Tag: LeBron James

Miami Heat v Detroit Pistons

Erik Spoelstra: Heat’s starting lineup needs time before it’ll succeed


Who has the NBA’s best starting lineup?

The Warriors (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut)?

The Cavaliers (Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov)?

The Spurs (Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan)?

The Clippers (Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Paul Pierce, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan)?

Take your pick between those four or other contenders like the Thunder, Rockets or Bulls.

But there’s one team that belongs in the discussion despite two oddities:

  • All five projected starters played for the team last season, but its projected starting lineup didn’t log a single minute together.
  • The team missed the playoffs.

Yup, the Heat with Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.

Bosh was sidelined for the rest of the season with blood clots just after Miami traded for Dragic. So, the lineup’s debut was postponed to this season.

On paper, the Heat have it all – offense and defense inside and out. They’re balanced, and nobody is playing out of position.

But Miami coach Erik Spoelstra cautions against expecting instant gratification.

Spoelstra, via Zach Lowe of Grantland:

“It’s not the kind of lineup where you can just throw it out there, and you know it will work,” Spoelstra says. “It’s going to take practice.”

The biggest question with the Heat’s top lineup is health, especially Wade. He’s 33 and has a history of knee problems. There are also questions about Whiteside’s ability to perform over a full season, Bosh’s rust and Deng’s longevity.

But those are all individual concerns.

Like I said, there’s a lot to like about this unit as a whole. The one area for caution is probably Dragic and Wade sharing ball-handling duties. Though they play different positions – Dragic point guard and Wade shooting guard – both are used to being the lead guard. That could take more time to sort out.

Mostly, though, I think Spoelstra is just trying to lower expectations. The less people think of a team, the more opportunity the coach has to impress (and the less blame he’ll take if the team falters).

Will Miami make a run at Kevin Durant?

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant isn’t going to talk about the rumors swirling around his free agency, and he doesn’t want you to believe what “sources” say about his plans. That’s fair, Durant doesn’t know for sure what he will do next summer yet, why would anyone else?

But if you’re the GM of a team, especially one that has a semi-legitimate shot to land him, you have to plan for taking a run at Durant. There are only a handful of true franchise changing players in the league and when they become free agents — even if it is most likely they don’t move — you have to be ready. The reward is too great not to take the risk.

Enter Pat Riley and the Miami Heat.

They may be a long shot to land KD — would he want to follow LeBron James’ path? — but there is no better big game hunter in the league than Pat Riley. Zach Lowe at Grantland says expect Riley to at least take his best shot at Durant.

One star changes everything, and Riley gets stars. Next summer, Miami could open up nearly $40 million in cap room, and as much as $45 million if it moves McRoberts for extra cap space. That’s a ton, but if Whiteside has even a solid season, it’s not enough to bring back both Whiteside and Wade while signing an outside star; the Heat will not have full Bird rights on Whiteside, meaning they will have to dip into cap space to re-sign him.

Consider one example: Durant’s max salary for 2016-17 will be about $25 million, leaving $15 million or $20 million to split between Wade and Whiteside. That won’t do it, unless Wade takes a massive hometown discount. (By the way: Rail against the Durant rumor mill if you want, but you’re kidding yourselves if you don’t think Riley will set Miami up to make a run at him.)

Miami will be a fascinating team this season — they could be the second best team in the East, they could be sixth, they are hard to read — but they are not ready to compete with Cleveland. They need more talent. Obviously, Durant would be that guy.

Before the people from OKC start emailing/commenting, I’ll try to be clear once again — this does not mean Durant is going to the Heat, or even leaving the Thunder. It is just an example of how a number of teams — the Wizards, Lakers, Knicks, and the list goes on — are lining up to take a run at KD. That means some financial jockeying for some these squads.

Report: Tristan Thompson won’t accept less than max from Cavaliers, his agent thinks Raptors will offer it next summer

Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers

Tristan Thompson reportedly rejected a five-year, $80 million contract offer from the Cavaliers.

So just how much does he want?

Apparently, $94,343,125 – a max contract – and not a penny less.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

A league source tells me that his agent, Rich Paul, has already made it clear to the Cleveland Cavaliers that Thompson will not sign a long-term deal unless it is a max deal. And otherwise, he is prepared to sign a one-year qualifying offer with the additional knowledge, according to the source, that Paul believes that he can get a max deal with the Raptors next summer.

I don’t think Thompson is worth a max contract in a vacuum, even accounting for the skyrocketing salary cap. He’s an excellent rebounder, versatile defender and can score near the rim. But he has little shooting range and doesn’t protect the rim as well as he should.

Of course, Thompson and Cleveland don’t operate in a vacuum.

If the Cavaliers lose Thompson, they won’t have cap space to sign a near-equal outside replacement. They can keep Thompson only because they have his Bird Rights. That gives Thompson considerable leverage, only somewhat related to his production.

So does his relationship with Paul, who also represents LeBron James. The Cavaliers surely want to keep LeBron happy, and LeBron said Thompson should spend the rest of his career in Cleveland.

Maybe Thompson would ultimately settle for less than the max before the Oct. 1 deadline to accept the qualifying offer, but there’s little reason to do so now. Thompson should posture that he wants the max. Maybe the Cavs will blink first. If Thompson compromises, he should wait a month to do so. (Knowing that, Cleveland will be loathe to up its offer any time soon.)

Simply waiting will get Thompson further than this Toronto threat. Maybe the Raptors are interested in Thompson, a native Canadian. They could improve at power forward, but they don’t project to have enough cap space to offer Thompson the max. The easiest way for them to clear salary is DeMar DeRozan opting out, but that would create a hole on the wing that should take precedent over a power forward upgrade.

Plus, a max for Thompson next summer – when the new national TV contracts kick in – will be much higher. It’s one thing for the capped-out Cavaliers to pay him more than $94 million. It’s another for a team with cap room to pursue any free agent to pay him more than $89 million over four years.

If Dan Gilbert is willing to spend the real dollars – and it seems the Cavaliers owner is – paying Thompson the max is justifiable cap-wise. Paul knows this, and he’s clearly not giving the Cavs a break. Paul has already threatened that, if Thompson accepts the qualifying offer, the forward will leave Cleveland next summer. If Paul is floating the Raptors as a potential destination, that’s probably just an attempt to worry the Cavaliers a little more.

Maybe the Cavaliers, to avoid losing Thompson for nothing, just give him the max now.

If they don’t, Paul will surely try a different method to convince them to do it.