WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The Heat has been pushing to acquire a skilled shooter before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, a search that takes on even greater need with Chris Bosh out indefinitely with clotting in his left calf. But Miami was uncertain this week if it has enough appealing assets to achieve that.
The need for another shooter is magnified not only because Bosh leads the team in three-pointers, but also because Miami’s best lineups without Bosh have featured small forward Luol Deng shifting to power forward.
Such a lineup would create a need for more quality depth at small forward, supplementing Justise Winslow and swingman Gerald Green, who are shooting 25.8 and 31.9 percent, respectively, on threes.
With Bosh sidelined by blood clots for the final 30 games last season, the Heat went 15-15 and often played a big lineup, with Udonis Haslem starting 21 of those 30 games. This season, the Heat would be better equipped to deal with Bosh’s absence, because this group has Winslow, Green, Amar’e Stoudemire and a healthy Josh McRoberts.
Erik Spoelstra pays close attention to plus/minus numbers, and consider this: Of Miami’s seven-most used lineups with Deng playing power forward, and with Bosh on the bench, the Heat has outscored opponents by 52 points.
The lineup of Deng, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and Winslow has played the second-most minutes of any lineup on the team (115) and has outscored opponents by 20. Conversely, the Heat’s starting (and most-used lineup) has been outscored by eight.
So the oddity is that on a team with five power forwards (Bosh, Haslem, McRoberts, Jarnell Stokes and power forward/center Amar’e Stoudemire), the best option to fill in for Bosh is probably a small forward (Deng) playing power forward, alongside a rim protector in Whiteside.
The question is whether Winslow --- who offers so much in terms of defense, intangibles, etc. --- can shoot effectively enough to make that lineup work over longer minutes.
McRoberts would be another starting option, but he’s shooting 3 for 24 on threes and seems rusty after a long layoff. Spoelstra also could turn to Haslem, but a Whiteside/Stoudemire pairing would not be ideal.
As for trades, the Heat has sifted through a bunch of skilled shooters on non-playoff teams, eager to add someone cheap but having limited assets to offer. That group of options includes Sacramento’s Omri Casspi (as Ethan noted) and Ben McLemore, Denver’s Randy Foye (as noted by ESPN today), Phoenix's Mirza Teletovic, Milwaukee’s Jeryd Bayless, Brooklyn’s Wayne Ellington among others. (The Lakers’ Lou Williams and Nick Young have unappealing contracts.)
The Heat has been exploring bigger deals, including New York Daily News-reported discussions about Dwight Howard (the Rockets reportedly want at least one first-round pick in the deal and Miami has none to offer) and a day-old radio report of discussions with Atlanta that would send away Whiteside and Dragic to Houston but potentially net Al Horford and Jeff Teague.
The Horford/Teague scenario would be appealing to some inside the Heat, but Atlanta is talking to multiple teams and a third team would be needed to give the Hawks assets desirable to them.
The Heat likes Horford and acquiring him would give Miami a clear advantage in signing him as a free agent this summer, because (as ESPN noted), Horford values the fifth year of a contract, which is something that only his incumbent team could give him, with other suitors limited to four-year offers.
That would also be the appeal of acquiring impending free agent Mike Conley, in whom the Heat also has interest, according to ESPN’s Dan Le Batard.
The Heat is fully aware that Dragic is better suited to an up-tempo system and that’s why Miami has been open to hearing offers, though there’s certainly no mandate to trade him.
But aside from reducing its luxury tax burden (and progress was made today with the Chris Andersen trade), what Miami still particularly covets is a quality shooter with range, according to an NBA official in contact with the Heat's front office.
### An official who has spoken to the Heat said two players of interest to Miami earlier this season were Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, but neither obviously went anywhere.
### As was the case last year, Miami’s first-round pick due Philadelphia is top-10 protected. The Heat is seven games ahead of the teams with the ninth and 10th worst records (Knicks, Kings). So if Miami missed the playoffs and doesn't beat the odds in the lottery, a free-fall would be needed for Miami to land another lottery pick.
