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Recapping the Miami Heat Summer of 2016

October 21st, 2016 1 comment
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Update (10/22/16): The Heat has chosen to waive Briante Weber and Beno Udrih, and keep Rodney McGruder. The Heat’s backup point guard duties effectively therefore fall to Tyler Johnson.

The final 15-player roster is as follows: Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt, Udonis Haslem, Hassan Whiteside and Willie Reed.

The summer of 2016 was perhaps the most polarizing and divisive in Miami Heat history.

For Pat Riley, it was largely about two things: Retaining Hassan Whiteside, and maximizing flexibility to target a whale to complement him in the future. Despite the ensuing hell-fire it would cause.

Dwyane Wade is gone, having felt disrespected by Riley for years.

He would argue that Riley’s refusal to offer one last long-term contract, one befitting the most vital player in Heat history – whose 13-year tenure spanned nearly half the team’s 28-year existence – exemplifies that disrespect. That in the wake of LeBron James leaving two summers ago, Riley clearly made retaining Chris Bosh his first priority (offering a full five-year, $119 million max contract) while leaving himself toiled with a sub-par offer for a talent of his caliber ($15 million, with a player option for a second season at $16 million). That the offer was better last summer ($20 million), but only after owner Micky Arison intervened when highly contentious negotiations with Riley had stalled and only in exchange for an even shorter term (one year). That Riley clearly made his first priority for this season to retain Whiteside, and his second priority to pursue the never realistic pipe dream that was Kevin Durant. Wade is no third option – particularly after what had happened the prior two summers, and particularly when successful pursuits of the first two would severely limit that which would be left over for the organization to compensate himself. After all, it was only Riley’s failed pursuit of Durant that made even the two years and $41 million he did offer possible. The initial offer was downright appalling (some speculating in the neighborhood of $10 million per season).

He would argue that Riley didn’t even have the decency to present that $41 million offer. That Riley never even met with him this summer. That his inaction was intentional. That every move he made this summer had an ulterior motive. That he never truly wanted Wade back.

Riley would surely object to the assertion that Wade was disrespected.

He would argue that he was eager to sign Wade (and James and Bosh) to a full max contract in the summer of 2010, which would’ve paid out an NBA-second-best $126 million over the past six years; it was Wade who chose to take less.

He would argue that he was fully prepared to honor the two years and $42 million remaining on Wade’s contract, which would’ve been sixth highest in the NBA, in the summer of 2014; it was Wade who chose to opt out.

He would argue that offering a string of shorter-term deals is not a sign of disrespect but rather a sign of compromise toward a common goal, in which the Heat could gain flexibility and Wade could benefit financially for enabling it. That these past two summers were a perfect microcosm. Wade had petitioned for a three-year deal paying out in the range of $45 million to $50 million in the summer of 2015; adding the one-year, $20 million deal he took that summer to the two years and $41 million he was offered in July totals to $61 million.

Both would be right. And both would be wrong. But did Riley truly want Wade back?

It seems reasonable to speculate that he may not have.  Read more…

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Pat Riley Says Chris Bosh’s Career with the Heat is “Probably Over”

September 26th, 2016 No comments
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Pat Riley, in a meeting with reporters, said that Chris Bosh’s career with the Miami Heat “is probably over” and that the team is “not working toward his return.”

Bosh, an 11-time All-Star, failed his preseason physical last week. The Heat had been prepared to clear him for play, contingent on him passing. During the testing, however, doctors reportedly found continued evidence of blood clotting.

“We headed down the road very excited to a point where we thought it would work,” Riley said. “And then the physical couldn’t clear him to the next step.”

Bosh was initially diagnosed with blood clots that traveled from his left leg to his lung in February 2015, and was subsequently diagnosed with blood clots in his left calf in February 2016.

Blood clotting is a normal process that occurs in the body to prevent bleeding and promote healing after an injury. The body forms blood clots when the platelets within the blood encounter a damaged blood vessel, and then breaks them down as the damaged tissue heals.

Clots can form unexpectedly, however, without notice or purpose, and have dangerous consequences. Certain clots, such as those that start in the leg or calf (called a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) and travel to the lungs (called a pulmonary embolism), can be fatal. And those who have endured previous clots in the past are particularly susceptible to a recurrence.

