final four games, Hassan Whiteside. This year they crushed the Celtics, the No. 1 seed that fell behind No. 8 seed Chicago, 2-0, in the first round before winning four games after Rajon Rondo went down.

And Cleveland has swept 5-of-6 six first- and second-round series during this period.

Now, Cleveland is preparing for its third consecutive trip to the Finals (starting Thursday) with James in peak form. He is averaging 32.5 points and shooting 56.6 percent in the postseason this year and with the exception of the Cavs’ only loss, Game 3 against the Celtics, James is controlling his opponents like a puppeteer controls a puppet. He seems to have each of them on a string at all times and everything just appears to be easier this postseason that it ever has.

Cleveland’s opponent, Golden State, enters this postseason with a similar story having one-upped the Cavs by becoming the first team to go 12-0 in its conference playoffs. The Warriors are 36-7 against the West in the postseason the last three years.

James’ first two seasons in his return to Cleveland ended just as his first two in Miami did, losing in the Finals in Year 1 and winning the title in Year 2.

James and the Heat followed that up with a second title in Year 3. Now,  whether or not you believe James’ Cavs teams or Heat teams have been more dominant in the conference playoffs, for Cleveland to keep pace with Miami it must find a way to defeat the stacked Warriors in the upcoming Finals.

[A look at a draft prospect who could slip to the Heat at No. 14 — stretch forward Lauri Markkanen]

[Magic Johnson tapping into his mentor, Miami Heat’s Pat Riley, in his early days as Lakers president]

[Mailbag: What kind of player could the Heat sign if they bring back James Johnson and Dion Waiters?]

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2008 Boston Celtics still hurt by Ray Allen’s decision to sign with the Miami Heat

MIAMI — It’s not a secret that Ray Allen’s former Celtics teammates still view his departure to Miami as betrayal.

Now, a few of those teammates are explaining their frustrations with Allen. On Monday night, Kevin Garnett was joined on his TNT television segment, “Area 21,” by former Celtics teammates Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, and Rajon Rondo.

And even though Allen did not join Garnett for the segment, the sharpshooter’s name came up. Continue reading “2008 Boston Celtics still hurt by Ray Allen’s decision to sign with the Miami Heat”

Will Dwyane Wade take $24 million to return to Chicago, or could his next game be in a Miami Heat uniform?

Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade talks with head coach Fred Hoiberg during the Bulls loss to the Celtics Friday that ended their season. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Dwyane Wade has 24 million reasons to return to the Chicago Bulls next season.

But is that even enough?

The former Miami Heat guard, coming off the worst postseason performance of his career Friday, has a player option to return to the Bulls for $23.8 million. But if he opts out, the 35-year-old will not see nearly that much money, at least not next year. And maybe never.

Wade was asked about that option after he missed all but one of his 10 shots and scored two points – his lowest total in 172 playoff games – as the Bulls were eliminated at home Friday by the Celtics, 105-83, losing four straight in their opening-round series after winning the first two games.

“I’m far away from that now, just got through this 14th NBA season,” he told reporters.

The question now is, where will he play in his 15th season?

The story, naturally, about Wade’s future will center on his possible return to Miami. … that’s even if the Heat would welcome him back.

Wade bolted South Florida after 13 seasons last summer, shunning the Heat’s two-year, $40 million offer for two-years and $47 million from his hometown team, with that player option for 2017-18. The acrimony between Wade and president Pat Riley was real, although the two have said since that bad blood no longer exists.

But the move did not turn out as he expected with Wade at times showing his frustration with the Bulls’ struggles and the franchise’s decision to go to a youth movement.

Even good friend Jimmy Butler has said the decision to return is “weighing” on Wade.

And the ending could not have helped. A Bulls team that finished tied with the Heat at 41-41 and made the playoffs by holding the tie-breaker over Miami – Chicago won 2-of-3 in the season series – was 12-10 in games Wade missed, including a 7-4 stretch late in the season with Wade recovering from a fractured elbow.

And the icing, Chicago clearly missed point guard Rajon Rondo more than Wade, taking a 2-0 lead on the top-seeded Celtics before seeing the offense stall and dropping four in a row after Rondo was lost with a thumb injury.

“I definitely don’t regret my decision coming here,” Wade said during his exit interview on Saturday. “Options or not, I’m in a good situation to decide what I want to do.

“I have a great luxury where I don’t have to ring-chase, but I can. Or I can be a part of passing down my knowledge. Either way.”

If it were up to the Bulls, chances are they would do everything they could to persuade Wade to leave. Chicago clearly is in a youth movement and would love to have that money lopped off their payroll. One source close to the team said earlier this season the Bulls “would drive Wade to the airport” if he declined his option.

But even having made $180 million during his career – that does not include the millions upon millions in endorsements – Wade just might find $24 million too much to pass up no matter the Bulls’ grim outlook.

Perhaps the only reason Wade would consider leaving that money on the table was if the Bulls traded Butler, something the organization reportedly explored last summer and during the trade deadline.

Wade and Butler became BFFs and maybe thought of returning to a roster with a bunch of kids and sharing that role as the veteran presence with Rondo (if Chicago brings him back) might be enough that all the money in the world would not be worth the aggravation.

But if he leaves, what then? Considering how the Heat season unfolded and how close they believe they are to contending again, Miami probably isn’t willing to use a major portion of their $38 million on an aging erstwhile superstar, even one whose uniform number someday will hang in the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena and who may even have his own statue in front of the building.

Wade’s 18.3 scoring average this season was the lowest since his rookie season and he shot a career low .434 from the floor. The playoffs were worse with career lows in scoring (15.0) and field goal percentage (.372).

Besides, at 25, Dion Waiters appears to be the much better option for Miami, depending on the cost.

Waiters would have to price himself out of the Heat’s comfort zone and Wade would have to take a major pay cut – and likely a reduced role – in 2017-18 and convince the Heat to help him recoup some of that money with a two-year deal to return.

“I’m an open-minded person,” Wade said Saturday.

But the chances are it won’t even get to that and Wade will take the Bulls money and run.

[Erik Spoelstra ‘would love’ to have front-office role with Heat down the line]

[Mailbag: If Heat get lucky in NBA draft lottery and land top-three pick, would it be smart to trade it away?]

[The case for the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra for Coach of the Year]

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Bulls thriving without Dwyane Wade; pass Heat in playoff race

 

The Bulls have been a better team since guard Dwyane Wade was injured in a game against the Grizzlies on March 15.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

There’s another twist in the Dwyane Wade-Chicago Bulls saga.

With Saturday’s dramatic 106-104 victory over the Hawks, the Bulls have moved past the Heat and Pacers in the playoff race and into the seventh spot. Chicago is tied with Miami and Indiana at 37-39 but owns the three-way tie-breaker. Miami is eighth by virtue of owning two-way tie-breaker with Indiana.

The Bulls are 5-3 since Wade was lost in mid-March for the rest of the regular season with a fractured elbow and are a different team, something that Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo have acknowledged.

“Everyone’s trust level with one another,” Butler told the Chicago Tribune when asked what’s different of late. “I think our roles are a lot clearer.”

The numbers are startling just how much better the Bulls have been without Wade.

With Wade playing in 57 of the first 68 games, the Bulls were 32-36, averaged 101.8 points per game while giving up 103.8 ppg. They shot .439 from the field, averaged 7.0 3-pointers while shooting .325 on threes. They averaged 21.8 assists.

Without Wade, the Bulls are 5-3, averaging 107.5 ppg and allowing 102.9 points. They are shooting .482 from the field, making 10.4 3-pointers per game while shooting .403 on threes. They dish out 27.4 assists per game.

“We’re playing together,” Rondo said. “I don’t know what it is. We’re playing for one another, very unselfish on both ends. We’re staying positive.”

From all reports the Bulls are playing much freer, running more and moving the ball much better in Wade’s absence.

Take a look at how much better Butler and Rondo have been:

Butler averaged 23.2 points, 5.1 assists and shot .239 before Wade’s injury. Since he is averaging 27.3 points, 8.5 assists and shooting .544.

Rondo averaged 7.2 points, 6.4 assists and shot .394 before Wade’s injury. Since he is averaging 11.8 points, 8.3 assists and shooting .500.

[Blow delivered by Knicks staggered Heat, but it wasn’t a knockout punch]

[Heat guard Tyler Johnson on working out after Knicks loss, ‘It’s just something I needed to do for me’]

All of which may or may not play into Wade’s upcoming decision. Last summer he left Miami after 13 seasons to sign a two-year $47 million deal with the Bulls that included a $23.8 million player option for 2017-18.

The homecoming has not been as expected on all fronts and Butler recently told reporters that the decision as to whether he returns is “weighing” on Wade.  

Wade, 35, has had a rocky season. He and Butler called out their teammates in January, Wade has hinted he is not happy with the team’s direction, he has taken subtle jabs at coach Fred Hoiberg and then the injury.

The injury led to speculation as to whether Wade had played his final game for the Bulls and if it could impact his decision to exercise the option to return to Chicago or possibly come back to the Heat.

