April 18, 2015

Dolphins make receiver a priority, bring in draft prospects; Heat nuggets: Dragic, Wade, Whiteside; Marlins disaster

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The question isn’t whether the Dolphins will acquire a receiver during the draft, but how soon. There’s no bigger priority, with only three established receivers on the roster and very little left in free agency beyond Greg Jennings (who has visited the Dolphins, Carolina, Jacksonville and New Orleans) and Wes Welker.

The Dolphins are considering at least two receivers with their first-round pick: Louisville’s DeVante Parker (who many believe will be gone by No. 14) and Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman.

Another, Southern California’s Nelson Agholor, would be a wise use of the 14th pick, ESPN’s Mel Kiper insists, even though many project him going lower. And the Dolphins have brought in three receivers potentially in play with the 47th pick, should they use the 14th pick on another position. Exploring the possibilities:

### First-round options: Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White are projected by many to be gone before Miami’s first pick, but the Dolphins summoned Parker and Perriman for visits. Kiper has all four coming off the board before Miami selects 14th, with Perriman 10th and Parker 12th.

Parker, who averaged 19.9 yards per catch last season, “has as high a ceiling as you can find in this class and it wouldn't surprise me if someday we're talking about him as the best of the top three guys in this class; I have them closely grouped,” Kiper said on espn.com.

“Parker will beat defenders to the ball on high-point catches with his size, leaping ability and catch radius, and he's underrated as a threat to add yards after the catch on short throws. I can see Miami going a few different ways [at 14], but Parker makes sense because the Dolphins need to keep options available for Ryan Tannehill. He could go anywhere from 10 to 15.”

ESPN's Mark Dominik, the former Tampa Bay GM, is among those who believe Parker will remain available into the teens.

Meanwhile, Perriman (50 catches, 1044 yards, 9 TDs last season) has risen after running a 4.25 in the 40-yard dash at UCF’s pro day.

ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Dolphins drafting Perriman because they “could use him to replace Mike Wallace as its deep threat opposite Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron.”

Though he has had some drops, his athletic traits have been compared to Dez Bryant’s, and “his ball skills, which were something of a concern on his early-season tape, appeared to get better as the year wore on,” McShay said. “His performance in UCF's bowl game against N.C.State was the best we've seen from him in terms of catching the ball.”

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Perriman or Parker would make a lot of sense for Miami at 14, if either is there.

What about White? Probably out of reach for Miami. Kiper has him going seventh –-- three spots after Cooper --- and “the fact that he only had one really good season at West Virginia will concern some,” Kiper said. “But he's a big-play threat with his size and speed.”

Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong is considered a mid- to late first-rounder and could be an option if Miami trades down in the first round. NFL.com says Strong needs wrist surgery, which he denies, and that could hurt his stock.

Meanwhile, Agholor (104 receptions, 1313 yards, 12 touchdowns last season) has become a real wild card, his stock having risen considerably. He could go anywhere between the mid-teens and Miami’s pick at 47.

He’s “a very good route runner, has good hands, and is quietly an explosive athlete who can set up defenders and create space underneath or beat defenses over the top,” Kiper said. 

Some view Michigan tight end/receiver Devin Funchess as a late-first round possibility, too.

### Second round (Miami selects 47th): Kiper says Auburn’s Sammy Coates, Ohio State’s Devin Smith and UM’s Phillip Dorsett are all worthy of being drafted in the second round. The Dolphins have brought all three in for visits.

With Coates, “the drops are a concern,” Kiper said. “If the concentration level improves, he's got the frame, the physical qualifications to be a first-round pick. I think he'll go second or third round. Somebody will roll the dice that he will be consistent enough.

“He's a threat down the field. In this pass-happy league, when you are as talented and big as he is he is, 6-1, 215 pounds, runs 4.4, vertical 41, that's enough to make you second- or third-round pick guaranteed.”

Kiper calls Dorsett one of the safest picks in the draft who “has speed to simply blow away cornerbacks who don't have plus-plus recovery speed. He also has the quickness to win in the slot and do major damage against zone coverages.

“He lacks size but does a decent job on contested throws and has gotten a lot more consistent with his hands. I think he's safe because he's so much more than a sprinter, and he'll be a handful to cover wherever he is lined up.”

Dorsett said: “If I’m there [at 47], I hope [the Dolphins] take me because they’re not going to at 14. I was a Dolphins fan growing up. Playing for the Dolphins would be a dream come true.”

As for the 6-0 Smith, Kiper said he has “a good size/speed combination and one of the better deep threats in college football, a guy fully capable of making contested catches down the field.”

He averaged a ridiculous 28.2 yards per catch last season (33 for 931).

Two other potential second-rounders: Dorial Green-Beckham (dismissed from Missouri after two drug arrests and a domestic violence allegation) and FSU’s Reshad Greene.

Bleacher Report’s Mike Miller reported Miami “has fallen in love” with Green-Beckham and believes it can make him a reclamation project. But his history raises serious red flags.

Green-Beckham was dismissed from the Missouri team last June after a woman accused him of forcing open her apartment door at 2:30 a.m. and pushing her down four flights of stairs. No charges were filed because a reluctant witness feared retaliation.

He transferred to Oklahoma but never played there, declaring for the draft instead.

Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has taken chances with players thrown off college teams (fourth-rounder Walt Aikens, undrafted draft free agents Chris McCain and Damien Williams), but that’s a lot different than using a high pick on one.

Green-Beckham in the fifth round is one thing; the first or second round seems too risky (my opinion), though some analysts have him going that high and most agree he definitely has first-round talent.

### Mid-round options: Among those they’ve shown particular interest in: Maryland’s Stefon Diggs (who visited Davie), Houston's Deonte Greenberry and Central Michigan's Titus Davis.

Among the others: Georgia’s Chris Conley, Baylor’s Antwan Goodley, Central Arkansas’ Dezmin Lewis, William and Mary’s Tre McBride, UNLV’s DeVante Davis, Duke’s Jamison Crowder, Washington State’s Vince Mayle, Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, Georgia Tech’s DeAndre Smelter, East Carolina’s Justin Hardy and West Virginia’s Mario Alford.

Kiper expects 40 receivers will be drafted.

The Dolphins have privately worked out at least three late-round or free agent receivers: Zach D’Orazio (Akron) and New Hampshire teammates RJ Harris and Harold Spears.

HEAT, MARLINS CHATTER

### Goran Dragic assuredly will be pleased to hear Erik Spoelstra’s comments Friday that he wants to quicken the pace next season.  

“I want to be happy, to play the style of basketball I want to play,” Dragic said. “That’s the main thing, not the money. I like this organization, this basketball style. Of course, I want to play a little bit faster than we did but you need to practice like that from the beginning of the season. You can’t start playing overnight like that.”

The Heat has a long way to go with pace. Miami finished ahead of only Utah in pace, according to an ESPN formula. And the Heat was 29th in  possessions per game (94.3). Conversely, Golden State averaged a league-high 101.7 possessions.

"You look at teams like Golden State, best team in the NBA, they played fast, but they’re also one of the best defensive teams in the league,” Dwyane Wade said. “You have to get stops to play fast. This season, we weren’t a good defensive team. It’s hard to play fast [when] you’re taking the ball out of the net too often. I welcome [a faster pace]. As long as we get stops, let’s go.”

### Dragic said the fact the Heat can give him a fifth year in a new contract, whereas other teams can give him only four, “is pretty big.  For the next three, four, five years, I want to spend it in this kind of team that is the Miami Heat because they have great players, great coaching staff.”

But he also said he and his agent would “go through” every offer. The Lakers are expected to bid.

### Though Dragic was unhappy about playing “off the ball… 35 minutes a game” in Phoenix, he made clear: “I don’t have a problem playing two guard, too, and I play that a little here. I don’t have a problem with that as long as I get touches that I need.”

### Though Dragic and Wade finished as the NBA’s best-shooting backcourt percentage-wise and “developed a great chemistry,” according to Dragic, the Heat was outscored by 28 when they were on the court together. (Having Chris Bosh with them assuredly will boost that plus/minus.)

It was also curious that Miami was outscored by 79 with Dragic and Hassan Whiteside on the court together. Conversely, Dragic was plus 58 with Chris Andersen and plus 28 with James Ennis.

Don’t read too much into that, but the need for better three-point shooting off the bench is exemplified by the fact that Miami shot only 28.7 percent on threes when four starters (Dragic, Whiteside, Wade and Luol Deng) played together with anybody else.

### It was good to hear players openly challenge Whiteside to improve. Wade said young players like Whiteside need to “lock yourself in a gym… and come back a totally different player. Players that want to be great, that’s what they do…

“We know he’s going to put up the numbers. But it’s more than the numbers you put it. It’s how you dominate the game; it’s how you can make the game so much easier not only for himself but for his team. Everyone around here is excited to see what’s next for him.”

Whiteside has one more prove-it year (at $981,000) before a big contract awaits.

### Make it 3-9 now for the Marlins after tonight's 5-4 loss to the Mets. As of 10 p.m. tonight, only Milwaukee had a worse record. And Miami is already six games behind the Mets.

That supposed-to-be best young outfield in baseball? Marcell Ozuna is hitting .229, Giancarlo Stanton .220 and Christian Yelich .225.

Mat Latos fell to 0-3 after allowing two runs in six innings, but the Marlins' offense --- largely dormant until they scored one in the eighth and three in the ninth --- remains the bigger issue.

"I made one bad mistake," Latos said. "It's tough right now. I'm starting to throw the ball like I used to. Best part about it is it's April. Playoffs don't start in April. Just a matter of putting things together. We've got a great ballclub. When we put it all together, there's going to be hell to pay. It sucks really bad right now."

A Marlins closed door meeting before the game did not produce the desired results.

Don't blame second baseman Dee Gordon, whose 5 for 5 night raised his average to .400.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 17, 2015

Dolphins summon one of draft's top linemen; Friday night: Introspective Bosh and Wade peer into the future; Bosh reflects on time to think

10 a.m. update:

Planned to use this in the Sunday buzz column, but since word has gotten out:

Was told on Wednesday that the Dolphins have summoned LSU offensive tackle La'el Collins to Davie for one of their 30 permitted pre-draft visits.

If the Dolphins select Collins at 14, he would likely be moved to guard.

Here's what CBSSports.com's Rob Rang had to say about Collins, who is projected to be taken in the teens or early 20s:

"There are two basic truths evaluators have grown used to when scouting LSU: For one, the team will be loaded with talent. Second, the talent is so rich so that the best players rarely use all of their collegiate eligibility before leaving for the NFL. Unlike many of his former teammates, Collins elected to return for his senior season despite the fact that he reportedly earned a first round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.

"Collins certainly did nothing to harm that grade in 2014, putting forth yet another dominant campaign at left tackle for the Tigers and following that up with a strong performance at the Senior Bowl.

"Collins earned immediate playing time for the Tigers as a true freshman, playing in seven games at left guard. He took over the starting position a year later, leading the team in total snaps (846) and knockdown blocks (64.5) while earning Honorable Mention honors from the AP. Collins made the switch to left tackle as a junior, earning second-team All-SEC accolades from league coaches and posting another 65 knockdown blocks despite missing one game (Furman) due to injury.

"Collins possesses a square-ish build that makes him appear better suited to guard. His combination of surprisingly light feet, bullish power and competitiveness could earn him Pro Bowl nods. He's quick enough to remain at tackle for power-running teams, which only makes Collins that much more valuable in the eyes of scouts."

If the Dolphins take a guard in the first round, Collins would make the most sense. (I personally don't endorse taking a guard that high, but it's not out of the question.)

#############################################################################################

After four years of playing deep into June, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade arrive at the doorstop of this Heat offseason with more free time than they ever expected this time of year, but with the belief that the extended rest will benefit their bodies and psyches.

“I’ll be fine; I won’t miss it that much,” Bosh said Friday in a candid moment, speaking about the grueling pressure cooker of a playoff run. “It’s OK to have a break. My mind frame is different because I have no choice. You will miss it, but you have to give so much of yourself to it…. That’s a part of the game we love and hate at the same time.”

Wade, meanwhile, admitted that playing into mid-June the past four years has “been a lot mentally, physically, with all the injuries and everything. It will be good for me to get away for a while, and come back better next year.”

Wade reminded reporters that he played in an Olympics following the 2007-08 season, the only other season he missed the playoffs in his 12-year career.

But don’t misunderstand. Neither wants to sit idly this summer, letting rust seep into their games.

Bosh, who hasn’t shot a basketball since he was diagnosed with blood clots on his lungs after the All-Star Game, intends to resume basketball activities in late June or July.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to work on my game. I’m going to actually get to work on my game. I feel like a young fellow again out there….

“I look at it as a blessing that I have the time to work on my body, work on the things I need to work on. I never have the time usually in the offseason. But this year I have the opportunity to build slowly and correct some things I need to correct and come back next year in the best shape of my life.”

Wade, 33, has no idea how he will spend the coming weeks but there will be time in the gym at some point, polishing some element of his craft.  

“I will keep myself plenty busy, make sure I’m focusing on what I need to,” he said. “For me, it’s always just about working on my game. This year, I became a better post player, became more comfortable down there. I always figure out a way to keep myself being as efficient as I can be.

“I love to score. It’s going to be easy to work on trying to score. That’s what I love doing…. I feel like I’ve got a few good years left.”

Wade admitted he was “kind of uncomfortable” when he started having the ball in his hands late in games more often this past season, simply because he hadn’t been in that position nearly as much during LeBron James’ four years here.

He admitted “it was very necessary” to prove to himself that he could still do that effectively “because I kind of went away from it for a while. It’s crazy because my whole life felt like I played with the ball in my hands, and then it went away for three seasons and it became foreign when it came back to me. It was necessary at certain times for me to prove it. It was good.

“Now going forward, I can get back to working on certain things. I’m not saying it’s going to be the exact same role next season. I do have this year under my belt again to get my feet wet a little bit. I’ll be better in those situations next time.”

Bosh, meanwhile, says he’s “in a nice rhythm,” feeling rested and refreshed after a serious health scare that left him hospitalized for more than a week in late February.

The premature end to his season gave an introspective person even more time for introspection.

 “I’ve had time to do a lot of thinking,” he said. “As I got ill, the afterthought was maybe I need to miss basketball. I miss it. And I’ve still got 5 ½ more months. Maybe this is what I need. I need to recharge my passion because I was getting beat down a little bit over the last four years. That’s what success does.