And even with the Bosh news, the Heat is still thinking playoffs. The first-round pick, if not forwarded in June, would be unprotected in 2017.
### There has been no talk of Bosh retiring --– he’s still hoping to play this year –-- but for those who wondered, his $23.7 million salary would remain on Miami’s cap next season even if he retired.
### While it's undetermined if Bosh can play before the end of the season, a source reiterated tonight that Bosh's longterm health outlook is good, and that everything should be fine soon after this newest blood clot.
### The Dolphins’ preference at safety is to find another starter opposite Reshad Jones, likely keep Michael Thomas (restricted free agent) as a backup, and likely keep Walt Aikens because he’s cheap and is one of their best special team players, though they wish he had made more progress at safety. They want to see more of Shamiel Gary.
### UM, in need of immediate help at cornerback, plans to pursue former UF four-star defensive back JC Jackson, who was acquitted on armed robbery charges in November, according to his defensive backs coach at Riverside (Cal.) Community College. That coach, Isaac Shipp, told me that UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph called him, asked for Jackson’s number, and “said he’s very interested in JC and will be recruiting him hard.”
Shipp said Jackson is on track to graduate in May and then would be eligible to play at an FBS school this season. “He’s an NFL-type athlete, a great kid,” Shipp said. “He can go to any SEC or ACC school now and start.”
Jackson left the Gators program after his arrest last May. He has drawn interest from South Carolina and USF but isn’t close to picking a school.
James Kuk, the Riverside defensive coordinator, said he knows Jackson would be interested in Miami if UM calls. Rivals.com rated him the 21st-best cornerback in the 2014 class.
Jackson was arrested after allegedly entering the apartment of an acquaintance with two other men on April 11. Jackson then quickly left, according to a Gainesville police report, and the two other men pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the resident and two others.
The two male suspects demanded the victims get on the floor and empty their pockets. The report stated one of the suspects pressed a gun to the face of one of the victim's while demanding to know where he kept his marijuana and money. The suspects left with $382, marijuana and two video gaming consoles.
Jackson's attorney, Christopher Brown, told The Orlando Sentinel last April that his client had no role in the armed robbery and does not know the two suspects. A jury agreed, acquitting Jackson in two days.
UM has only one cornerback with considerable experience (Corn Elder) and another with some (Sheldrick Redwine).
### Besides looking for cornerbacks who are eligible to play immediately, UM also is looking for receivers who can help right away, as we noted two weeks ago. One such player, 6-3 junior college receiver Dayall Harris, will visit UM on Wednesday, varsitypreps.com's Demetric Warren reported.
Harris, a four-star receiver in the 2014 class, redshirted at Mississippi in the 2014 season but was suspended after what were reported to be several "minor incidents." He transferred to Copiah Lincoln CC in Mississippi and is now eligible to play at an FBS school.
### UM’s best baseball player, junior catcher Zack Collins, said Tuesday this will likely be his final season at Miami. He said he hears he will go anywhere from top 10 to top 100 in next June’s draft.
### Because the Marlins are at their preferred budget ceiling, they aren’t optimistic about adding a veteran fifth starter, but would do it if one of them agrees to a very low-money deal. Miami’s recent focus has been on Kyle Lohse (5-13, 5.85 for Milwaukee), Alfredo Simon (13-12, 5.05 for Detroit) and Jeremy Guthrie (8-8, 5.95 for Kansas City). Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum haven’t yet worked out for teams and might be too pricey.
### Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill told us yesterday that first baseman Justin Bour has lost more than 20 pounds, which will help him defensively, and Marcell Ozuna is in much better shape than a year ago, when club officials privately griped about his conditioning. Ozuna is 20 pounds lighter than he was last February. Read Clark Spencer's story on the home page for more on this.
Please see this afternoon's post for more on the chances of Bosh returning this season and Miami's cost-cutting trade today... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz