Monday, July 27, 2015

After releasing Henry Walker, the bottom of the Heat's roster is beginning to take shape

After dealing former first-round draft pick Shabazz Napier over the weekend, the Heat’s front office remained busy on Monday cleaning up the bottom of the team’s roster.

The Heat parted ways with two more players from last season’s team.

For the second consecutive day, the Heat dumped one of its players under a guaranteed contract (Zoran Dragic), and then later the team cut another player (Henry Walker) to provide some roster flexibility. The Heat shipped Dragic, Goran’s younger brother, to the Boston Celtics then, on Monday afternoon, shooter Henry Walker was released.

The separation of the Dragic brothers comes as a mild surprise. The two players were traded to the Heat as something of a package deal last season. But while Goran quickly became a star player in Miami, his younger brother played more last season for the Heat’s D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. With Boston, Zoran might have a better chance to earn some playing time.

With three players from last season gone in the last two days, the Heat’s roster for the beginning of training, and most likely the start of the season, started to take shape. With Dragic, Napier and Walker gone, the Heat’s roster totaled 14 players. The addition of second-round draft pick Josh Richardson, who showed well during the summer leagues, would bring the total to 15 players, or the NBA’s roster limit.

The Heat had 17 players under contract before the weekend, but an approaching deadline spurred this latest bit of offseason business. The deadline to partially guarantee the contracts of Walker, Tyler Johnson and James Ennis is on Saturday. Johnson appears safe after the Napier deal, and Ennis remained optimistic about his future with the team on Monday afternoon.

Still, one or both of those players could be released, and other moves might also be in the works. One thing appears certain, Heat president Pat Riley will keep his options open as long as possible.

Another possible option: the Heat might still be looking to shop guard Mario Chalmers, who remained the subject of trade speculation on Monday even after the Heat’s flurry of deals. Moving Chalmers off the Heat’s books could save the team millions in luxury taxes.

At this point, though, the Heat must begin to weigh the cost of slashing payroll with depth behind its stellar starting lineup (not to mention loyalty to long-time players). Chalmers is a proven veteran who can play either shooting guard or point guard. His experience would be important next season if either Goran Dragic or Dwyane Wade had to miss time.

Behind Chalmers, the Heat’s only current potential back-up point guard is Johnson, the second-year player who exceeded expectations last season and, just as importantly, was identified and cultivated by the Heat’s player-development program. Johnson handled the ball some this summer before breaking his jaw in the Orlando Summer League. Richardson also is a potential back-up point guard (he played the position his senior season at Tennessee), but he will be completely untested when the season begins.

Similar to the deal that sent Napier to Orlando, the Heat received a protected second-round pick from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Dragic. The moves cleared space for preferred bench players while also reducing slightly the team’s tax burden.

GIVING FANS

Heat fans David and Evelyn Adams donated $7,500 to The ‘V’ Foundation recently in exchange for a night at a Heat game with Miami radio personalities Dan Le Batard and Stugotz. The Adams couple will watch a game of their choice next season with Le Batard and Stugotz, and then meet Riley, the Heat’s president.

“Dan is a really smart guy, so I can’t wait to watch a game with him,” David Adams said.

David Adams, whose family has been affected by cancer, gives annually to The ‘V’ Foundation, which was started in honor of N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano. When Le Batard and Stugotz announced an auction for the charity, David and Evelyn Adams decided they would try and submit the winning bid. In a neat twist, David’s father, Bill, played high school basketball and football against Riley in upstate New York.

David Adams played football for Fort Lauderdale Piper High School, and was later a kicker for the Air Force Academy.

With the Heat's roster taking shape, opportunity knocks for guards Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson

For the second consecutive day, the Heat dumped one of its players to save money.

On Sunday it was guard Shabazz Napier, who was moved to the Orlando Magic for next to nothing. Now the Heat is shipping off shooting guard Zoran Dragic, Goran’s brother, to the Boston Celtics. Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard first reported the news.

The separation of the Dragic brothers comes as a surprise. The two players were traded to the Heat as something of a package deal. But while Goran quickly became a star player in Miami, his younger brother played more last season for the Heat’s D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. With Boston, Zoran might have a better chance to earn some playing time.

The Heat had 17 players under contract before the weekend. The current offseason roster now stands at 15, or the allowed limit, but more moves could be coming. The deadline to partially guarantee the contracts of Henry Walker, Tyler Johnson and James Ennis is on Saturday. One or more of those players could be released, although the recent salary dumps would appear to strengthen the chances of those players to make the team.

Similar to the deal that sent Napier to Orlando, the Heat reportedly received a protected second-round pick from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Dragic. That means the Heat likely will never see the asset. Why is the Heat giving away players for nothing? Two reasons.