“Now is an opportunity to go back in the lab and really work on my game. Build that fire up. It was burning low a little bit. I was running on fumes. I’m going to watch the playoffs and really get motivated.”

Bosh, 31, said doctors still aren’t sure how the blood clots developed, though they suspect it resulted from an inadvertent kick in the shin during a game.

“Slight trauma can lead to a blood clot,” he said. “That’s probably what happened.”

He is still taking blood thinners, which would make it dangerous for him to bleed, but he can “lift, run, exercise.”

Bosh said he is “cleared” medically, “good to go,” and not concerned about his long-term health. But “I take to heart what I’m doing, what I eat. Even precautions. If you’re going to fly, get up and walk around. Being conscious of small things like that really helps out.”

He’s excited about the possibilities of playing with impending free agent Goran Dragic, who was acquired by the Heat on the same day Bosh was diagnosed with the clots.

“I hate I didn’t get to play with him this year,” Bosh said. “He fits perfect. He can pass. He’s an attacker. With me being a shooting threat, we should be able to work off of each other quite a bit. With him penetrating and attacking, he can collapse a defense. That’s a big’s dream, to have a guard like that. I think it’s going to be great.”

Looking back, Bosh said, “As a team, it does suck given the circumstances this year. But we still fought for it. It came down to the last day. We can take that as a positive…Even before I went down, we had our struggles and that was wearing on everybody around here…. We didn’t make the playoffs. Maybe that will be a blessing in disguise. I still believe we’re going to use this as a positive.

“We’re going to have an opportunity [next season]. You can see the individual talent. The individual parts are there. We just have to put it all together. Next year, we’ll really be functioning as a team.”

Wade has said the roster needs augmenting and “I have my own ideas but it’s not my job to say what areas need to be addressed. Our organization is going to address the areas that need to be. Obviously, it’s not enough [on the roster] because we’re sitting where we are right now.

“You want to always add to make sure you complement those players with other players around them. I know one thing about the Heat organization. We’re not going to just sit around and hope. We’re going to try to figure out to make sure we can be as competitive an organization as we became accustomed to.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for more Heat and Dolphins.

April 16, 2015

Dolphins bring in another standout CB and WR; Heat postscripts: Dragic on Bosh possibilities; Deng's candor; Barkley's Heat views

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

We'll get to Heat tidbits in a minute. First, a few Dolphins notes:

### Early-round cornerbacks and receivers continue to comprise a good chunk of the players the Dolphins have invited to Davie.

We've already reported that cornerbacks Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson, Jalen Collins and Eric Rowe have been summoned to Dolphins headquarters.

According to a league source, you can add Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones to that list.

He has risen as much as any player in the draft in recent weeks and Mel Kiper projects him 27th to Dallas.

Kiper called Jones "one of the best athletes in the draft. But with Jones, it's not just about the workouts, because everything you see at the NFL Combine is also evident on tape. He has great football instincts and star upside."

Jones can play safety, too, but has real value at cornerback. But he could be plucked between the Dolphins' picks at 14 and 47.

It's notable that the Dolphins' 30-maximum allowed visits include five cornerbacks expected to go in the first two rounds. 

Meanwhile, we hear the Dolphins also summoned Ohio State receiver Devin Smith to team headquarters.

Smith had 33 catches for 931 yards last season, an absurd 28.2 yard average. He would be a possibility for Miami's pick at 47 if the Dolphins don't address receiver at 14.

According to CBS.com's Dane Brugler, Smith "has been more of a big-play threat than consistent pass catcher for the Buckeyes in his career. Has quick strides to pick up steam in a hurry vertically with strong cuts in his routes to create some separation vs. defenders.

"Has made a career out of getting behind the secondary for big plays, using his deep speed and also contributing on special teams coverages. Unproven as a route runner."

### The Dolphins continue to do a lot of work on Georgia running back Todd Gurley, including a 30-minute conversation with his high school coach. He's among several possibilities for Miami at No. 14 in the draft.

HEAT CHATTER

### Here’s why Goran Dragic says the Heat will be so difficult to defend when Chris Bosh returns:

“You can post him up. He can go one-on-one. If they double team, he’s a good passer. He can spread it out. On pick and rolls, he can spread the floor. That opens it up for D-Wade and me to penetrate.

“I always put pressure on the defense. If they don’t stop me, I’ve got a layup. If they stop me, Chris is going to pick and pop and that’s a wide open shot for him. Or he makes the next decision on a handoff, and then the big guy needs to recover from down to up, and so that makes a lot of room for other guys. It’s a lot of different strategies we can use with him on the floor.”

### Not only was Dragic the only guard in the league to shoot 50 percent (50.1), but that’s even more impressive considering only 11 guards shot even 45 percent or better. Dragic has now topped 50 percent from the field for two years in a row.

Wade finished at 47 percent, lowest since his rookie season but second behind J.J. Redick among shooting guards. Wade ended up 11th in the league in scoring, at 21.5 per game.

### With skilled shooters Bosh and Josh McRoberts missing a lot of games, it was hurtful that the team’s highest-volume three-point shooter, combo guard Mario Chalmers, plunged to 29.4 percent shooting on threes, ahead of only Derrick Rose if listed as a point guard, and a huge drop from 38.5 last season.

Wade attempted 102 threes but made 28.4 percent –-- in the bottom three among shooting guards but about his career average. As his college coach, Tom Crean, has said, polishing that part of his game is important as he ages.

All of that meant Luol Deng too often needed to be cast as a three-point shooter.

He made 35.5 percent of those threes (which ranked 29th of 42 small forwards) but admitted this week: “I don’t really like to just stand still. It’s not my strength. I could shoot a high percentage but I’m not per se a shooter. I slash, I cut. I’m better in motion than standing still.

“When I played [for] Scott Skiles [in Chicago], he didn’t want me shooting any threes. He wanted me close to the rim. My whole focus was the mid-range…. This year, [Erik Spoelstra] wanted me to take the corner threes more than I’ve done in the past…. Not having someone like Josh definitely hurts my game.”

### The Heat finished last in rebounding and assists, 27th in scoring but sixth in points allowed…. The Heat has a 2015-16 option on Michael Beasley that it must exercise by June 30…. Besides the potential first-round pick (as most of you know, Miami has a 91 percent chance of keeping that pick), the Heat also has the 40th pick in the second round.

### If Hassan Whiteside had enough games to qualify, he would have finished third in both blocks and rebounds per 48 minutes. He was fifth in field-goal percentage and sixth in ESPN's efficiency ratings behind All-Stars Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and James Harden.

### Even with all the injuries, it’s still difficult to accept Milwaukee and Boston, teams with less talent on paper, made the playoffs ahead of Miami.

But, as Deng said, “This league is about chemistry” and the Heat didn’t have enough of it.

“And everybody knows we went through hell this season,” Chalmers said.

### The Heat was one of 10 NBA teams to sell out every home game; three (Heat, Knicks, Thunder) didn’t make the playoffs. Good job, Heat fans.

### For those who missed the previous post this afternoon, here's what Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith had to say about the Heat when I asked their opinion today:

“They won't be a top four team [in the East next season],” Barkley said on a TNT playoff conference call. “You don't go from out of the playoffs to a top four team. Dwyane is going to be a year older. No, they won't be a top four team. They didn't make the playoffs.

