Mailbag: After missing out on Gordon Hayward, where do Miami Heat rank if they bring back last year’s team?

The Gordon Hayward free agency drama has ended and the Miami Heat came up short.

So what now?

Pat Riley will attempt to bring back most of the old gang with a free agent or two. If so, where does that put Miami in the Eastern Conference? We answer that that among other questions in today’s mailbag.

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

From ChrisHypeTrain: Where do the Heat rank in the east if they bring back JJ and Dion Waiters and sign one or two other free agents to improve their bench?

Miami was looking at climbing to No. 2 in the East if it was able to land Hayward. That dream is gone. But Riley said he had a Plan B, which presumably is bringing back the major pieces of a team that had the second-best record (30-11) in the league the second half of the season.

That’s probably what we will get, and perhaps another solid rotation player along with rookie Bam Adebayo. Still that should be enough to put the Heat in the playoffs. But how high can they go?

Miami tied with Chicago for the eighth-best record in the East last season, missing out on the playoffs because of a tie-breaker. But three teams that finished ahead of the Heat – Atlanta, Indiana, Chicago – are in rebuild mode and will tumble in the standings.

That leaves Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington and Milwaukee ahead of Miami. The Heat could surprise and crack the top four but the guess is most of the preseason predictions will have them fifth or sixth.

From @CornDogsJackie: Will Pat try to deal TJ since his contract balloons next 2 years??

Tyler Johnson already has been the subject of trade rumors just one year into his four-year, $50-million deal and chances are his name will be floated many more times.

Johnson’s contract is a burden on the cap in 2018-19 and 2019-20. After making about $5.9 million this season his number climbs to $18.9 and $19.6 the next two years. Dealing Johnson likely will be at the top of the Heat’s wish list but the problem is finding a team willing to take on that contract.

The Brooklyn Nets are the team that made Johnson the offer last summer that the Heat matched. Brooklyn is in the game of offering restricted free agents but they typically are matched. Perhaps the Nets would circle back to Johnson this summer and seek a trade with the Heat.

    From @RjSonbeek: If Gordon Hayward really did eliminate Miami (Monday) night is it out of the ordinary that he waited to tell them?

We were told late Tuesday afternoon that the Heat had yet to be informed they were out of the running. It would be nice if players gave other teams the professional courtesy of letting them know they are not coming sooner, but that does not always happen.

Hayward plan then became obvious when his announcement appeared on the Players’ Tribune. But that plan backfired when it was reported hours earlier by Chris Haynes of ESPN he was headed to Boston. Hayward’s camp then tried to do damage control by deny the report but it became obvious Hayward knew then he was taking the Celtics’ offer and his handlers were upset because the new was broken before he could announce it in his article.

[With Gordon Hayward headed to Boston, what are the Miami Heat’s options?]

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