Speculation is if Wade is not interested in being part of the Bulls’ rebuild he could return to Miami to close out his career and play once again for close friend Erik Spoelstra.

But that is a decision not only Wade would have to make but the Heat would need to take time with considering the price tag and if Miami plans to attempt to bring back Dion Waiters, who has emerged as a steady, solid starting two guard.

And now, with the Bulls thriving without Wade, how much would that impact his value on the open market and does he exercise that option for one more last big annual salary?

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Udonis Haslem says Celtics have to ‘get over’ feeling of betrayal toward Ray Allen

Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat makes a game-tying three-pointer over Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter during Game Six of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena on June 18, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

MIAMI — When Udonis Haslem heard the Celtics were not inviting Ray Allen back to be a part of the 2008 championship team’s 10-year anniversary party, he had one reaction.

“I mean, I just shook my head,” Haslem said. Continue reading “Udonis Haslem says Celtics have to ‘get over’ feeling of betrayal toward Ray Allen”

Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 100-88 victory at the Chicago Bulls

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra questions a call during Friday's game against the Bulls. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra questions a call during Friday’s game against the Bulls. (AP Photo/David Banks)

 

CHICAGO – When Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked on Friday about the turmoil within the Bulls locker room the last couple of days, he referenced their spot in the standings.

“They have something we would love to (have) right now, that’s that eight spot,” Spoelstra said.

The way the Heat are playing, that might come soon enough.

Miami ran the Bulls out of the United Center on Friday, racing to a 100-88 victory and pushing its winning streak to six games.

The Heat (17-30) broke open a tie game early in the third quarter behind the strength of their defense. Miami went on a 21-6 run and the lead eventually peaked at 20 points before a late Bulls push. Chicago shot 33.3 percent (12-of-36) in the final 24 minutes.

“I really liked the toughness in the second half in particular,” Spoelstra said. “In the first half both teams were really feeling each other out. What we talked about at halftime the first team that would really impose their will on the defensive side of the floor, really make it tough, would have the best chance to win the game.”

The Bulls (23-25) entered a fractured team, no matter what was said on Friday about feelings being smoothed over, and the Heat were able to capitalize. Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, the two veterans who ripped the rest of the roster, didn’t do much to back up their talk, combining to go 7-of-30 from the field. Butler missed all but one of his 13 shots. They also combined for seven turnovers

The Heat were led by Goran Dragic’s 26 points and 11 assists. Center Willie Reed, who started for the injured Hassan Whiteside, chipped in with 20 points.

Here are our five takeaways.

Good-bye Bulls: The Heat and Bulls ended their season series on Friday and the Heat finally broke through, beating the Bulls after Chicago took the first two games. The Heat took advantage of the bickering Bulls, especially in the second half when they held Chicago to 35 points. With the Heat winning streak now at six games, do not expect Spoelstra to start patting his players on the back.

“We haven’t talked about it and that’s just been something that’s consistent all year whether you’re winning or losing,” Spoelstra said.

Waiters watch: Dion Waiters didn’t match his 30-point average of the last three games, but he continues to give the Heat steady, sometimes spectacular, play. Waiters scored 19 points, cooling down from the floor (6-of-18) but not from three-point range. He was 3-of-5 on threes, and now is 11-of-16 in his last three games from long distance.

“We’re locked in,” Waiters said. “We’re having fun. Everyone is enjoying everyone else’s success and we’re playing great basketball right now. We’re playing together. Any given night it could be anybody’s night on this team.”

Take that, coaches: Goran Dragic didn’t get a call Thursday when the All-Star reserves (chosen by the coaches) were announced. In fact, he probably wasn’t even considered. But the point guard has been Miami’s best and most consistent player this season and showed why again on Friday. Dragic was relentless, leading the Heat break, going to the basket and, and one point, out-hustling Wade for a loose ball, a play that led to an Okaro White three pointer. Dragic finished with another double-double and was 12-of-20 from the field.

“Goran had that 50-50 (play) late in the fourth,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the identity we have to embrace.”

Reed makes the most of it: Reed made his fifth start of the season in place of Whiteside, who is nursing a sprained right ankle. Reed had six quick points helping the Heat jump to an early 12-point lead and finished with 20 points and five rebounds. He shot 9-of-11. Reed was asked if it is any different preparing for a game as a starter compared to coming off the bench.

“It was just preparing to do the same thing I always do except with more minutes,” he said. “Go out there and play as hard as I can for as long as I can get a sub and then go back in and do the same thing.