"Now if they get LeBron to move back down, they will be a top four team. They are not a top four team. They're not even close as constructed. They need some more building blocks.

“They need to re-sign Dragic first. Once they resign Dragic, they won't have any money. They gave Luol Deng money. Bosh is making a ton. Dwyane is still on the cap.

"Once they resign Dragic, if he decides to stay, and that's a big if. If he decides to stay, they won't be able to bring [in any more costly players]. Then they got to make a decision on [Hassan] Whiteside [who's
under contract for one more season]. It's not as easy as people think it is."

Kenny Smith seemed slightly more optimistic about the Heat long-term.

“Because the Eastern Conference is kind of weak, they definitely would have been a playoff team if Chris Bosh is playing," Smith told me on the conference call. "Where they would have landed, I think around six. I think that's where they would be [at full strength].

"But Pat Riley has been great at bringing in the right people at the right time to kind of move the needle. This will be a good and big free agent year for them. Bringing Dragic in, I don't think people saw that coming. I think he will bring in some more help."

As we noted a couple days ago, the Heat will either have a $3.4 million taxpayers midlevel exception if they're in tax territory (which is very likely if Dragic re-signs and Deng opts in) or a $5.5 million full mid-level exception. Miami also would have a $2.1 million bi-annual exception if it's not a tax team.

And Miami also has a 91 percent chance of landing a top-10 draft pick.

### Good to see recently retired former Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis get a job as a Fox Sports 1 MLB studio analyst.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Barkley not especially high on Heat's future; Kenny and Charles weigh in

I asked Charles Barkley today if the Heat will be a top four team in the East next season if Goran Dragic re-signs, as many expect, and Chris Bosh returns from blood clots in his lungs, which is fully expected:

“They won't be a top four team [in the East],” Barkley said on a TNT playoff conference call. “You don't go from out of the playoffs to a top four team. Dwyane [Wade] is going to be a year older. No, they won't be a top four team. They didn't make the playoffs.

"Now if they get LeBron to move back down, they will be a top four team. They are not a top four team. They're not even close as constructed. They need some more building blocks.

“They need to re-sign Dragic first. Once they resign Dragic, they won't have any money. They gave Luol Deng money. Bosh is making a ton. Dwyane is still on the cap.

"Once they resign Dragic, if he decides to stay, and that's a big if. If he decides to stay, they won't be able to bring [in any more costly players]. Then they got to make a decision on [Hassan] Whiteside [who's
under contract for one more season]. It's not as easy as people think it is."

Kenny Smith seemed slightly more optimistic about the Heat long-term.

“Because the Eastern Conference is kind of weak, they definitely would have been a playoff team if Chris Bosh is playing," Smith told me on the conference call. "Where they would have landed, I think around six. I think that's where they would be [at full strength].

"But Pat Riley has been great at bringing in the right people at the right time to kind of move the needle. This will be a good and big free agent year for them. Bringing Dragic in, I don't think people saw that coming. I think he will bring in some more help."

As we noted a couple days ago, the Heat will either have a $3.4 million taxpayers midlevel exception if they're in tax territory (which is very likely if Dragic re-signs and Deng opts in) or a $5.5 million full mid-level exception. Miami also would have a $2.1 million bi-annual exception if it's not a tax team.

And Miami also has a 91 percent chance of landing a top-10 draft pick.

Barkley, by the way, says Cleveland would beat Golden State in the Finals.

Please see the last post for potential Heat draft options and reaction from Wade and Erik Spoelstra... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please check back tonight. We'll supplement this post with a lot more Heat postscripts.

April 15, 2015

Exploring potential Heat draft options; Wade, others opine as season ends

A disappointing Heat season ended with uplifting news: Miami will enter the May 19 lottery with a 91 percent of keeping a draft pick that once seemed likely to end up being forwarded to Philadelphia.

Though the Heat won 105-101 in Philadelphia, Brooklyn’s win against Orlando (achieved a few minutes before the Heat game ended) assured the Heat of finishing alone with the 10th worst record (37-45).

So in the weighted lottery, Miami has a 1.1 percent chance of landing the first pick in the draft, a 1.3 percent chance of getting the second pick, a 1.58 percent chance of getting the third pick and an 87 percent chance of picking 10th.

But nothing is assured. There’s also a 9 percent chance the Heat could be jumped in the lottery and fall out of the top 10, which means the pick would be forwarded to the Sixers. (To be precise, there’s an 8.8 percent chance of Miami falling to 11th.)

Here’s how ESPN.com’s Chad Ford rates the top 14 NBA Draft prospects. (There are 14 non-playoff teams.)

1)     Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns.

2)     Duke center Jahlil Okafor. (The team with the top pick will have a tough choice between these two gifted young centers.)

3)     Emmanuel Mudiay, China. Ford calls him a “big, athletic point guard” who attacks the rim.

4)     Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell. Can also play shooting guard.

5)     Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis. Has the Martin Muursepp experience scarred Pat Riley for life in terms of international players in the draft?

6)   Duke small forward Justise Winslow. Heat loves Duke players and wings who defend. (Winslow certainly can do that.) And he shot 7 for 12 on threes in the NCAA Tournament. But he might go before Heat has a chance to draft him.

7)     Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein. Excellent shot blocker.

8)      Croatian small forward Mario Hezonja. See No. 5.

9)     Texas power forward Myles Turner. A 7-0 footer who can shoot, but a sweet-shooting wing player would fill more of a need for the Heat.

10)  UCLA power forward Kevon Looney.  Averaged 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds as a freshman but the 6-9 forward elicits mixed views among scouts.           

11)  Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson. Averaged 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds.

Ford says he’s “the guy who does just about everything well but lacks that one elite skill. Still, I think there's almost no way he falls out of the lottery.” Shot 43 for 116 (37.1 percent) on threes last season.

12)  Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre. Ford said "his length, shooting touch and defensive abilities are all very attractive and you can make the case he has the highest upside of any wing in the draft."

The 6-7 small forward shot 34 for 95 (35.8 percent) on threes in his one year at Kansas, but is expected to develop further as a three-point shooter.

13)  Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. Yes, he’s not an elite athlete by any means.

But Ford noted that Kaminsky, the Naismith Player of the Year, “went head-to-head against the potential No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft (Towns and Okafor) and the guy widely regarded as the best defender in the draft (Cauley-Stein), and he outplayed them all.”

14)  Utah center Jakob Poeltl. The seven footer “benefited greatly from his strong play in the NCAA Tournament, especially his defense against Okafor,” Ford said on ESPN.com.

Ford’s next five: Wisconsin small forward Sam Dekker, Arkansas power forward Bobby Portis, Kentucky power forward Trey Lyles, Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker and Georgia State shooting guard RJ Hunter.

### If the Heat keeps the pick this year, it still owes the 76ers a pick, which is top-10 protected in 2016 and unprotected in 2017.

### Spoelstra said "at some point in the fourth quarter, I got word of the [Nets] final... You can’t cheat the guys who are out there competing.”

### Michael Beasley, who has a team option for next season, had 34 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and played all 48 minutes. “I’ve never played an entire game ever,” he told Sun Sports.

Zoran Dragic’s 22 were a career high, and Henry Walker’s 21 were a Heat high. James Ennis tied a career high with 17 points and set a career high with 12 boards. Walker won it with a three with nine seconds left.

