The Cost of Protection

July 5th, 2013 5 comments

Is there time value to draft picks? Should there be time value when built into trades?

The Miami Heat would argue that there should not. Past history would suggest the Heat would argue that, disregarding the potential talent in any given draft, a first round pick in one season is worth exactly one similarly-numbered first round pick in a future season. Possibly even less.

How do you feel? It is an interesting question in light of recent events.

The Utah Jazz have reportedly agreed to accept $24 million in expiring contracts – those of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, and Brandon Rush – from the Golden State Warriors. It cost the Warriors first round picks in 2014 and 2017 and two undisclosed second round picks.

Jefferson and Biedrins were dead weight, and Rush, after missing nearly the entire 2012-13 season with a torn ACL, is still rehabbing and surely isn’t being counted on to offer much. It was a salary dump that can’t help but make you wonder.

Think back to June of last year.

The Heat selected Mississippi State power forward Arnett Moultrie with its No. 27 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, but then promptly dealt the SEC’s leading rebounder to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers got the big man many figured they would take with their No. 15 pick.

In exchange, the Heat received a future first round pick from the 76ers and the No. 45 pick in the second round of the draft, which Miami used to select LSU center Justin Hamilton. The first-round pick the Heat acquired was lottery protected for the next three seasons, meaning the Heat would get the pick as soon as Philadelphia made the playoffs. If they missed the playoffs in all three seasons, the pick would turn into two second round picks — one in 2015 and another in 2016.

The Heat negotiated what appeared at the time to be a nice deal. At the time of the trade, the Sixers had just made the playoffs with a lowly No. 8 seed. The teams below the Sixers in the conference were moving backwards, or at the very least sideways. The Heat had the cushion of knowing that one team above the Sixers, the Orlando Magic, was about to be dismantled. A return trip to the playoffs for Philly with a low-level seed was all but assured – a terrible outcome for a Sixers team looking to improve, but a wonderful outcome for the Heat. Miami appeared to have traded its No. 27 pick in exchange for a No. 45 pick and a No. 15 or so pick one year later. A great outcome.

But things didn’t work out as planned. Philly traded its best player, Andre Iguodala, for Andrew Bynum. Bynum never played. As a result, the Sixers slipped just one spot in the standings, from eighth to nine, but it was enough to eliminate them from the playoffs. Miami’s return on its trade went from the best it could possibly be to possibly the worst it can be.  Read more…

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Chris Andersen to Donate Knees to Greg Oden

July 3rd, 2013 No comments

Miami Heat free agent forward/center Chris “Birdman” Andersen has agreed to donate his knees to Greg Oden.

In what will be an unusual and complicated procedure, doctors will reportedly saw off both of Andersen’s knees from the bottom of the femur (thigh bone) to the top of the tibia (shin bone), do the same with Oden, and then make the swap.

When asked for comment, Andersen remained modest and humble. Rather than revealing his true motivation, he provided some levity to the situation by saying “I’m the Birdman. I’m colorful. I think it will be cool to have a pair of brown knee pads.”

Andersen was referring to the fact that in order to maintain continuity of the body’s most crucial joint, doctors will swap not only the underlying bones, ligaments and tendons but also the skin that covers them. The bones will be attached to their new bodies with high-grade, medical-quality superglue and the skin then sutured together.

In conjunction with the procedure, both Oden and Andersen will sign multi-year contracts with the Heat that will see them through the surgery and their rehabilitation.

The recovery time for each player is estimated to be approximately six to nine months.

Upon successful recovery, Oden is expected to be completely healthy for the first time in his NBA career. Despite his injury-riddled history, he will still be just 26 years old. Heat president Pat Riley is hoping that Oden will make it back for the last month or so of the upcoming regular season, and then become a major contributor for the 2014 NBA playoffs.  Read more…

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The Greg Oden Dilemma

July 2nd, 2013 11 comments

How much do you absolutely love the idea of the Miami Heat signing Greg Oden?

Oden and his agent know what everybody else does. If the Heat want to win a third straight NBA title, it might be important to get some size.

He has the size. He is willing to help. He remains very interested in signing with the Heat.

Imagine, just for a moment, what the world would look like with a healthy and fully explosive Greg Oden playing center for the Heat. Champagne would fall from the heavens. Doors would open. Velvet ropes would part. We’re not talking about championships anymore. We’re talking about perhaps the best team of all-time.

