Kurt Helin

Chicago landed name in Dwyane Wade; Miami still better team now, poised for future


Forget what Dwyane Wade wanted and felt he deserved, Pat Riley did not approach contract discussions with Wade this offseason the way one should approach “family.” Or the greatest player in franchise history. The Heat lifer. Riley’s first reported offer of $10 million was flat out insulting — that’s the kind of money Matthew Dellavedova just got. Eventually, Miami upped its offer to $20 million a year, but that was less money and one less year than Wade wanted. Wade wanted to be made whole for past sacrifices, he wanted to see the respect of the organization that way, and he had lost faith the Heat would be good for it. Through it all, Riley reportedly never even picked up the phone to talk to Wade directly.

Wade found the respect — and money — he was looking for in Chicago. He signed there.

Pat Riley and Heat management were clearly okay with that outcome.

In the cold, harsh world of the NBA on the court they were right — Miami is both the better team next season, and they are better positioned for the future. With or without Wade.

With no Wade — or Luol Deng, or Joe Johnson — Miami probably takes a step back, but not a huge one (unless Chris Bosh is out). Next season the Heat still will have newly re-signed Hassan Whiteside in the paint. They will have Goran Dragic running the point — and he will have the ball in his hands more, a good thing (particularly in the fourth quarter, when Wade would often start to dominate the rock). They hope to have an All-Star in Chris Bosh back (although that remains up in the air). They have good young players like Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Tyler Johnson (if they match the Nets offer). They have a roster that fits the up-tempo style Erik Spoelstra wants to play. While they will miss Wade’s scoring at times, if Bosh is healthy they are certainly a playoff team and potentially a top-four seed in the East.

More importantly, they have is the kind of base of talent — and lifestyle, and no state tax — that will have free agents considering them as an option next summer (how much money they will have depends on Johnson, Bosh, who else they sign). There is a style of play, a system. What Pat Riley has given Miami is a blueprint and flexibility. One that didn’t necessarily fit Wade as he aged.

What is the Bulls’ plan?

Here is GM Gar Forman’s quote after the Derrick Rose trade: “We need to get younger and more athletic.” Are Rajon Rondo and a 35-year-old Wade who has had chronic knee issues younger and more athletic? Robin Lopez isn’t part of that answer.

The bigger question is how all these players fit together. Wade, Rondo, and Jimmy Butler all work best with the ball in their hands — and all three are ball stoppers. They like isolation sets (or a pick-and-roll) where they are in control of the shot and the tempo of the offense. Butler is okay working off the ball, but Wade and Rondo are not. Plus there is no shooting — Jimmy Butler is the best shooter of the three and he hit just 31.2 percent from three last season. Robin Lopez isn’t spacing the floor. Chicago’s best outside shooter is Fred Hoiberg, and he’ll be wearing a suit. The Bulls may have to start Nikola Mirotic just to have someone who can keep defenses from completely packing the paint (Doug McDermott may get extra run for the same reason).

Then there are the defensive issues — Rondo and Wade struggle on that end, and while Lopez can defend the rim some he’s not the NBA’s most mobile big out there. The Bulls can be forced into bad defensive matchups every time down, and their transition defense will be horrific.

Chicago does have something it can sell. Wade is a star, people will pay to see him. He will bring some excitement to the United Center. If he can stay healthy and play 74 games as he did last season — and that is far from a sure thing — he can help Chicago win a few games. He will make the Bulls more entertaining.

But how is this team getting younger and transitioning to the future? Is this really Butler’s team now? Miami will have a lot of cap space next summer, but players (and their agents) and have questions about why they should come to this roster. What is the long-term plan they are signing up for? Nothing is evident.

The Bulls will make the playoffs in the East, but as a lower seed that gets bounced in the first round. They have the cap space to chase free agents next summer, but will the talent come?

If a top free agent is choosing a destination and the money is equal, they will see plan and a brighter future in Miami. The Heat are better positioned to get a star, even if Wade stays and recruits.

The bottom line is the Bulls may be a little more dramatic and entertaining after this move, but this Heat team is simply better. And will be for years to come.

Bucks acquire Matthew Dellavedova from Cavaliers via sign-and-trade

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The Milwaukee Bucks have acquired guard Matthew Dellavedova in a sign-and-trade with Cleveland.

Dellavedova has career averages of 5.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 215 games over three seasons with Cleveland. He is coming off a season with career-bests of 7.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds while helping the Cavaliers win the NBA championship.

As part of the deal announced Thursday, the Bucks will send the rights to Albert Miralles to the Cavaliers. Miralles, who currently plays in the Spanish League, had his draft rights sent to Milwaukee in a December 2011 deal that sent Keyon Dooling to Boston.

Dellavedova had agreed to sign an offer sheet with the Bucks that the Cavaliers did not want to match, however by doing the sign-and-trade Cleveland creates a $4.8 million trade exception which the Cavaliers can turn around and use to get Mike Dunleavy in a trade from the Bulls.

Dellavedova reached out on twitter to thank the fans in Cleveland.

Nets make four-year, $75 million offer to Allen Crabbe, Trail Blazers have three days to match

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If you went down the list of restricted free agents coveted by other teams, Portland guard Allen Crabbe was near the top of the list. The 6’6″ guard thrived as the first guard off the bench for the Blazers last season, shot 39.3 percent from three, and shows great promise as a “3&D” guy (who needs to improve defensively). Plus he’s just 24.

Some team was going to make a run at him — and that team turned out to be the Brooklyn Nets, reported Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Trail Blazers want to keep Crabbe, but that price tag is going to make them hesitate, reports Jason Quick of CSNNW.com.

Crabbe is good, but he’s not starting in front of Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum. While the Trail Blazers could play Crabbe at the three, the team just paid Evan Turner $70 million to take over starting in that spot.

New Nets GM Sean Marks has made a couple of really smart stabs into the restricted free agent market this July. First, he offered Tyler Johnson of the Heat $50 million on a “Gilbert Arenas contract” deal, but with Dwyane Wade gone the Heat seem more likely to match that offer. Now there is the Crabbe offer.

Whether he’s coming off the bench in Portland or starting, Crabbe is going to be a very wealthy man. Now he just has to live up to that contract.

Marcelo Huertas re-signs with Lakers on two year deal

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D'Angelo Russell will start for the Lakers at the point guard spot. Obviously.

But when Luke Walton turns to his bench for a backup one he will see Jose Calderon and… Marcelo Huertas. The Lakers and Huertas reached a two-year contract extension Thursday, something reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Then it was confirmed on Instagram by Huertas himself.

Huertas averaged 4.5 points and 3.4 assists in 53 games for the Lakers last season but played better toward the end of the campaign. He could push (and pass) Calderon for the backup point guard minutes, although my guess is Luke Walton would like to limit both the minutes of his older reserve ones.

Report: Portland reaches two-year, $15 million deal with Festus Ezeli

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This was a smart pickup by a patient GM.

Golden State had to renounce its rights to center Festus Ezeli to make room for Kevin Durant, and now Portland has swooped in and picked up the big man for two years at a very reasonable price. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports broke the news.

Free-agent center Festus Ezeli has agreed to a two-year, $16 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, league sources told The Vertical. Ezeli will compete for minutes with Portland’s Mason Plumlee at center….

Ezeli met with Blazers officials and medical staff late Wednesday and into Thursday, and reached agreement on a deal Thursday night. Ezeli missed six weeks of the regular season after left knee surgery and concerns over his sturdiness likely cost him a stronger financial commitment in the free-agent market.

The actual contract may be a little less than reported.

At this price, the Trail Blazers should be able to keep their three big restricted free agents: Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe, and Moe Harkless.

While he struggled in the Finals (particularly Game 7), Ezeli brings some rim protection and athleticism to the center spot for Portland. He can run the floor in transition, crash the boards, and play the pick-and-roll with Portland’s stud guards. This is a good signing at this price.

Portland GM Neil Olshey had taken some criticism this offseason for his $70 million Evan Turner contract, the one I think was the worst deal handed out this off-season. Portland wanted another playmaker and guy who can defend multiple positions, but he’s an inefficient shooter and not quick enough to be a real quality defender. Turner is a below average player (who could improve to replacement level) but got paid like a star.

The Ezeli signing is more the Olshey most of us expect — a smart move where he got a nice player at a good price and, if it doesn’t work out, he’s not on the hook for much. It’s a move that makes Portland better.