July 28, 2014
A: Chris hasn't signed because he hasn't been around, spending much of July traveling overseas. But his deal is done, and done at a figure high enough that he bypassed the temptation of playing alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden in his native Texas. No, Chris will get his, all of his. Plus, the way the Heat used their "room" salary-cap exception on Udonis Haslem and early-Bird Rights on Chris Andersen, there would not be additional money to spend no matter what Chris signs for. In essence, the Heat had to bring in Luol Deng at the exact figure of space left under the cap with Bosh's contract. So if Chris were to have taken less, it would have gone to Deng, anyway. Basically what you see is what you will get.
Q: Ira, I am still missing something in the cap code. So you say the Heat used cap space for Deng, so basically there is none left now. Can they still opt to go over the cap and pay the luxury tax? -- Glen, Lighthouse Point.
A: No, teams most often go over the tax during years when they're already operating above the salary cap and either using additional exceptions (none of which the Heat have left at their disposal for 2014-15) or make trades to take on additional salary (which the Heat cannot do until Dec. 15, when contracts signed this offseason can be traded). The Heat could become a tax team as soon as the 2015-16 season, or earlier should they trade one of their big-ticket players for either a bigger-ticket player or multiple players this season (which seems unlikely considering the magnitude of Bosh's contract and Dwyane Wade's no-trade clause). It's not a matter of if the Heat are willing to pay the tax for the upcoming season, it's the reality that under cap rules they essentially can't lift their 2014-15 payroll to such levels.
Q: Ira, the final free-agent pieces for the Heat could be Emeka Okafor (if healthy) and Jordan Crawford for insurance at center and shooting guard. Any thoughts if they could be gotten at minimums? -- Howard, Palm City.
A: Not at this point, not with teams still holding cap space and salary-cap exceptions in excess of $4 million and $5 million. This is why free-agency has slowed to a crawl, which could remain the case for a while, as is the case every summer.
July 27, 2014
Q: Ira, how long will it take Pat Riley to pick up any players? Jordan Crawford is still out there and MarShon Brooks. -- Joe, Birmingham, Alabama.
A: This tends to be a period when veteran free agents wait to see if something above the minimum might still be available, perhaps all or part of a remaining mid-level exception somewhere, or even the bi-annual exception. Once those exceptions, plus any remaining available cap space around the league expires (some teams, though, seemingly have no interest in spending to the cap, the lose-now 76ers among them), then the minimums tend to fill out. You can rest assured that Pat Riley and his staff are continuing to push veterans for commitments. The problem with the Heat is that a player looking for exposure on the wing might have little sense about where Danny Granger stands with the Heat, when it comes to available minutes in the Heat's perimeter rotation.
Q: Mario Chalmers isn't as bad as most fans think, although with such a quality point guard-saturated league why can't Miami do better?! -- Grant, Lake Havasu, Arizona.
A: First, you can't have the best player at every position, considering how the salary cap works. And, as I've said before, I think you'll see more from Chalmers now that LeBron James is gone, simply because there has to be more. But I also think you still could see a restructuring from the Heat at point guard, where Chalmers, Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier already are under contract. With $7 million tied up at the position, I wouldn't be surprised if the Heat thin out that group in favor of a wing, and then perhaps add a veteran point guard at the veteran-minimum salary.
Q: I have seen several suggestions for the Heat's three remaining roster spots, including the latest: Rip Hamilton. Doesn't it make more sense to take a chance on some unproven prospects in the hope to develop some usable talent later on? -- Joaquin, Coral Gables.
A: I think you'll see something closer to a redeployment of the Heat's development program, at least with James Ennis and Napier (and it would be intriguing to also add Tyler Johnson from the Heat's summer-league team, as well). But I also think it's also important to still add a veteran wing defender, someone who already knows tendencies around the league. That's a tough spot to utilize a young player, even one with the athleticism of Ennis.
July 26, 2014
Q: Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will see double teams the entire season. And now Wade will be defended by a better defender than last year. The Heat will need to become a defensive giant if they are to contend. -- Martin.