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It’s Time for the Miami Heat to Pursue Andray Blatche

August 15th, 2012 No comments

Dwight Howard didn’t get traded to Miami. Greg Oden probably isn’t going to play in 2012-13. Mehmet Okur appears destined to return to his native Turkey. And the Heat passed up the chance to wait out Samuel Dalembert.

The Heat still needs a center.

In the future lottery-protected first round pick acquired from Philadelphia, the Heat has an asset with which to try to address the issue in trade. The problem is that it’s the Heat’s only significant trade asset. The team can’t offer a first round pick of its own until 2017 at the earliest. And its second round picks are just about worthless.

The biggest issue, however, is that any potential trade requires the Heat to trade away matching contracts. And the contracts of thirtysomethings Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony – the team’s most likely trade candidates, players the Heat should be overjoyed to move free of charge simply for tax purposes – are all toxic; each likely holding negative trade value. Any value the Philly pick would have to a trade partner would be more than offset by the toxic Heat contract it would be required to take on for salary matching purposes. Why, then, would any trade partner offer anything of value in return?

A trade simply isn’t very likely.

And that means that if small-ball doesn’t work, the Heat will find itself in a bind.

Haslem is not ideally suited to play alongside Chris Bosh on the front line. Anthony’s limited offensive repertoire and lack of rebounding prowess create as many problems as his presence on defense solves.

Chris “Birdman” Andersen would be an ideal fit for what the Heat are or should be trying to do — as a shock-blocker, two-way rebounder, finisher at the rim and, perhaps most importantly, a tremendous jolt of energy — but he is currently facing bizarre and serious criminal allegations. Signing a player under such a murky investigation is probably not going to pass muster for the Heat, at least  not until more details emerge that support what we suspect, that Andersen is purely a victim of some type of extortion scheme.

It’s time for the Heat to get a little creative. It’s time to take a risk.

It’s time to consider Andray Blatche.  Read more…

Dwight Howard Traded to the Miami Heat

August 10th, 2012 3 comments

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Dwight Howard saga took a shocking and final turn Friday afternoon, when a second blockbuster trade, this time involving the Miami Heat, was completed.

“This is just crazy,” Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski said. “The Dwightmare is over. It all happened so fast. Two trades. I’m stunned. Howard will end up on the Miami Heat and form what is now being dubbed The Even Bigger Four,” Wojnarowski continued.

Howard was traded from the Magic to the Lakers earlier in the day, in a four-team trade that involved the Nuggets and Sixers. The reported deal sent Howard, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark to the Lakers; Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets; Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson to the Sixers; and Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and Christian Eyenga to the Magic. Orlando also received five draft picks over the next five years, including first round picks from each of the other teams and second round picks from the Nuggets and Lakers.

But then, in a shocking development, the Lakers traded the newly-acquired Howard to the Miami Heat. The finalized deal has Howard going to the Heat in exchange for Joel Anthony, Mike Miller, Dexter Pittman, Udonis Haslem and James Jones. The Heat will also confer a package of draft picks.

Financial considerations played a big part in the deal for Los Angeles. After the completion of the initial trade for Howard, the Lakers projected to have payroll obligations of at least $128 million for the coming season, including $29 million in luxury taxes. For the 2013-14 season, the numbers were even more staggering. Based on Howard’s maximum salary demands, and at the league’s currently projected $73 million tax threshold, payroll obligations were projected to be around $190 million. Add in a projected revenue sharing bill of around $50 million and you get a whopping $240 million total – more than the combined payroll, luxury tax and revenue sharing obligations of five NBA teams from last season. That amount proved to be too much, even for the mighty Lakers.

The Lakers’ subsequent trade eases the financial burden considerably. Both Miller and Jones have reportedly given assurances that they will immediately retire, freeing the Lakers of nearly $22 million in future salary commitments to the duo. The remaining three players will make just $9 million this season, approximately $11 million less than the $20 million Howard is set to earn. That’s a savings of $22 million this season alone when including the tax. But the real savings comes the following season, with the Lakers projected to save more than $60 million.