Oden was once the fastest center in the game. He was once the most agile. His measurables were mind-boggling. He was an athletic freak. Considered to be the next all-time great. A taller, quicker, more imposing version of Bill Russell, only with some big-time offensive skill.

But then he got hurt. First it was cartilage damage in his right knee. Then a chipped patella in his left knee. Then a full fracture of the patella. Then patellar tendinitis. Then cartilage damage. All in the left knee. Then debris in what was previously thought to be his now completely healed right knee. Then debris in his left knee.

Despite it all, he was always looking at a comeback, and teams were always going to be interested in a very real way. He remained that intriguing. But things changed considerably when it was announced in February of last year that he would undergo a third microfracture surgery to repair cartilage damage, essentially ending his 2012-13 season before it started, and the Trail Blazers finally gave into exhaustion and waived him in March. He instantly became an unrestricted free agent, with a longer comeback than ever.

But most of the league still tracked his medical updates. The intrigue would not fade. Even with the understanding that the plan all along, and  rightfully so, was to return to Ohio State to take classes and rehab for 2013-14.

That’s the thing. Front offices were not mocking Oden at 25 years old even if others were — which may be the greatest statement of how much they thought he could have changed the game when he came into the league in 2007. Without being able to get close to that projected level of impact, with the five knee surgeries, without having played since December 2009, front offices still continue to believe that Oden can be a dominant force.  Read more…

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Miami Heat 2013 Offseason Primer

July 1st, 2013 No comments

Over the past three offseasons, the Miami Heat has constructed, augmented and refined.

Three summers ago, it was uniting LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller with Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem as a team that would reach the NBA Finals.

The following offseason, one delayed by a lockout, glue guy Shane Battier supplemented the mix to help the Heat win the 2012 NBA championship.

And last summer, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis were added to help turn the 2012 title into a 2013 repeat.

Because of the team’s ongoing success, as well as the 2013-14 contract options of Allen, Lewis, James Jones and Mario Chalmers all leading them back for another season, there doesn’t figure to be much heavy lifting this time around.

The NBA’s free agency period officially began Monday morning at 12:01 EDT.

While teams can start negotiating immediately, most free agent signings, and all trades, cannot be officially executed until July 10, allowing the league time to compute revenues for the now-expired 2012-13 season and finalize the salary cap and luxury-tax calculations for 2013-14.

However, signings that do not rely in any way upon the specific value of the salary cap can be executed with the start of the new salary cap year on July 1. Such signings include minimum salary deals for up to two years in length.

For the Heat, still basking in a second consecutive championship, the concerns are limited, with 12 players already under guaranteed contract for next season: James, Wade, Bosh, Chalmers, Haslem, Battier, Allen, Lewis, Jones, Miller, Joel Anthony and Norris Cole. In addition, neophyte power forward Jarvis Varnado has a non-guaranteed contract in place that becomes $250,000 guaranteed if he is on the opening-night roster.

That’s 13 regular-season rosters spots potentially filled. Teams can have as many as 20 players under contract in the offseason, in addition to players involved in summer-camp and summer-league tryouts, but need to reduce to between 13 and 15 by the start of the regular season.

While virtually the entire championship core from last season has already committed to return, there is still work to be done:  Read more…

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Addressing the Dwight Howard Speculation

June 30th, 2013 3 comments

Free agency officially begins tomorrow. With it will come ten more days of Dwight Howard rumors. In fact, the speculation has begun to make it all the way down to South Florida.

Some Heat fans may be focused on a hypothetical trade of Chris Bosh. It won’t happen. Not even if, say, Howard were available.

The Lakers are literary begging Howard to re-sign. They’ve resorted to billboards and hashtag campaigns to convince their superstar to re-sign. It reportedly hasn’t worked. Howard is planning a free agency tour that includes the Rockets at midnight; the Hawks and Warriors on Monday; and the Mavericks and Lakers on Tuesday. The Rockets are thought to be his preferred destination.

The Lakers might not be so keen on losing him for nothing. Howard might not be so keen on moving to a team that doesn’t have a great shot to win an NBA title.

If he wants to win, there’s no better landing spot for Howard than the Miami Heat. If the Lakers want a return, there is no better package than one that features Chris Bosh.

But here’s the thing: it won’t happen.

It’s not about assessing whether Dwight would want Miami. It’s not about whether the Heat would want Dwight (or if they’d be willing to part with Bosh to get him). It’s not because LeBron James would need to sign off for it to happen. Rather, it’s because it can’t happen.

It’s not possible. As in, technically impossible – a violation of NBA rules.  Read more…

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Heat Get 50th Pick James Ennis For Future 2nd Rounder

June 28th, 2013 2 comments

They didn’t trade into the first round. But they did trade into the second.

For most of the night, Shane Battier was the Miami Heat’s only presence at the NBA Draft.

Then they made a late move by trading a future second-round pick (top-40 protected in 2017; unprotected in 2018) for the rights to Battier’s potential apprentice – 6-foot-7, 206-pound Long Beach State swingman James Ennis, who turns 23 on Monday – just before the draft ended. He was originally selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 50th pick.

It was not an impulse decision.

The Heat became aware of the Southern California product when he was still playing at Ventura College more than two years ago, and scouted him in person before he ever took the floor for Long Beach State as a junior.

“I heard about (Ennis) when he was (still) at Ventura College,” Heat vice president of player personnel Chet Kammerer said.

“His first year at Long Beach State, I went to practice there with coach (Dan) Monson, and watched the first weekend of practice. They had this real good team with Casper Ware, (Larry) Anderson and (TJ) Robinson. I went to watch those guys. But when I got there to watch the practice, I noticed this young, long wing. By the end of the practice, I was really impressed with him. I said, ‘There’s the best pro prospect on the roster.’ ”

The Heat were particularly attracted to Ennis’ versatility.

He fits the mold of a Heat player these days – he can play multiple positions and shows a varied set of skills. In his college career, he proved he could shoot, rebound, pass and defend – and do all those things with explosiveness.

Using Inspector Gadget-like arms and springy legs, Ennis has become a highlight-reel waiting to happen with his explosive dunks. He started dunking before his sophomore year of high school. He increased his leaping ability at college by high jumping for his track and field team. His personal best was 6 feet, 11 inches.

But perhaps most important is his potential as a floor spacing shooter. He’s not quite there yet – he shot 36% from 3-point range as a senior – but, given his shooting stroke, he projects as someone who can develop nicely in that role.  Read more…

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Miami Heat A Slight Loser on Draft Night

June 27th, 2013 No comments

Well, one of the Miami Heat’s bigger future assets is now not so big.

Pending league approval, which for salary cap reasons won’t come until July, the New Orleans Pelicans will reportedly trade center Nerlens Noel and a 2014 top-five protected first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for point guard Jrue Holiday. The Sixers will also send its 42nd overall draft pick, point guard Pierre Jackson of Baylor, with Holiday.

Who won?

Not the Heat.

Holiday was an All-Star point guard. He was the team’s best player. He was young. A cornerstone. Now he’s gone.

By trading for Noel, the former Kentucky standout, the 76ers will also have no interest in bringing back center Andrew Bynum either.

And so, the Sixers have now lost former All-Stars at both the point guard and center positions, and replaced them with very little. With their No. 11 pick today’s draft, the Sixers selected point guard Michael Carter-Williams from Syracuse to replace Holiday. Noel, coming off a March 12 operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, will replace Bynum, though he is not expected to be ready for play until at least the end of December.

The Sixers will also have a projected $18 million in salary cap room heading into the offseason, but nobody to spend it on. They aren’t likely to spend big, or long-term, dollars to attract top free agents, nor are such free agents likely to be eager to play for this roster.

This is a complete rebuild for Philadelphia.

They will be giving significant minutes to a rookie point guard in Carter-Williams, a vastly inexperienced fourth year shooting guard in James Andersen, a low-yield fourth year small forward in Evan Turner, a sophomore power forward in Arnett Moultrie, and a rookie center in Noel, amongst several other youngsters. That’s very likely a lottery team for the foreseeable future.

Not a good outcome if you’re the Miami Heat.

Prior to the trade, the Sixers had a strong shot at being an average but irrelevant team next season, perhaps a low-level playoff team in a not very deep Eastern Conference – horrible for them, but wonderful for the Heat.

The Heat hold the Sixers’ 2014 first round pick from its trade of Moultrie last season, conditioned upon the Sixers making the playoffs in either of the next two seasons. The lower the seeding for Philly within the playoffs, the better the pick would become for the Heat.

Philly was ninth in the conference last season, just one spot outside of the playoffs, with Atlanta, Boston and Milwaukee, all playoff teams last year, all rebuilding this year and figuring to get weaker. An eighth place finish for the Sixers in 2013-14 would translate into a possible No. 15 pick for the Heat in the strong 2014 NBA draft.

Now it would appear that Philly has chosen to sacrifice the present to concentrate on the future.

If Philly misses the playoffs next season, its first round pick will not get conferred to the Heat until 2015. If the Sixers then miss the playoffs the following season as well, the Heat would no longer be entitled to a first round pick. Instead, Philly’s obligation to the Heat would convert into consecutive second round picks in 2015 and 2016.

At this point, that appears all but certain.

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What Could a Ray Allen Opt Out Mean for the Heat?

June 27th, 2013 No comments

The following post has been written in response to a column by Ira Winderman, a local beat writer who I enjoy reading and respect very much, in which it was stated that Ray Allen could not earn more from the Heat by opting out of his contract. As I often do all across the cyber universe of NBA basketball, I respectfully informed him that the Heat could in fact offer Allen both a higher starting salary and a longer contract by utilizing his Non-Bird rights if Allen were to first opt out. The revision of his column to reflect the correction has led to widespread speculation that Allen opting out is a forgone conclusion. While I have informed others of the possibility, I have never written about it on this blog because I do not believe it has a realistic chance to happen. I continue to believe that Allen will opt in by the June 29 deadline. The following post describes why. 

The plot keeps growing. And with it, so too the potential outcomes.

As expected, James Jones and Rashard Lewis have exercised their player options that will pay them $1.5 million and $1.4 million for next season, respectively. The Heat has also picked up its $4.0 million team option on Mario Chalmers.

The surprising revelation, however, is the apparent indecision of Ray Allen. Allen holds a $3.2 million player option. The common logic has been that – having hit the most iconic shot of the 2013 playoffs, perhaps the single biggest three-pointer in Miami Heat history, perhaps the single biggest field goal of his life, and, as a result, having won his second NBA title – he was surely rejuvenated and excited to return.

That notion now appears at least somewhat in doubt.  Read more…

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A Look at the Finances Behind the Miami Heat’s Success

June 25th, 2013 4 comments

(Note: This post has been updated from last season)

Micky Arison was one of five NBA owners who voted against the current Collective Bargaining Agreement back in December of 2011. It was mostly a symbolic move – he knew the agreement would pass either way. But the point that Arison was making was clear: the harshest elements of the new contract, the more penal luxury tax system and the new revenue sharing model, were clearly aimed directly at the Miami Heat.

The lockout having ended, the season was spared and the Heat went on to win its first, and now its second, championship of the Big Three era. Heat fans have thus far been spoiled by Arison’s willingness to spend his way into ensuring the future is bright in Miami. But the day of reckoning the league had envisioned for the Heat is now upon us, and Pat Riley and crew had better be prepared.

Yes, Micky Arison is a multi-billionaire. And yes, he is sitting on a several-hundred-million-dollar unrealized gain with his investment in the Miami Heat, having purchased the team for a mere $65 million in 1995. But how much can be reasonably asked of him to spend on payroll? After all, it is a business. He has a right to turn a profit. Or at least limit the losses.

Player salaries, when combined with luxury tax obligations, can get quite expensive for a title contender such as the Heat. Revenue sharing obligations only increase that financial burden.

In this new salary cap environment, where even the most lavish of owners such as Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks and James Dolan of the New York Knicks are for the first time monitoring their payroll, where legitimate championship contenders need to part ways with budding superstars, some financial responsibility is inevitable.  Read more…

Should the Heat Trade into the First Round of the 2013 NBA Draft?

June 25th, 2013 4 comments

The Miami Heat have no first or second round picks in the 2013 NBA Draft, which is to be held on June 27 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The Heat’s first round pick was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the LeBron James sign-and-trade on July 9, 2010. It was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, and is now the property of the Phoenix Suns. It has become the No. 30 and final pick in the round.

The Heat also acquired a first round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Arnett Moultrie draft-and-trade on June 28, 2012. However, the pick is lottery protected through 2015; if not conveyed by 2015, it will become consecutive second round picks in 2015 and 2016. Since the Sixers missed the playoffs this past season, the pick will be conditionally transferred to the Heat next year.

The Heat’s second round pick, which has become the No. 60 pick in the draft, is property of the Memphis Grizzlies. It was included in the Dexter Pittman trade on February 21, 2013.

Currently a bystander to Thursday evening’s activities, should the Heat attempt to trade into the first round of the draft?  Read more…

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