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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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Living in a dream world… if only for a moment

June 22nd, 2011 2 comments

Pat Riley had a plan. He executed upon it with deadly precision. He got the big things so right that it almost didn’t matter how he handled the little things.

But not all of those little things went perfectly.

What if he did better with those little things? With the 2011 NBA draft now bearing down on us, would it have made any difference?

Navigating the uncertain waters of the draft has always been a special kind of hell for Riley. Riley’s draft record with the Heat reads more like a comedy of errors than it does a serious attempt at identifying talent.

In 2003, Riley nearly drafted Chris Kaman with the fifth overall pick before being talked into selecting Dwyane Wade by his staff. Whew!

Since that time, only three players he’s selected have ever played more than eleven big-league minutes for the Heat – Dorell Wright, Wayne Simien, and Michael Beasley. The very next players taken in those drafts were Jameer Nelson, David Lee, and, two picks down, Russell Westbrook.

Perhaps it is something of a blessing that he now has just eight picks, just two first rounders, to deal with over the next five years.

Was it a combination of strong basketball decisions or his strong aversion to the type of scrutiny that comes with the draft that led Riley and the Miami Heat to this position?

Riley again yesterday openly described his aversion.

“I don’t think you win championships with young, athletic players that don’t have experience. I think we’ve learned over the years that building with young players is very frustrating.”

But what if things were different?

What if the Heat had made some different decisions along the way?

There was Dorell Wright.

In a season to that point mired in frustration, and seemingly defined by the anticipation of things to come, keeping Wright at the trade deadline was perhaps the single most popular decision the Heat brass made. Riley and crew decided that Wright’s presence was more of a priority than the estimated $7.7 million addition to owner Micky Arison’s already fat wallet.

Wright responded in kind, offering some of the best work of his career.

But not all of us were so thrilled. A select few among us realized that if the Heat were to be successful in its bid for three max contract free agents, the team would need to soak up every possible opportunity to create depth around them.

The Grizzlies were offering a lottery-protected first round pick in return for his services. This select few realized that, despite Wright’s overwhelming popularity and still very much untapped potential, 26 final games from a free-agent-to-be in a season going nowhere was simply not worth $7.7 million and a future first round draft pick. That pick ended up being No. 20 overall in tomorrow’s draft.

There was Daequan Cook.

We all understood the rationale behind surrendering the No. 18 overall pick in last year’s draft in order to be free of all obligations to Cook. With such high stakes, Miami could hardly afford to gamble on the $2.2 million devoted to Cook.

But not all of us agreed on the approach. Some of us felt that the $2.2 million could rather easily be shed simply by offering a potential suitor up to the $3.0 million cash limit the CBA allows as well as a selection of second round picks, if necessary. How many unprofitable smaller-market teams could realistically pass up the opportunity to add backcourt depth in the form of a young and developing Three-Point Shootout champion not only free of charge, but at an $830k profit?

These same people felt that treating the No. 18 overall pick with such apathy was imprudent, that it could be better utilized to draft a potential future starter, if available, and in a trade for a similar such pick in a future draft if notThey realized that while drafting a player would eat into the team’s valuable cap space, the very situation the Heat were trying to rid themselves of with Cook, in this case we’d only be talking about an incremental $760K, or roughly equivalent to the cap space the Heat was willing to eat up to retain the Bird rights of Joel Anthony. They realized that sacrificing one for the other was a good gamble.

There was the Big Three.

When Chris Bosh and LeBron James made their decisions, there was elation. When they were signed, there was controversy.

Surrendering four first round picks and two second round picks, in addition to two large trade exceptions, seemed a bit excessive to some of us for a couple of players who were otherwise already committed to the Miami Heat. It seemed a bit excessive in return for nothing more than a sixth season tacked on to an already huge five-year contract – a sixth year that both are likely to opt out of anyway.

The question has been asked. What if things were different?

Let’s try to answer it.

Mario Chalmers and Eric Bledsoe would be battling it out for starters minutes at the point.

Dwyane Wade would still be playing under a six year contract, earning $6 million more than he is today. Eddie House would be battling it out with Danny Green for reserve two-guard minutes.

LeBron James would be playing under a near maximum contract, sacrificing that sixth year guarantee in exchange for an added $3 million over the first five. Mike Miller would be battling it out with James Jones for reserve small forward minutes.

Chris Bosh would be playing under a near maximum contract, sacrificing his sixth year guarantee in exchange for an added $3 million over the first five. Udonis Haslem would, unfortunately, be playing under a five-year contract elsewhere, earning $13 million more under a full mid-level exception contract than he is today.

The disastrous contingent of Heat centers would remain unaltered. But, at least, Anthony would be playing under a much more palatable minimum salary contract.

And the Miami Heat would have five – yes, five! – more first round draft picks and two more second round draft picks over the next five years, including a potential unprotected first round pick from the Raptors in 2015 that could very easily turn into the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in the season immediately after the contracts of James and Bosh would expire.

In short, the Heat would have produced the very same roster, save for adding Eric Bledsoe and Danny Green and subtracting Udonis Haslem, and would have stockpiled a whopping seven first round picks and eight second round picks over the next five years.

That’s 15 picks in just five years! No other team in the league has anywhere near that total.

(For those who are counting, the first round picks would have been: Miami’s own 2011-15, Memphis’ 2011, and Toronto’s potentially unprotected 2015. The second round picks would have been: Miami’s own 2013-2015, Oklahoma City’s 2011, Minnesota’s 2011 and 2014, New Orleans’ 2012, and Memphis’ top-55 protected 2012.)

One has to wonder.

What would two first round picks (Nos. 20, 28) and a high second round pick (No. 31) get you? A top ten pick in this year’s draft?

What would two first round picks (Nos. 20, 28), a second round pick (No. 31), and what figures to be a fully unprotected Raptors first round pick in 2015 get you? The No. 2 overall pick from a Minnesota Timberwolves team actively looking to trade it?

The possibilities with that grouping of picks would have, in this fictional reality, been endless.

If Riley’s aversion to the draft was ever present, think of the potential trade possibilities. By way of example, rumor would have you believe that the Phoenix Suns were shopping Marcin Gortat and their No. 13 pick for the No. 2 pick. Imagine if the Heat had acquired that No. 2 pick, and then pulled the trigger on this trade (involving, perhaps, Haslem, the unguaranteed contract of Pittman, and any one of the minimum contractors who picks up his second year option to make the math work).

How would Gortat look in a Heat uniform? He’s huge, he’s athletic, he’s among the best pick-and-roll operators around, he’s got a soft touch around the rim, he’s got good range, he’s a solid post defender, and he’s a beast on the boards. Is there a more perfect fit for this Miami Heat team, outside of Dwight Howard, in the whole of the NBA? Can you imagine how dominant such a Big Four would be?

With the Heat second team backcourt flush with youthful talent, how would frontcourt options such as SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Markieff Morris, or C Nikola Vucevic look with that No. 13 pick?

How would it feel to have secured both Gortat and one of the above selections, and still have four first round and seven second round picks to play with over the next five years?

It’s not as if an entirely unrealistic scenario is being painted here. Many of us were questioning each one of these little decisions made by Riley and his crew as they were happening. Of course, they are now important only for those among us who choose to live in the past.

The lesson, however, remains the same: Ignore the NBA draft at your own peril.

Undeserving Finalists

June 12th, 2011 9 comments

They conspired. They manipulated. They hatched a wicked plan nearly three years in the making and executed upon it with deadly precision in the span of less than forty-eight hours, to the shock and awe of supporters and detractors alike. They changed the rules for defining success in basketball’s greatest league to such an unprecedented extent that we’re all left searching for ways to invalidate the possibility in any new collective bargaining agreement to come. Hate the Miami Heat for it.

Hate them for what they did.

They bought themselves a contender. The league essentially gave them a blank check to buy every big name on the free agent market, and they did. They didn’t plan carefully. There weren’t countless other teams pursuing the very same plan. They didn’t execute their plan in a way no other team could. They just opened up their wallets and paid what nobody else would. There’s simply no honor in that.

It is far more honorable to draft and develop, to struggle season after season without taking steps to improve the franchise if the fruits of those struggles are consecutive lottery picks rather than freed up cap space. It is far more honorable to strong-arm smaller-market, salary-dumping teams that cannot otherwise afford to keep their talent into making lopsided, megastar trades.

Hate them for how they did it.

There was the issue of timing.

We, as a nation, have such a high standard of morality as to cry foul when impending free agents wish to speak with each other about the possibility of teaming up if such conversations happen in the few days leading up to the official start of free agency, because even though the timing of such conversations has absolutely nothing to do with the ultimate outcome, they are a violation of a set of rules we each understand completely and believe in deeply. Not a violation of league rules, as the commissioner emphatically confirmed, but rather a violation of moral character. We find it appalling that a couple of friends approaching the ends of their contracts would have the audacity to discuss the possibility of seeking employment together.

There was the issue of loyalty.

We should vilify the game’s best player for having the temerity to leave his hometown team after seven seasons of unrivaled individual success but little in the way of what really matters to show for it. This hometown hero, its heart and soul, its lifeblood, was nothing more than a caricature of loyalty. How dare such an incredible athlete put the prospect of winning a title above all else. He should be ostracized for such unthinkable behavior.

We’re okay if a certain star from Los Angeles crucifies his team in front of a national audience and demands a trade, and then goes on to demand that certain of his teammates be traded. We’re okay if that certain someone hails from Denver, and he holds his team hostage during the middle of an active NBA season while demanding a trade to a single team, providing his organization with no other options, and showing no apparent regard for his teammates or hometown fans in the process. We’re even okay if a certain someone leaves the only team he’s ever known for 12 NBA seasons in order to join a friend and chase a championship before he retires. We’re okay with these actions because our standard applies only to the best player in the game. All others are free to move without encountering our wrath.

We empathize with Clevelanders. Its residents are of too high a moral character for such a grand betrayal. Burning jerseys, death threats, pompous tongue-lashings from former owners – these are all perfectly appropriate responses to a single man’s decision to seek employment elsewhere. They are the actions of people deserving our sympathy.  Read more…

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NBA Lockout Appears Inevitable

April 16th, 2011 No comments

This Miami Heat team is positively thrilling. And while they don’t enter the playoffs tonight without flaws, they also have a legitimate shot at marching through the Sixers, Celtics, and Bulls all the way to the NBA Finals. Yet thanks to the squabbling of millionaires and billionaires over how to divide a $4 billion industry, this may be the last time for a long time to enjoy it.

Negotiations surrounding a new NBA collective bargaining agreement to replace the current six-year deal that expires on June 30 are not just in a stalemate. They’re turning nasty. A lockout seems inevitable. And it could last a while. It could wipe out the entire 2011-12 season.

The information, misinformation, accusations and counter-accusations are flying so fast and furious that you need an accounting degree and a decade of practical experience under your belt to actually be able to make sense of it all.

The two sides remain deeply divided over what percentage of revenue the players should receive and how owners should share their money.

Players currently receive not less than 57% of every dollar generated by the NBA in salaries and benefits. Players have no costs. Every dollar they make, they get to take home (excluding withholding taxes, of course).

Owners need to net their 43% share of revenues against all the costs of fielding their teams. According to Commissioner David Stern, the NBA will lose roughly $300 million this season. That’s actually better than the $340 million in losses last year and even better than the $370 million in losses the year before that. Stern has also spoken of losses of at least $200 million in each of the first three seasons of the current agreement.

That’s $1.6 billion in losses in six years. That’s huge! And the league has sent both audited financial data and tax returns to the player’s association to substantiate the losses.

The NBA is claiming the business model is broken.

Owners are seeking a complete overhaul of the league’s financial system, and have submitted proposals to the players that feature a hard salary cap, rollbacks to existing player salaries, shorter contract lengths, reduced annual raises, and the reduction of the players’ share of revenues from the current 57% to less than 40%.

But the players disagree with the story the numbers tell.

The players contend that the vast majority of the so-called losses is the result of creative accounting and tax loopholes. They contend that only a small number of teams are suffering, and that their problems can be addressed primarily through enhanced revenue sharing. Read more…

Horrible in the Half Court

January 28th, 2011 8 comments

The Heat’s half court struggles are confounding to all.

The Miami Heat is averaging 101.3 points per game thus far this season, while shooting 47.0% from the field.

That’s the best ever scoring output in the Pat Riley era and the second best efficiency mark in the NBA. Mighty impressive stuff for a team still very much a work-in-progress.

Yet hidden behind these statistics is a highly disturbing reality. The team simply cannot score in the half court. And Erik Spoelstra’s offensive system is to blame.

The expectation heading into the season was that the Heat would torment teams in transition, that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James would captivate us regularly with electrifying fastbreak dunks.

And, for the most part, they have. The Heat is shooting 61.3% en route to an average of 1.22 points on each transition possession, best in the league.

But the team only gets about 14 transition opportunities per game. While that’s actually quite a high total, it still leaves around 85 half court sets to deal with.

The problem, quite simply, is a fundamental lack of team basketball. Read more…

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Heat Sign Jerry Stackhouse, Waive Beverley and Butler

October 25th, 2010 10 comments

A freak injury to the right thumb of Mike Miller is expected to keep one of the NBA’s top three-point shooters sidelined for an extended period of time.

Miller fractured a bone and tore a ligament when the thumb on his shooting hand got tangled in a teammate’s jersey during a post drill at practice last Wednesday. He underwent surgery Friday to repair the damage. He will remain in a cast for four weeks, then move to a brace for several more weeks, then prepare once again for the start of the season. The Heat don’t expect him back on the court before January.

Pat Riley met with Erik Spoelstra and other team officials about options on dealing with the injury. They chose Jerry Stackhouse, on a one-year fully unguaranteed minimum salary contract, for temporary relief. It is the wrong move.

Stackhouse won’t rock the boat, won’t bring drama, and will bring a high caliber of veteran leadership. But let’s be clear — this team does not need more veteran leadership. James, Wade and Bosh provide plenty of that. It needs an injection of youth and athleticism. It needs to develop for the future. It needs to identify players with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost. It needs to find tough, quick defenders.

Stackhouse is none of those things. He is old (he turns 36 next month). He is working on wonky knees. He is a glaring defensive liability on a team that puts a premium on it. He is a man no longer capable of providing any of the offensive value he once did. And he has never been a good three-point shooter (31% for his career). He provides nothing this team needs.

He is nothing more than a sub-optimal stand-in for Miller. But when Miller gets healthy, he’s gone. Why sign someone who has no chance of being a member of the Heat come playoff time? Why sign someone who has no chance to be a part of the Heat’s future? Why eat up a valuable roster spot on such a player?

With the Stackhouse addition, the Heat roster stood at 17. The team had until 6 p.m. today to get its roster to the regular-season limit of 15 as they prepared for tomorrow’s season opener against Boston. Beverley and Butler were the final two cuts.

Beverley and Butler were both competing for the Stackhouse spot. They had a real shot at being a big part of the Heat’s future. Danny Green was a better option than both of them.

In an alternate universe, all three could have been retained. In an alternate universe, the Heat could have kept Beverley as its potential point guard of the future (by waiving Magloire), Green as its potential shooting guard of the future (by passing on Stackhouse), and Butler as its potential small forward of the future (by waiving Howard). That’s a quality developmental backcourt.  Read more…

Heat Should Pursue Danny Green

October 22nd, 2010 No comments

With Mike Miller injured, recently waived Danny Green could be the perfect fit.

Mike Miller is injured.

Miller sustained what appears to be a serious thumb injury on his right hand – his shooting hand – during Wednesday’s practice. He was injured when he got his hand snagged in a teammate’s jersey.

The Miami Heat have not yet announced the findings from an evaluation by a hand specialist yesterday, but the team is bracing itself to be without its best shooter for an extended period.

Although LeBron James has said that he is confident that Miller will play a majority of the regular season, this is no doubt a huge blow to the Heat. Having signed a five-year, $29 million contract with the Heat this past off-season, Miller was supposed to provide critical floor spacing for a trio of superstars in James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh who work best in space.

Instead, the Heat is left without a single backup shooting guard on the roster — none!

Pat Riley has met with Erik Spoelstra and other team officials about options on dealing with the injury. They appear destined to turn to Jerry Stackhouse for temporary relief. It is the wrong move.

Stackhouse won’t rock the boat, won’t bring drama, and will bring a high caliber of veteran leadership. But let’s be clear — this team does not need more veteran leadership. James, Wade and Bosh provide plenty of that. This team needs depth. It needs players who can play. It needs to identify a player with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost, packaged in the body of a man who can provide solid backcourt defense.

Stackhouse is not that. He is old. He is working on wonky knees. He is a glaring defensive liability on a team that puts a premium on it. He is a man no longer capable of providing any of the offensive value he once did. And he never had the ability to stroke the long ball; he is a career 30.7% shooter from beyond the three-point line. He provides nothing this team needs.

There is simply no way Stackhouse will be a contributing member of the Miami Heat come playoff time, neither this season nor any other in the future. So why sign him now?

But the Heat does have a glaring need. Even when healthy, the slow-footed 6-foot, 8-inch Miller is more of a small forward than he is a shooting guard capable of defending the perimeter. The Heat desperately needs a quality shooting guard.

A possible solution comes from the unlikeliest of places. The Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dan Gilbert’s team has just done the Miami Heat a huge favor. It has waived second year guard Danny Green.  Read more…

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Heat Waive Kenny Hasbrouck and Shavlik Randolph

October 20th, 2010 No comments

As expected, the Heat have cut Kenny Hasbrouck and Shavlik Randolph loose.

Randolph never had a realistic shot at making the opening day roster.

Hasbrouck faced long odds to earn a spot. But he did nothing to help his cause during preseason play. He made just 9 of his 41 shots, including just 1 of his 15 three-point attempts, averaging 4.6 points, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 24 minutes per game.

The Hasbrouck-Beverley competition for a possible final roster spot was the most hotly scrutinized, debated and captivating storyline of the second half of the offseason – starting during Summer League play (where Hasbrouck dominated), through training camp and into the preseason. Hasbrouck was thought to have had the more NBA-ready game. That never materialized. Beverley struggled somewhat himself, but did average more points, rebounds, assists and steals during the preseason, while averaging fewer turnovers and fouls in nearly identical minutes. Beverley was also the vastly superior defender and three-point shooter.

The question now is whether the Beverley win will translate into a roster spot.

Teams are allowed to carry as many as 20 players in the offseason, but must cut to 15 by opening night. The Heat roster currently stands at 16. Fourteen are veterans with fully guaranteed contracts. Da’Sean Butler has a partial guarantee, but has been all but assured a spot as he continues his rehabilitation.

It would appear that the Heat have run out of available slots for Beverley. The situation was equally true when Beverley signed his fully-guaranteed, multi-year contract nearly three months ago, prompting speculation that he could be added with a roster spot that would be freed up by waiving fourth-string center Jamaal Magloire.

For a Heat team with limited options with which to meaningfully improve – having just traded away four first-round draft picks, the Heat’s competition will have roster-building advantages almost every summer – and considering Beverley’s considerable upside, waiving Magloire, who is unlikely to see any playing time this season, would appear to be the prudent approach.

Randolph and Hasbrouck do get nice parting gifts – both had $250,000 guarantees in their deals.

Contract Details of Heat Roster Players

August 31st, 2010 11 comments

The final contract details are in.