The kicker in the deal involves the draft picks that will be conferred. Preliminary reports have the Heat sending to the Lakers ten first round draft picks and ten second round draft picks over the next ten years.

League rules prohibit a team from sending out all of its future first round draft picks in consecutive years as well as trading picks more than seven years into the future, which would seemingly invalidate the deal. However, Commissioner David Stern issued an exception in this particular situation, which allowed the trade to be completed.

Said Stern: “We put new rules in place to allow this trade to happen because of its importance not only to the Miami Heat but also to the entire NBA. We have a singular focus, and that is to generate more total revenues than any other pro sports league. We fucked up last year when we imposed that ridiculous lockout. We weren’t about to do it again. That should have been evident when we approved the motion to add hideous advertisements to team uniforms starting in 2013. So when the opportunity to get Howard to Miami arose, we naturally had to approve it. The Heat will now be the most marketable team in all of sports. Whether you love them or hate them, you’ll all be watching every minute of Heat basketball for years to come.”

Howard has reportedly agreed to sign a three-year extension with the Heat, at an average salary equal to that of Dwyane Wade’s final three seasons. However, per league rules, the extension cannot be officially executed for six months.

Howard becomes the latest member of the Heat to take a discount to play in Miami. Howard’s extension will total $62 million, $6 million less than he was eligible to receive. Just about every player on the roster has now taken a discount to take his talents to South Beach.

When asked to comment, Heat president Pat Riley initially declined. He instead pointed to his slicked-back hair.

He went on to say “I’m just glad to get rid of all those draft picks.”

The Heat now figures to enter the season as the prohibitive favorite to win the title, just hours after the Lakers were immediately thrust into that role.

Miami’s lineup features four players widely considered among the best in the world at their respective positions – Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and now Howard. Incumbent starter Mario Chalmers figures to round out the starting five.

In his introductory news conference, Howard promised to bring to the Heat new and innovative ways to chastise his starting point guard. Past references made by Wade and James about Chalmers being their “little bitch” are weak and outdated, he said.

In response to the series of trades, Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert has filed a formal complaint with Commissioner Stern. The paper on which the complaint was written was reportedly utilized by Stern as toilet paper. Sources say Stern felt the crumpled paper was rough and not very comforting to his anus.

A parade has been scheduled in Miami for Sunday at noon. It will air, in part, as a 30-minute special on ESPN entitled “Another Decision.”

Categories: Funny Stuff Tags:

Addressing the Miami Heat Need At Center

July 16th, 2012 4 comments

We’re NBA champions.

And we’ve gotten better. It’s a beautiful thing. This Miami Heat team is nearly perfect.

Nearly.

For the third straight season the Heat finds itself in need of a center — one who is both reasonably sized and knows how to rebound a basketball.

While we applaud head coach Erik Spoelstra’s decision to embrace a ‘position-less’ half court offensive philosophy that has Chris Bosh in that role, it is perhaps a less than ideal strategy over the course of a largely meaningless but still very grueling 82-game regular season.

And it’s a strategy not without its risks. Though the strategy (which essentially entails surrounding the Big Three with two wing players rather than a true center) has produced phenomenal results over the past two regular and post seasons, it has been tested over a grand total of just 568 minutes, the equivalent of fewer than 12 games. The Heat has gone all-in on an approach that is still very much unproven.

While ‘position-less’ might be a nice term to throw around, what it really boils down to is an accommodation for the team’s lack of size, and a lack of skill, at the five spot. The approach could prove costly against more physically imposing front lines.

Pat Riley has, at least for now, put his faith in seldom-used third year center Dexter Pittman to fill the void. Riley cemented his belief by choosing to guarantee Pittman’s contract for the upcoming season.

But Pittman isn’t the answer. Neither is Joel Anthony.

So we are left sifting through a slew of uninspiring alternatives.

Darko Milicic. Eddy Curry. Hamed Haddadi. Joel Przybilla. Joey Dorsey. Nazr Mohammed. Ronnie Turiaf. Tony Battie. Etc.

Not one is a difference maker.  Read more…

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Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis Sign with Heat!

July 11th, 2012 2 comments

Since the start of the Big Three era, Pat Riley has scrounged the bottom of the free agent barrel and picked up a slew of uninspiring big men in an attempt to fill a perceived hole in his team’s rotation.

