Goran Dragic

Heat Glad Goran Dragic Deal Didn’t Happen

Goran Dragic appeared to be on his way to the Mavericks this summer as part of the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade. However, within hours of the news being reported, the deal was off and the Heat were forced to find other deals that would allow them to bring back Butler’s salary. In the end, Dragic remained in town while Hassan Whiteside was shipped to Portland and the franchise is thrilled that the Mavericks had a change of heart.

“We’re all glad that deal didn’t happen,” a Heat official tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The sense of relief came not only because the team was able to keep Dragic but also because the new terms of the Butler sign-and-trade allowed the franchise to move Whiteside, a player the coaching staff didn’t want, per Jackson.

Miami was able to go from middling team in the Eastern Conference to a legit contender for homecourt advantage in round one due to the club’s ability to make shrewd moves this past offseason. Still, good fortune, like the Mavericks declining the Dragic deal, also helped.

Southeast Notes: Wiz, Dragic, Young

When it came time to decide whether he would extend his contract in D.C. beyond the 2020/21 season, Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal consulted with a Hall of Fame sharpshooter. As detailed in a piece by Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington, Beal relayed on the Woj Pod with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that he spoke with 10-time All Star Ray Allen about his future.

“He was in Milwaukee and Seattle and those years were rugged,” Beal noted. “They weren’t always great but he was one of the best players and he was always making sure those teams were in the playoffs or making some type of noise.”

The Wizards currently stand at 3-7, the fourth-worst record in the NBA at present. Their 119.6 opponent points scored per game ranks 28th in the league. Since finishing 49-33 in 2016/17 and losing a hotly contested seven-game series to the Celtics, the Wizards have been plagued by injuries, most notably to pricey All-Star point guard John Wall. Wall played just 41 games in 2017/18, and merely 32 last season. He is expected to miss most or all of 2019/20. The team finished with a 32-50 record in 2018/19.

In October, Beal agreed to a two-year, $72MM maximum contract extension that would take him through the 2021/22 season and include a player option for 2022/23 (his age-29 season).

There’s more news and notes from the Southeast:

  • In sunnier Wizards chatter, NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes wonders if center Moritz Wagner could be the team’s latest Laker-castoff steal, a la Thomas Bryant. After spending his rookie season with the Lakers (just like Bryant), Wagner, the 25th pick in 2018 out of Michigan, was flipped to the Wizards in the blockbuster Anthony Davis deal. Wagner, a high-energy floor-stretcher, had what could be a breakout game Wednesday night against Timberwolves All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. He scored 30 points and 15 rebounds in just 25 bench minutes. Hughes suggests that Wagner, who has limited length for his height and lacks shot-blocking instincts, can still be effective in scrappily fouling players and drawing charges on offense.
  • Point guard Goran Dragic, a 2020 free agent and former All-Star, was talked into a bench role on the surging Heat over a September brunch, according to a new deep dive from The Athletic’s Shandel Richardson. Foregoing mimosas for coffee and eggs, coach Erik Spoelstra pitched Dragic on the role change mid-meal. “He mentioned it to me at brunch and he was saying after that [2018/19 knee] injury he was thinking this was the best way,” Dragic relayed. “I said, ‘Whatever it takes, Coach. I’m going to do whatever you ask of me.’” Dragic, the second-highest paid Heat player, has averaged 16.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 3.4 RPG for the 8-3 Heat.
  • The Athletic’s Sam Amick takes an in-depth look at the ascent of Hawks second-year point guard Trae Young in an exclusive interview. The 21-year-old Young is off to a blistering start. Amick discusses the way Young’s on-court achievements will always be connected with the Hawks’ fateful 2018 draft trade with the Mavericks involving Luka Doncic. Young and Amick scroll through a list of Young’s doubters. “I have pictures and stuff like that. Old tweets. Old different sayings and quotes from people who said things when I was coming into the draft, coming into college too,” Young reflected. “It’s stuff I just keep it in my mind. Some of it is mental notes, but at the same time some of it is stuff that I keep and I have my eye on. …But I think that type of stuff motivates you.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southeast Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southeast Division:

Devonte’ Graham, Hornets, 24, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2018
The Hornets have until July 7th to decide whether to guarantee Graham’s $1,663,861 for next season. Safe to say, that decision has already been made. In terms of salary vs. production, Graham might be the biggest bargain in the league this season. Making just over $1.4MM, Graham leads the team in scoring at 18.0 PPG and 7.3 APG while coming off the bench in all but one game. The Kansas product appeared in 46 games last season, averaging 4.7 PPG in 14.7 MPG. With Kemba Walker bolting to Boston, Graham has blossomed in an expanded role.

Goran Dragic, Heat, 33, PG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2015
Dragic played in just 36 games last season due to right knee surgery. Dragic, now 33, has been a starter most of his career and had to adjust to a second-unit role this season. Thus far, he’s been healthy and productive. He’s averaging 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG in 28.4 MPG while making just 1.8 TPG. Dragic’s $19.2MM expiring contract is a tradeable asset if the Heat decide to shed salary. For now, Dragic is a valuable part of an improved team that should make the playoffs out of arguably the weakest division in the NBA.

Evan Fournier, Magic, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $85MM deal in 2016
Following a couple of sluggish outings against Oklahoma City and Dallas in which he shot 3-for-12 from the field, Fournier has put together a nice three-game stretch. He’s averaged 18.0 PPG and 5.0 APG during that span while knocking down nine 3-pointers and committing just four turnovers. Orlando won two of those games. The team’s second-leading scorer has a $17.15MM option on his contract for next season. In a very weak free agent market, Fournier has plenty of incentive to decline that option in order to secure another long-term deal.

Evan Turner, Hawks, 31, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $70MM deal in 2016
A rotation piece for a playoff team in recent seasons, Turner was swapped by the Trail Blazers for Kent Bazemore during the offseason. Turner was expected to provide veteran stability to a mostly inexperienced unit in Atlanta. But he only averaged 11.3 MPG during the Hawks’ first three games before being sidelined by Achilles soreness. It’s uncertain how much time Turner will require to recover from the injury. In the meantime, Atlanta has plenty of other options at the wing positions and the return of Allen Crabbe further clouds Turner’s role whenever he’s healthy enough to play.

Isaiah Thomas, Wizards, 30, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Thomas’ latest attempt to revive his career seems to be working out. Since returning from a training camp injury, Thomas has jumped into the rotation and seen his playing time steadily increase. He’s averaging 13.9 PPG and 6.3 APG while shooting 38.5 percent from long range in 24.1 MPG. Following a lost season in Denver, Thomas has at least reestablished himself as a rotation player. That’s a heartwarming development for a popular player who was an MVP candidate just a few seasons ago in Boston.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Heat Notes: Butler, Olynyk, Winslow, Haslem

The culture established by team president Pat Riley was a deciding factor in Jimmy Butler agreeing to join the Heat, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.

“The winning habits, the winning ways. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?” he said. “I was excited to have an opportunity to come here, to be here, but when I keep hearing about this culture I was like, ‘I need that in my life.’”

Butler, who received a four-year deal worth approximately $141MM as part of a sign-and-trade with the Sixers, has shown that work ethic during early-morning workouts and in pickup games. Riley describes his biggest summer acquisition as a top-10 player in the NBA

“The one thing that I feel that I owe the franchise and this city is to put the most competitive team on the court that we can and one that will compete for championships,” Riley said. “I think having Jimmy Butler here is a step in that direction.”

