MIAMI — The Heat entered the offseason with a lot of questions surrounding their roster and very little financial flexibility to make significant changes.
Excluding cap holds, the Heat have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $120 million. That puts Miami way above the $101.9 million salary cap and very close to the $123.7 million luxury tax line.
Unable to sign players into space because the Heat are capped out, they will have to rely on exceptions, minimum contracts, the power of Bird rights or even trades to fill out their roster.
But don’t mistake that for Pat Riley sitting on a yacht off some tropical island and a “closed” sign being hung on the offices at 601 Biscayne Blvd.
The Heat certainly are open for business as the NBA’s offseason officially kicks off with Thursday’s draft and then hits a frenzied pace 10 days later with the start of free agency. Somehow, the Heat will manage to join the party – they seemingly always do – but will they become bystanders or can they find a way to become the life of the party?
Recent history has not been kind to the Heat. Miami has entered the last two summers full of hope and optimism just from getting sit-downs with the two most coveted free agents – Kevin Durant in 2016 and Gordon Hayward in 2017.
Admittedly a longshot both years – more so with Durant – Miami had to settle for Plan B, in both cases. In 2016 – and after losing Dwyane Wade – that meant basically starting over by offering one-year deals to lower-level free agents and develop its young core of Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Tyler Johnson. Last summer that meant holding onto free agents from the previous summer that showed promise – James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington – and picking up a nice supplemental part, which the Heat did with the solid signing of Kelly Olynyk.
Which brings us to the summer of 2018.
After watching Durant being convinced to chase rings at Golden State and Brad Stevens convincing Hayward to turn back the clock to his college days in Boston, could the Heat be looking at having failed to meet their highest expectations for the third consecutive summer?
Miami has been as much a victim of its own success and Riley’s reputation as anything else. Few teams ever even make the final cut when it comes to the summer’s biggest catch, but the Heat seem to every year. They did in 2010 and capitalized, leading to two titles and four consecutive Finals appearances, which raised the bar even higher. They did again the last two summers, although the outcome was far less satisfying than 2010.
For every LeBron James and Chris Bosh there is a Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward. And while some may look at it as if Riley is losing his touch, just by getting in the door every year shows his reputation remains intact.
Throwing a bag of championship rings on the table still resonates.
So how will 2018 play out? The Heat enter this offseason in a much different place with no flexibility and few assets to offer as major trade bait. And this free agency class is top heavy with Durant, James, Chris Paul, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins leading the way, with James, George and Cousins the realistic choices to switch teams.
And even without anything to offer, Riley still likely will get a sit-down with James. But getting in the door and closing the deal are two very different things. The only way James returns to Miami is for Riley and Andy Elisburg to pull off a stunning sign-and-trade that would involve convincing James the Heat are on the cusp of contending and then convincing Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to once again deal with Riley.
There is a better chance of Cleveland becoming the No. 1 tourist destination in the country than that happening.
Players like Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, C.J. McCollum, John Wall and Andrew Wiggins to name a few could be explored. Any one of them would immediately become the best player on the Heat if acquired.
Yes, the pressure is on Riley to improve this team. The optics of bringing back this roster, one that won 44 games and lasted just five games in playoffs, intact would not be good. But Riley may have no choice and he raised that possibility following the season,.
I expect Riley to pull off some kind of deal to shake up this team even if it means putting the franchise in a better position for the future. Making a significant move, though, will be very difficult. Heat fans may be left wanting for more – for the third consecutive year – but even Riley may not be able to work that magic this summer.
Dwyane Wade is in the middle of his offseason. He’s already traveled to France and attended the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, Monaco since the Heat’s season ended in the first round of the playoffs on April 24.
MIAMI — The Heat haven’t been in the NBA Finals since 2014, but that doesn’t mean South Florida has stopped watching the championship series.
The television ratings through the first three games of this year’s NBA Finals continue a positive trend for basketball locally. According to Nielsen, the television ratings for Sunday’s Game 2 in the Miami market ranked sixth with a 15.8 rating behind just San Francisco, Cleveland, Memphis, Columbus and Sacramento — four of those five markets have an obvious tie to the Finals between Golden State and Cleveland as cities in either California or Ohio. Continue reading “A positive trend for basketball in South Florida has continued in 2018 NBA Finals”
How big is the gap between the Cavaliers and Warriors? Just look at Cleveland’s razor-thin margin for error and Golden State’s not-so-small margin for error.
The Cavaliers got a triple-double from LeBron James and a combined 48 points from Kevin Love, Rodney Hood and JR Smith. But that wasn’t enough in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, and neither was a 51-point performance from James in Game 1.
Udonis Haslem has been one of the most respected members of the Miami Heat for many years.
Haslem’s teammate proved that by voting the 15-year veteran the winner of the team’s Backbone Award, which “specifically goes to the player who represents that heart and soul of their team.” Each winner was voted on by their teammates
The award is part of the National Basketball Players Association’s Voice Awards and was announced today. The NBPA created the Players’ Voice Awards to provide a platform for the players to vote for each other in categories that express their interests and passions.
Haslem, who turns 38 on June 9, has played all 15 years with the Heat. He is the longest tenured captain in Heat history, a title that goes back to 2007-08. Last year was voted a tri-captain along with Goran Dragic and James Johnson.
Several players have described Haslem as a mentor and he has been tutoring young players for many years. With his playing time dwindling – he played just 72 minutes in 14 games last season – he has taken on an unofficial role of player/coach.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and president Pat Riley have praised Haslem’s professionalism, citing his value to the team despite a diminished role on the court.
“I tried to mentor all of our guys,” Haslem said this month at the opening of the new Brightline train station in downtown Miami, a venue that includes the latest Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagel locations he helps operate. “I’m going to try to mentor everybody. I’m going to give 100 percent to Hassan (Whiteside). I’m going to give 100 percent to (James Johnson). I’m going to give 100 percent to Justise (Winslow). Some guys are going to react a certain way and some guys not. You can’t focus on that.”
Haslem and Dwyane Wade are the only two players who have been a part of Miami’s five trips to the Finals and three titles. Haslem has not decided if he is returning for the 2017-18 season, although he has posted videos of his workouts making some wonder if that is a hint that he is preparing for the season.
“I’m always gonna train. That’s not going to stop,” he said. “When you get to this stage of your career and your life, you either do it or you don’t. You can’t really turn it on and off, it becomes a lifestyle. When you’re 30 and 30-plus, it becomes something that is part of your routine. It’s not like I can stop, start, stop, start. You can’t do it like that. So, I’m always going to train and stay in shape.”
Whiteside, the Heat’s 7-foot center, took another shot at his coach, this time in a video he posted on Instagram. Whiteside is shooting in what looks like a high school gym. At one point, he says “you don’t know I got the jumper.” He then launches the ball from above where the NBA 3-point line would be and turns to the camera before it even goes through the hoop.
“There’s a difference between you can’t shoot and not allowed,” he said.
Hassan Whiteside — "There's a difference between 'you can't shoot and you're not allowed’ [to shoot]" 👀 pic.twitter.com/vgQ9yiT3sJ
Whiteside’s frustration has surfaced several times this season, griping about everything from playing time, to shots. Whiteside has always believed he has the perimeter game to be more than a back-to-the-basket center.
Whiteside, who turns 29 next month, averaged 25.3 minutes and 10.7 shots this past season, down from his career highs of 32.6 minutes and 12.7 shots in 2016-17.
Of his 578 field goal attempts, 284 were from the restricted area and another 190 were in the paint. That left 102 from midrange and two 3-pointers, of which he made both.
Of those from midrange, Whiteside took 47 shots from 16 to 24 feet, making 19.
Whiteside’s public complaining got tiresome to the Heat long ago and the organization thought it was sending their $98 million man a message in early April when he was fined an undisclosed amount for comments detrimental to the team after a profanity-laced outburst about Spoelstra’s decision to match up when teams go small, keeping Whiteside on the bench.
Whiteside, who averaged 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in the series, made it about himself.
“Not being out there,” he said. “At least give me a chance to fight. I can understand if I was playing 30 minutes and I played bad. At least give me a chance.”
The Heat certainly will attempt to trade Whiteside this summer but his contract, which has two years, $52.5 million remaining, could make that difficult. Miami would be stuck taking back somebody else’s disgruntled player and probably another bad contract while possibly even throwing in one of its younger players to sweeten the deal.
Spoelstra went easy on Whiteside during his season-ending news conference, saying he thought the narrative and story lines about the center were “unfair” and adding: “I love working with Hassan.”
Riley, though, said there was a disconnect between Spoelstra and Whiteside.
“There has to be an intervention and I’m going to be the intervener,” he said.
Riley then said he did not think Whiteside was ready for the playoffs physically or mentally. Whiteside had missed nine games in March because of a hip injury.
“By the time we got to the playoffs I don’t think he was ready,” Riley said. “He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape. He wasn’t fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He and we got our heads handed to us.
“How will Hassan transform his thinking – 99 percent of it – to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense or minutes or whatever. However he uses him, that’s what you do. We go through this almost every year with players. There’s always a disagreement, a change in philosophy or whatever it is. I have the same problem with Hassan. That problem is that he’s going to have to do something to change because he’s a helluva player.”
Heat center Bam Adebayo was snubbed when it came to being recognized as one of the league’s top rookies, falling one vote short of the NBA’s All-Rookie second team.
Adebayo, the 14th overall pick in last June’s draft, was first among other players receiving votes, finishing one vote behind Phoenix’s Josh Jackson for the final spot in the All-Rookie second team.
John Collins, the Atlanta rookie who was raised in suburban West Palm Beach and a Cardinal Newman High School graduate, was on the second team. Collins averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. He received five first-team votes and 66 second team.
Adebayo, 20, averaged 6.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.6 blocks in 69 games, including 19 starts. He had seven double-doubles while shooting 51.2 percent from the field. Adebayo averaged 19.8 minutes per game.
Among rookies, Adebayo was 21st in scoring, sixth in rebounding, tied for 21st in assists, ninth in blocks, seventh in field goal percentage and seventh in double-doubles.
Heat president Pat Riley was impressed with Adebayo’s maturity. Adebayo spent one season at Kentucky before entering the draft.
“He’s very mature in the decisions that he makes, that he has made off the court, that he has made with the people that he surrounds himself with, his dedication to his mother and why he’s playing this game,” Riley said during the season. “It’s real and he’s real.”
Adebayo’s role expanded as starting center Hassan Whiteside’s minutes decreased, logging time alongside fellow big man Kelly Olynyk as part of the Heat’s second team and even playing some with Whiteside.
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons were unanimous first-team selections with each receiving first-team votes on all 100 ballots from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters for 200 total points.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum (199 points) had 99 first-team votes and one second-team vote. Kyle Kuzma (193) of the Lakers and the Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen (173) round out the first team.
The second team consists of Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr. (96), the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball (87), Collins (76), Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic (75) and Jackson (45).
Adebayo had 44 points. Next on the list with Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox with 34 points.
Below are the voting results for the 2017-18 NBA All-Rookie Teams from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.
CHICAGO — The Heat’s scouting staff will spend a lot of time on the road leading up to the June 21 NBA draft.
That’s because the Heat don’t plan to host any pre-draft workouts at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami this year. Instead, the team’s scouts will be on the road evaluating prospects at pro days around the country.
If you were not able to ask a question this time, send them along for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Ken, Stuart: Have the playoffs told us anything more about how far away the Heat are?
The Heat had a short stay in the playoffs, being bounced from the postseason in five games by Philadelphia. And while they were competitive for one half in every game, in the end, nobody believes Miami’s future is anywhere close the Sixers’.
If that is the case, and Philadelphia is much closer to competing for a title than the Heat, where does that put the Heat when it comes to the Celtics, who eliminated Philadelphia in five games and now are two games away from the NBA Finals?
The Heat have a lot of work to do to return to the top of the Eastern Conference, probably more than we thought after watching the playoffs unfold. The Sixers not only have two of the league’s young budding stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, they have enough assets to make a blockbuster trade, the 10th and 26th pick in the draft and are one of a few teams with cap space. So, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Philadelphia could end up with both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
And they aren’t even the team with the brightest future in the conference. That is Boston, which continues to win in the playoffs without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, its two best players. While the Celtics are capped out, they still are the future of the conference because of their star power, several young assets and future draft situation (the Celtics could have three first-round picks in 2019), which gives Boston flexibility if it wants to make a move for someone like Leonard.
We haven’t even touched on teams like the Pacers, and others with more stars than the Heat like the Bucks, Wizards and Raptors (all of whom have underachieved but still are in position to make deals), and even the Bulls, who have a nice nucleus and will be adding the No. 7 overall pick.
All of this means Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg have some work to do. It is hopeless? Not at all. The Heat won 44 games without Dion Waiters for most of the season and they have some nice young players with a lot of room to grow. Their flexibility is limited and they do not have a draft pick but Riley has been in situations like this before. He will be active this summer when it comes to the trade market and if he can make a couple of moves to bring in a star player (there are several on the market) or free up cap space the Heat could start making a move up the conference ladder.
From @MOB_4LIFE_: Will not tanking for one year in the 2016-2017 go down as the biggest mistake in franchise history? Season riddled with injuries, high chance of a transformative player, and most importantly not over pay on journey men in the off-season.
I totally disagree: First, someone has to explain just how the Heat were going to ‘tank’ in 2016-178. Should Erik Spoelstra not have played Goran Dragic or Waiters or Hassan Whiteside (remember, Whiteside led the league in rebounding and averaged 17.0 points per game)? Or should he have told Tyler Johnson, James Johnson, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder to not try hard? Just go out there and stink up the joint. Miami was 30-11 the second half of the season, thinking this team should have thrown away a season, stopped developing its young players and tried to play like it did the first half is unrealistic.
Additionally, just how many “transformative” players were in the draft? Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell are the closest. Otherwise, there are about eight solid players, none transformative. The Heat took Bam Adebayo at No. 14. Adebayo’s future is much brighter than about four players taken ahead of him.