The sad list includes Eddy Curry, Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, Joel Anthony, Mickell Gladness, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Even Udonis Haslem and Juwan Howard have been miscast in the role.

Not one has worked out nearly as well at center as Chris Bosh.

During its championship run, the Heat finally found a definitive solution to its problem at center: don’t play one at all. With Bosh starting at the 5, the Heat plowed through the Thunder en route to its first title of the Big Three era, as the unconventional lineups created mismatches on both ends of the floor.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra calls the approach ‘position-less’ basketball. The idea is to have as many versatile players on the court as possible, each capable of contributing to the offense and defending multiple positions. It’s a system predicated on floor spacing and ball movement. In many ways, the Heat is uniquely positioned to exploit such a strategy – few other teams can get away with playing multiple players out of position because they would get crushed on the boards. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are probably the best rebounders at their positions in the league; this keeps the Heat in the battle.

The Heat believe they have found a permanent formula in their ‘position-less’ basketball scheme. And so today, on the first day free agents are allowed to sign, the Heat avoided the temptation to sign yet another uninspiring center. Instead, the team made official the signings of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis! Read more…

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Riley Guarantees Dexter Pittman’s Contract

June 29th, 2012 1 comment

Working in advance of the league’s October 31 deadline for such moves, Heat president Pat Riley picked up the 2010-11 rookie-scale option on the contract of first-round pick Daequan Cook late in 2009.

Eight months later, Riley changed his mind. Attempting to clear as much salary-cap space as possible for free agency, the Heat traded the underperforming Cook and the 18th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In exchange, the Heat received the No. 32 selection. That pick became Dexter Pittman.

Pittman signed a three-year minimum salary contract with the last of the Heat’s remaining cap space in July of 2010. The final year, for the upcoming 2012-13 season, was fully unguaranteed, becoming guaranteed if not waived before June 30, 2012. Earlier today, Riley confirmed that the Heat would let that deadline pass, thus guaranteeing his contract.

The decision to retain Pittman is certainly understandable. The Heat desperately needs size. Apart from Pittman, LeBron James is currently the heaviest player on the Heat. Only Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony are taller.

While the Heat implemented its small-ball philosophy with great success during its playoff run, a strategy that the Heat seem destined to employ for the whole of next season, don’t kid yourself. It’s a strategy borne more out of necessity than desire.

But Pittman, who has played a total of 320 big-league minutes over the course of his two seasons in the league, is hardly a definitive answer at center. Any flashes of low-post skill he has displayed have thus far been more than offset by his propensity to foul (sometimes violently).

Therefore, while the decision to retain him may be understandable, the manner in which Riley chose to do so was certainly not. One must question what prompted Riley to offer a guarantee to a player who seemingly didn’t require one. He could have, and should have, waived the wide-bodied center prior to the June 30 deadline, and thereafter re-signed him to a make-good, training camp contract. Of course, the risk with such an approach is that some other team might make Pittman a better offer. But let’s be realistic. A better offer wasn’t coming.

Riley has done this before. In July of 2010, 2009 second round pick Patrick Beverley was offered a questionable (or, frankly, inexplicable) two-year fully guaranteed contract – making him the only player in the league to try out for the team that drafted him, fail to make the team, and then be offered a multi-season guaranteed contract the season after. Despite the guarantee, Beverley was waived one day prior to the start of the regular season. Total unnecessary cost incurred: $2.1 million (including the tax).

Unlike Beverley, however, Pittman’s spot on the roster is all but guaranteed. The cash-strapped Heat can no longer afford to repeat its sins of the past and eat guaranteed salary. It’s simply too expensive. Letting Pittman go would add an additional $1.7 million to a payroll already projected to approach $100 million, the highest in franchise history by a wide margin. The Heat is, for better or worse, invested in Pittman’s continued development.

Said Riley: “We expect improvement. Big guys, when you draft them late or in the second round, it’s a two- or three-year project. He’s going into his third year. We are going to give him a great shot and we expect this year he might be able to really contribute to us.”