Here’s a look the specifics for all 18 players currently under contract to the Heat:

LeBron James and Chris Bosh were each signed-and-traded to a six-year, $109,837,500 contract in July 2010. They will each make $14,500,000 this season, with $1,522,500 raises every year thereafter (i.e., equal to maximum allowable 10.5% of this season’s salary). Each contract contains an Early Termination Option after the fourth season and a Player Option after the fifth season, effectively allowing each player to re-enter free agency prior to both the fifth and sixth seasons of his deal. Each contract also contains a 15% trade bonus. The contracts were each signed utilizing Bird rights, and then acquired by the Heat with cap  room. James and Bosh will be 32 and 31, respectively, at the end of their contracts.

Dwyane Wade was re-signed to a six-year, $107,565,000 contract in July 2010. He will make $14,200,000 this season, with $1,491,000 raises every year thereafter (i.e., equal to maximum allowable 10.5% of this season’s salary). His contract contains an Early Termination Option after the fourth season and a Player Option after the fifth season, effectively allowing him to re-enter free agency prior to both the fifth and sixth seasons of his deal. The contract also contains a 15% trade bonus. The contract was signed utilizing Wade’s Bird rights. Wade will be 34 at the end of his contract.

Mike Miller was signed to a five-year, $29,000,000 contract in July 2010. He will make $5,000,000 this season, with $525,000 raises every year thereafter (i.e., equal to maximum allowable 8.0% of this season’s salary). His contract contains a Player Option after the fourth season, as well as a 15% trade bonus. The  contract was signing utilizing cap room. Miller will be 35 at the end of his contract.  Read more…

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Heat signs Da’Sean Butler to a much anticipated two-year deal

August 30th, 2010 No comments

ButlerThe Miami Heat signed rookie Da’Sean Butler to a two-year, $1.3 million contract on Monday. Given the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, despite Butler’s ongoing rehabilitation from his gruesome left knee injury and his resultant uncertain NBA future, the contract was anticipated for quite some time.

Butler’s minimum salary contract will pay him $473,604 and $788,872, respectively, for this season and next. The first season is $300,000 guaranteed. The second season is fully unguaranteed, becoming 50% guaranteed if he is not waived before June 20, 2011, and becoming fully guaranteed if he is not waived before opening night of next season.

Butler will be competing for the 15th and final roster spot with Patrick Beverley (who received a shocking, two-year, $1.3 million fully-guaranteed contract of this own), Kenny Hasbrouck (who received a $250,000 partial guarantee), and Shavlik Randolph (who received a $250,000 partial guarantee).

Butler is still not healthy. He figures not to be for quite a while. Doctors originally thought Butler could be cleared for some basketball activity by the end of September. But the 6-foot-7 swingman had a setback with his surgically repaired knee in July, leading to a second surgery that pushed the estimated timeframe back to the beginning of the NBA season. Butler is now expected to return to game action by February.

“I couldn’t tell you when I’ll be back,” says Butler. “I’ve been trying to find out from my doctors and trainers when would be the perfect time and I get the same answer every time. Everybody’s body is different, so when you’re better, you’re better. You’ll know when you’re better and we’ll know you’re better. So, they will let me know when I’m good to go and I’m fine to do something. All I can do is just wait it out.”

Despite the setbacks, Butler seemingly has the inside track on the final roster spot. Riley has said that he considered Butler to be the 21st best player in the 2010 NBA Draft. He seems intent on keeping Butler through his rehabilitation.

Butler played four seasons at the University of West Virginia, finishing his career with 107 career wins, the most in school history. As a senior he was named First Team All-Big East, averaging a team-high 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 38 games.

For his career Butler started in 110 of 146 games for the Mountaineers, averaging 14.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.06 steals while shooting .448 from the field, .353 from three-point range and .732 from the foul line. He scored 2,095 points during his career, ranking third in school history behind Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley. Butler also ranks among school leaders in career double-figure scoring games (1st), field goals (3rd), three-pointers (4th), free throws (5th), rebounds (11th) and steals (12th).

Butler was originally selected by the Heat with the 42nd pick in the 2010 draft. The Heat was very attracted to his versatility and all-court game. It remains to be seen whether he can retain his already questionable explosiveness and athleticism after rehabilitating from one of the most severe types of injuries an NBA player can sustain.

It is certainly nice to have the benevolent Butler as an official part of the Miami Heat organization.

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