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Pat Riley Addresses the Miami Heat Summer

July 17th, 2016 1 comment
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The following post attempts to parse through the eloquent words of Pat Riley, delivered at his press conference on Saturday, to arrive at their true meaning.

Things are not always necessarily what they seem.

During a press conference on Saturday to discuss the state of his Miami Heat team, Pat Riley opened up about the sadness he feels for having lost Dwyane Wade, the team’s most important ever player.

“What happened with Dwyane floored me. And I’m going to miss the fact of what I might have had planned for him and his future and how I saw the end and my thought process in how I could see his end here with the Heat… It’s not going to be the same without him… I have been here when Zo left, Shaq left, when Brian Grant, Eddie Jones. But Dwyane is unique.”

After 13 seasons, Wade is gone. Officially signed by the Chicago Bulls.

Wade will get paid $47.0 million over the next two years, with a player option on the second season. That’s more than the Heat’s two-year, $40.0 million offer. But this wasn’t about the money.

Wade’s decision was predicated on a deteriorating relationship that resulted from a fundamental difference in philosophies. A difference that was two years in the making.  Read more…

Revamped Heat Roster Maintains Youthful Core, Flexibility for 2017

July 11th, 2016 1 comment
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The Miami Heat initiated its post-Dwyane Wade transition by completing a flurry of moves in rapid-fire succession on Sunday, the timing of which dictated by the man potentially set to replace him and the execution of which pursued with a singular goal in mind.

Pat Riley has always dreamed big. In the past 12 years, he has acquired Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James — arguably the NBA’s two greatest post-Michael-Jordan era players — and paired them with Wade to secure the franchise’s five NBA finals appearances and three titles.

Title aspirations are standard course for Riley and owner Micky Arison. It represents the foundation for everything they do. How they think. How they plan. How they negotiate, even if the parameters for negotiation ultimately lead to the loss of a franchise icon.

Facing the potential overwhelming loss of the team’s most critical ever player, Riley and Arison were unwilling to concede so much in their negotiation with Wade as to paralyze their team’s ability to build a title contender. They believe the Heat is currently in a better position to succeed than would have been the case if they were to have met Wade’s demands. They believe they have compiled a solid core of multi-talented youngsters in guards Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson, forward Justise Winslow and center Hassan Whiteside. They believe they have a potentially perfect, floor-spacing frontcourt compliment to Whiteside in Chris Bosh, assuming health. And they believe they have an All-Star caliber lead guard in Goran Dragic to spearhead the charge.

They may be right.

Johnson will compete with Richardson for the starting shooting guard role (a battle which he’ll win to start the season, with Richardson still sidelined with a partially torn medial collateral ligament). But, perhaps more importantly, he also serves as insurance against a lack of development from Winslow.

In his first season, Winslow showed great promise as a defender. But his offense at times proved to be so limited that defenders constantly sagged away from him, often effectively relegating the Heat to playing four-on-five basketball. If he improves his shooting, he could quickly become one of the Heat’s most vital players. If he doesn’t, his future as a starter could quickly be jeopardized.

Imagine, for a moment, a Dragic – Johnson – Richardson – Bosh – Whiteside unit.

In an offense system designed to capitalize upon it, what was once a shocking inability to space the floor – predicated largely on the always imperfect backcourt tandem of Wade and Dragic — could now be considered a strength. And depending upon where Richardson – who led the entire NBA in three-point shooting percentage after the All-Star Break, at 53 percent – and Johnson – who shot 41 percent on three-pointers last season (excluding heaves), despite often being miscast on offense as a point guard — level off with their shooting, a potentially big one at that.

That type of shooting could provide Whiteside — now a franchise cornerstone with his four-year, $96.4 million contract secured – the much-coveted floor-spacing into which to maneuver.

At 7-feet, 265-pounds, and with a ridiculous 7-foot-7-inch wingspan, Whiteside alters the geometry of the game. His individual statistics last season were silly – 17.6 points (on 60.6 percent shooting), 14.7 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per 36 minutes played. And he did it despite constantly having two, three, and sometimes four defenders hanging all over him every time he touched the basketball. Because why not collapse at even the hint of danger? Who was going to hurt you from the perimeter if you do? Not Wade.

He’s not all a back-to-the-basket big, but he can a huge initiator of offense — whether or not he ever even touches the ball. He hasn’t yet mastered the art of either the pick or the roll, but he has the tools to become of the best roll men in the NBA. And his mere presence in the paint sucks in defenses with more force than a Dyson. That yields tons of garbage points and rebounds for him, and open shots for others.

This Heat team may well have lost its best player, but it will be fast in transition and it will look to capitalize upon a type of floor spacing it has never before had in the half court.

Imagine what Dragic and Whiteside could do in an offense that spaced the floor around them.

Is it so preposterous to envision a constant stream of Whiteside pick-and-rolls, Bosh pick-and-pops, and swished corner three-pointers when defenders rotate away from Heat shooters to try to stop it?

Is it so preposterous to imagine that with Dragic’s penetration to initiate the offense, Whiteside down low, Bosh and Richardson and Johnson to space the floor around it all, and Winslow’s defense thrown into the mix; that the team, despite the absence of Wade – it’s leader and, perhaps more importantly, it’s closer — could still be a force with which to be reckoned?

Is it so preposterous to imagine that while it might struggle on offense at times with the absence of its most reliable crunch-time scorer, its defense will be undeniably improved without him?

Is it so preposterous to imagine that the addition of one elite player could have it competing for titles? Riley surely believes it.

But how do you get that elite player?

With Wade’s departure, the Heat found itself with just $19 million in salary cap space left to be spent on any one player, not nearly enough to grab an elite contributor, if even he were willing and available. It simply wasn’t going to happen this summer.

That, in turn, made Riley’s goal for filling out the roster crystal clear: Maintain maximum flexibility for the summer of 2017.  Read more…

Miami Heat Player-by-Player Overview

May 27th, 2016 1 comment
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I have a request. I try to write posts which I believe are unique, in depth and insightful. I hope you agree. I therefore ask that you please not simply copy my work without providing proper credit. It feels rather awful to see my work being exploited. If just you ask, I am more than willing to help out anyone and everyone in any way I can (and do so on a regular basis behind the scenes).

The Miami Heat will start the summer with just six players under contract for the 2016-17 season – Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Josh McRoberts, Justise Winslow, Briante Weber and Josh Richardson. Those six players will cost a combined $49.8 million.

The remaining nine players will become free agents – Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Udonis Haslem, Hassan Whiteside, Gerald Green, Amare Stoudemire, Tyler Johnson, Joe Johnson and Dorell Wright. Those nine players will carry a combined $54.7 million in cap holds.

The Heat will therefore technically start the summer over the cap, with a team salary of $104.5 million against a projected salary cap of $92.0 million.

Here is a brief overview of how things can go from there for all 15 current Heat players.  Read more…

Can the Heat Sign Kevin Durant AND LeBron James?

May 25th, 2016 No comments
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“LeBron James promised the city of Cleveland, ‘I’m coming back to bring you that elusive title that has escaped this city since 1964.’ He never said anything about staying once he does accomplish that… I’m hearing about a return to Miami if this man wins. He ain’t going nowhere if he loses. But, if he wins, his options are open. LA, but especially Miami, a return to South Beach.”

That was Stephen A. Smith two days ago, talking about the prospect of LeBron James returning to the Miami Heat, just weeks after he said this about Kevin Durant:

“I believe the team that hasn’t been mentioned that much may be the dark horse in [the chase for impending free agent Kevin Durant this summer], which are the Miami Heat. Consider who the Heat are. You’re led by Pat Riley. You’ve got an exceptional young coach in Erik Spoelstra. You’ve got LeBron and D-Wade having captured two championships together there… Then you take into account the young guys — the Josh Richardsons, the Justise Winslows, the Hassan Whitesides… You add Kevin Durant to that equation and bring back Dwyane Wade, you’re talking instant title contention. Automatically.”

Unlikely as it may be, either James or Durant would be a game-changing free-agent acquisition for the Heat. But why either one? As long as we’re dreaming, why not both?

Why not a scenario whereby the Heat sign both James and Durant, while also also re-signing Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside, and retaining Chris Bosh?

Is it a reasonable possibility? Of course not.

But is it possible? Let’s have some fun and find out.

The concept, ludicrous as it may be, would presumably go something like this:

Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder somehow blow their current 3-1 series lead over the Golden State Warriors after two straight blowout victories, leading Durant to become so frustrated over his inability return to the NBA Finals as to consider his alternatives.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers push past the Toronto Raptors and somehow go on to beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals, whereupon James decides that he has fulfilled his obligation to his hometown team and is willing to risk again enraging his local fan base for a return trip to Miami.

A summit is held between James, Durant, Wade, Bosh and Whiteside. They contemplate a possible joining of forces. The Heat organization has nothing do to with it, of course.

They use the following assumptions to coordinate a plan of attack to bring to Pat Riley on July 1st:

What is that plan of attack? Here it is, in 13 easy steps:  Read more…

Tyler Johnson Is a Big Part of Miami Heat Future

May 20th, 2016 No comments
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Update (6/21/16): As expected, the Miami Heat has formally extended a $1.2 million qualifying offer to Tyler Johnson. The Heat can now match any offer sheet Johnson signs with any other team, which cannot have a starting salary higher than $5.6 million. Johnson now officially reduces the Heat’s cap space by $1.2 million. If it times everything correctly, the Heat can now exceed the salary cap to retain him, whether it be by matching an offer sheet with a starting salary as high as $5.6 million or by signing him outright to a contract starting as high as a projected $6.2 million (the final figure will be determined at the end of July Moratorium). 

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I have a request. I try to write posts which I believe are unique, in depth and insightful. I hope you agree. I therefore ask that you please not simply copy my work without providing proper credit. It feels rather awful to see my work being exploited. If just you ask, I am more than willing to help out anyone and everyone in any way I can.

As an example, the $6.2 million figure presented in this post is my own personal estimate. It has not yet been set by the NBA, nor can it be until the season is complete. It has been projected by various other salary cap experts at wildly different amounts, with recent figures ranging from as little as $5.6 million to more than $8 million.  

Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside have some intriguing parallels.

Both were mid-year signees during the 2014-15 NBA season. Both have been playing under partially guaranteed, two-year minimum salary contracts that expire at the same time. Both will be free agents this July. And both represent a potential future of youth and athleticism at positions of critical need for the Miami Heat.

Despite the similarities, however, their free agency statuses are very different. Johnson’s future in Miami is far more secure, and the price it will take to retain him is far less expensive.

Johnson, like Whiteside, will be a free agent this summer, having accrued two years of service with the Heat. However, Johnson, unlike Whiteside, has accrued just two total years of NBA service, to Whiteside’s four. As such, he will face two critical restrictions that will ensure he remains in Miami.

First, Johnson will be a restricted free agent: This will give the Heat the right to keep him by matching a contract he signs with any other team.

Restricted free agency exists only on a limited basis. It is allowed only for players coming off rookie-scale contracts, and for players who have been in the league three or fewer seasons (as has Johnson). In order to make their free agent a restricted free agent, a team must submit a qualifying offer to the player between the day following the last game of the NBA Finals and June 30. The qualifying offer is a standing offer for a one-year guaranteed contract, which becomes a regular contact if the player chooses to accept it. The amount of the qualifying offer for Johnson will be $1,180,431. If the Heat extends Johnson a qualifying offer, it will have the legal right to match any contract he signs with any other team.

Second, Johnson will be subject to the Gilbert Arenas provision: This will limit what any other team can offer him, all the way down to an amount that the Heat, by rule, will be able to match.  Read more…

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A Preliminary Look at the Miami Heat 2016 Offseason

May 16th, 2016 1 comment
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I have a request. I try to write posts which I believe are unique, in depth and insightful. I hope you agree. I therefore ask that you please not simply copy my work without providing proper credit. It feels rather awful to see my work being exploited. If just you ask, I am more than willing to help out anyone and everyone in any way I can (and do so on a regular basis behind the scenes).

This is the first in a series of eight posts that I believe will cover all aspects of the Miami Heat summer. This one is meant as the general overview. Each subsequent post will cover specific concepts related to this overview in greater detail, as well as provide specific possible scenarios. Though all eight posts are already written, I will publish one per day. 

The NBA salary cap is set to explode higher this summer, from $70 million this past season to an estimated $92 million.

The massive increase will give the Miami Heat a ton of cap room with which to maneuver. Choosing how to allocate it, however, will force the Heat to make some tough decisions.

Miami will start the summer with just six players under contract for the 2016-17 season – Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Josh McRoberts, Justise Winslow, Briante Weber ($219K guaranteed) and Josh Richardson (non-guaranteed). Those six players will cost a combined $49.8 million.

Miami will also retain the rights to potential restricted free agent Tyler Johnson.

Due to the nature of Johnson’s contract situation(1), at a cost of just a $1.2 million qualifying offer, Miami will be able to sit back this summer and wait for another team to sign him to an offer sheet which, by rule, can have a starting salary no higher than $5.6 million. Then, assuming it times everything correctly, after all of its cap space is used up elsewhere, the Heat can exceed the cap to match that offer sheet and retain him. If no other team engages with Johnson, the Heat can exceed the cap in signing him to a new contract with a starting salary as high as $6.2 million.

Taking into account the $49.8 million in 2016-17 salaries already on the books, the $1.2 million qualifying offer for Tyler Johnson, and applicable charges for open roster spots, Miami would be left with approximately $40 million in cap space with which to spend on its internal free agents – including Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, among others – as well as any external free agents it may seek to target.

The Heat could increase its cap space even further if it were to waive and stretch the contract of McRoberts, which has two years and $11.8 million remaining on it. By doing so, the Heat would replace his $5.8 million and $6.0 million salaries for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, respectively, with a $2.4 million dead-money cap charge that would be placed onto the Heat’s books for each of the next five seasons (through 2020-21). That, in turn, would increase the Heat’s cap space to as much as $43 million.

If Miami could instead somehow find a taker for McRoberts without taking any salary back in return, cap space could grow to $45 million. Beyond player assets and a first-round pick all the way out in the year 2023, however, the Heat doesn’t have much with which to entice a potential trade partner to do so.

Choosing how to allocate that $40 million to $45 million of cap space will be of critical concern.  Read more…

Miami Heat Enter 2015-16 Season As Most Enigmatic Teama in the NBA

October 26th, 2015 No comments
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The Miami Heat may well be the most enigmatic team in the league, as we head into the 2015-16 NBA season.

It is difficult to tell whether Pat Riley is building something special, or relegating his team to the atrocity of mediocrity. The current Heat incarnation is both supremely talented and deeply flawed. It is as promising as it is susceptible to the cruelties of age, injury, poor spacing and poor shooting. It has within it the potential to challenge the Cavaliers for Eastern Conference supremacy and the combustibility to ignite a second straight pre-playoff collapse.

Riley has tossed away multiple first-round draft picks in its effort to chase down LeBron in Cleveland, much like he did to snag him and Chris Bosh five years ago. Only this time around, there is no underlying guarantee that it is going to work.

It is as possible that the Heat has mortgaged its future to build an unremarkable team that will die a slow death as it is that the Heat is in the midst of spectacular turnaround that could vault the team into the realm of the game’s elite. Where within that range the Heat will fare is not yet clear.

Read more…

Miami Heat Trades Zoran Dragic to Boston Celtics

July 27th, 2015 No comments
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The Miami Heat has traded shooting guard Zoran Dragic to the Boston Celtics, along with $1.6 million in cash to cover his salary with a $100K profit(1) and the Heat’s second-round draft pick in 2020. In return, the Heat will receive a top-55 protected second-round pick from the Celtics in the 2019 NBA draft.

The agreement comes a day after the Heat reached an agreement to trade point guard Shabazz Napier to the Orlando Magic. The Heat traded Napier to the Magic along with $1.1 million in cash in exchange for a top-55 protected second-round pick in 2016.