The Heat now has eleven players under guaranteed contract for 2012-13. By league rules, the team must employ at least thirteen, but no more than fifteen, on its regular season roster. It can carry as many as twenty during the offseason.

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Heat Draft Moultrie, Trade Him to 76ers

June 28th, 2012 No comments

Well, apparently Pat Riley will wait until the start of free agency to upgrade to his championship roster.

The Heat selected Mississippi State power forward Arnett Moultrie with its No. 27 pick in today’s NBA draft, but then promptly dealt the SEC’s leading rebounder to the Philadelphia 76ers.

In exchange, the Heat received a future first round pick from the 76ers and the No. 45 pick in the second round of the draft, which Miami used to select LSU center Justin Hamilton, who is expected to be sent overseas for development next season. The first-round pick the Heat acquired is lottery protected for the next three seasons, meaning the Heat will get the pick as soon as Philadelphia makes the playoffs. If they miss the playoffs in all three seasons, the pick will turn into two second round picks — one in 2015 and another in 2016.

On the face of it, the move was something of a steal for the Heat. The pick they gave up was No. 27 overall. The one they obtained is likely to be in the high teens a year later, and in the meantime Miami still got to use Philly’s second-rounder on a player with real potential. At nearly 7-feet and 260 pounds, Hamilton is both huge and mobile, has a nice face-up shooting stroke that could in time extend beyond the three-point line, some decent post play potential, and he can rebound the basketball. That’s a rare skill-set for a big, and a perfect for the Heat. Though he will require further development of his body and game, which will likely relegate him to some overseas play, he has real NBA potential and could have an impact for the Heat in a couple of years.

But the trade comes in direct contrast to the plan laid out by the Heat’s vice president of player personnel, Chet Kammerer, during his pre-draft media session with reporters the day prior. Kammerer had suggested that the Heat were planning to draft a player with the pick, one who could contribute immediately and complement the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

As it turned out, a wild draft left such a possibility still on the board at No. 27.

The 6-foot-11-inch, 235-pound Moultrie seemed to be the kind of player Miami could use to add depth to a thin front line that features just Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony. Moultrie is long and athletic, with great quickness, explosive leaping ability, and a knack for grabbing and finishing off offensive rebounds. But he is also a skilled perimeter player with range that many expect will extend all the way out to the three-point line in time, a vital component for a Heat team that had postseason success by playing three-point shooting specialist Shane Battier out of position at power forward.

The Heat also had an even more intriguing option available, in Baylor product Perry Jones III — a super-athletic spicmen with the skills of a guard and the height of a center, and seemingly an even better fit for the Heat than Moultrie with an even higher potential upside.

There might not be many others with a more perfect basketball physique than Jones. Standing 6 feet 11 inches tall, he does things young men his size shouldn’t be able to do. He dribbles like a guard, runs like a deer and jumps like he’s got pogo sticks for legs. He can score inside or on the perimeter, rebound the basketball, block a few shots, and guard multiple positions. That combination of skill doesn’t show up often, and is exactly what the Heat covet. Nobody’s really sure what he is just yet – is he the world’s tallest point guard, the world’s most athletic center, or something in between? The answer isn’t imminently clear. But no one denies that he’s got immense skills and rare gifts.

Jones is probably a top-five talent, but teams weren’t convinced he has the desire or personality to be great, and his inconsistent play at Baylor didn’t exactly inspire much confidence. A medical red flag just before the draft due to a “meniscus issue” in his right knee dropped his stock out of the lottery, and nearly out of the first round entirely. It opened up a huge opportunity for the Heat as a potentially awesome risk-reward play. But they passed at pick No. 27. Oklahoma City Thunder grabbed him at pick No. 28.

So, with such intriguing available prospects, why the trade?

Many have speculated that the rationale for the trade was the financial flexibility it provides. By trading out of the first round of the draft, the Heat won’t have to add a multi-year guaranteed contract to a payroll that already exceeds the league’s $70.3 million luxury-tax limit. Such a rationale, however, seems unlikely. The salary scale of a player selected at No. 27 in the draft, $868,600, is roughly identical to the minimum salary contract to which the roster spot is now likely to be allocated. There’s no savings there. And, as far as next year is concerned, the Heat will likely find itself in this very same situation – required to offer a multi-year guarantee to the player selected with its newly acquired pick, only this pick will very likely be much higher up than No. 27, and thus significantly more expensive. There’s no savings there either.