### Spoelstra played only six players and one of them (Udonis Haslem) played seven minutes. Beasley, Walker, Dragic and Tyler Johnson played all 48; Zoran Dragic played 41.

“Rio was going to play too, but his leg didn’t loosen up,” Spoelstra said of Mario Chalmers. “As disappointing as the season has been, the highlights of the season have been moments like this. A lot of guys out. There would have been opportunities for excuses. There’s been a lot of ups and downs in the season. We had a lot of guys get a lot of experience.”

Spoelstra struck an optimistic tone before the game: "If you said, going back to October and November, with this group going forward that you may not make the playoffs but you'll have this group going forward next off-season, that you'll also add a real promising, big, legitimate impact center and an impact top-10 point guard, and you would go forward with those, but I can't guarantee you would make the playoffs, I would take that circumstance. We feel very good moving forward with this group."

### Dwyane Wade afterward: “It’s been a tough year. I’m proud of these guys, proud of each individual in this locker-room. Guys came in and fought. Guys got opportunities and took advantage of it. We had an opportunity to make something of the season and it slipped away from us. No one should walk out with heads [down]."

Will a long offseason help Wade?

"I haven’t had much time off in a long time," he said. "I’ve been playing until late June the past four years. It’s been a lot mentally, physically, with all the injuries and everything. It was a lot. It will be good for me to get away for a while, and come back better next year.

"This is a weird feeling because my season never ended like this. It’s unchartered waters a little bit. We didn’t have enough time together. That probably hurt us the most.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 14, 2015

Previewing Heat offseason: Potential targets, cap and tax situation; Top LB visits Fins; Dolphins, Marlins chatter

We'll get to the Wednesday buzz column and a look at the Heat's future in a minute. First, this:

The Heat’s improbable hopes of making the playoffs evaporated Tuesday night. And the dagger was delivered by the Indiana Pacers, who were bounced from the past three postseasons by the Heat.

The Pacers’ double-overtime win against Washington eliminated Miami from playoff contention. To make the playoffs, the Heat would have needed a win in Philadelphia on Wednesday, losses by Indiana on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a loss by Brooklyn against visiting Orlando on Wednesday.

But Wednesday’s game will still be meaningful because it will affect the Heat’s chances of keeping its first-round pick, which will be forwarded to Philadelphia unless it is in the top 10 immediately after the May 19 NBA Draft lottery.

If the Heat loses Wednesday, it will finish alone with the league’s 10th-worst record and would have a 91 percent chance of keeping its lottery pick, including a four percent chance of moving into the top three of the draft.

But if the Heat wins and Brooklyn loses to Orlando, then Miami and the Nets would be tied for the 10th-worst record, and a coin flip would determine pre-lottery order, thus jeopardizing the Heat’s chances of staying inside the top 10 and keeping the pick. If the Heat were to lose the coin flip/random drawing and fall to 11th, it would have only a three percent chance of keeping the pick. 

So both the Heat and Philadelphia would benefit by losing Wednesday.

The Heat (36-45) will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08 and for only the second time in Dwyane Wade’s 12 seasons.

############################################################################################

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Expect Pat Riley to try to add at least one skilled three-point shooter, possibly two, this summer, while also putting together a new deal for Goran Dragic, who has expressed a preference to stay with the Heat. But Riley will need to improve the roster amid salary cap limitations and luxury tax ramifications.

Presuming Dwyane Wade does not opt out of a contract that would pay him $16.1 million next season, the Heat will be above the projected $67 million cap -- barring trades -- unless two things both happen: Luol Deng opts out of $10.1 million in the second year of a two-year deal (he’s non-committal about the opt-out) and Dragic leaves, which would be surprising.

Dragic has said he will opt out of the final year of a contract that would pay him $7.5 million in 2015-16. The Heat could give him a five-year deal worth as much as $109 million, and it might take that much if the Lakers offer a max deal. The most another team could give him: four years, $81.2 million.

Even if Deng opts out, the Heat would still be capped out --- unless Dragic leaves --- because Miami’s cap would include either Dragic’s cap hold or his new salary.

And that would limit the Heat’s spending to minimum contracts and to a midlevel exception, which would be worth either $3.4 million if the Heat is a tax team (which is highly likely if Dragic re-signs and Deng stays) or $5.5 million otherwise.

Miami will be on the bubble between whether it can use the $3.4 million or the $5.5 million if Dragic signs and Deng bolts, depending on Dragic's new deal and other factors. 

The Heat has a $2.1 million bi-annual exception; it was not used last summer, because Miami decided to sign Danny Granger with cap space instead of the bi-annual.

But if it's a tax team, Miami is not permitted to use the bi-annual if it uses the taxpayer’s mid-level instead. Teams cannot use the bi-annual if it pushes them more than $4 million above the tax threshold, and Miami will be in that territory if Deng and Dragic stay.

If the Heat is a tax team, it’s not certain that Miami would use the entire $3.4 million taxpayer’s midlevel exception because of the punitive nature of the tax, though that would be the Heat's choice.

If Miami bypasses using all of the taxpayer's midlevel, the Heat could look to improve through trades, minimum contracts, a portion of the mid-level or through the draft (if it gets the top-10 protected first-rounder otherwise owed to Philadelphia).

Don't rule out the trade route; Deng, Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers and Josh McRoberts hold varying degrees of value. The only motivation for Deng to opt out would be if he believes he can get a lucrative multiyear deal here or elsewhere.

Regardless, Miami must add at least one skilled shooter who can space the floor. The Heat is ranked 24th in three-point field goal percentage this season (at 33.4) after finishing seventh, 10th, second and 12th during the four years of the LeBron James era.

Examining unrestricted free agent options who could fill that role, some of whom could be potential starters if Deng surprisingly bolts:

### The under (age) 30 crowd: The two most appealing options, San Antonio’s Danny Green and Toronto’s Lou Williams, very likely will be out of Miami’s price range. Both should command more than the mid-level exception, let alone the taxpayer’s midlevel.

Phoenix 6-8 swingman Gerald Green (11.9 points per game, 35.1 on threes) would be worth considering if he’s willing to take the midlevel. So might Phoenix 6-4 shooting guard Marcus Thornton, who was once drafted by the Heat and traded immediately after that.

Thornton, 28, had interest in signing with Miami last summer if the Celtics had bought him out. He’s shooting 37.8 percent on threes.

Others available: New Orleans 6-9 forward Luke Babbitt (51.3 percent on threes); Sacramento 6-9 forward Omri Casspi (40.2 percent on threes), Spurs 6-5 guard Marco Belinelli (37.4), Atlanta 6-4 guard John Jenkins (41.2) and two 27-year-old Lakers: 6-4 shooting guard Wayne Ellington (37) and 6-7 forward Wesley Johnson (35.1).

### The 30-plus crowd: Pat Riley often has pursued older veterans to fill specific needs (Shane Battier, Ray Allen, etc), and he will have several past-their-prime but still effective shooters from which to choose this summer.

Considering how this organization likes Duke players, the most appealing could be Chicago’s Mike Dunleavy, who is shooting 40.9 percent on threes at age 34.

