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Miami Heat Face Halloween Deadline for Norris Cole Extension

October 30th, 2014 No comments

Despite tweeting about it yesterday, I have been asked quite a bit about Norris Cole’s situation. I therefore offer this very rushed post to explain my humble perspective. My apologies for the lack of depth or writing qualify, as I am quite busy today. I hope it helps! 

It was a stellar night for Norris Cole.

After being named the opening-night starter for the first time in his career, against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, Cole delivered in a big way. The fourth-year point guard played 27 minutes, went 9 of 15 from the field and scored a career-high 23 points. For a large part of the game, Cole was the only thrilling part of the Heat’s offense.

With that, a significant decision looms for the Miami Heat: Whether to lock him in for the long-term right now.

As with all players selected in the first-round of the 2011 NBA Draft who are playing under their rookie-scale contracts, the Heat are facing an October 31 deadline to decide whether to offer Cole an extension. After the Halloween cutoff, an extension would no longer be possible. Cole would instead become a free agent during the 2015 offseason.

Rookie-scale contracts may be extended for up to four additional seasons. The salary in the first year of the extension may be any amount up to the player’s maximum. Raises are limited to 7.5% of the salary in the first year of the extension.(1)

Given the confluence of factors involved, an extension for Cole appears decidedly unlikely.

If you were Cole, or his agent Rich Paul, how much would you demand?

Cole is a starting point guard. In his first and only regular season game prior to the extension deadline, he showed a world of promise. His backup, Mario Chalmers, will earn $4.3 million next season. And the league is about to get a huge influx of cash from its new media rights deal, which could vault player salaries by more than 25%. How much, then, would you demand from the Heat in order to forgo the opportunity to test the free agent market next summer?

If you were Heat president Pat Riley, how much would you offer?

The Heat are trying to keep their salary commitments to a minimum for the summer of 2016 – with only Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts holding Heat contracts that extend beyond 2015-16 – when they hope to be active in free agency.

Cole is still very much an unproven commodity for the Heat – a natural reason to allow the deadline to pass and take another season to get a read, which would give the Heat the flexibility to evaluate his play in his more prominent role before committing to anything.  Read more…

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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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