We have more on the Heat:

  • Big man Kelly Olynyk won’t be available for the start of training camp but he’s expected to be ready for the opener, Reynolds reports in the same story. He suffered a bone bruise in his right knee while playing for Team Canada prior to the FIBA World Cup. Every other player on the training camp roster is expected to be available at the start of camp.
  • Riley wasn’t thrilled that Justise Winslow said publicly he wanted to be the starting point guard, Reynolds tweets. Winslow commented that he wanted to be the team’s floor leader earlier this month. He played well in that role last season after injuries struck but the starter in recent seasons, Goran Dragic, remains on the roster.
  • Butler would consider playing for Team USA in next year’s Olympics if he’s asked, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets.
  • Prior to re-signing veteran forward Udonis Haslem, Riley asked him if he wanted to coach this summer, Reynolds tweets. Haslem said he wasn’t interested in coaching but Riley believes he’ll eventually change his mind, Reynolds adds.

Goran Dragic Talks Trade Rumors, Butler, Health

Shortly after free agency opened on the night of June 30, the Heat appeared to have a trade in place to send Goran Dragic to Dallas in order to help make room under the team’s hard cap for swingman Jimmy Butler. However, a miscommunication between the Heat and Mavericks scuttled the deal, and while Dragic remained on the trade block for at least another day or two, he’ll ultimately return to Miami to start the 2019/20 season.

As Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald relays, Dragic missed out on much of that trade-rumor drama on the first night of free agency, since he was asleep in Slovenia when those reports surfaced.

“Of course, the next day, in the morning, I received a lot of texts,” Dragic said. “It was a little bit crazy, because at first you didn’t know if the deal went through or not. So a lot of my friends called me and were asking me. But I did not have a clue, because I had just woke up.”

Interestingly, Dragic said he didn’t speak to his agent or the Heat about the trade rumors and opted to “just let it go” when it became clear he’d be staying put. As he prepares to enter a contract year, Dragic expressed enthusiasm about Miami’s offseason moves (“I think we’re a better team”) and touched on a handful of other topics.

Here are some highlights, via Chiang:

On the acquisition of Jimmy Butler:

“I mean, he’s a great competitor. You can see that on the court. I don’t know him personally, but as a player, when I play against him he’s really a tough defender, he’s really vocal on the floor. I think he sets an example for the other players. I think he’s a huge addition for us, especially to lead this group. He can play on both ends, defense and on offense. He’s a great addition to our team.”

On the health of his right knee, which was an issue in 2018/19:

“I’m good, I’m good. I was working hard. My leg is way stronger than last year. Basically the right leg is stronger than the left one. I’m doing some basketball drills, some lifting weights. Everything is going like we planned.”

On his upcoming free agency in 2020:

“If I’m honest, I don’t even think about it, because I’m more in the present, because I’m trying to get back to being healthy this year. So this is my priority, just to stay focused and do my job. And when the time is going to come, then I’m going to think about my future. So, it doesn’t make sense to think it right now, because the season still didn’t start. And I haven’t felt how my body is going to react. So, we’ll see.”

Heat Notes: Free Agency, Leonard, Okpala, Mooney

The Heat won’t be in the market for any of the remaining free agents unless they trade someone from their current roster, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The hard cap that the team has been operating under since the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade has put a severe limit on its flexibility. Miami is already uncomfortably close to its $138.9MM limit.

That means potential additions such as Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony are off the table unless the Heat make another move to open space. They could release Kendrick Nunn, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed, but Winderman considers that unlikely. If they decide to trade someone in exchange for a lesser salary, Winderman identifies Meyers Leonard, who will earn $11.3MM this season, as a possibility. He adds that they may try to move Goran Dragic by the deadline or save their next significant moves for next summer.

