SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Heat talk, on Dwyane Wade and the NBA Draft:
### When a league executive told The Sporting News that Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll (a pretty good player who averaged 12.6 points this season) probably will snag a deal worth more than $15 million annually this summer, it reinforced the notion that Wade essentially has the upper-hand in negotiations with Miami, because of the difficult predicament it would leave the Heat if he departs.
If Luol Deng opts in for $10.1 million next season, and if the Heat loses Wade and loses Goran Dragic (which becomes more of a possibility if Wade leaves), Miami would have $56 million committed to 11 players ($1.3 million more if it picks up Michael Beasley’s option).
That would leave less than $10 million in cap space to replace Wade and Dragic if both depart. Among a thin group of unrestricted free agent guards and swingmen, that could get maybe a Danny Green or Lou Williams (not both) or a Mo Williams and Gerald Green (with a little left). That $10 million probably wouldn’t even be enough to land Portland free agent Wes Matthews.
If Deng and Dragic stay and Wade leaves, Miami would be capped out and have only a $5.5 million mid-level exception to replace Wade, which might get a Mike Dunleavy or Green but nobody close to Wade’s level.
And if Deng, Dragic and Wade all depart, that leaves just $20 million to replace all three – not nearly enough with salaries at such inflated levels. (Remember, the Heat can exceed the cap to keep Wade and Dragic.)
The Heat can free up additional cap space by dumping salary, though that means dealing assets for very little in return. For instance, trading Josh McRoberts (due $5.5 million next season) or Chris Andersen ($5 million) would be a real option if Miami drafts Wisconsin 7-1 center/power forward Frank Kaminsky.
Bottom line: The Heat might find a more durable player than Wade in free agency but won’t find one nearly as good as Wade, who was 11th in scoring at 21.5 this season.
That’s why I don’t buy the argument, espoused by a local radio host, that the Heat has Wade over a barrel. Yes, there are no assurances that anyone would offer Wade more than what the Heat ultimately offers. But there will be solid offers for the best guard available in free agency.
And Wade is under no obligation to take the highest offer. In fact, he could consider joining a top contender for less than Miami’s offer if he continues to feel the Heat isn’t treating him fairly. A friend has described Wade as upset with the Heat’s position and that he wants to feel like a priority.
### The Heat summoned Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson and Kaminsky --- two players very much in the mix for the Heat’s pick at No. 10 --- to work out and meet with team officials this past week in Miami.
Kentucky guard Devin Booker, another top contender at No. 10, visited the Heat on Monday, according to a newspaper in Biloxi, Miss., near where Booker grew up. The Heat also has been trying to schedule a visit for Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre and recently hosted Wisconsin small forward Sam Dekker.
If the draft goes according to projections, at least four of those five players should be available at No. 10. So might two intriguing power forwards, Texas’ Myles Turner and Kentucky’s Trey Lyles, though neither fills a Heat need and neither is a polished “stretch” power forward; Myles shot 17 for 62 on threes, Lyles 4 for 29. Certainly don't rule out Lyles, who's visiting Heat headquarters.
From the Heat’s perspective, these seven players are widely projected to be off the board by 10: centers Jahlil Okafor and Karl Anthony-Towns; guards De’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, small forwards Justise Winslow and Mario Hezonja and Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis. Many expect Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein also will be gone by 10. If any of those eight players slips to the Heat’s pick at No. 10, Miami would have to be happy.
The Heat will hold its breath when Charlotte picks at No. 9. Booker, perhaps the best shooter in the draft, visited the Hornets last week and would fill Charlotte’s biggest need. Charlotte was the NBA’s worst three-point shooting team, while the Heat ranked 24th.
There has never been a greater premium on three-point shooting; it wasn’t a coincidence that the top 10 teams in three-point percentage all made the playoffs this season. (Golden State was first, Cleveland fifth).
Among the others in the Heat’s draft range, Johnson (who calls himself the best player in the draft) is a competent three-point shooter (37.1 percent), Oubre is OK (36 percent) and Kaminsky (41.6) is excellent.
