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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.

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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     

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