Mailbag: Is trading for Jimmy Butler worth the risk for Heat?

Miami Heat NBA basketball team president Pat Riley talks to the media during a season ending press conference in Miami, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

MIAMI — It’s time for another Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). You can also email me at

@adrianw743: What’s a fair offer for Jimmy Butler?

Anthony Chiang: It all depends on whether Jimmy Butler would commit long-term to the Heat. This is very much like the Kawhi Leonard situation. According to a recent report from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, Butler is “frustrated with the nonchalant attitudes of younger teammates — specifically Karl-Anthony Towns” and does not intend to sign an extension with the Timberwolves. Like Leonard, Butler can become a free agent next summer and leave to another team if Minnesota hasn’t traded him by then. But it’s important to note that the Timberwolves would have to be convinced there’s no way they can repair the relationship before turning to trade possibilities. A trade is probably the last resort at this point. Anyway, if Butler does give the Heat a long-term commitment, everything should be on the table to make a deal work. The Tom Thibodeau-led Timberwolves would probably want a defensive minded replacement for Butler, and Josh Richardson fits that mold perfectly. But in order to make salary matching work, Miami would need to include more than that in the trade.

If Butler does not want to give the Heat a long-term commitment, trading away part of the young core for one season of Butler makes little sense … unless the Heat are willing to bet on themselves in getting him to stay similar to what Oklahoma City accomplished with Paul George. Is that a risk Miami is willing to take? If the Leonard situation is any indication, no. But you have to wonder, what do the Heat really have to lose by taking this risk? Yes, a part of their young core. But worst case scenario, Butler leaves after one season and all of a sudden Miami has cap space to work with. As Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti (or A Tribe Called Quest) once said, “Scared money don’t make none.”

@iebrahim81: What’s the buzz around re-signing Winslow? We have two seasons left of him before he becomes a RFA.

Anthony Chiang: Actually, the Heat have one season left before Justise Winslow becomes a restricted free agent. If Miami does not extend Winslow’s contract between now and the 2018-19 regular-season opener, he will become a restricted free agent next summer. What will Winslow be looking for in a new deal? Well, Utah’s Dante Exum just agreed to a 3-year, $33 million contract extension. That’s probably close to what it will take to extend Winslow. The problem is the Heat already have $118 million committed to nine players for the 2019-20 season, and the salary cap is projected at $109 million. That means Miami is already capped out, which leaves little room to extend Winslow if other salary can’t be shed.

[As Wayne Ellington watch continues, an updated look on where Heat and Ellington stand]

[Former Michigan star Duncan Robinson impressing Heat with his basketball IQ, 3-point shooting]

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What are Heat’s trade options now when it comes to Hassan Whiteside, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler? An update

Reports say Jimmy Butler (right) is not a big fan of teammate Karl-Anthony Towns and may want out of Minnesota. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO – With the free agent market drying up, teams now will start re-assessing their trade options, something the Miami Heat were forced to do from the start.

The Heat were not a player in free agency this season with a roster that comes in about $18 million over the salary cap. That left Pat Riley’s lone avenue to upgrade the team through the trade market, which even for Riley will be difficult given the makeup of the roster.

Here are where things stand with three names when it comes to the Heat:

Hassan Whiteside: The biggest question surrounding the Heat this summer is if Riley will be able to pull off a deal involving Whiteside.

The market for Whiteside and the $52.5 million remaining on his contract was not great to start with and has diminished following the draft and free agency. Less than a month ago Phoenix, Dallas and Washington were looking for big men. Now, all three have found their center with the Suns drafting DeAndre Ayton, the Mavericks agreeing with free agent DeAndre Jordan and the Wizards and Dwight Howard ready to strike a deal now that Howard has finalized his buyout with the Nets.

That leaves two teams that still could be looking for an upgrade in the middle: Milwaukee and Portland.

The Bucks are waiting for someone to offer restricted free agent forward Jabari Parker and then must decide if they want to retain Parker and at what price. The Heat could try to work out a deal involving Parker but any sign-and-trade would put Miami into the hard cap. Any trade with Milwaukee, whether for Parker or not, likely would include center John Henson.

The Blazers have shown interest in Whiteside before and their starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, is a restricted free agent. The two players have similar numbers but Whiteside is a better rebounder and defender and would be a better fit for Portland.

The Heat would like to finding cap relief while upgrading the roster in any trade involving Whiteside. That will be very difficult.

Jimmy Butler: A new name has entered the trade market with Tuesday’s report that Butler is fed up with the attitude of his Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns and is unlikely to sign an extension with the Timberwolves.

Butler, though, presents the same problem as Kawhi Leonard. Butler will make $18.7 million this season before a player option in 2019, which means he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. And with reports that Butler and Boston’s Kyrie Irving would one day like to play together, trading for Butler also is a risk.

