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Plan B Defined

July 6th, 2010 1 comment
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There is no great Plan B for the Miami Heat. If they can’t maneuver to get a marquee free agent to join Dwyane Wade this summer, Wade will likely bolt for the Chicago Bulls and the power balance of the Eastern Conference will shift even further away from South Florida.

A title-contending team needs a future hall-of-fame talent through whom to run its offense. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s LeBron James. For the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s Kobe Bryant. For the Heat, it’s Wade. If Wade doesn’t re-sign, there’s simply no way to build a winner. It’d be a tear-down rebuild that could take a decade from which to recover.

But if we pretend Wade loves the Heat to such an extent that he’d consider a Plan B scenario, what would it look like?

James is the clear prize of a loaded free agent market. Chris Bosh is second. Both would be ideal. One would probably be enough to keep Wade happy. Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer are the only other possibilities around which a compelling storyline can be crafted. But if the Heat should strike out on all these names, however unlikely that may be, there may still be a path to future success.

The free agent market is considerably lacking in depth if the Heat strikes out on the headline names. In order to present him with a remotely compelling offer, the Heat would need to ferociously attack the trade market.

The good news is that the Heat has considerable assets with which to deal. To start the summer, the Heat will have eight first round draft picks over the next seven years – including a protected first round pick acquired from the Toronto Raptors in Shawn Marion-Jermaine O’Neal swap on February 13, 2009 – and a nearly full complement of second round picks. They’ll also have Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers to dangle, and the most cap room in the entire N.B.A. – a valuable commodity for teams in salary cap hell and looking to shed valuable contracts.

How do you build a championship roster?

You start with your superstar wing player, and you give him the space he needs to operate. Floor-spacing, both vertical and horizontal, is everything. That requires an athletic interior presence down low, and a bunch of multi-dimensional shooters.  Read more…

New York Knicks to sign Amare Stoudemire

July 5th, 2010 6 comments
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The first highly-touted power forward is off the boards. And it’s not a bad outcome for the Miami Heat.

As expected, the New York Knicks have come to terms with Amare Stoudemire on a contract worth nearly $100 million over five seasons.

Said Stoudemire:

I feel great, really, about being a pioneer and showing my leadership. It’s a situation where no one wanted to make that first move. Totally comfortable, totally confident that my leadership qualities will uplift all of us to do something great this upcoming season. So again, the Knicks are back.

Sounds like a man with some doubt still lingering. Stoudemire would have preferred to join Dwyane Wade and the Heat. But Miami has bigger plans. And those plans look more and more promising with each passing moment.

Wade and Chris Bosh seem inexorably linked. The two have been friends for some time. They share the same agent. They dine together. They laugh together. They appear to want to play together.

There have been rumors stating that a D-Wade and Chris Bosh partnership is imminent. With just over two days left to go until projected commitment time (Thursday), South Florida is currently the only place where that can happen. Chicago, the only other destination where such a pairing is even remotely being considered, remains below the second max threshold by $2,730,417. And neither Wade nor Bosh strikes me as willing to forgo that excess cash.

Amare in New York, with nothing surrounding him, is manageable. They’re getting him at an excessive price. And they won’t be getting Steve Nash with him. Read more…

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Breaking down Dwyane’s impending decision

July 4th, 2010 No comments
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While the South Florida community sits on pins and needles in anticipation of the decision of its superstar shooting guard, Dwyane Wade today suggested that he will do what is best for his family amid his custody dispute over his children currently living with him in Chicago.

Wade’s contentious divorce from his estranged wife Siohvaughn was confirmed on June 25.

To say the divorce is finalized would be an accurate yet loosely applied statement. While the couple is officially not a couple anymore, critical issues about the division of marital assets and custody of their children two sons, Zaire, 8, and Zion, 3, are still in dispute.

Wade and his wife separated in September of 2007, when Siohvaughn, then living with husband Dwyane in a beautiful Pinecrest mansion, returned to Chicago shortly after the birth of their second child because she “needed help with raising the kids.”

Divorce proceedings commenced the next month. She has refused to return to Miami ever since.

From the outset of the divorce proceedings, Wade has been the bigger person. He hasn’t disrespected his ex-wife in the media, he hardly ever talks about the divorce, and he maintains that his children are what is most important to him at the moment.

Siohvaughn has played the part of the enraged lunatic, the type of ex that isn’t really concerned about the well-being of her children but rather focused on tearing down her ex-husband. Read more…

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Does a Luol Deng trade unlock the Wade-to-Chicago intrigue?

July 3rd, 2010 1 comment
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Note: The proposed trade discussed below is now being classified by Hoopsworld as a rumor.

Why would Dwyane Wade consider the Chicago Bulls if they can’t add that coveted second max contract free agent? Neither Dwyane nor Chris would be willing to accept the $2,730,417 pay cut, would they?

Well, maybe they wouldn’t need to.

According to Bill Ingram of Hoopsword:

Now hearing reports that the Trail Blazers are in talks with the Bulls to acquire Luol Deng for a package including Joel Przybilla and Jerryd Bayless.

Sounds like pure and unfounded speculation which doesn’t seem to make much sense.

The two Blazers would certainly seem expendable. Portland has a glut at the center position, having extended Marcus Camby for two additional seasons and having Greg Oden in the final season of his rookie scale contract, and would certainly be amendable to a Przybilla trade. Bayless is a Mario-Chalmers-esque tweener better suited as a perennial backup to Brandon Roy at shooting guard than as a future starter at the point.

However, the suggested trade seems to make little sense for the Blazers. There would be no need for the team to acquire an expensive and injury-prone Luol Deng and the $51.3 million remaining on his contract, just to battle it out for a starting position with the more talented, more healthy, more youthful and more economical Nicolas Batum. If anything, the Blazers would covet a floor spacing outside shooter at the position, to complement the distance challenged Andre Miller and Brandon Roy – something which, despite an impressive 38.6% from beyond the arc last season, Luol Deng is not.

But the rumors are out there, so they’re worth at least analyzing. Read more…

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Can the Bulls surround Rose and Noah with three max free agents?

July 3rd, 2010 1 comment
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If Dwyane Wade’s reported uncertainty has us all panicked, reports like this one have our hearts stopping outright.

I wouldn’t tell you not to worry about Wade. Nobody truly knows, possibly including Dwyane himself, what his decision will ultimately be.

I can, however, tell you unequivocally: Don’t worry about the possibility of the Chicago Bulls adding three max contract players (the ones set to make $16.6 million) while keeping Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Why? Because the possibility stretches the limits of human sanity beyond all reasonable measures.

Daniel Leroux of RealGM writes:

First we have the 125% rule. This rule indicates that any team can take on 125% of the contract values they send out in a trade, plus $100,000 of buffer room. As such, take the maximum contract value above, divide it by 1.25 and subtract $100k from that total and you get $13,175,126. This is the minimum value a team at or over the cap could send in contracts for a max-level player while satisfying this rule. However, cap space can also be used to reduce this number if it is available.

He was absolutely correct… right up until that very last sentence. And that one sentence destroys the philosophy.

Let me explain. Read more…

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Wade “leaning toward committing to the Bulls”?

July 3rd, 2010 2 comments
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For three years now, Pat Riley has sold South Florida on his all-or-nothing strategy to rebuild during the free agency summer of 2010. There was an idea floating around the Heat’s front office that they could pull off a monumental rebuilding coup if they could convince three max-level free agents – Dwyane Wade, plus two others – to take a little less than the maximum salary to sign on. For five years, maybe more, South Beach would be the NBA’s ultimate destination spot.

As the team entered the 2009/10 season, the Heat was little changed. Both of its second-round draft picks chose to play in Europe (in no small part because at the time the Heat did not want to pay luxury tax on their salaries), Jamario Moon was the only player of any importance who did not return (he signed with Cleveland as a free agent), and the biggest change the team had made for the upcoming year was deciding to move Beasley from power forward to small forward (and quickly back again).

The plan was widely criticized. Despite Riley’s master strategy, the math didn’t support the logic. With salary cap projections coming in as low as $50.4 million, the Heat would only be able to surround Dwyane Wade with one maximum contract free agent, with only $6.2 million to spare. Then Pat threw out a huge wrench in the strategy by offering a mid-level exception contract offer to Lamar Odom, a contract that would have paid Lamar $6.0 million and leave the Heat right on the cusp of max level money for even a second max contributor.

Wade was non-committal, having rejected an extension offer. He was screaming for help. There was much hand-wringing locally that not enough was done to surround him with championship-caliber players. After all, short-circuiting the rebuilding process would afford the Heat the opportunity to spend as much as $100 million or more on its team salary, a far cry from $50 million the 2010 off-season was expected to allow.

But Riley was adamant. Read more…

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Wade to Chicago: Legitimate Interest or Master Strategy?

July 2nd, 2010 12 comments
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For as promising as the new season had started for the Miami Heat on day one, things have taken a turn for the decidedly worse on day two.

Dwyane Wade’s decision to grant the Bulls a second meeting has columnists suggesting it was more than just a courtesy visit and South Floridians panicking over the prospect of losing their MVP-caliber shooting guard.

Per Chad Ford:

Dwyane Wade is leaning toward committing to the Chicago Bulls, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com’s Chad Ford on Friday.