Riley’s explanation, that “the players that we had on our board were not there at the time, and we felt we had a great option with Philly to get a future first next year” is also not very likely. The depth in the 2013 draft is widely considered to be comparatively weak.

A more likely rationale for trading into a future first round pick is in its potential value as a trade asset.

Teams are restricted by league rule from trading away all of its future first round draft picks in consecutive years. The Heat has already traded away its 2013 first rounder and its 2015 first rounder to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the LeBron James sign-and-trade. Therefore, without the Philly pick, the Heat couldn’t have utilized a first round pick in trade until the 2017 draft at the earliest. So it opens up a world of potential trade possibilities.

The Heat has several undesirable long-term contracts allocated to players who figure to have a diminishing role in the years to come – among them Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony. That doesn’t bode well for a team which will have a payroll well in excess of the luxury tax threshold for 2013-14 and beyond, when the league’s more punitive tax penalties kick in. Riley will presumably look to trade away at least one at some point in the future, and it won’t be easy. The toxic nature of these contracts would suggest that the Heat might need to include additional assets as an enticement to complete such a trade, let alone expect anything of value back in return. As it stands, the Philly pick now represents the Heat’s best trade asset.

And so what otherwise might have been a promising young rookie in Moultrie may well become nothing more than a means in which to undue a bad mistake. That’s the cost of doing business. Mistakes are inevitable. And costly to unwind.

And so passes by another uninspired NBA draft… unless, of course, it turns into something great next year.

Congratulations, Miami Heat!

June 21st, 2012 4 comments

Thank you, Miami Heat.

This might just be the beginning of something great. But before we delve into what happens next, before we talk about salary caps and luxury tax consequences and free agency and draft prospects, let’s take a moment to reflect on what has just taken place.

You showed poise against a hating world. And in doing so, you proved everyone wrong.

Thank you for not letting the haters beat you down.

Remember Dan Gilbert declaring, “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”?

Remember how the critics called Wade’s brainchild and Pat Riley’s free-agent coup a colossal failure? How they said the only way the Big Three could win is if there were three balls? That three NBA superstars couldn’t possibly share the limelight?

Remember Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock summing up after last year’s Finals loss, “The Big Three is done. It was a noble experiment. James and Wade deserve credit for trying to make it work, for being completely loyal to and unselfish with each other for an entire season. Now it’s time to move on before they inflict further damage on their reputations.”

Well, they were all wrong.

Remember how you were vilified for having no heart? No will to win? No guts to rise above adversity? Remember how everyone left you for dead after you trailed 2-1 to the Pacers, 3-2 to the Celtics, 1-0 to the Thunder?

Well, you went 9-0 after trailing at any point during a playoff series this postseason. It doesn’t get any better than that.  Read more…

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The NBA is Back!!!

December 24th, 2011 4 comments

It’s back, baby!

After 196 days of withdrawal, anticipation, lockouts, light-hearted twitter declarations by rightfully beloved owners, and over-reaching punishments by an overly eager commissioner, life is back as it should be.

Tomorrow, at 2:30 pm, we get Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh in a game that matters. We get to settle in, grab some turkey, crack open a beer, and, that’s right, watch some NBA basketball.

You may have cursed the players. You may have cursed the owners. You may have considered quitting the game altogether. You may have forgotten what it looked like, sounded like, felt like. It all seems like a distant memory now.

But the lockout, the one that was supposed to wipe out the entire 2011-12 season, is over.

Forget the “nuclear winter” references. There’s no more need for nifty marketing tricks by a league that threatened to undermine itself during the offseason. No need to feign interest in tired exhibition games or world tours.

We’re past trying to convince ourselves that hockey is an acceptable replacement. Past trying to rely upon one lousy game of football every seven days to carry us through.

We’re past hearing that damn phrase “basketball-related-income,” as it relates to how many dollars the players should be pocketing. Past hearing about the struggles of those poor owners trying to make ends meet. Past the audit reports, the tax forms, the lawsuits, Dwyane Wade and David Stern lashing out at each other from across the board room table.

We’re past trying to convince ourselves that all those hours we had free from the sport would somehow pour, seamlessly, into making us better people, more learned, the kind who understand what the hell is going on in the world and can start to appreciate the finer things in life. Now things are, thankfully, back to normal; all attempts at self-improvement will have to work themselves around the NBA schedule.

It’s time to start training that one eye to keep constant watch on the flow of the game, while the other peeks over at those half-naked cheerleaders. It’s time to start utilizing the halftime break as a means to scout the talent around us. It’s time to celebrate, say, 49 home victories with 20,000 of your closest strangers.

Sure, the now-settled labor dispute will, without a doubt, make the season more challenging. An entire offseason’s worth of predictions, rumors, scouting, speculation, signings, trades, injuries, scandals, preparation, practice and training have all been crammed into three short weeks. The compacted 66-game schedule will require every team to play games at a pace of more than one every two days, including games on three consecutive days at least once.

As a result, there will be sloppy play. There will be fluctuating intensity. There will be injuries. But those challenges only heighten the thrill of accomplishment.

Which brings us to the Miami Heat.

Even without a title, the 2010-11 season, from beginning to end, was some of the most compelling theater we’ve ever witnessed as sports fans.

This year is going to be better.

The starting rotation will be the best in basketball. D-Wade, Bron and CB1 are going to find a way to simultaneously extract the best of each other. Mario Chalmers is going to build upon his playoff success and become the type of floor spacing guard this team so desperately craves. Joel Anthony is, well, a lost cause (let’s not get carried away).

The second going to deliver in a big way. A healthy Mike Miller is going to lead the league in three-point shooting. A healthy Udonis Haslem is going to lead the league in bench rebounding. Shane Battier is going to prove he remains a solid wing stopper with an effective (if not necessarily graceful) three-point stroke.

Norris Cole is going to deliver the breakout season he’s capable of. His quick first step will push the tempo offensively and make the game faster, more thrilling, and harder to defend. His dogged defense is going to be exactly what this team needs.

Coach Spoelstra is going to learn from past mistakes and, with an off-season of reflection, deliver an efficient offensive strategy for half-court success. Combined with what is already the game’s best transition offense and perhaps the game’s most suffocating defense, this team will blow out its opponents on a nightly basis.

This time, we will not be denied. This time, we will hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Tip-off is less than twenty-four hours away. This is our time. This is our stage. Let’s get motivated. Let’s get this thing done.

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NBA’s Construct Promotes Pat Riley’s Vision

November 26th, 2011 2 comments

It took a 15-hour session pitched between the NBA and player representatives in New York that spilled over from Friday into early Saturday morning. It took nearly half a year, from pre-draft negotiations in early summer spread nearly into the precipice of a chilly East Coast winter. But it’s over. The NBA and its players have come to a tentative agreement, and the NBA lockout is over.

The NBA was taking direct aim at the Miami Heat when it issued, if you believe Commissioner David Stern’s stern ultimatum, its final collective bargaining agreement proposal. Michael Jordan and his roving gang of hard-line scallywags were trying their damndest to force Pat Riley to break apart his creation.

In an ironic twist of fate, though, the agreement that was struck not only fails to prevent such a construct in the future, it actually encourages it.

The tentative deal makes it expensive – prohibitively expensive – for teams to spend beyond the tax threshold. It also forces certain teams that use certain exceptions to stop spending entirely, under any circumstances. It’s essentially a hard salary cap in disguise. Ah, the financial parity!

But this isn’t the NFL. There aren’t 53 guys on an active roster. There aren’t 26 different positions to consider. There are as few as 13 guys, playing five positions. True, game-changing talent is sparse. Each one has an enormous impact.

Think for a moment about what could happen under such a construct.

If, for example, every team in the league were given exactly $60 million to spend, how would you spend it? Would you give 13 mid-level talent guys mid-level money? Or would you give three maximum talent guys maximum contracts and fill out the roster with throw-ins?