Dekker’s three-point shooting dropped last season, to 33.1 percent. “There have been some questions about my jump shot – can I shoot it from the perimeter consistently? – and that’s something I’ve really worked on,” he told The Charlotte Observer last week.
Incidentally, Murray State point guard Cameron Payne also is projected for Miami’s range but wouldn’t make sense for the Heat. UNLV shooting guard Rashad Vaughn impressed the Heat during a recent workout and is shooting up draft boards. He can’t completely be ruled out, though 10 seems too high.
Count ESPN lead college basketball analyst Jay Bilas among those especially impressed by Booker and Kaminsky.
“Booker might be the best shooter in this draft, which is not a draft that boasts great shooters, and this one special skill will get him chosen in the lottery,” Bilas said on ESPN.com. “He can do other things, too, making him even more valuable…. Booker is a much better driver and athlete than he gets credit for. He was primarily a catch-and-shoot guy at Kentucky. He has size, strength, a solid build.”
Bilas said Kaminsky “is arguably the most skilled big man in the draft. A big body who can screen on the ball, pop to an open shot, get a shot or shot fake and drive it. He has improved every season and I believe he can continue to get better. Kaminsky is a terrific stretch big man and will have a long career in the NBA.”
### We hear the Dolphins’ decision to sign defensive tackle C.J. Mosley wasn’t an indictment of second-round pick Jordan Phillips, but more so, borne out of concern about the young players behind Phillips. (A.J. Francis and Anthony Johnson are now competing for the fifth tackle job.) Ndamukong Suh is close with Mosley and was very much in favor of Miami signing him.
### The Dolphins gave Mosley just over $1 million for this season, leaving them with a shade under $9 million in cap space. With regard to discussions on Evan Mathis, keep in mind that the Dolphins want to enter the season with several million dollars in cap space.
### One player criticism of Joe Philbin over the years has been his lack of fire and emotion. So this wasn’t surprising: When USA Today asked Mike Wallace about transitioning from Philbin to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, Wallace said:
“Oh my God — I love it, man. I love it. I love it. Honestly, [Zimmer]'s more of my type of guy — fired up. It's cool when you do things and just do them. But when you do them and have some fire with it, it's a lot more fun. I think it's more of an environment for me, coming from [Steelers] coach [Mike] Tomlin being fired up and going to Coach Philbin, who was a lot more reserved, then coming back to another coach who's fired up. I love it.”
### There’s a growing belief inside the UM program that running back Mark Walton, who has deftly picked up UM’s pass protections, will make a big impact this season, perhaps more than any freshman.
“Very impressive; I don't think I've seen any other kid more energetic in the locker-room,” offensive tackle K.C. McDermott said. “He's so smart. He picked up playbook extremely quick. He's got the mindset he's going to compete for a starting job. [For a freshman], he's taken it to a whole new level.”
In interviews before enrolling at UM last month, Walton pointed to his “vision, cutback ability and ability to catch out of the backfield” as his strengths. Joe Yearby, Gus Edwards and I all bring different styles. Joe is shifty. Gus is a pounder. It can be a great group.”
### Despite losing 11 draft picks and a record 29 over the past three, FSU’s Jimbo Fisher reassured fans at a Broward event recently: “This team is as talented or more [than last year’s]. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited to coach a team. This team really intrigues me.”
### With the Dodgers paying all of their combined $12.5 million salary, has a team ever had better “free” players than Dan Haren (6-2, 3.12 ERA) and Dee Gordon (leading baseball in hits and on pace to shatter the franchise record?).
“I don’t know how Haren is getting them out throwing 83,” a veteran scout said. Haren’s 86 MPH velocity on fastballs ranks 102nd of 106 qualifying pitchers this season, per Fangraphs.com.
Amazingly, Gordon said he hasn’t been recognized a single time by a fan in South Florida since being traded to the Marlins, though he said he doesn’t go out much. “I like that,” he said. “I’m boring.”
He said being voted a starter in the All-Star Game “would mean a lot, playing in a smaller market.”
### The Marlins, a couple weeks ago, made an inquiry on Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who’s available, but he’s due $8 million and $13 million over the next year-and-a-half. And with the Marlins still nine below .500 even after winning three straight, it wouldn't seem to make much sense.