According to the source, Wade requested a second meeting with Bulls shortly after the 2006 NBA Finals MVP spent more than two hours getting wooed by the New York Knicks at a downtown Chicago hotel Friday morning. The source stressed that Wade needed the meeting to clarify issues around signing with the Bulls.

Up until today, it was deemed ludicrous that Wade would ever leave the Heat. People weren’t pitching him; he was pitching for them. Read more…

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Anecdotal evidence keeps building

July 2nd, 2010 No comments
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Not content to sit idly by and have their off-season plans destroyed by the departing Chris Bosh, general manager Bryan Colangelo and the Toronto Raptors opted instead to kick off free agency by agreeing to re-sign Amir Johnson to a five-year, $34 million contract.

The Johnson signing represents a commitment to rebuilding with the right long-term pieces for the start of the non-Bosh era. The 23-year old figures to be a key part of the frontcourt rotation for years to come and will have a chance to expand beyond his current role as a shot blocker and rebounder.

But to brush aside this ridiculous contract as a quality investment would be to assume that other teams were prepared to pay an average of $6.8 million per season over five years for a back-up big man who has had an exceedingly difficult time remaining on the floor due to his severe propensity for committing fouls. It is a perplexing expenditure for a franchise currently dealing with the consequences of another exorbitant contract that blew up in its face, and one dealing with several others (Calderon, 3 years and $29 million; Bargnani, 5 years and $50 million).

The consensus opinion after the first day of the most anticipated free agency period in league history is that rampant overspending is to be the norm, so the Raptors are certainly not alone in their dread. If Darko Milicic, who has averaged five points and four rebounds in 17 minutes per game for his career and was seriously contemplating moving back to Europe (always something of a buyer beware situation), can get a four-year, $20 million contract to play in sunny Minnesota, Johnson’s contract would seem right in line. The problem with that logic, however, is that such rampant league-wide spending is never an excuse for fiscal irresponsibility which can cripple an organization for the better part of a decade, particularly one that is already at the decided disadvantage of being located in another country and desperately trying to recruit citizens of the United States. Read more…

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Minnesota’s Moves May be Telling

July 1st, 2010 7 comments
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Some interesting developments have taken place today in Minnesota.

The Wolves have agreed to terms with two centers: free agent Darko Milicic and 2008 second-round draft pick Nikola Pekovic.

Milicic agreed to a rather eye-popping 4-year, $20 million contract. Just five months ago, the seven-footer wasn’t getting any floor time, and was seriously contemplating giving up on the NBA to return to Europe. Pekovic has a verbal agreement in place on a 3-year, $13 million contract. He has played for Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos for the past two seasons, staking his claim as one of the best centers not in the NBA. The deal, as reported, could be the most lucrative rookie contract for a second-round pick in NBA history, though it doesn’t seem particularly unreasonable. In fact, it seems very much like a bargain.

In and of themselves, these additions are of no particular interest in South Florida. When combined, however, they are sure to raise an eyebrow or two.

Wolves general manager David Kahn has a strong interest in Michael Beasley. In fact, Kahn confirmed on Sunday that he had previously contacted the Heat about trading for Beasley. The deal would have sent Beasley to the Wolves in exchange for Ryan Gomes.

The Wolves entered free agency with as much as $16.4 of available cap space at current salary cap projections. If we assume the first year salaries for Milicic and Pekovic are $4.3 million and $4.0 million, respectively (based on the max annual raises for which they would be eligible), Minnesota will have reduced its total cap space to $8.1 million. We can subtract $2.8 million from that to account for the cap hold associated with its draft rights to Ricky Rubio. That gets us to available and unencumbered cap space of approximately $5.3 million.

Michael Beasley is set to make $5.0 million.

Is it possible that Minnesota is saving up just enough money to take on Beasley? Is it possible that a deal with Pat Riley and the Heat is already in place?

Mike Miller Off the Table?

July 1st, 2010 1 comment
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Per Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports:

Mike Miller has been offered a five-year, $30M contract by the Lakers.

Miller expects to be recruited by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade wherever they end up.

The Lakers have set a deadline of tonight to accept their offer.

Is Mike Miller off the table?

Miller is a close personal friend of James and so, if he is held to such a deadline, one would suspect that Miller will reject — until he knows for certain that he won’t be playing alongside James, wherever he ends up, in his quest for an NBA championship.

His expectation, however, is interesting — and more than just a little bit exciting — in another regard. There has been all kinds of speculation that James will team up with Wade and Chris Bosh in South Florida. Could they each be willing to sacrifice maximum dollars in order to bring Miller along?

What a dream scenario that would be! Without any quality big men available on the free agent market, the Heat could elect to play small – sliding Bosh over to center and James over to power forward – and create one of the most lethal offenses in league history!

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