The biggest issue, according to NBA sources, is Miami is unwilling to risk losing all its best young players for what could be a one-year rental, which could be the case with Butler. But a year ago, nobody thought Oklahoma City had a shot of retaining Paul George after acquiring him in a trade, and even after a season that ended in disappointment George re-signed with the Thunder.

So, would Riley take that risk with Butler and trade some combination of his young players (Josh Richardson certainly would have to be in a Butler deal) if he received at least a confirmation that the Heat would have a chance to retain him next summer? Perhaps.

Kawhi Leonard: The Leonard trade rumors have cooled a bit with the Spurs willing to be patient. The latest is Leonard may not be so keen on teaming up with LeBron James on the Lakers and now the Clippers could come into play if San Antonio is willing to deal with a Western Conference team.

If not, Miami probably could get into the conversation but would fall in behind the Sixers and Boston – do not believe the reports the Celtics completely are out of the Leonard talks, not with their abundance of young desirable players and draft picks. Philadelphia is building a package around Dario Saric, Robert Covington and first-round picks, likely including Miami’s unprotected 2021 pick the Sixers received from Phoenix.

Miami could top that Sixers offer but, again, the biggest issue is the Heat could lose all its best young players for what could be a one-year rental. Miami will not part with Richardson, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow for a player who is set to enter the market as a free agent next summer. Miami could seek some kind of commitment from Leonard but even then nothing is guaranteed.

[As Wayne Ellington watch continues, an updated look on where Heat and Ellington stand]

[Former Michigan star Duncan Robinson impressing Heat with his basketball IQ, 3-point shooting]

[Three takeaways: Heat find 3-point range early, defeat Lakers for first summer league win]

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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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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”

Could the Miami Heat be holding onto their exception for Dwyane Wade?

MIAMI – Pat Riley is being very coy about the Miami Heat’s plans for their $4.3 million exception, saying the team “probably” will hold onto the money to see if “something pops up” that would be of interest.

Of course, Miami could spend that money before the end of the month if they like any of the 90 or so remaining free agents or any other players that could shake loose in the near future.

Or, they could be saving it for months down the road if anybody becomes available through a buyout.

Say a former Heat player who wore No. 3 and helped the franchise win three titles.

Could Dwyane Wade return to the Miami Heat? Stay tuned. (Getty Images)

Just because Dwyane Wade decided to return to the Bulls for, what he said, were “24 million reasons,” that does not mean he will remain there the entire season.

Most believe Wade and the Bulls eventually will come to an agreement on a buyout, perhaps Wade giving back $8 to $10 million to be set free. The talk started soon after Wade’s decision to exercise his $23.8 million option and return to Chicago.

Bulls vice president John Paxson was asked last month about potentially buying out Wade’s contract. The question was asked at a news conference after the Bulls had traded Jimmy Butler.

Paxson said there had been no discussion about a buyout between the Bulls and Wade’s people, but added, “I will say this, in this type of scenario it would have to benefit us. It would absolutely have to benefit us.”

[Eastern Conference Power Rankings: After bringing back last season’s core, where do the Miami Heat stand?]

[Mailbag: Should Heat use their $4.3 million exception to sign Jonathon Simmons?]

Wade had a rocky season with the Bulls after spending his first 13 years in Miami. He formed an alliance with Butler, he clashed with teammates during one well-publicized rant in January and had his differences with coach Fred Hoiberg.

The warm and fuzzy homecoming Wade was seeking didn’t exactly materialize.

Still, Paxson emphasized the upside of having the 35-year-old, 12-time All-Star and three-time champion on the roster despite the Bulls going into full rebuild mode.

“Dwyane was a great pro last year and he’s been around a lot of different situations,” he said. “He was around Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years, as well, so right now we’re operating under the assumption that he’ll be here.

“But, like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, then it would have to be advantageous for us.”

Wade has earned the right to play wherever he wants and for whomever he wants. If he is bought out and wants to finish his career where he started and heal the wounds from the messy summer of ’16, he has that right. Or if he wants to chase one more ring, or play with one of his buddies in, say, Cleveland or Houston, that’s certainly a possibility, too.

And although Wade’s career would come full circle if he returned to Miami,  how realistic is that option?

It’s no secret Wade’s skills are diminishing, as would those of any player turning 36 midway through the upcoming season. The biggest question is what role would Miami need Wade to play if he returned?

Barring an injury, Wade would not return as a starter – which likely will be the case in Chicago this season, too. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters were among the better backcourts in the league during the second half of last season and they found a chemistry that Dragic and Wade never discovered during their year and a half together in Miami. And the Heat showed their confidence in Waiters by bringing him back on a four-year, $52 million deal.

