Reviewing the Miami Heat’s Forgone First Round Draft Picks

July 14th, 2010 No comments
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The Heat have traded away multiple first round draft picks in the sign-and-trade transactions that enabled them to acquire LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The years in which those picks will be conveyed are rather straightforward in practical terms. However, literally speaking, there are various rules and protections in place that make it impossible to determine with certainty.

The trading of N.B.A. draft picks is restricted by a series of intricate rules that have been put in place in order to protect teams that are trading away the picks from themselves. History suggests that teams need these protections so as not to unwittingly destroy their own franchises.

No one N.B.A. personality is more historically-renown and nationally infamous for his incompetency than Ted Stepien, former owner and de fact general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 1980, Stepien parlayed his minority stake in the Cavs into full control of the franchise. After purchasing the club, Stepien thought he could quickly assemble a competitive team, but he proved to be a horrendous judge of basketball talent. He spent ludicrously lavish sums of money on marginal players and made a series of controversial and, to outsiders, ludicrously one-sided player trades.

His first big move happened two months before his purchase of the team went through: He flipped backup guard Butch Lee and a 1982 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for backup forward Don Ford and a 1980 first-round pick (needless to say, not a great pick considering the Lakers were competing for titles). Two years later, Los Angeles picked future Hall-of-Famer James Worthy first overall with Cleveland’s pick.  Read more…

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The Result of Winning Over Money, Friendship Over Fame

July 13th, 2010 18 comments
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One has to wonder if the enormous salaries the NBA offers has caused players to forget the reasons why they play the game. Or that it is a game. The concept of playing because it was a childhood dream, or the dream of hitting the game-winning shot as time expires to take home the NBA title seems largely gone.

The game has changed. It has changed from being played on the court to being played in the owner’s office. Players seem to care only about one thing: money.

What Pat Riley is doing in South Florida is unprecedented. Sure, there have been isolated cases where the magnanimous nature of an individual athlete enables him to sacrifice dollars for the benefit of his team. But never has such an attitude fostered a culture that has permeated throughout an entire organization.

What has resulted should be a model for everyone to follow – on generosity, on the desire for team success, and, most importantly, on the value of friendship.

Free agency obviously depends on a number of factors. One, clearly, is money. For some, priorities two, three, four and five are also money. That will not be the case for any of the next fifteen players to wear a Miami Heat jersey. Read more…

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A fresh look at the roster…

July 13th, 2010 8 comments
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The Miami Heat’s roster is beginning to round into shape.

Head coach Pat Riley has secured commitments from, or is in advanced discussions with, the following 9 players:

PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James, Mike Miller, James Jones
PF: Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Juwan Howard
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas

The Heat is at a point where it has more veteran applicants than remaining roster spots. Of interest to the Heat, or rumored to be so, include the following 19 players:

PG: Carlos Arroyo, Jason Williams, Keyon Dooling and Patrick Beverley
SG: Raja Bell, Eddie House, Jerry Stackhouse and Kenny Hasbrouck
SF: Matt Barnes, Tracy McGrady, Rasual Butler and Da’Sean Butler
PF: Shavlik Randolph and Jarvis Varnado
C: Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire, Brad Miller, Kwame Brown and Dexter Pittman

A roster can consist of no more than 15 players during the regular season.

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Big Z joins the party

July 13th, 2010 No comments
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Zydrunas Ilgauskas will join fellow Cavalier teammate and close personal friend, LeBron James, on the Miami Heat next season.

He will accept a two-year contract at the veteran minimum salary. The first season will pay him $1,352,181. The second will be a player option at $1,399,507.

The Cavs offered Ilgauskas a guaranteed contract, but he elected to go to Miami, where his wife Jennifer has family. He was a beloved member of the Cavaliers franchise for the past 14 years.

Ilgauskas, who will officially execute his Heat contract after Mike Miller, is a nice complement to the Heat’s star-studded lineup. Big Z is a solid mid-range shooter, stretching out to between 15 feet and 20 feet. He is also an effective offensive rebounder, often using strong hands around the basket to tip in missed shots. He figures to round out a starting rotation that also features Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, though the rotations figure to be something of a fluid concept.

However, Ilgauskua, 35, is an aging center whose defensive capabilities are oftentimes not on par with the expectations of a Riley-run organization. He often struggles against more athletic opponents, particularly in pick-and-roll situations.

The more athletic but less coordinated and “big” big man, Joel Anthony, figures to spell the 7’3″ center for large portions of the game, including key stretches during close ball games. But he is by no means a definitive answer. Joel has certainly come a long way over the past two seasons, but he is still not somebody you would trust to catch a basketball, let alone take in and place it in the basket. And while his shot-blocking prowess is absurdly good (third in the league last season in blocks per 48 minutes, at 3.96), his rebounding prowess is not (9.0 per 48 minutes, good for 71st in the league).

The Heat still hasn’t found itself an ideal starting center. Given the limitations at the position, the Heat might be better served shifting Chris Bosh to center, James to power forward, and Miller to small forward. With Chalmers and Wade in the backcourt, the starting rotation would become an offensive juggernaut built around ideal floor spacing.

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Miami’s future draft selections

July 13th, 2010 6 comments
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The Michael Beasley transaction was completed yesterday with a bit of an unexpected turn. Instead of a swap right of future first round positions, Miami will acquire Minnesota’s 2011 and 2014 second-round picks.

The rest of the off-season figures to be low key from a draft pick trading standpoint.

Here’s an overview of the Miami Heat’s future draft pick scenario:

2011: No first round picks; one second round pick (Minnesota)
: One first round pick (swap right to Cleveland); one second round pick (Memphis; top-55 protected)
: No first round pick; one second round pick
: One first round pick; two second round picks (Minnesota)
: No first round pick; one second round pick

Here is a detailed review of the pick flow:

Read more…

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Udonis Haslem Re-Signs with Miami Heat

July 12th, 2010 11 comments
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Udonis Haslem is staying with the Miami Heat.

Haslem signed a five-year, $20 million contract on Monday, roughly $13 million less than he could have received if he accepted more lucrative offers elsewhere.

Haslem had been heavily pursued in recent days. The Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks each reportedly offered him a five-year, $33 million mid-level exception contract over the weekend, and the New Jersey Nets offered three years and $20 million last week. He also received interest from the Utah Jazz, New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks. But every team that showed interest in him did so with pessimism that he could be lured away from Miami.

A week ago, Haslem expected he would sign elsewhere, but then the combination of a $58.044 million salary cap ($2 million more than expected) and the decisions by Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh to take less money made it possible for him to stay where he wanted.

The salary cap maneuvering which allowed for the possibility was orchestrated by Wade, when he approached Bosh and James to suggest they all take less money, specifically to re-sign Haslem.

The three had already agreed to reduce their starting salaries by $3.5 million to accommodate the contract of Mike Miller. They split the discount evenly, with each player reducing his starting salary by around $1.2 million, which equated to a $9 million sacrifice per player over the course of their six year deals.

Wade requested that they reduce their starting salaries by another $3.0 million to accommodate the contract of Haslem. James and Bosh obliged, with Wade taking a disproportionate share of that discount. Wade reduced his starting salary a further $1.2 million ($9 million over six years) to accommodate Haslem, while James and Bosh reduced their salaries a further $900K ($7 million over six years).

The sacrifices of Wade, James and Bosh enabled the Heat to create an extra $3.5 million of cap room, which the Heat then offered to Haslem as a full five-year contract with maximum allowable raises, totaling $20 million. Haslem then finished it off by agreeing to the deal with Miami that will pay him $13 million, or nearly 40%, less than he could have earned elsewhere.

“I would be changing my DNA if I left just for money,” he said.  Read more…

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Addressing the Issue of Tampering

July 12th, 2010 2 comments
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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh officially became Miami Heat teammates last week, turning a Pat Riley vision nearly three years in the making into glorious reality and simultaneously unleashing a torrent of suspicion: Was it planned all along? If so, was it tampering? Illegal?

The answer, as far as N.B.A. officials are concerned, is an emphatic no.

Tampering is when a player or team, directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody (player, general manager, etc.) who is under contract to another team to negotiate for their services.

Although each player was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of last season, each was technically still under contract to his existing team through June 30.

Since James’ announcement on July 8, which followed those of Wade and Bosh the day before, rival teams and frustrated fans have wondered whether the outcome was predetermined. The three players had spoken openly of convening a “free-agent summit” to discuss their plans, well before free agency formally opened. They reportedly conferred with each other throughout the process.

Suspicions became more concrete on Saturday, when The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a detailed narrative that traced the alliance back to 2006, when James, Wade and Bosh became teammates for USA Basketball. The article, based mostly on anonymous sources, referred to “a complex master plan that was the trio’s desire for much of the past four years.”

The issue of tampering was discussed at the N.B.A. owners meeting in Las Vegas on Monday.

“What we told the owners was that the three players are totally, as our system has evolved, within their rights to talk to each other,” Commissioner David Stern said after the meeting.

Players on different teams who discuss the idea of someday playing together “is not tampering or collusion that is prohibited,” Stern said.  Read more…

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LeBron’s National Ire Continues Unabated

July 11th, 2010 6 comments
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I continue to read stories from across the nation vilifying LeBron James for his decision. While I tend to try to remain largely objective in my writing, I will offer my own retort.

James has certainly fallen from the greatness upon which he was once bestowed, reduced to the ranks of the most condemned among professional athletes. The events of Thursday will undoubtedly leave him forever mired with infamy.

The method in which he chose to communicate his “Decision” was shockingly cold-blooded and cruel – live and before a televised audience, without so much as a reasonable period of notice, and without a sense of true recognition for what he was doing.In deciding to leave, he had already driven the knife through the collective heart of the city of Cleveland. There was simply no need to twist it from within.

In that respect, Dan Gilbert had it right. This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports, and probably the history of entertainment.

But don’t confuse Gilbert’s anger. His anger is not one of narcissism and self-promotion. James surely did not become a narcissistic self-promoter on Thursday night. It was an attribute that has been ingrained within Gilbert’s former star since an early age. Greatness often breeds arrogance. Read more…

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Heat vision beginning to take shape

July 11th, 2010 11 comments
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The vision is beginning to take shape.

Pat Riley and Micky Arison met with Derek Fisher for three hours at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in downtown Miami on Saturday and apparently made Fisher a “compelling” offer.

Given the contract situations of Udonis and Mike, the compelling nature of the offer was more likely a vision of Fisher as the starting point guard on a team that also features among the most talented trio the game has ever produced than it was of monetary reward.

At the same time, the coup from Cleveland appears it may continue. Free agent center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is contemplating the option of rejoining LeBron James, his close friend, in Miami. It will certainly be interesting to see if the fanatics of northeastern Ohio deem the 12-year veteran center a Benedict-Arnold-like traitor, or if that title is devoted exclusively to far more talented but far less tenured former members of the organization.

More interesting are the implications the two additions could have on the Heat organization. Riley’s vision appears to change by the day, as new and unexpected possibilities avail themselves. As of now, it seems to follow along the lines of:

Starting Rotation: Derek Fisher, Dywane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Second Unit: Mario Chalmers, Raja Bell, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony.

The concept of the two units, however, is likely to be fluid. There may never actually be a moment when Dwyane, LeBron and Chris are all resting comfortably together. Perhaps the best part of having three legitimate superstars that can each dominate a basketball game in his own right is that each can take long, rejuvenating rest stops, in rotating fashion, throughout the course of a game. The concept of tearing down a body by playing forty-plus minutes per game may be a thing of the past for each of the three, vastly decreasing the potential for injury and prolonging the career.

When you consider the bench that Pat seems to be putting together, such a rotation system may even be a preferred alternative. The natural concern about such a Big Three trio is the perhaps less than complementary nature of their games. On the other hand, Bell, Miller and Haslem are all knock-down shooters that would complement the games of a superstar wonderfully – with the range of Bell and Miller stretching all the way behind the arc and that of Haslem to the top of the key extended.

The lesson we can take from the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns of yesteryear is that when you surround a playmaker or two with a gaggle of shooters, it makes it exceedingly difficult to defend and nearly impossible to double-team. It creates wide open driving lanes which, if closed, will leave Mike Miller wide open for a three point field goal attempt (where he shot 48% last season) and, if not, will produce a series of thunder-dunk highlight reels the likes of which the NBA has yet to ever see from a single team.

A fully-rested Big Three on the court together in the final minutes of any game that happens to be tight has to be a scary proposition.

The Heat figures not to be just an offensive powerhouse, but a severe match-up problem for just about every team in the league. Consider the flexibility afforded by having a Second Team All Defensive shooting guard, a First Team All Defensive small forward who has the quickness to cover opposing point and shooting guards and the frame to cover opposing power forwards, and a lanky 6’11” power forward who, despite the lack of hardware, is among the game’s best statistical rebounders, as well as a strong pick-and-roll defender who moves his feet and alters shots with his length and leaping ability. Read more…

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Dorell Wright signs 3-year, $11 million contract to join the Warriors

July 10th, 2010 3 comments
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Dorell Wright’s six-year stay in South Florida has come to an end. Wright signed a three-year contract worth just shy of $11 million to join the Golden State Warriors.

The 6’9″ small forward seemed to be turning a corner last season, averaging 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in his 21 minutes per game. It was the best overall season of his career, a season during which he began to show the promise that warranted his No. 19 selection in the 2004 NBA Draft.

But the Heat didn’t have the cap room to offer Dorell anything more than a minimum salary contract.

Here’s wishing all the best to Dorell Wright.

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