Bickering Bulls: Wade surely did not sign up for this when he left Miami after 13 seasons last summer to come home to Chicago. The team imploded Wednesday when Wade and Butler tore into their younger teammates questioning their desire, professionalism and on-court decisions and Rajon Rondo then torched Wade and Butler by calling out their leadership. As a result, all three were fined and Wade and Butler benched for the start of Friday’s game. Both players were in the game by the 6:25 mark and Rondo entered seven minutes into the first quarter. That’ll teach them.

Rondo was the only one to back up his talk on Friday. He had 13 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds. He shot 6-of-8.

[Dwyane Wade still does not regret leaving the Heat to sign with the Bulls]

[Heat center Hassan Whiteside on not playing tonight vs. Bulls: ‘I want to get out here, I’m a competitor]

[Heat sign Okaro White to second 10-day contract]

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

 

 

Dwyane Wade still does not regret leaving the Heat to sign with the Bulls

 

Dwyane Wade (3), shown with Jimmy Butler, says he would make the same decision he made last summer when he signed with Chicago despite the recent controversy.(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Dwyane Wade (3), shown with Jimmy Butler, says he would make the same decision he made last summer when he signed with Chicago despite the recent controversy.(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

CHICAGO – While the bickering Bulls met and made up today after two-days of finger pointing, Dwyane Wade was doubling down on his decision to leave Miami.

“I wouldn’t change my decision at all this summer to come here,” he said. “Since I’ve come here, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve been happy.”

This comes after Wade and Jimmy Butler blistered their teammates Wednesday, questioning their desire, professionalism and on-court decisions. That prompted Rajon Rondo to defend the players Wade and Butler skewered, laying the blame on the two leaders. “If anything is questionable, it’s leadership,” he said.

The result was the organization, from the top down, being shredded in the Chicago media today, with headlines in the Chicago papers that read: “Dis-function” and “A clown show.” And all three players being fined by the organization for airing the team’s dirty laundry in public. Although none were suspended, Wade and Butler are not starting tonight against the Heat.

[Heat center Hassan Whiteside on not playing tonight vs. Bulls: ‘I want to get out here, I’m a competitor]

[Heat sign Okaro White to second 10-day contract]

The players all attempted to make peace today with Wade saying he has no problems with Rondo speaking his mind. “He spoke his mind. I spoke my mind. Move on,” Wade said. “Everyone gets opportunities to express themselves. That’s how (Rondo) chose to express himself. I have no hard feelings.”

Then the inevitable: Wade was asked today if he regrets leaving Miami after 13 seasons and joining the Bulls. He signed a two-year, $47 million contract with a player option for next season in July.

“Every step you take in life is a part of your story,” he said. “I’ve had years in Miami where it’s been debacles, whether it’s in the locker room or on the basketball floor.

“I’ve said it from Day One: I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to play here. Do I want more out of my team? Of course. I’d be a fool not to. Even the best teams in the league want more out of their team. But from a standpoint of us losing ballgames, this coverage right now, I’ve had this in Miami. I’ve had this before.”

The Bulls are 23-24 and hold the eighth seed in the East by a game over the Bucks.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team is 16-30 after winning five in a row, was asked today what he thought about the soap opera going on in Chicago.

“I have no thoughts about that,” he said, before adding, “welcome to the NBA. That’s around every team. What I see is a team that’s in the eight spot right now. They have a very talented team. They have two players generating over 60 percent of their offense, one of them we know very well. That’s guy’s a killer.

“They have 19 all-star appearances on that team. They have something we would love to be in right now, that’s that eight spot.”

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

 

Miami Heat mailbag: Could the Heat make a move for Chicago’s Jimmy Butler?

 

The Bulls are denying they are looking to move Jimmy Butler. But you never know. (AP Photo)
The Bulls are denying they are looking to move Jimmy Butler. But you never know. (AP Photo)

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?

Tom D’Angelo: A lot of questions lately about the draft and with Miami sitting at 11-29 after Tuesday’s 107-95 loss at Golden State and with the second-worst record in the NBA, rightfully so.

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.

 

2016 NBA free agents: Does Rajon Rondo make sense for the Miami Heat?

Rajon Rondo #9 of the Sacramento Kings controls the ball against Emmanuel Mudiay #0 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on February 23, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Kings defeated the Nuggets 114-110. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Rajon Rondo #9 of the Sacramento Kings controls the ball against Emmanuel Mudiay #0 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on February 23, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Kings defeated the Nuggets 114-110. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Goran Dragic is expected to return to the Heat as he enters the second season of a five-year contract.

But if Pat Riley decides to completely revamp the roster and make a change at point guard, who would be the top options to replace Dragic? Former Heat antagonist Rajon Rondo is one. Continue reading “2016 NBA free agents: Does Rajon Rondo make sense for the Miami Heat?”