And  Miami is as deep at shooting guard with Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington coming off the bench. Wade’s playing time will naturally decline and chances are he will be much more effective playing limited minutes, anyway. But is that what he wants? And for a team that is not expected to compete for a title?

If he is OK with that, and he is fulfilled with three titles and a career that is a lock to end with him one day being inducted into the Hall of Fame, then it could work.

Waiters thinks it would work.

The primary reason Wade would return to Miami would be because of sentiment and making things right because at this point the Heat, though expected to be a factor in the Eastern Conference playoff picture are not challenging for a title. … At least not yet but we never know what Riley has planned.

Still, Wade could help, and even possibly enough to push the Heat into the top half of the conference if everything breaks right.

If Wade and the Heat are OK with that, there would not be a better feel-good story in the league.

But if Wade wants to chase another ring, that’s OK, too. If that’s the case, I would suggest Cleveland not hand out that No. 3 jersey.

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

ORLANDO — As the Heat wait to hear Gordon Hayward’s decision, the Eastern Conference continues to weaken.

Even before the start of free agency, Indiana traded four-time All-Star Paul George to Oklahoma City and Chicago traded three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. Since free agency began, Paul Millsap has left the Hawks to sign with the Nuggets.

Just with those transactions, the Heat have a chance to move past the Pacers, Bulls and Hawks in the East’s power rankings. After finishing as the ninth-best team in the conference last season, that would probably be enough to push Miami into the group of eight East teams that make the playoffs even if the Heat just brought back last season’s core. Continue reading “Could a weakened Eastern Conference push Gordon Hayward away from the Jazz?”

Report: Dwyane Wade tells Chicago Bulls he will exercise his option and return for another season

Dwyane Wade has told the Bulls he will pick up his option and return to Chicago for the 2017-18 season, according to reports. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Dwyane Wade has opted for the money.

The former Miami Heat guard has informed the Bulls he will pick up his $23.8 million option and return to Chicago for a second season, according to several reports and first reported by Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago.

Wade, 35, left Miami after 13 seasons last July to sign a two-year $47 million contract with his hometown team, the second year a player option. Wade’s decision comes despite reports that the Bulls have been listening to offers for his closest friend on the team, forward Jimmy Butler.

By picking up the option, Wade gives up the chance to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. But Wade, who is coming off the worst postseason of his career after seeing his numbers decline during the regular season, would not have commanded anything close to what he will make by staying in Chicago.

Wade’s decision will end any talk – at least for a year – of the 12-time All-Star returning to the Heat. The franchise’s all-time leading scorer left after turning down a two-year $40 million offer. Wade and Heat president Pat Riley were not on the best of terms after the split although the two have said that bad blood no longer exists.

Miami will have about $38 million to spend when free agency starts July 1 and even if Wade were on the market he would not have been a Heat priority.

Now, Wade returns to a team after a controversial filled season in which it finished 41-41 and made the playoffs because it held the tiebreaker over the Heat. The Bulls lost in the first round to the Celtics, 4-2.

Wade’s first year in Chicago did not go as expected. He criticized his teammates and formed an alliance with Butler that at times had the two isolated from the rest of the team. Wade’s 18.3 scoring average last season was the lowest since his rookie year and he shot a career low 43.4 percent from the floor. During the playoffs Wade posted career lows in scoring (15.0) and field goal percentage (.372).

The decision is not surprising with several reports since the season ended saying Wade was leaning toward picking up that option. But following the season Wade reportedly told Bulls management he had no interest in being a part of a team that is rebuilding. And recent reports of the Bulls engaged in trade talks for Butler had some wondering if it would be enough for Wade to leave the money on the table.

Butler, who was voted to the All-NBA third team after averaging career-highs in points (23.9), rebounds (6.2) and assists (5.5), has been linked to trade rumors for the last year. Reports of a deal between Chicago and Cleveland heated up Monday with the two teams discussing a trade that would necessitate bringing in a third team – possibly Phoenix or the Lakers – to get the Bulls a high pick they desire to start a full-blown rebuild.

And Butler reportedly is pushing the Bulls to get that deal done.

One report early today said Wade told the Bulls he will not return if Butler is dealt.

Wade, though, had 24 million reasons not to leave the Bulls.

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With Jimmy Butler trade talks heating up, will Dwyane Wade opt out and become an option for the Miami Heat?

Dwyane Wade takes the court last November before his first game back in Miami after leaving the Heat for the Chicago Bulls. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Depending on the day, Dwyane Wade will pick up his option and remain with the Chicago Bulls next season regardless of the Jimmy Butler rumors or he’s ready to leave a boatload of money on the table if the Bulls deal Butler.