The second-round picks being returned to the Heat essentially have no value. The Magic and Celtics would need to have one of the five best records in the entire NBA in 2015-16 and 2018-19, respectively, for the Heat to get them. Otherwise, the obligations are extinguished.

The Heat also receives trade exceptions equal to the salary of each player: $1.7 million for Dragic(2), and $1.3 million for Napier. Miami has up to one year to utilize each exception, which can be used to acquire player(s) making up to value of the exception plus $100K in trade or on waivers without sending back salaries in return. The exceptions cannot be combined.  Read more…

Miami Heat Trade Shabazz Napier to Orlando Magic

July 26th, 2015 8 comments
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The Miami Heat has agreed to trade point guard Shabazz Napier and $1.08 million in cash to cover his base salary(1) to the Orlando Magic in exchange for a top-55 protected second-round pick in the 2016 NBA draft. The deal will be formally announced on Monday.

The second-round pick being returned to the Heat in exchange for Napier essentially has no value. The Magic would need to have one of the five best records in the entire NBA in 2015-16 for the Heat to get it. Otherwise, the obligation is extinguished.

The Heat will also receive a $1.29 million trade exception as part of the trade, equal to the amount of Napier’s total salary. The Heat will have up to one year to utilize the exception, which would allow the team to acquire one or more players with total salaries of $1.39 million in trade (or on the waiver wire) without sending back any salaries in return.

That, by all accounts, is a terrible return on investment for the No. 24 pick from the 2014 NBA draft. It means the Heat essentially traded its 2014 first round pick (No. 26), its 2014 second-round pick (No. 55), its 2019 second-round pick and $1 million in cash in exchange for one season of Napier.

Worse still: Napier showed flashes of promise during his rookie season; he was a low-cost player set to make just $1.3 million this season; and the Heat had him under team control for at least the next three years, after which he was to become a restricted free agent.

Why, then, have the Heat agreed to pull the trigger on the trade?  Read more…

Analyzing the Miami Heat’s Approach with Josh Richardson

July 17th, 2015 No comments
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Update (July 28, 2015): Josh Richardson reportedly agreed to a three-year, $2.4 million minimum salary contract with the Miami Heat on Tuesday. Richardson will make a fully guaranteed $525,093 this season. The second year, worth $874,636, will reportedly be partially guaranteed. The third year, worth $1,014,746, will reportedly be subject to a team option. 

The team option would provide the Heat the additional flexibility described below but, given the partial guarantee on the second year, the overall structure of the contract as presently constructed might not be optimal. If the second year is partially guaranteed and the third is subject to a team option, the third year must have the same guarantee percentage and schedule as the second year. By removing the team option, the guarantee percentage and schedule for each of the last two years can differ. Therefore, look for Richardson and the Heat to consider this and possibly change the structure before executing the contract. 

The Miami Heat has very much liked what it has seen thus far from Josh Richardson during summer league.

The Heat selected Richardson with the 40th overall pick in 2015 NBA draft, but the versatility and defensive prowess he displayed during summer league in many ways reflects the first-round grade placed upon him by general manager Pat Riley. Richardson was 24th overall on the team’s draft board.

So why has Riley yet to approach Richardson about a contract?

Well… The roster is still in flux. And as long as that holds true, there is no pressing need for Riley to do so… yet.

When a player is selected in the second round of the draft, he remains the exclusive property of the team that selected him until at least the September 5th immediately following the draft.

At that point, the team needs to make a decision.

In order for the team to retain draft rights to the player, it must submit to him a “Required Tender” by September 5th. The tender is an offer of a contract that affords the player until at least the immediately following October 15 to accept, has a term of one season, calls for at least the minimum salary applicable to the player, and can be fully non-guaranteed.

If the team does not issue a tender by September 5, the drafting team loses its exclusive rights to the player, and the player becomes an unrestricted free agent the following day.

The Heat really likes Richardson, and will not let that happen.

Once (or before) the tender is issued, the player has three primary options: (i) forgo the tender and instead negotiate with the team for a different contract, (ii) forgo the tender and instead seek employment outside the NBA, or (iii) accept the tender and play under its terms for the season to come.  Read more…