According to the NIH, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with DVT each year and roughly 30 percent of those patients develop a recurrence within 10 years, with the risk being greatest in the first two years. Recurrence is more likely in those who initially presented with a pulmonary embolism as well, as did Bosh, and is more likely to be another pulmonary embolism (as opposed to a DVT alone), leaving Bosh susceptible to a potentially more serious recurrence.

That Bosh has already endured multiple blood clotting episodes and that he plays a contact sport (professional basketball), both sharply exacerbate the risk of future recurrences. The risk for Bosh is therefore very real.

Blood clots are treated with anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners), which prevent further blood clots from forming as the body’s normal systems work to break up the existing clot(s).

For those who have endured a single clotting episode, blood thinners are typically continued for up to six months. Many professional athletes who have suffered blood clots have been able to successfully resume their careers without incident after completing their initial blood-thinner regimen.

However, people who suffer multiple blood clots are at sharper risk of a recurrence, and are typically therefore recommended to remain on blood thinners for the rest of their lives.

Blood thinners greatly reduce the likelihood of future blood clots, but they can have a potentially serious side effect: bleeding.

Since blood thinners slow the clotting of blood, unwanted and sometimes dangerous bleeding can occur with the use of these medications. Although infrequent, uncontrolled bleeding caused by blood thinners can be very serious. A blow to the head, for example, can cause bleeding on the brain and kill you!

Doctors and teams are therefore hesitant to allow players on blood thinners to return to contact sports, where a potential trauma could have disastrous consequences.

The issue for Bosh, then, becomes:

If he doesn’t take blood thinning medication, he is at risk of sustaining more, potential fatal, blood clots. Playing professional basketball only exacerbates that risk.

If he takes blood thinning medication to reduce the likelihood of a future clot, playing professional basketball puts him at increased risk of sustaining a potentially fatal bleeding event.  Read more…

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Miami Heat Sign Dion Waiters to 2-Year, $5.9 Million Deal

July 26th, 2016 No comments
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Pat Riley wasn’t expecting to use the Miami Heat’s $2.898 million mid-level exception for room teams this summer.

“As far as the $2.9 million room exception, we’re going to hold on to that,” Riley said on July 16. “I don’t think we’re going use it for the rest of the summer. There isn’t anybody out there right now that I want to give it to.”

Little did he know, things would dramatically change just two days later.

There had been mutual interest between Riley and Oklahoma City Thunder free agent shooting guard Dion Waiters since the start of free agency. Any such possibilities, however, were rendered effectively meaningless by virtue the fact that he was a restricted free agent.

Waiters’ restricted free agent status caused two serious problems for Riley(1).

First, it meant that Riley would need to offer a contract that would not only be acceptable to Waiters, but also one that would be high enough such that he could be relatively certain the Thunder would not match. The Thunder, at the time, were expected to match any reasonable offer.

Second, it meant the contract would need to be for at least two seasons in length (not including any option years).

The combination made a Heat pursuit of Waiters effectively impossible. Any first-year salary that, at the start of free agency, figured to be high enough to entice the Thunder not to match would also need to contain a second-year salary high enough to destroy any of the Heat’s grand visions for the summer of 2017. The Heat has big plans for that summer.  Read more…

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Breaking Down Russell Westbrook’s Complex Situation

July 24th, 2016 No comments
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Two months ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder were positioned to perhaps consider themselves the best team in the NBA. They had pushed the defending champion and all-time regular season winning percentage record-holding Golden State Warriors to brink of elimination in the Western Conference Finals, with a home game among three opportunities to close the deal. A single win in three chances, followed by a series win versus a Cleveland Cavaliers team against whom they were projected to be favored, and the Thunder would be NBA champions for just the second time in franchise history, and the first since 1979.

Things didn’t work out as planned.

The Warriors went on to eliminate the Thunder in seven games. A short time later, Kevin Durant went on to join the Warriors, leaving Russell Westbrook and the Thunder to pick up the pieces.

Westbrook is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. With the balance of power in the Western Conference dramatically shifted, if a return trip to the NBA Finals is a priority, he may not want to remain in Oklahoma City.

The concept has sparked a fire-storm of speculation about a potential trade, which would at least allow the Thunder to avoid losing two top five NBA players to free agency in the span of a single year without receiving back anything in return.

The ability of Westbrook to leave in free agency next summer, however, is just as problematic for a trade partner as it is for the Thunder. If Westbrook were to leave the following summer, the trade partner would not only lose him without receiving back anything in return but also sacrifice the assets it took to acquire him. To that end, if a trade partner is to risk the type of assets the Thunder will demand for him, it is likely to demand that Westbrook agree to an extension.

The Thunder, for their part, haven’t given up hope of retaining their star point guard either. In fact, it’s very much the opposite. They, too, are positioning to offer Westbrook an extension that would provide the certainty required to build the team’s future around him. And they could make it quite tempting.   Read more…

Breaking Down James Harden’s Renegotiation and Extension

July 19th, 2016 No comments
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Heading into the 2016-17 NBA season, extensions for veteran players had all but vanished for several years — the result of changes to the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that make it more beneficial for players to finish out their existing contracts and enter free agency thereafter, even if they plan to re-sign with their prior teams.

The rapidly rising salary cap – which has reached an all-time record $94.1 million this season, a whopping 34.5 percent increase from $70 million in 2015-16 – has, however, created a short-term opportunity for teams to leverage intricate salary cap rules to offer key players extensions that, in some cases, can be too tempting to pass up.

Many teams are finding themselves with more salary cap space than quality free agents on which to spend it. For these teams, that cap space can be used to simultaneously renegotiate and extend the contracts of its key players, giving them more up-front money in exchange for more seasons under team control.

This is exactly what the Houston Rockets elected to do with its key player, James Harden, in what to this point has been the most intriguing utilization of cap space thus far this summer.

Contract renegotiation is a concept largely attributed to various other sports. Only very rarely do they occur in the NBA. They can only occur on or after the third anniversary of the original signing date of a contract (or extension or renegotiation), and they can only increase a player’s salary. To do so, a player’s team must have salary cap space to cover the full amount of the proposed increase.

Heading into this season, Harden had two seasons remaining on his contract — $16,784,032 for this season, and $17,811,626 for next.

Though he signed a “maximum” five-year rookie-scale contract extension in October 2012 that ran through the 2017-18 season, the subsequent jump in the salary cap meant that he was set to earn far less than his current maximum salary for this season.  Read more…

Pat Riley Addresses the Miami Heat Summer

July 17th, 2016 1 comment
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The following post attempts to parse through the eloquent words of Pat Riley, delivered at his press conference on Saturday, to arrive at their true meaning.

Things are not always necessarily what they seem.

During a press conference on Saturday to discuss the state of his Miami Heat team, Pat Riley opened up about the sadness he feels for having lost Dwyane Wade, the team’s most important ever player.

“What happened with Dwyane floored me. And I’m going to miss the fact of what I might have had planned for him and his future and how I saw the end and my thought process in how I could see his end here with the Heat… It’s not going to be the same without him… I have been here when Zo left, Shaq left, when Brian Grant, Eddie Jones. But Dwyane is unique.”

After 13 seasons, Wade is gone. Officially signed by the Chicago Bulls.

Wade will get paid $47.0 million over the next two years, with a player option on the second season. That’s more than the Heat’s two-year, $40.0 million offer. But this wasn’t about the money.

Wade’s decision was predicated on a deteriorating relationship that resulted from a fundamental difference in philosophies. A difference that was two years in the making.  Read more…

Revamped Heat Roster Maintains Youthful Core, Flexibility for 2017

July 11th, 2016 1 comment
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The Miami Heat initiated its post-Dwyane Wade transition by completing a flurry of moves in rapid-fire succession on Sunday, the timing of which dictated by the man potentially set to replace him and the execution of which pursued with a singular goal in mind.

Pat Riley has always dreamed big. In the past 12 years, he has acquired Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James — arguably the NBA’s two greatest post-Michael-Jordan era players — and paired them with Wade to secure the franchise’s five NBA finals appearances and three titles.

Title aspirations are standard course for Riley and owner Micky Arison. It represents the foundation for everything they do. How they think. How they plan. How they negotiate, even if the parameters for negotiation ultimately lead to the loss of a franchise icon.

Facing the potential overwhelming loss of the team’s most critical ever player, Riley and Arison were unwilling to concede so much in their negotiation with Wade as to paralyze their team’s ability to build a title contender. They believe the Heat is currently in a better position to succeed than would have been the case if they were to have met Wade’s demands. They believe they have compiled a solid core of multi-talented youngsters in guards Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson, forward Justise Winslow and center Hassan Whiteside. They believe they have a potentially perfect, floor-spacing frontcourt compliment to Whiteside in Chris Bosh, assuming health. And they believe they have an All-Star caliber lead guard in Goran Dragic to spearhead the charge.

They may be right.

Johnson will compete with Richardson for the starting shooting guard role (a battle which he’ll win to start the season, with Richardson still sidelined with a partially torn medial collateral ligament). But, perhaps more importantly, he also serves as insurance against a lack of development from Winslow.

In his first season, Winslow showed great promise as a defender. But his offense at times proved to be so limited that defenders constantly sagged away from him, often effectively relegating the Heat to playing four-on-five basketball. If he improves his shooting, he could quickly become one of the Heat’s most vital players. If he doesn’t, his future as a starter could quickly be jeopardized.

Imagine, for a moment, a Dragic – Johnson – Richardson – Bosh – Whiteside unit.

In an offense system designed to capitalize upon it, what was once a shocking inability to space the floor – predicated largely on the always imperfect backcourt tandem of Wade and Dragic — could now be considered a strength. And depending upon where Richardson – who led the entire NBA in three-point shooting percentage after the All-Star Break, at 53 percent – and Johnson – who shot 41 percent on three-pointers last season (excluding heaves), despite often being miscast on offense as a point guard — level off with their shooting, a potentially big one at that.

That type of shooting could provide Whiteside — now a franchise cornerstone with his four-year, $96.4 million contract secured – the much-coveted floor-spacing into which to maneuver.

At 7-feet, 265-pounds, and with a ridiculous 7-foot-7-inch wingspan, Whiteside alters the geometry of the game. His individual statistics last season were silly – 17.6 points (on 60.6 percent shooting), 14.7 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per 36 minutes played. And he did it despite constantly having two, three, and sometimes four defenders hanging all over him every time he touched the basketball. Because why not collapse at even the hint of danger? Who was going to hurt you from the perimeter if you do? Not Wade.

He’s not all a back-to-the-basket big, but he can a huge initiator of offense — whether or not he ever even touches the ball. He hasn’t yet mastered the art of either the pick or the roll, but he has the tools to become of the best roll men in the NBA. And his mere presence in the paint sucks in defenses with more force than a Dyson. That yields tons of garbage points and rebounds for him, and open shots for others.

This Heat team may well have lost its best player, but it will be fast in transition and it will look to capitalize upon a type of floor spacing it has never before had in the half court.

Imagine what Dragic and Whiteside could do in an offense that spaced the floor around them.

Is it so preposterous to envision a constant stream of Whiteside pick-and-rolls, Bosh pick-and-pops, and swished corner three-pointers when defenders rotate away from Heat shooters to try to stop it?

Is it so preposterous to imagine that with Dragic’s penetration to initiate the offense, Whiteside down low, Bosh and Richardson and Johnson to space the floor around it all, and Winslow’s defense thrown into the mix; that the team, despite the absence of Wade – it’s leader and, perhaps more importantly, it’s closer — could still be a force with which to be reckoned?

Is it so preposterous to imagine that while it might struggle on offense at times with the absence of its most reliable crunch-time scorer, its defense will be undeniably improved without him?

Is it so preposterous to imagine that the addition of one elite player could have it competing for titles? Riley surely believes it.

But how do you get that elite player?

With Wade’s departure, the Heat found itself with just $19 million in salary cap space left to be spent on any one player, not nearly enough to grab an elite contributor, if even he were willing and available. It simply wasn’t going to happen this summer.

That, in turn, made Riley’s goal for filling out the roster crystal clear: Maintain maximum flexibility for the summer of 2017.  Read more…

Without Dwyane Wade, Where Do The Miami Heat Go From Here?

July 7th, 2016 6 comments
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It is still impossible to believe.

After 13 seasons, the best and most important player in the Miami Heat’s 28-year history is gone.

Dwyane Wade is headed to the Chicago Bulls.

How could it be that the team’s franchise icon could leave the only professional team he has ever known?

Wade will get paid $47.0 million over the next two years, with a player option on the second season. That’s more than the Heat’s two-year, $40.0 million offer. But this wasn’t about the money.

Wade’s decision was predicated on a deteriorating relationship that resulted from a fundamental difference in philosophies. A difference that was two years in the making.

Last summer, Wade petitioned the organization for a final three-year, $60 million contract to close out his career. It was a lofty first proposal, to be sure, which he subsequently reduced into the range of $45 million to $50 million.