Wade’s deadline to exercise that $23.8 million option is one week from today. If he picks it up, he is guaranteed that money by the Bulls, the team he bolted Miami for last summer. If he declines, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

The problem is Wade may have to read the tea leaves if he is basing his decision on Butler’s future in Chicago.

Several reports over the months since the season ended have Wade leaning toward picking up that option, including one today from ESPN. But following the season Wade reportedly told Bulls management he had no interest in being a part of a team that is rebuilding, which probably gave the Bulls more incentive to move Butler considering they would love for Wade to end his brief, controversial-filled relationship with his hometown team along with freeing up nearly $24 million of cap space.

A win-win for Chicago.

[Here’s why the Heat might draft a guard with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft]

[Tom D’Angelo’s 2017 NBA mock draft: Best case scenario falling to Miami Heat]

[Anthony Chiang’s 2017 NBA mock draft: Should Heat spend another first-round pick on a small forward?]

Butler, who became Wade’s biggest (only?) ally in Chicago last season, has been linked to trade rumors for the last year. When the Celtics, one of those teams kicking the tires on a Butler deal during the February trade deadline, acquired yet another draft pick this week giving them potentially eight first-round picks in the next three years, the Butler talk heated up as many speculated Danny Ainge’s end game could be acquiring the all-star small forward.

But that was early Monday. By the end of the day reports of a Butler deal were red hot, but one involving the Cavaliers, not the Celtics. The Bulls and Cavs have been in discussions of a trade that would necessitate bringing in a third team – possibly Phoenix or the Lakers – for the Bulls to receive the high pick they desire to start a full-blown rebuild. And Butler reportedly is pushing the Bulls to get the deal done.

And according to that report, Wade told the Bulls he will not return if Butler is dealt, which would answer the prayers of every member of the Bulls front office, and probably their fans after Wade’s homecoming did not quite turn out as most envisioned.

Wade, 35, has seen his numbers decline the last two seasons, averaging 18.3 points in 2016-17 (his lowest since his rookie year) and shooting a career-low 43.4 percent from the field. Wade followed that up with the worst post-season of his career as the Bulls lost four straight games to the Celtics in the first round after winning the first two.

If that happens the Wade-returning-to-Miami chatter will ramp up. The Heat should have a minimum of $38 million available in free agency and likely are looking at some kind of combination of re-signing James Johnson and Dion Waiters along with pursing Gordon Hayward and possibly Blake Griffin.

One thing is certain: If Wade does return to Miami after spending his first 13 seasons in a Heat uniform it will have to be for a substantial pay cut. Pat Riley will be looking to sign a much more significant player, or two, before he decides if he is willing to bring back Wade.

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Could the Boston Celtics trade have reaching impact on Miami Heat when it comes to Gordon Hayward?

The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are considered the biggest threats to convince free agent small forward Gordon Hayward to leave Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics are set to add another small forward to a roster that already includes starter Jae Crowder and emerging Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 overall pick a year ago.

Whether that player is Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum or even Jimmy Butler, who could be Danny Ainge’s end game, stockpiling more picks to throw at the Bulls for the All-Star forward, Boston will be deep at the position.

How does this relate to the Miami Heat?

If Gordon Hayward leaves Utah, Boston appears to be the Heat’s biggest competition for the 6-foot-8 small forward. Recent reports have the Jazz just as concerned about the Heat as they are the Celtics – who are coached by Hayward’s college coach, Brad Stevens – in their attempt to retain Hayward. And you know Pat Riley is going to walk into a hotel room, probably on July 1, and throw down a sack of championship rings to start his recruiting pitch.

Riley can also say the position is wide open. Justise Winslow is the only true small forward on the Heat roster and he would make for a nice sixth man. But this is more about the Celtics, who are creating quite a logjam at the spot and now may be better served spending their free agent dollars on another position.

Boston still will make the case that with Crowder, Brown and either Jackson or Tatum, Hayward will be the unquestioned top dog at the position and the top offensive threat. Still, four small forwards is excessive. And if the Celtics are angling for Butler, why would they want to eventually be paying max money to two players who play the same position? Butler could move to shooting guard but Avery Bradley has emerged at that position.

Boston may then decide to refocus its free agency plan and target a power forward – a position of much greater need – like Blake Griffin or Paul Millsap.

Also in the Heat’s favor are reports that Hayward has concerns about playing with a ball-dominant point guard like Isaiah Thomas. In Miami, he would be teaming up with a drive-and-kick point guard in Goran Dragic and a shooting guard like Josh Richardson, whose main focus will be defense.

The Heat are in the game already when it comes to Hayward. Maybe the Celtics just opened that window a bit wider.

[Mailbag: Should the Heat pursue a trade for Paul George?]

[Justise Winslow gives back to hometown of Houston with free camp]

[Collins, Giles, Jackson, Kennard, Mitchell leading way among players linked to Heat pick]

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