The Heat is proving out a new construct for success in today’s NBA. Grab a legitimate grouping of three superstars and all else you need is a cast of marginally-talented three-point-shooting throw-ins to let them maneuver in space, some of whom occasionally play a little defense, and you’ve got yourself a legitimate title contender. Teams have a very healthy fear of the Heat, and a realistic understanding of how difficult it is to beat them four times in seven games. They seem to get how little a non-star player really affects those odds.

Of course, the joining of forces of three game-changing talents is an exceedingly rare thing. It requires not only the desire of three such players, but also the foresight of a team to clear enough salary to even make it possible. It might happen but once a decade… or not at all.

The point, however, is that it is possible – even more possible under the current deal than it was under the last collectively bargained deal.  Read more…

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Miami Heat selects Norris Cole

June 25th, 2011 4 comments

Well… the Miami Heat traded up three spots in the 2011 NBA Draft, into the first round at No. 28, to select what it believes was the most promising point guard available in Norris Cole. It was a welcome aggression for a typically draft-passive organization.

Riley wanted a “pure” point guard; he got his man.

He got a talented one at that. When a player scores 41 points, grabs 20 rebounds, and dishes out 9 assists in a single game (even if it was versus an admittedly forgettable Youngstown State team), you know he’s a serious offensive threat. When that player also nabs his conference’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season (even if it was in the admittedly forgettable Horizon League), you have Norris Cole.

Cole rated out as the fourth and fifth best point guard in the draft, respectively, by Riley and ESPN draft guru Chad Ford. Riley had him ranked No. 18 on his draft board; Ford had him going as high as No. 21. The Heat were enamored with Cole’s speed and defensive ability at the point guard position. But as a slender guard with short arms and questionable range, showcasing his talents in an inferior conference, he’s far from a sure thing. Time will tell.

We can debate whether trading up was necessary and justified.

Detractors will point to the enhanced financial obligations to a first round pick in what figures to be an uncertain salary cap environment. They will point out that the increased financial burden was the result of moving up just three spots, from No. 31 to No. 28. They may even suggest that it was truly just one spot. Two of the three were owned by the Bulls, the team which facilitated the trade of  Cole to the Heat. The Bulls then formally made the selection of Cole, dealt him to the Timberwolves, who then moved him to the Heat. Had the Bulls been targeting Cole, they clearly wouldn’t have do so.

But the Heat wanted Cole. “There was a consensus that this was the player that we wanted to take,” Riley said. “We didn’t want to get left at the altar.”

He was cognizant that the Spurs, who had agreed to trade their backup point guard George Hill to the Indiana Pacers earlier in the day, could jump in front of the Heat and select a point guard at No. 29, and in fact they did. The trade was therefore necessary, and so skillfully executed.

But the price was steep. More steep than necessary?

The Heat surrendered to the Wolves the Wolves’ own 2014 second round pick and cash considerations to move up just three spots. The Bulls, as part of the same trade, surrendered to the Wolves a less attractive second round pick (No. 43) and cash considerations to move up five more valuable spots. The Bulls gave up less and got more.

In the 2010 draft, pick Nos. 25 and 31 were each sold for cash.

It would appear that adding in cash alone, or perhaps instead a future second round pick of their own, would have made for an eminently more reasonable swap for the Heat. It would appear that trading away the Wolves’ own 2014 second round pick and cash considerations would be enough to simply buy the No. 28 pick outright, without the need for a swap. Imagine the Heat with Norris Cole and a second youthful player selected with the No. 31 pick. Of course, we will never know whether such alternatives were bargained for.

And so now the Heat has just two low-level first round and five low-level second round draft picks over the next five years.

The Heat has, in effect, traded away Michael Beasley in return for the draft rights to Norris Cole. If, as a result, the team has identified a key contributor, then all is well. If, by chance, the team has identified a future starter, then all is wonderful and this will go down as a spectacular draft for Riley and crew.

Is Norris Cole the Heat’s answer at point guard? It certainly seems as if he has that potential. But the pressure is on.

And so it goes for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat.

Here’s to wishing Mr. Cole all the success in the world.

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