— One, the team is trying to get below the luxury-tax threshold. The trades on Sunday and Monday could ultimately save the Heat over $10 million in luxury taxes while also giving the Heat a better chance to get under the tax line. The Heat's front office wants to avoid become a luxury tax-repeater, which would trigger even more punitive taxes.

— Two, the Heat simply needed to clean up the bottom of its roster, and preferably before this weekend's deadline. In dealing Napier and Dragic, the Heat's training-camp roster is now beginning to take shape. With Napier gone, Johnson now is expected to compete for more minutes at either point guard or shooting guard. Similarly, Dragic's departure will give Heat second-round pick Josh Richardson more of a chance to make the roster. Richardson's potential as a perimeter defender impressed the Heat during the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues.

 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Heat point guard Shabazz Napier traded to the Orlando Magic for draft pick

For many in Miami, it was difficult to watch Shabazz Napier play basketball for the Heat and not think of LeBron James. That won’t be a problem anymore.

In an effort to clean up its offseason roster, the Heat traded Napier to the Orlando Magic on Sunday for almost nothing in return save closer. It was James who wanted the Heat to draft Napier last year, but James never played with the point guard from the University of Connecticut. A few summer-league games into Napier’s stint with the Heat, James shocked the Heat’s front office with his move to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

By no fault of his own, Napier was the legacy made flesh of an embarrassing time for the Heat, which felt duped by James. The team played in the cold shadow of a post-James pall last season, but much of that gloom is now gone.

In addition to being a constant reminder of how James hijacked the Heat’s 2014 offseason, Napier just wasn’t very good his rookie season. His transition from college to the NBA, both mentally and physically, wasn’t a smooth one last year, and that process was slowed further by an injury. Still mostly unproven after season-ending surgery for sports hernia, Napier now moves a few hours up Florida’s Turnpike to play for a team that mostly rebuilds through the draft.

That the Heat dumped Napier on a division rival speaks volumes. To put it tactfully, he certainly isn’t viewed as a threat.

In return for Napier, the Heat gained a future protected second-round draft pick, according to a report by Yahoo!Sports. With a deadline approaching for partially guaranteed contracts on three other players, the bottom of the Heat’s roster for the 2015-16 season finally is taking shape.

The team has been working behind the scenes for several weeks to shed contracts, but trading Napier for virtually nothing in return is the first evidence of the Heat’s cost-cutting measures. Napier’s contract for next season was worth $1.35 million.

Dealing Napier could be a sign that the Heat is keeping guard Mario Chalmers, who has been the subject of trade speculation for weeks. Moving Chalmers still can’t be ruled out, though. He is due $4.3 million next season, and the Heat has other, cheaper options at the guard positions if the team can find a trade partner.

On Saturday, the Heat will be locked into paying a portion of next season’s contracts for Henry Walker, Tyler Johnson and James Ennis. With the Heat’s roster currently at 16 players — or one over the limit — one or more of those players could be cut. In addition to those decisions, the Heat might also be weighing whether or not to keep second-round draft pick Josh Richardson, who performed well in the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.

Johnson, who fractured his jaw during summer league, could be the player most directly affected by the Napier trade. A rookie shooting guard last season, the Heat had hoped Johnson could transition into a combo guard by training camp. It appears now that Johnson will get that chance.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Point guard Goran Dragic signs with the Heat 'to win a championship'

The Heat made it official and signed point guard Goran Dragic on Thursday to a five-year deal worth around $86 million.

Initially acquired in a trade last season, Dragic is considered one of the top point guards in the NBA and a player who allows coach Erik Spoelstra to build a versatile offensive team capable of deep runs into the playoffs. Known for his slashing drives to the basket and open-court vision, Dragic showed glimpses of his ability to lead last season despite playing with a Heat team limited by injuries.

The Heat missed the playoffs last season, but surrounded by a healthy core of players Dragic expects to compete for a championship next season.

“The vision is clear, try to battle for the top spot in the NBA,” Dragic said. “With this team, I think it’s going to be unbelievable. I think a lot of opponents are going to be scared of us. Every player on this team is smart, and every player is really locked into one goal, and that’s to win a championship.”

Dragic, along with future Hall of Fame shooting guard Dwyane Wade, gives the Heat one of the most potent backcourts in the NBA. Both players have the ability to break down opposing defenses, and last season they combined to shoot an efficient 48.6 percent from the field.

“We’re all extremely excited,” Spoelstra said, “because we got to know [Dragic] as a competitor. Don’t let his looks fool you, Goran is as fierce as any competitor in the league, and that’s what you want from your point position. Your point position controls the floor, controls the players, is an extension of the coach, and you want somebody who is tough.”

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

As moratorium nears its end, Heat president Pat Riley is still weighing all of his options

Perhaps hoping to sign a veteran big man at a bargain price, Heat president Pat Riley reportedly is meeting with Amar'e Stoudemire on Thursday.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 4.26.54 PM

Facing steep luxury tax penalties next season, the Heat hasn't had much in the way of negotiating power with free agents this week, but Stoudemire might be willing to join a contender for a veteran's minimum contract after a mostly disappointing stint with the New York Knicks. It remains unclear if the Heat has been authorized by owner Micky Arison to use the taxpayer's mid-level exception.

The Heat locked up free agents Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade at the beginning of free agency, but has been mostly quite ever since. Riley met with free agent LaMarcus Aldridge, but Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard reported on his radio show that meeting was more of an informal opportunity to get to know one another. The Heat roster still lacks a reliable reserve three-pointer shooter, something the team sorely needed last season.

If the Heat adds Stoudemire for the minimum, the move could give the team more options to build its roster for the next season. The Heat is attempting to trade some of its players (possibly Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers or Josh McRoberts) to reduce its luxury-tax burden, according to reports. Fortifying the team's depth in the paint while also slashing payroll could be the driving force behind Riley's meeting with Stoudemire. The NBA's free-agency moratorium ends on Thursday. Players will be allowed to sign new contracts at 12:01 a.m.

 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Dwyane Wade's agent sheds some light on negotiations with the Heat

A statement from Dwyane Wade's agent, Henry Thomas, via USA Today:

"This contract is a win-win for both Dwyane and the Heat," Thomas said in a statement. "Not only does Dwyane get to extend his Hall of Fame-worthy career with the only franchise for whom he has ever played, but he will have the flexibility next summer to sign an additional deal. And the Heat gets to keep their franchise cornerstone while having the ability to build a championship-contending roster."

A message from Dwyane Wade to Miami

From Dwyane Wade, who reportedly will sign a one-year, $20 million deal with the Heat for next season:

"It has been an honor and a privilege to play with the Miami Heat the past 12 years. The Heat family and I have shared incredible moments over the years and I look forward to continuing our journey. I am extremely proud of my personal contributions in helping to build the Heat franchise and for bringing three NBA championship wins to our great city. For my entire NBA career, Miami has always been my city and my home. I’m overwhelmed with the love and support the Miami community have consistently shown me and my family throughout the years.”

Dwyane Wade's one-year deal appears just to be the beginning of the Heat's offseason moves

Dwyane Wade and the Heat agreed to a new contract on Thursday that arguably gives the Heat the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference.

News of Wade’s deal for one year at $20 million, reported first by the Associated Press, came one day after the Heat locked up point guard Goran Dragic for five years and $90 million. With those two players in the fold, the Heat can now begin preparing in earnest for a return to prominence after losing LeBron James last year. The Heat missed the playoffs last season, but on paper the 2015-16 squad put together so far by president Pat Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg and coach Erik Spoelstra has the look of a contender.

Wade, 33, is entering his 13th season with the Heat, but he is still considered one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. Wade reported losing more than 10 pounds early this offseason, a clear sign that he’s serious about going after another title and also remaining an elite talent. Wade carried the Heat last season after Chris Bosh medical scare and when paired with Dragic, considered the Heat’s best point guard since Tim Hardaway, the Heat showed glimpses of something special.

A deal with Wade was just one element of the Heat’s free agency moves on Thursday. Team president Pat Riley flew to Los Angeles to meet with Portland Trail Blazers free agent LaMarcus Aldridge.

BLOG: Pat Riley has gone full Pat Riley

There were more questions than answers surrounding the Heat’s free agency on Thursday.

For instance, why the heck was Dwyane Wade in the Bahamas with LeBron James?

And, also, why was Pat Riley heading out of town?

And, finally, how does Heat owner Micky Arison feel about paying millions upon millions of dollars in luxury taxes for his basketball team?

With Independence Day approaching, the principal players of the Heat’s offseason business negotiations apparently took a break from each other to either to release some tension, or just create more. Wade made the quick trip to mega-resort Atlantis in the Bahamas, while Riley embarked for southern California. At first, the perceived lack of urgency from Wade and the Heat was interpreted by many around the NBA as a strong sign that a new deal for the shooting guard was imminent, if not already agreed upon.

Then, things got kinda crazy.

A report surfaced that Riley was flying to Los Angeles not for the holiday weekend, but to meet with free agent power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Riley was set to meet with the Portland Trail Blazers’ free agent over dinner, according to ESPN.

How in the world would the Heat fit Aldridge into its plans? The specifics are unclear, but speculation was rampant on Thursday afternoon. A sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers could be a possibility, considering  Portland hopes to salvage something — anything — for Aldridge at this point. Under that scenario, Heat center Hassan Whiteside and his expiring contract could be used to facilitate a deal.

Of course, a worst-case situation would be the Heat having to scramble because talks have deteriorated with Wade. At this point, that would be a shocking development, but things change quickly in NBA free agency.

Sometimes, all it takes is a trip to the Bahamas to rearrange rosters.

(MORE TO COME)


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