There’s more this morning from Miami:

  • Second-round pick KZ Okpala wouldn’t object to spending time in the G League if it’s necessary to get consistent playing time, relays Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Jackson notes that a similar path worked for Josh Richardson, who played four games for Sioux Falls as a second-round pick in 2015. “I trust the staff and whatever they say is best,” Okpala said. “I believe in that and will go into it with a good foot forward.”
  • Free agent guard Matt Mooney, who agreed to sign an Exhibit 10 deal with the Grizzlies last week, received the same offer from the Heat, Jackson notes in the same story. It’s a similar situation to Rayjon Tucker, who recently joined the Bucks, as both players worked out for Miami and were interested in two-way contracts. However, the Heat have decided to let players in training camp compete for two-way deals.
  • Jackson rates the Heat’s potential interest in six players recently identified by former Hawks GM Wes Wilcox as among the most likely to be traded: Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Bradley Beal, Andrew Wiggins, Andre Iguodala and Devin Booker. Miami’s interest in Beal is well known, and he would be at the top of the list if he becomes available. The Heat had discussions about Paul, but won’t make a deal unless they get their two first-round picks back from Oklahoma City. Jackson doesn’t believe Miami would want Love because of his age, contract and injury history, while Iguodala fits better on an immediate contender. However, Jackson sees Booker and Wiggins as possible targets in the future if the Heat can’t land another star in free agency.

Mark Cuban Explains Snag In Trade With Heat

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban blames “miscommunication” for a failed trade that would have helped Jimmy Butler get to Miami, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Dallas attempted to get involved with the sign-and-trade on June 30 shortly after Butler reached an agreement with the Heat. The reported deal would have sent Goran Dragic to the Mavericks, although several media outlets later claimed Dallas believed it was getting Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones Jr. Miami would have needed to include another player to make that deal work financially and wasn’t interested in parting with Jones, according to Jackson.

“As far as we can tell, it was just miscommunication,” Cuban stated in an email. “… We get along great with the Heat and have done many deals with them. Wires just got crossed somehow.”

Cuban added that his team respects Dragic, but had plans for its cap space that would have been affected by taking on his $19.2MM salary. The Mavs believe they have addressed their point guard needs by acquiring Delon Wright on a three-year, $29MM deal in a sign-and-trade with the Grizzlies.

“I was sitting in the room full of people when the call was discussed and we put the trade we thought was happening on our board,” Cuban explained of the misunderstanding with Miami. “We later discussed trade kickers and added a player to make it work. They obviously thought they heard something else.”

The Heat eventually acquired Butler in a four-team deal involving the Sixers, Trail Blazers and Clippers.

After the original trade collapsed, the Heat told Dragic’s representatives they would try to trade him to complete the Butler deal. However, that need disappeared when Portland offered to take Hassan Whiteside‘s hefty salary, and Dragic’s camp was informed that he will remain with the team “barring something unforeseen.” Heat officials haven’t commented on their negotiations with Dallas.

Heat Notes: Paul, Beal, Expiring Contracts, Waiters

The Heat and Thunder never came close to making a deal involving Chris Paul, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Miami was pursuing Russell Westbrook before Oklahoma City agreed to trade him to Houston last week. The focus shifted to a possible deal that would bring Paul to the Heat, but they don’t have the same level of enthusiasm about acquiring him that they did for Westbrook. (Twitter link). A report today indicates that Oklahoma City is pessimistic about its chances of moving Paul and may keep him on the roster for the entire season.

The Heat were only willing to take on the three years and $124MM left on Paul’s contract if OKC met certain demands, including the return of Miami’s draft picks for 2021 and 2023, Jackson adds. The Heat are reluctant to absorb that much salary because it would restrict their flexibility for the summer of 2021.

There’s more from South Florida:

  • Miami’s next chance to add a star could come if Bradley Beal turns down an extension offer from the Wizards, according to Jackson (Twitter link). He suggests the Heat will be among the teams contacting Washington about Beal if they don’t reach an agreement. Beal will become eligible for the extension, which would pay him $111MM over three seasons, on July 26. Jackson notes that the Wizards have turned aside all trade offers involving Beal so far, but he will become a free agent in 2021 without the extension.
  • Some of the Heat’s expiring contracts don’t look so bad after this summer’s spending and may prove to be valuable trade assets, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson both have 2020/21 player options, but Winderman states that Olynyk might opt out of his $13.2MM salary in view of this year’s market. Johnson is more likely to opt in for $16MM because of his age. Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard have expiring deals with no options and are expected to be trade chips.
  • Frustrated by jokes over his body last season, Dion Waiters showed off his leaner, stronger physique in an Instragram post Monday, as relayed in an ESPN story. Waiters admits to being in a “dark place mentally & physically” during the past season as he tried to shake off the effects of an ankle injury.

Southeast Notes: Magic, Parsons, Hornets, Rozier, Dragic

The Magic have scrapped any notion of rebuilding and are building off of last season’s playoff appearance, Josh Robbins of The Athletic contends. Orlando made $179MM in contractual commitments to re-sign Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross and add forward Al-Farouq Aminu. That approach could backfire because the franchise will have minimal salary-cap flexibility in upcoming summers and little chance to chase top-notch free agents, Robbins continues. It was also a vote of confidence that the young players on the roster will show significant growth, Robbins adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Chandler Parsons recently underwent a procedure in Germany to relieve his knee pain, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Parsons had another Regenokine treatment in which a person’s own tissue is collected, processed and then placed back into the body. The Hawks officially acquired the veteran forward from the Grizzlies on Sunday for Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee.
  • The Hornets are willing to pay the luxury tax in future seasons if they become contenders, GM Mitch Kupchak told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Kupchak indicated he’s currently allowed by majority owner Michael Jordan to spend up to the luxury tax threshold. “If we ever get to the point that we feel we can advance in the playoffs, Michael has made it clear that we will go into the tax,” Kupchak said. However, that seems a long way off after losing franchise player Kemba Walker in free agency.
  • Terry Rozier, Walker’s de facto replacement after the sign-and-trade with Boston was completed, was underrated coming into the NBA, Kupchak said. Rozier was the 16th pick of the 2015 draft but should have gone higher in light of his production with the Celtics, Kupchak said in a quote relayed by the team’s PR staff (Twitter link). “We feel like if he was in the draft this year, Terry Rozier would have been a lottery pick,” Kupchak said.
  • Goran Dragic‘s $19.2MM expiring contract gives the Heat a valuable asset to dangle in a trade to continue their roster makeover, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. They could use it this offseason to acquire another star player such as Russell Westbrook, whom the Heat are reportedly interested in, or at the February trading deadline.

Heat, Westbrook Have Mutual Interest In Trade

The Heat have expressed interest in negotiating a trade for Russell Westbrook, who views the possibility of playing in Miami as appealing, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

A report earlier on Monday indicated that the Thunder are receptive to trade inquiries for Westbrook in the aftermath of the blockbuster deal sending Paul George to the Clippers.

The Heat made a bold move in free agency by gaining a commitment from Jimmy Butler and engineering a sign-and-trade for the swingman. A Westbrook/Butler pairing could make Miami an instant contender in the wide open Eastern Conference, though contractually it would have long-term implications.

Westbrook, 30, has four years and $171MM remaining on his contract, including a $47MM player option in the final year. Moving Westbrook’s contract for future salary-cap relief might be the best Oklahoma City can do at this point.

Miami has already traded away its 2021 and 2023 first-rounders – which the Thunder own – and numerous second-rounders.

Westbrook will make $38.5MM next season but Miami has a handful of players making between $19.2MM and $12MM — Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk — for salary-matching purposes.

Miami also has to make sure it doesn’t add more salary to its current cap. The Heat are just $986K below the threshold of the $138.9MM luxury tax apron, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Thus, Miami cannot take back more or equal salaries in a potential Westbrook trade because that would hamstring its ability to fill out the roster (Twitter link).

Westbrook and agent Thad Foucher met with Thunder general manager Sam Presti over the weekend and both sides came away eager to find a resolution, according to Wojnarowski. Westbrook doesn’t want to be part of rebuild and that’s where OKC finds itself after George’s trade request to join forces with Kawhi Leonard.