Also available: Dallas’ Richard Jefferson (age 35, 42.1 percent on threes), Houston’s Jason Terry (37, 38.6 percent), Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince (35, 46.3 percent), the Nets’ Alan Anderson (32, 34.8) and the Hornets’ Gary Neal (30, 30.5 percent and has declined as a three-point shooter since leaving the Spurs).

### The ex-Heat crowd: The Heat often takes the been there/done that approach with alums, though there’s occasionally the inclination for a reunion, as was the case with Michael Beasley after Chris Bosh’s health scare.

Several capable shooters who once wore Heat uniforms will be free agents this summer, including Cleveland’s James Jones (age 34; 35.8 percent on threes this season), Portland’s Dorell Wright (age 29, 38 percent), Washington’s Rasual Butler (age 35, 38.2 percent) and Detroit’s Shawne Williams (29; Heat staff liked his shooting but didn’t necessarily trust his defense).

### Other options: There are several, including a handful of affordable backup point guards should Miami go that route (Mo Williams, Aaron Brooks, Jeremy Lin, Leandro Barbosa and CJ Watson). There are also a few scorers who aren’t very good three-point shooters, a group led by Indiana’s Rodney Stuckey.

### Please see the last post for more Heat notes.

CHATTER

### We hear the Dolphins are bringing in Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney, considered among the draft’s best middle linebackers, to Davie to meet with team officials.

McKinney could be an option with the 47th pick if he's available. 

NFL Network's Mike Mayock calls him "a big downhill player" and also says he is "a poor man's Lavonte David."

Mel Kiper's assessment of McKinney, courtesy ESPN.com:

"He sees most of his snaps in the middle of the field, but you can put the 6-5, 250-pound McKinney in other spots and he'll succeed, and the Bulldogs' coaches have put him on the edge to take advantage of his supreme athleticism and decent pass-rushing skills. McKinney's versatility is driven by what a special athlete he is. He's going to run as fast as many running backs, and jump as high as some good wide receivers. But he's strong, too, and takes on blocks and won't be pushed backward by ball carriers. "

McKinney is the fourth confirmed visitor among inside linebackers, joining UM's Denzel Perryman (local visitor, so doesn't count among 30), Michigan's Jake Ryan and Georgia's Ramik Wilson.

### Another of the 30 confirmed non-local visits: potential first-round running back Melvin Gordon, who ran for 2587 yards on 7.5 per carry at Wisconsin last season. He's visiting next Tuesday.

The Dolphins also have closely studied Georgia running back Todd Gurley, the other projected first-round back.

Kiper has Gurley going 19th and Gordon 24th. He said Gordon "has the explosiveness that you need from a running back taken this high -- he's a true game-breaker -- but he's also proved durable." 

### The Dolphins knew Greg Jennings would be visiting Jacksonville this week and remain in the mix for him, along with Wes Welker. (Jennings is visiting the Saints next.) The Dolphins so far have chosen not to pursue Reggie Wayne. Those are the most accomplished receivers still available...

The Dolphins have agreed to a deal with former UM receiver LaRon Byrd, who has played in five NFL games (Arizona, Cleveland) and joined Miami's practice squad last season before a December shoulder injury.

### Dolphins center Mike Pouncey’s new deal didn’t provide the 2015 cap relief some had hoped for, dropping his 2015 cap number by just $200,000, to $7.25 million, according to cap guru Joel Corry.

### Worrisome considering the Marlins’ 1-6 start: According to interesting research from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan: Over the past 31 years, of the 56 teams that began 1-6, only eight finished with a winning record and only two made the playoffs. The Marlins are 2-6 after tonight.

### The lighter side: Nobody does parties like Chris Bosh, whose belated 31st birthday bash on Sunday included eight food trucks, a gaming area with a beer pong, a cake in the shape of a beer mug and two musical groups performing (including Neon Trees).

Guests received beer growlers and other gifts. "He throws a hell of a shindig," Wade said.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz     

Tuesday evening: On Hassan Whiteside's offensive growth, Heat notes

Count center Hassan Whiteside’s continued evolution among the few
bright spots for the Heat in April.

Whiteside is averaging 19.7 points and 15.7 rebounds in his past three
games, and the Heat has run more plays for him in the post.

He equaled a career high with 24 points against Orlando on Monday on
10 for 14 shooting. He’s shooting 68.1 percent from the field over the
past seven games.

Whiteside said he is “really proud” of his offensive development. “
Just the fact they’re throwing the ball to me,” he said. “[Dwyane]
Wade… [and] Luol Deng [are] giving up [their] shot to throw it to me
in the post. I really feel like the team is believing in me.”

Said Goran Dragic: “I still think he can be one of the main dominant
centers in this league. Hopefully, he will keep improving.”

After missing 12 of 16 free throws against Toronto, Whiteside changed
his free throw motion, with the help of assistant coach Juwan Howard,
and made four of five on Monday.

“I can play with that for the rest of my career,” he said.

Whiteside will spend much of this summer working out at
AmericanAirlines Arena and at a YMCA in Charlotte, not far from his
home in Gastonia, N.C.

"It's going to be a big summer for me," Whiteside said. "My last
couple of summers I had to go to China, I had to go to Lebanon. I had
to go over here.

“This is really the first summer I can get with some coaches and
actually work on my game and actually get on a program where I can
lift weights and become a better basketball player."

A top candidate for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, Whiteside
posted on Instagram on Tuesday: “I know one thing. I won the most
improve life award. I'm Bless !!!!! And hater continue to hate Just
make sure you spell my name right. I been doubted and looked over my
whole life. I'm [used] to it.”

###  Forward Luol Deng, who has a player option for $10.1 million for
next season, said he hasn’t thought about whether he will exercise it.
“I love this organization,” he said. “Everything has been great for me
overall.”

But because he relies a lot on moving without the ball for his
offense, he said the lineup turnover has made the season “difficult.
It’s been very hard to be consistent. I haven’t found a consistent way
to come in every night and knowing exactly what I’m doing.”

### For NBAstore.com’s overall retail sales since the start of the
season, the Heat finished eighth among all franchises. Chicago was No.
1. Dwyane Wade ranked ninth in jersey sales, behind LeBron James,
Stephon Curry, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving,
Tim Duncan and Carmelo Anthony.

Check back later tonight for a lot more Heat and Dolphins.

April 13, 2015

Late Monday night: Updating Heat's playoff, lottery pick odds; Nuggets on Dolphins' signing; Fins notes

This was a good night for the Heat, with Miami remaining alive in its improbable bid for a playoff berth, and one potential obstacle being removed in the Heat’s attempt to keep its lottery pick, should it not make the playoffs.

On the playoff front, the Heat’s win against Orlando and Brooklyn’s loss to Chicago mean the Heat's playoff hopes live another day.

Four things must happen for Miami to make the playoffs: Indiana must lose to visiting Washington on Tuesday, the Heat must win in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Indiana must lose in Memphis on Wednesday and Brooklyn must lose at home to Orlando on Wednesday.

With regard to the Heat’s top-10 protected draft pick, Utah’s win against Dallas tonight assures that the Jazz will finish with a better record than Miami.

The Heat will enter the next-to-last day of the season with the NBA’s 10th worst record and will keep that position if it loses in Philadelphia. If Miami stays in that position, it would have a 91 percent chance of having a pick in the top 10 and consequently, not having to forward the pick to Philadelphia.