His desire for one last large, long-term contract could easily be justified. He had guided the Heat to five NBA Finals appearances, and three titles. He had played a critical role in luring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. And through it all, he had consistently chipped away at portions of his own potential salary to make it all possible. Wade had never been the Heat’s highest-paid player.

The Heat countered at one-year, $20 million. Wade accepted. Reluctantly.

The deal was positioned as something of a compromise. For Wade, it provided an increased single-season payout. For the Heat, it maintained “flexibility” for the summer of 2016.

Flexibility, of course, could in this context be loosely be defined as: “the opportunity to re-allocate elsewhere monies otherwise meant for Wade.”

So, naturally, frustration ensued again this summer when Wade was made to sit tight as Pat Riley and the Heat organization made its first priority to retain Hassan Whiteside, and second priority to pursue the never realistic pipe dream that was Kevin Durant. Wade, a future Hall-of-Famer, is no third option – particularly when successful pursuits of either or both of the first two severely limits that which is left over for the organization to compensate himself.

Whiteside in hand and Durant pursuit having failed, the Heat offered Wade every ounce of salary cap space it had left to give: the full $19 million.

Total contract value built onto that starting salary: two-years, $40 million.

More than the Heat would have liked to offer. More than enough to destroy any prior plans for next summer. Imminently fair. Perhaps even acceptable in an emotion-free environment. But that’s not the environment in which it was given.  Read more…

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NBA Lowers Its 2017-18 Salary Cap Projection From $107M to $102M

July 7th, 2016 No comments
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The NBA’s salary cap projection for the 2017-18 season has dropped from $107 million to $102 million, according to a league memo distributed by the league to its member teams.

The luxury tax projection has dropped in turn, from $127 million to $122 million.

The reason for the drop had nothing to do with the league’s revenue growth projections, which continue to increase, but rather with increasing player salaries.

To arrive at a projected salary cap figure, the league must first project revenues for that season. The league then takes 44.74 percent of that projected revenue amount, subtracts projected benefits, and divides by 30 (the number of teams in the league). The luxury tax uses a similar formula, but is based on 53.51 percent of projected revenues.

Adjustments are then made to the cap if players received either too little or too much in salaries and benefits for the just completed season relative to the finalized revenue figure. These adjustments can be quite large.

The players are contractually guaranteed to receive a 51 percent share of those revenues in the form of salaries and benefits.  Read more…

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Framing the Dwyane Wade — Miami Heat Dilemma

July 4th, 2016 8 comments
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Update: The Heat has reportedly offered Dwyane Wade a two-year, $40 million contract with a player option on the second year that would allow him to become a free agent next summer. My guess is that he will, at the very least, push the Heat to add a third year to the contract which, for reasons stated below, the Heat will strongly resist. 

For the second straight summer, the Miami Heat and its star free agent Dwyane Wade and are having difficulties reaching conclusion on a new contract. Only this time around, things feel significantly more serious. Dire even.

Wade is frustrated.

He’s frustrated at having been asked to stand pat as Pat Riley and the Heat organization made its first priority for the summer to retain Hassan Whiteside, and second priority to pursue the never realistic pipe dream that was Kevin Durant. Wade, a future All-Star is no third option – particularly when successful pursuits of either or both of the first two severely limits that which is left over for the organization to compensate himself.

He’s frustrated by what appears to be an unwillingness by Riley to offer an adequate contract. A total of 10 unrestricted free agent shooting guards have come to agreements on new contracts thus far this summer. The average payout: $18 million per season. Average length: Four years. Combined All-Star selections: Two.

Even Wade’s own backup, Tyler Johnson, received an offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets that will pay him an average of $12.5 million per season, and that was reportedly less than other teams were willing to offer.

Wade’s salary demands are unknown, but perhaps not all that dissimilar to what they were last season: perhaps three-years, somewhere in the range of $60 million.

His desire for such a contract can easily be justified. He has guided the Heat to five NBA finals and three titles. He played a critical role in luring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. He has sacrificed $25 million in salary in order to give the Heat flexibility over the past six years (a disputable amount, considering the sacrifice surely benefited himself as much as it did the organization). And, perhaps most importantly, his on-court play, in this market, is worthy of it.

The Heat would surely love to give Wade every last penny he wants in theory, but paying him what he’s seeking would present significant challenges in practice.

The team currently has $18.9 million of cap space. With that, it could build out a potential three-year, $61 million contract (or even a four-year, $84 million deal).

But, if you were Pat Riley, would you give it to him?  Read more…

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