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UPDATED: Heat’s True Cap Position

April 18th, 2010 No comments

Will the Heat have enough dollars to build a contender?

Commissioner David Stern changed the landscape of the free agent market on Friday. During the N.B.A. board of governors session in New York, he revealed that the league’s projection for the 2010/11 salary cap is now $56.1 million — a substantial increase from its earlier projections of as low as $50.4 million.

This is a wonderful development for a Heat team looking to retool. Let’s take a look at exactly what it means.

Salary Commitments. The Heat have the following players under contract next season:

Michael Beasley: $4,962,640

Daequan Cook: $2,169,857

James Jones (Partial Guarantee): $1,856,000

Joel Anthony: $885,120

Mario Chalmers ($854,389 Team Option): $0

Total Salary Commitments: $9,873,217 

N.B.A. Draft. The Heat hold the 18th pick in the first round of the 2010 N.B.A. Draft, to be held on June 24th.

First round draft picks, unlike all other N.B.A. players, have a defined salary scale for which they must be paid. It’s a sliding scale based on the position within the draft the player is selected. Such players count against the cap at their scale amount immediately upon being drafted. They can ultimately be signed for between 80% and 120% of their scale amount. In reality, however, they nearly always make 120%.

At No. 18, the player who the Heat selects in the draft will count $1,237,500 against the cap. If they prefer, the Heat can choose to trade the pick, possibly for a future pick, in order to clear the cap space. If they keep it, once the player is ultimately signed, he will likely earn a 20% increase to his scale amount, or $1,485,000. The Heat can keep him at the smaller number, utilize all of its cap space, and then exceed the cap to give him the larger number. Should they keep the pick, that’s precisely what they’ll do.  Read more…

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N.B.A. Raises 2010-11 Salary Cap Projection to $56.1 Million

April 16th, 2010 No comments

David Stern dramatically altered the landscape of the summer’s free-agent market on Friday. At the league’s board of governors meeting in New York, he revealed that his latest projection for the 2010-11 salary cap is now $56.1 million – a robust increase from its already-increased earlier projections.

The salary-cap amount is determined in large part by the league’s revenues from the previous season. If the league had a good year, the cap goes up a lot the next season. But the league didn’t expect this to be a good year. Due to the worldwide economic downturn, Stern notified teams in a memo last July that the 2009-10 cap was to be set at $57.7 million, a 2% drop from $58.67 million the year before, because revenues weren’t meeting expectations. He then lowered an even bigger boom, warning teams to expect the salary cap for the 2010-11 season to fall even further, all the way down to between $50.4 and $53.6 million, which was based on an expected 2.5% to 5% decline in revenues.

It was forecasted to be the biggest drop year-over-year drop in the cap in N.B.A. history, and by a long-shot. Prior to that day, since the N.B.A. instituted a salary cap starting with the 1984-85 season, the cap had only ever declined one time from the previous season, in 2002-03, and that was only due to the allocation of a massive new ABC/ESPN television contract which was to pay out $4.6 billion over six years, far more than the previous NBC contract, but allocated less to 2002-03 than NBC paid in 2001-02. Now the league was looking at two consecutive drops, totaling as much as 14%.

The N.B.A.’s advice to teams at the time was both simple and ominous: Be aware of this projected decrease and plan accordingly.

Many teams headed that warning. The gloom-and-doom projections led to teams being more conservative, selling off assets at bargain prices in order to create additional cap space. In that regard, the players’ union might have a bone to pick now. They can’t be too happy that teams were forced to take such action based on preliminary projections that are turning out to be nowhere near true. They’ve even threatened to file a collusion lawsuit if the league did not have a good-faith basis to predict such a precipitous drop.

The league periodically revises its projections as the season progresses based on economic conditions and revenues. At around the All-Star break, it revealed that the cap likely would fall on the high side of the earlier projections – somewhere in the $53-54 million range.

A cap as high as $56.1 million comes as a complete surprise. It still represents a drop of about $1.6 million from the current cap, which translates to an approximate 0.5% drop in revenues from last season. But it makes a huge difference for teams that were hoping to use the huge 2010 free-agent market to build a perennial powerhouse.

Teams that were a little short of being able to offer the full maximum salary to premier free agents will now find themselves with sufficient cap room to do so. Teams that were resigned to letting go of their own free agents to create cap room now have the ability to hang on to a player or two – signing a free agent and preserving some of their depth at the same time.

The revelation mattered most to the teams that dreamed the biggest. Teams with significant cap space that will be positively affected by Friday’s news include the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers.

Teams that are hurt the most by the revelation are the teams that had the most to lose, namely the Cleveland Cavaliers, who now have to compete with a host of other teams that can offer some fairly compelling packages for the ongoing services of LeBron James.

Nowhere is that more true than with the Miami Heat. The latest cap projection puts the Heat within a mere $1 million of being able to offer three full maximum contracts. It makes the once-thought-to-be-ludicrous dream of pairing James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in South Florida, for the first time, an imminently real possibility. It was a quietly huge revelation for Heat fans everywhere!

The finalized salary cap numbers will be determined in the first week of July.

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Another Opportunity Wasted

April 15th, 2010 No comments

Somebody please explain to me why the Miami Heat and coach Erik Spoelstra chose to win its season finale against the New Jersey Nets. Perhaps I am simply not as smart as I thought I was.

In my crazy mind, the Bucks did us a huge favor by beating the Celtics. The victory meant the Heat could quite literally have chosen its desired playoff match-up. By intentionally losing its season finale, the Heat could have fallen to sixth in the Eastern Conference and secured a first round playoff match-up against an Atlanta Hawks team it holds a 3-1 record against on the season. Better still, it would have allowed for a potential second round match-up against an Orlando Magic team it played to a 2-2 push.

By taking the win against the league’s worst team, the Heat has taken over the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. That means a first round match-up against the fourth-seeded Boston Celtics. The Heat played the Celtics to an 0-3 record on the season. The Heat, in fact, is 1-11 in its last 12 games against Boston, with its only win coming when the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. It also means that if the Heat miraculously took out the Celtics, the Cleveland Cavaliers would be waiting in the wings. The Heat are the proud owners of exactly zero wins against the Cavs.

I thought coach Spoelstra was a numbers coach. The numbers are about as obvious as could possibly be expected.

It’s difficult to understand why the Heat chose not to give away the game.

Some might say it was so the team can enter the playoffs on a roll. But the team’s top three players all sat the game out anyway. Can you really be on a roll when Yakhouba Diawara, who will be ineligible to play during the playoffs, hits the game’s biggest shot?

Others might say tanking a game is bad karma. I would submit that any coach who believes in karma, fairies, angels or demons should not be a coach in the N.B.A. Coaches should believe in their players, and they should believe in match-ups. By all accounts, the Atlanta Hawks were a better match-up. The Heat had complete control over its fate, and chose the match-up that will in all likelihood end its season. Had it chosen otherwise, I would imagine Vegas odds-makers would have had a Hawks/Heat series at a virtual toss up.

Somebody please explain.

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Dorell Wright delivers career-best performance

February 23rd, 2010 1 comment

Tuesday’s game was a career best.

By keeping the still very young and greatly improved small forward at the trade deadline, the Heat showed a surprising commitment to 2004 first round draft pick Dorell Wright.

On Tuesday night, Wright repaid that loyalty with a career-best performance.

He scored a career-high 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including an amazing 6-of-7 from beyond the arc. He also had 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. It was far and away his best ever N.B.A. game. And he did it all in just 30 minutes of game action.

Wright has become the best and most versatile small forward on the Heat roster. He has struggled through inconsistent play at times – a natural result of inconsistent minutes – but he fits the Heat’s expressed desire to add length, superior shooting and quality defense on the perimeter.

After struggling through injury for the better part of his first five N.B.A. seasons, Wright has stepped up in a big way thus far this season.

He has become the strong perimeter defender the Heat have for so many years been searching for, with the height and quickness to guard both guard and forward positions. He has shown flashes of the playmaking that had head coach Erik Spoelstra utilizing the 6’9″ player at the point. He’s always been an excellent rebounder and great natural athlete. And now, after years of hard work to improve an ugly shooting stroke that used to be released from well behind his head, he is becoming the qualify three-point shooter that so well complements the slashing game of close personal friend Dwyane Wade. After converting a grand total of twelve 3-pointers in 55 attempts through his first five seasons, Wright has knocked down 37 this season, on 41.1% shooting.

Read more…

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How Teams on the Brink Fared at the Trade Deadline

February 19th, 2010 No comments

Earlier this month, I reviewed the teams that were attempting to position themselves to be able to make one or more maximum free agent offers. The trade deadline has now passed.

Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh remain the prized free agents for the summer of 2010.

Wade will surely stay in Miami if he can recruit one of the other two.

Bosh is leaving Toronto.

James is the mystery. Many argue that he needs to be in a major market (namely New York or Los Angeles) from an endorsement standpoint. They often argue that a sponsor like Nike may be pulling strings to land James in a market where they can make more money. But does a superstar really need to be in a major market? Wade seems to be doing just fine in Miami.

Can you imagine James getting significantly more media attention if he’s in New York or Los Angeles? Probably not. If you’re a star you need to be in a big market. If you’re a superstar, they come to you.

So will James decide it’s time to leave the Cavs? The decision may come down to where he thinks he has the best chance to win. In Cleveland he will continue to have Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson and J.J. Hickson alongside him.

Shaquille O’Neal and Delonte West will be free agents, and may return. The Cavs will also have the midlevel exception to add additional talent. But is that enough? If the Cavs lose in the playoffs again this year, how long will it take James to decide that they may never win a title as constructed?

Rumors persist that James was disappointed that the team acquired Jamison at the trade deadline rather than Amare Stoudemire. The biggest transaction for Miami therefore, ironically, is one that didn’t happen for Cleveland.

The Heat, in their own right, took no action at the trade deadline. They turned down suitors for Dorell Wright, even though future first round picks were being offered. They weren’t able to unload James Jones or Daequan Cook.

Miami’s team salary remains as it has been. Its pursuit of three maximum contract free agents remains the same.

Here’s a look at how everyone else fared (assuming a $54 million cap):  Read more…

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Dwyane Wade Named All-Star Game MVP

February 15th, 2010 No comments

East All-Star Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat holds his MVP trophy after the East defeated the West in the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas, Texas

The All-Star Game was apparently no different from any other game for Dwyane Wade, even if it was played before a record crowd. Just as he did when he led the Miami Heat to their only N.B.A. championship in nearby Dallas in 2006, Wade took MVP honors at the N.B.A.’s 59th All-Star Game on Sunday.

The East’s 141-139 victory over the West last night was played before an announced crowd of 108,713, including the usual assortment of celebrities from the worlds of movies, television and music. It was the largest crowd to ever witness a basketball game in person, although most of the crowd probably spent the night staring at the enormous video screen above the court. Cowboys Stadium, which cost $1.3 billion to build, may be the only entertainment venue on Earth where people pay good money to watch television. The stadium is massive.

While playing alongside teammates he was certainly looking to impress, players he’ll be looking to recruit this summer to become his permanent teammates, Wade fueled a performance that featured a game-high 28 points on 12-for-16 shooting, 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals.

He tag-teamed with LeBron James and Chris Bosh to dominate the action for the East. James finished with 25 points and six assists, while Bosh contributed 23 points and 10 rebounds. The hope is that the trio will be doing the same for the Miami Heat next season.

It certainly was a promising exhibition, even if it was meaningless.

The chemistry between Wade and James was undeniable. The question about them playing with each other in Miami was a never-ending theme all week.

“You can see the connection we both have, especially going to the basket, lobs, finding each other,” Wade said. “I’ve played with him a lot of years, in the Olympics, and he makes it easy for all his teammates.

“I get the opportunity to be his teammate for one day, and I’m going to enjoy it. He was one of the reasons why I sit up here with the MVP award.”

Can he see them playing together regularly in the N.B.A.?

“We can dream, can’t we?” Wade said. “I dream.”

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Two Low-Key Trades for the Miami Heat to Pursue at the Trade Deadline

February 13th, 2010 No comments

While the Miami Heat, and a majority of N.B.A. teams, are focused on headline names being tossed around as possible trade deadline blockbuster candidates, the Heat has more pressing matters to concern itself with as well.

With the Heat attempting to move closer to signing three max-contract players — their own free agent Dwyane Wade and possibly two others – there are a couple of more low-key deadline deals that should be considered in pursuit of that goal.

Below are two suggested trade proposals which would help:

Suggested Trade Proposal #1
Heat Trade: Dorell Wright, James Jones, 2010 First Round Pick Jones_James Wright_Dorell
Heat Receive: Nothing or Expiring Contract(s), Future Second Round Pick

The Heat appear to be faced with the choice of dumping Dorell Wright or paying the N.B.A.’s luxury tax.

Wright is an emerging talent who is expendable only because the Heat is unlikely to be in a position to re-sign him this summer. Trading him would save the team approximately $8 million.

Several teams are showing interest. Memphis is making a strong push. In his fifth year, Wright is a preps-to-pros prospect the Heat selected in the first round (19th overall) of the 2004 N.B.A. draft. He would fit the Grizzlies’ expressed desire to add length, shooting and defense on the perimeter. The Grizzlies are reportedly prepared to offer a 2010 first round draft pick in exchange.

The prospect of trading 26 final games of Dorell Wright in exchange for approximately $8 million in cash and a 2010 first round draft pick merits serious consideration in its own right.

But the Heat has a bigger issue it needs to resolve. It needs to get rid of James Jones’ contract. If it’s even possible, the cost is going to be very high.  Read more…

The Best Photo of Super Bowl XLIV?

February 11th, 2010 2 comments

According to a written statement by New Orleans Saints cornerback Randall Gay, Indianapolis Colts holder Pat McAfee and kicker Matt Stover are homosexual.

When asked to comment, all three parties declined.

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Why Pursue Stoudemire?

February 9th, 2010 No comments

There are numerous reasons why it would make a great deal of strategic sense for the Heat to make a strong play for Amare Stoudemire in advance of the February 18 trade deadline.

Here’s another: It eliminates the potential for the Cavaliers to get him. Cleveland appears to be the front-runner at the moment for Stoudemire’s services at the moment; they’d have almost no chance to get him in free agency.

The free agency summer ahead is as much a chess match between competitors for LeBron James as it is anything else.

James wants Stoudemire. It makes strategic sense that if the Heat have the chance to block a deal, they should take it – particularly with the excellent cover that he’d be an excellent fit for the Heat. It wouldn’t be seen as reactionary.

If the Cavaliers land Stoudemire, James is happy. The Cavaliers become clear-cut favorites to reach the N.B.A. Finals. If they win, they become clear-cut favorites to retain both James and Stoudemire for the long-term.

Even assuming the Heat is then successful in acquiring Chris Bosh on the free agent market, could a Wade-Beasley-Bosh core truly compete with the Cavaliers of today plus Amare?

Ask yourself that question honestly. What’s it worth to you to ensure that doesn’t happen? Micheal Beasley?

Amare Stoudemire: Let the Games Begin

February 7th, 2010 No comments

After the latest round of discussions with Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t appear destined to produce a contract extension, the Phoenix Suns have reportedly intensified their efforts to trade the All-Star power forward.

Sources say the Suns have become more active in talks over the past few days, and believe the franchise will take the best offer for Stoudemire before the February 18 trade deadline. With Stoudemire able to opt out of the final $17.7 million season of his contract at the end of the season, the Suns don’t want to risk losing him for nothing in free agency this summer.

The Miami Heat, as well as the Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and a host of others, reportedly have a strong interest.

With Stoudemire having undergone serious knee and eye surgeries in recent years, there are differing perspectives on his market value. Stoudemire has expressed a belief that he is a maximum-contract player. That’s not what the Suns have been willing to offer. But some team that is otherwise facing the prospect of striking out this summer surely will give it to him.

Stoudemire insists that he is 100% healthy, although many have questioned whether he is as explosive. Nevertheless, he has made a strong comeback from eye surgery this season – averaging 20.9 points and 8.6 rebounds.

As they did when they shopped him last season, the Suns want a combination of young talent, salary-cap relief and draft picks for him. Some teams are hesitant to trade for Stoudemire for fear he won’t want to re-sign with them this summer.

The Heat have the means with which to make one of the more compelling offers.

Should they? Should they risk putting together a compelling offer on a player who could choose to opt out of his contract just five months later? Should they risk having him opt into the final season of his contract (which is more than $1 million higher than Dwyane Wade’s maximum salary would be), even if doing so puts increasing pressure on the team’s ability sign a third maximum contract free agent?

The Heat is playing a dangerous game. While Miami is considered a potential destination for LeBron James and Chris Bosh this summer, two more coveted free agents than Stoudemire, the danger with doing nothing now is that Wade might walk if the team fails to get James, Bosh or another top player or two. Stoudemire could short-circuit the rebuilding process and serve as an impetus for Wade to both stay and recruit others. How much should that factor into the decision?  Read more…

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