Miami can finish with a record no worse or no better than 10th-worst, but there’s still a chance Indiana or Brooklyn can finish tied with Miami for the 10th-worst record. If both finish with the same record as Miami, the Heat would make the playoffs.

But if only one of those teams finishes with the same record as Miami, then the Heat would not make the playoffs and instead would partake in a coin flip to determine pre-draft lottery order, leaving the Heat at risk of falling to 11th.

Of course, this is moot if Miami loses in Philadelphia, which would assure the Heat of having the 10th worst record and being the only team with 46 losses. And that's one reason why the 76ers would have incentive for Miami to win when the teams play on Wednesday.

DOLPHINS CHATTER

A few notes on new Dolphins cornerback Zack Bowman: He started 28 games in seven seasons, including 23 with the Bears in his first six seasons, and five with the Giants last season when they had injuries at the position….

These two stats stand out about his 2014 season: He allowed only 13 of 36 passes thrown against him to be completed; that 36.6 percent success rate was easily the best among 108 cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

But those 13 receptions averaged an absurd 19.3 yards, which was the worst in the league….

Those two stats might have been an anomaly, because in his final year with the Bears (2013), he allowed 44 of 64 passes thrown against him to be caught (16th worst percentage), but permitted only 11.1 yards per catch (22nd best)…

In reconciling all of those mixed messages from his past two seasons, this much is encouraging: The passer rating in his coverage area was 68.8 and 75.1 the past two seasons…

Bowman, 30, a former fifth-rounder out of Nebraska, is also considered a very good special teams player, much like another ex-Giants player than Miami signed (linebacker Spencer Paysinger)…

A Giants web site was critical of Bowman’s run support…

If the Dolphins don’t draft a cornerback in the first two days of the draft, he could end up competing with Jamar Taylor and Will Davis to start on the boundary, opposite Brent Grimes. Brice McCain figures to play a lot in nickel packages.

UPDATE: Bowman said at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday that he was told he will have "an opportunity to start." (We presume he means compete to start.)

Bowman, a college teammate of Ndamukong Suh at Nebraska, described himself thusly to the Dolphins’ radio show, Finsiders: “I’m versatile and at the same time I enjoy playing special teams. I’ve been a part of a lot of good special teams being in Chicago, playing with Devin Hester, who’s a big Miami native. I’m just excited….

"I’m always going to come in here and work my butt off and help this team out in any way I can, whether that’s at corner, dime, nickel, safety, special teams. Whatever I can do, I just want to come in here and help this team win.” 

### Oregon tackle Jake Fisher, who has some experience playing guard, has the Dolphins among his scheduled visits, according to Fox.

Fisher, a potential second- or third-rounder, is the 17th confirmed player to visit the Dolphins among non-local draft prospects; teams can bring in as many as 30 non-local players to their headquarters for medical tests and to meet with coaches and executives.

We’ve written about the other 16 in previous posts, with DeVante Parker and Trae Waynes among the most prominent.

### Michael Crabtree signed with the Raiders, reducing the Dolphins’ options in their search for a veteran receiver.

Among those still available: Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Jerrel Jernigan, Hakeem Nicks, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd, Robert Meachem and Greg Salas. Though the Dolphins would like to add a veteran, they're also expected to address receiver in the draft.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Crabtree can make as much as $5 million with Oakland next season --- $3 million in base, another $2 million in incentives. That combined total is significantly more than what Miami was willing to pay him.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz        

April 12, 2015

Sunday night: Ten Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins, Panthers nuggets: Where Heat stands; Heat draft options; Potential UM football suspension

A couple of notes on each of five So Flo teams:

### The Heat's slim playoff hopes gained some clarity over the past six hours. And this is where we stand: Six things --- exactly six --- must happen for the Heat to avoid missing the playoffs for only the second time in Dwyane Wade's 12 seasons.

To qualify for the playoffs, Miami must beat Orlando at home on Monday and win at Philadelphia on Wednesday; Brooklyn must lose at home against both Chicago on Monday and Orlando on Wednesday; and Indiana must lose Tuesday against Washington and Wednesday at Memphis.

The Heat would win a three-way tie with Brooklyn and Indiana because of a superior record in head-to-head matchups among the three.

The Heat can no longer be the No. 7 seed and play Cleveland.

Miami can only be the No. 8 seed, which would mean a first-round matchup with Atlanta. But asking the Nets to lose at home to Orlando --- plus the other five things needed --- is obviously a long shot.

### For those wondering about the Heat's chances of keeping its top-10 protected lottery pick, Miami still has the 10th worst record in the league, and if that stands, the Heat would have a 91 percent chance of keeping that pick.

But Utah could tie the Heat if it loses to Dallas and Houston and if Miami wins its final two games.

Indiana and Brooklyn also can still finish with the same record as Miami if those teams go 0-2 and the Heat 2-0; Miami would make the playoffs if all three do. The Nets would make the playoffs over the Pacers if those teams finish tied but with a better record than Miami. 

For draft purposes, a pre-lottery coin flip would break ties for teams with the same record.

Miami could achieve the ninth-worst record if it loses twice and if Charlotte beats Toronto and Houston. Then a coin flip would break a Heat/Hornets tie before the lottery.

Players projected for the mid-to-late lottery range in a deep draft include power rotation players Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Myles Turner (Texas), Kevin Looney, (UCLA) and Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin) and three small forwards with three-point range: Kansas’ Kelly Oubre Jr., Arizona’s Stanley Johnson and Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker.

Over the past 20 years, there have been far more quality players taken 10th overall than otherwise, including Paul George, Caron Butler, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce and Eddie Jones.

### UM, already shaky on the offensive line, is facing the possibility of playing part of next season without likely starting tackle Taylor Gadbois, who might be suspended several games for an undisclosed rules violation, according to a source. There’s no final decision, and resolution is not imminent.

Gadbois is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him this spring. 

(We have a sense of the violation but am not comfortable reporting it without additional confirmation.)

### Why did Manu Lecomte and DeAndre Burnett leave the UM basketball team?

According to a source briefed on the situation, the school was left with the impression that Lecomte wanted more playing time and Burnett more shots.

One concern conveyed inside the basketball program last season was a suspicion that some of the young players were playing more for themselves than each other.

But UM is still in good shape at guard with Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, Davon Reed, Ja’Quan Newton and James Palmer.

### Could opening week for the Marlins have gone any worse? A 1-5 start and three players injured, included pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who's underdoing an MRI on his elbow, as our Clark Spencer reports.

David Phelps or Brad Hand would be the logical options to replace him in the rotation if necessary, with Phelps owning the better career resume.

Takeaways from the first week: The bottom of the order is a major problem. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is hitting 2 for 14, Adeiny Hechavarria 1 for 22... If Mat Latos doesn't pitch well again on Monday, then there are big problems. The Marlins need him to be the Latos they thought they were getting.... Closer Steve Cishek has been shaky: 33.75 ERA and a blown save in two appearances.

### The good news on the Marlins’ poor start: Over the past four seasons, 14 teams started 0-3 and six made the playoffs, most recently the 2014 Angels, according to our friends at Elias Sports Bureau.

### Veteran receiver Hakeem Nicks, who would make sense for Miami to consider, would welcome Dolphins interest but as of late last week, was waiting to hear back from the Dolphins while planning other visits.

The Dolphins want a veteran receiver who not only would produce, but also set a good example for the younger receivers. Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings and Wes Welker remain in the mix. Jerrel Jernigan and Santonio Holmes are among others available.

### Cornerback Charles Gaines isn't the only Louisville defensive back with whom the Dolphins have spent time. They also brought in safety Gerod Holliman.... The Dolphins’ draft search has included multiple calls on a former standout rugby player in New Zealand (BYU running back Paul Lasike). He had 79 carries for 364 yards last season (4.6 per carry). He also caught 25 passes for 267 yards.

### Good to see the Panthers wrap up a new one-year contract with Jaromir Jagr that could be worth between $3.5 million and $5.5 million. He had six goals and 12 assists in 20 games with the Panthers and his presence had a beneficial effect on several of the Panthers' young players.

"To get a superstar of his ability with his leadership qualities, you could see the young guys looked up to him in the locker room,'' GM Dale Tallon said. "The play of [Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov] improved.… Just a great role model for our young guys and gives us incredible ability to score goals in critical situations. Shame on me for not trading for him sooner.''

### I asked Jagr today about playing in a market where he goes largely (not entirely) unrecognized in public.

"Lets change it,'' he said. "They could see when watching TV it's a different Panthers with young guys with a lot of talent and speed. They can beat anybody. It's up to us how we play. They're going to come. It's just a matter of time.''

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 11, 2015

Dolphins summon four high-end CBs to Davie; Assessing Fins' CB options

One of the biggest remaining mysteries of this Dolphins offseason is whether they can find a cornerback in the draft who’s better than Jamar Taylor (the current front-runner) or Will Davis for the starting job opposite Brent Grimes.

But we can assure you they’re looking very closely at draft options. I'm told they have summoned three potential first-round cornerbacks --- Michigan State’s Trae Waynes, LSU’s Jalen Collins and Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson --- to meet with Dolphins coaches and executives in Davie.

Those three represent 10 percent of the Dolphins’ permitted 30 visits by non-local players. It's more than 10 percent if you also factor in the visit by Utah's Eric Rowe, a projected second-rounder.

Inside the Dolphins, there remains optimism that Taylor and Davis can develop, but Miami wants to see results -- and quickly.

 “This is year three,” Joe Philbin said of Taylor (off a shoulder injury) and Davis (off an ACL tear). “Neither one played any meaningful time their first year. Last year both of them contributed somewhat and both ended up on injured reserve. They should have enough experience. You know the drill. You’ve been around. You’ve been in the system. Coverages haven’t changed a lot. It’s an important year for them.”

The Dolphins say they view free agent pickup Brice McCain (who started nine games for Pittsburgh last season) as primarily a nickel corner (replacing Jimmy Wilson) and their pursuit of a few free agent starting corners (primarily Buster Skrine) didn’t materialize into signings.

But Miami has explored trades for a corner (Philadelphia’s Brandon Boykin has been reported as a possibility) and is intrigued by Waynes, Johnson, Collins and Rowe.

Exploring the cornerback options in the draft:

### First-round possibilities: Waynes would be appealing if he slips to 14, but ESPN analyst and former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said there’s no way he falls out of the top 10.

“He has speed, size. All the things you want in physical qualifications suggests he's going to go in the top 15,” said ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who has him going 11th. “Corners tend to be pushed up. He's got the right attitude. There are times he will give a little ground and guys will beat him inside, but that’s rare. He's without question the top corner in this draft.”

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Collins and Johnson also would be worthy of Miami’s pick at 14, though some rate them lower than that.

Kiper has Johnson 22nd and Collins 30th in his mock draft, and Miami might be able to trade down a bit to get either of them.

“Jalen Collins had only 10 starts at LSU but has good size (6-1), reach, can play physical but also turn and run with the fastest wide receivers in the league,” Kiper said. “He's not a complete package yet.”

And what about the six-foot Johnson?

“A standout on a lousy team; good length for the position and moves as well as any cornerback in the draft,” Kiper said. “He can make man-to-man coverage look so easy at times, and he's an active run defender.”

Marcus Peters, who was dismissed from the Washington team last November after several arguments with coaches, is a first-round talent but “brings with him some off-field baggage after multiple suspensions and run-ins with coaches at Washington,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said.

But, McShay added, “purely based off of tape study, he's the best corner in this class, with very good size, strength, natural athleticism and playmaking instincts.”

Kiper has Peters going 26th. After the experience with Mike Wallace and based on Joe Philbin's past behavior, it's difficult to envision Philbin wanting to deal with a player who has a history of arguing with coaches, as Peters reportedly does.

Connecticut’s Byron Jones, who Kiper has 27th, has seen his stock rise and looms as a late first-round option.

### Second round (Miami picks 47th): Keep an eye on Rowe, who played safety for three years and moved to corner last year. The Dolphins were interested enough to bring him to Davie.

“The two most interesting guys are Byron Jones --- he's late first, early second, and Eric Rowe, who has tested like a first rounder and played like a high pick at a variety of positions,” Kiper said. “Those two guys have moved way up.”

FSU’s Ronald Darby and PJ Williams and Louisville’s Charles Gaines (who visited the Dolphins) are all options in the second round or perhaps lower; Williams’ stock figures to be hurt by a recent DUI arrest.

Quinten Rollins, who played four years of basketball at Miami of Ohio, also has moved up to the second round on some boards, and Miami is looking at him very closely.

“PJ Williams could be a first-round corner because of his length in the NFL's continuing quest to get longer,” Mayock said before his arrest.

“Darby is quick but I think he's more of a third- fourth-round corner. I'm a Quinten Rollins guy. For the kid to not play any college football to step on the gridiron and pick off seven passes and become the MAC Defensive Player of the Year is pretty mind boggling.”

One wild card is Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, a first-round talent recovering from an ACL injury. He “could be a steal if he drops into the second round,” Mayock said.

### Mid-round options: That group includes FAU’s D’Joun Smith (Miami has worked him out and shown interest), UCF’s Jacoby Glenn, Tulane’s Lorenzo Doss, Oregon State’s Steven Nelson, Mississippi’s Senquez Golson, Southern California’s Josh Shaw, Notre Dame’s Cody Riggs, Stanford’s Alex Carter, Ohio State’s Dorian Grant, TCU’s Kevin White and Northwestern State’s Imoan Claiborne.

The Dolphins also have shown strong interest in two players who weren’t invited to the NFL Combine and could be late-round picks: Texas A&M’s DeShazor Everett and Texas Southern’s Tray Walker.

### My thought on Miami's first round pick three weeks before the draft: A receiver or cornerback would seem to make the most sense at 14, and Miami has used at least six of its 30 visits on first-round picks at those positions.

Other possibilities? Kiper has Miami taking Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton. And Miami taking a high-quality tackle who can play guard at an elite level --- or Georgia running back Todd Gurley --- cannot be ruled out by any means, either.

Another option: Trade down a few picks in the first round to draft cornerbacks Collins or Johnson; add a third-round pick in the trade; and address receiver in the second round (perhaps with Phillip Dorsett) and linebacker or guard in the third.

And remember, even though the Dolphins need a starting linebacker, Mayock said there's no 4-3 linebacker worth taking at 14 or in the first round. (Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree are considered 4-3 ends or 3-4 linebackers.)

Please check back later this weekend for a lot more from the Sunday buzz column... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz