Goran Dragic

Southeast Notes: Dragic, Leonard, Wizards, Hawks

After starting all but 15 of his previous 487 regular season games since 2012, Goran Dragic was caught off guard when Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra asked him last season about coming off the bench on a permanent basis in 2019/20, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel relays.

“As soon as I heard this, I was a little bit in shock, you know,” Dragic said during an Instagram Live appearance this week. “Shocked. Mad. It was full of emotions going through my head.”

Admitting the idea was “really hard to accept,” Dragic said that he eventually came to terms with it and tried to turn it into a positive, aiming to be one of the NBA’s very best sixth men. It has been an effective lineup change for the Heat, who had been having their best season since Dragic joined the club in 2015. The veteran point guard, meanwhile, was enjoying a nice bounce-back season, with 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG in his reserve role.

“At the end of the day, I think that was a great change for me, for my career,” Dragic said, per Winderman. “And I’m really happy how I responded — to the players, to Coach Spo, to the trainers. They always stood next to me and helped me. The only thing I had to do was embrace that role and I did it.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In his own Instagram Live appearance this week, Heat center Meyers Leonard spoke about getting comfortable in Miami after seven years in Portland, adding that he continues to rehab the ankle injury that had sidelined him before the NBA’s hiatus. “I’m feeling much, much better,” Leonard told Heat TV host Jason Jackson, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. “Obviously, I had an injury there right before the season was suspended. And it was bad. I think most people were aware of that. But I’m always incredibly, incredibly focused and I take a very professional approach. So I guess if there’s a silver lining for Meyers Leonard, I’ve had more time to rehab and the rehab’s been very good.”
  • As the Wizards prepare for the draft and free agency, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington explores the team’s biggest needs, naming rim protection and perimeter defense as areas the team must improve. Hughes also suggests it could make sense to target a high-ceiling player in the draft, something GM Tommy Sheppard mentioned as a possibility earlier in April.
  • In a conversation with Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, former NBA executive Seth Partnow says that he’d be wary of offering a maximum-salary extension to John Collins this offseason if he were running the Hawks. Partnow would be comfortable with a deal in the four-year, $80MM range, which may not be enough to lock up Collins before he reaches restricted free agency in 2021.

Heat Notes: Nunn, Culture, Dragic, Crowder

Ja Morant is considered the consensus frontrunner for the NBA’s 2019/20 Rookie of the Year award, and figures to be a unanimous or near-unanimous winner when voting eventually takes place. However, one person who’s not on board with the consensus choice is Heat guard Kendrick Nunn, who believes he should be this season’s Rookie of the Year, as he tells Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“I think people will say that (Morant) is Rookie of the Year, but I don’t believe it,” Nunn said. “The most value should be in the wins. And we’re both starting guards on teams, and our team has been holding it down. We’re a playoff team, so go ahead and give that Rookie of the Year to Kendrick Nunn.”

While there’s no chance Nunn beats out Morant in the final vote, the Heat’s starting point guard is certainly worthy of a spot on voters’ Rookie of the Year ballots. He has averaged 15.6 PPG and 3.4 APG with a solid .448/.362/.837 shooting line in 62 games (29.8 MPG).

Still, Morant’s numbers (17.6 PPG, 6.9 APG) have been better in a similar role and while the Grizzlies’ record isn’t as strong as the Heat’s, Memphis is still a playoff team in the West. Perhaps most importantly, Nunn is a complementary option on a Miami roster that features multiple All-Stars (Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo), while Morant has been the Grizzlies’ MVP this season.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • After a handful of up-and-down years in Miami following LeBron James‘ departure, the 2019/20 season represented “rebirth, regeneration, (and) renewal” for the Heat and their culture, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. In Winderman’s view, it has been a long time since the Heat looked so different from one year to the next, which could be attributed to the departures of players like Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters, along with the arrivals of Butler, Tyler Herro, and others.
  • While there appears to be mutual interest between the Heat and Goran Dragic in extending their relationship beyond this season, Dragic will be one of the top point guards on the free agent market and he’s no stranger to relocating, Winderman writes for the Sun-Sentinel. This will be the first time that Dragic has reached free agency since he signed a five-year deal with Miami in 2015, just a few months after being traded to the club.
  • In a separate Sun-Sentinel mailbag, Winderman wonders how the Heat’s decision on Jae Crowder in free agency will be impacted by the fact that the team only really got to evaluate him for a month following his arrival at the trade deadline. As Winderman notes, Miami has Bird rights on all its key free agents – including Crowder, Dragic, Derrick Jones, and Meyers Leonard – so it could be a matter of picking and choosing which players the team is most comfortable investing in — and which ones won’t require commitments that compromise the Heat’s 2021 cap flexibility.

Heat Notes: Jones, Dragic, Free Agency, Draft

Whenever the 2019/20 season eventually ends and the ’20 offseason begins, Heat swingman Derrick Jones will become an unrestricted free agent. While Jones insists he hasn’t thought much about his free agency, he recently said that he’d like to remain in Miami for as long as possible, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel relays.

“I want to be here my whole career,” Jones said. “If I could have that and we could come to an agreement with the Heat, I’m with it. I just want to be here.”

Veteran point guard Goran Dragic, who is also facing unrestricted free agency this year, expressed a similar sentiment, admitting that he’s barely thought about his contract status amid the coronavirus pandemic, but suggesting that a return to the Heat would be a good outcome, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

“We like it here,” Dragic said of Miami. “It has been fun. It’s a nice place to live, the kids are going to school here. So definitely this would be one of the options to be high on our list. Like I said, you don’t know what the future holds, how the talks are going to go and we’ll see. But I’m confident that we’re going to choose the best situation for our family.”

While the Heat would presumably like to retain both Jones and Dragic, they also want to keep enough cap flexibility to potentially make a run at a top free agent like Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021. Additionally, the Bulls are reportedly keeping a close eye on both Jones and Dragic, so they – or another team – might try to make a play for one or both.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Andre Fernandez and John Hollinger of The Athletic take an in-depth look at potential next steps for the Heat, with Hollinger suggesting that a forward/center who can shoot – and who would be open to a lucrative one-year deal – might be the most logical target for the club this offseason. Hollinger identifies Danilo Gallinari, Paul Millsap, Marcus Morris, and Serge Ibaka as some possible candidates.
  • If the NBA’s hiatus results in a reduced luxury-tax threshold for 2020/21, that could be problematic for the Heat, especially if they want to re-sign several of their own free agents, including Dragic, Jones, Jae Crowder, and Meyers Leonard, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald explains.
  • Based on the current NBA standings, the Heat will hold the No. 23 pick in the draft, which figures to present the team with a plethora of options, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. “What I’ve heard is the pick at 23 or 22 is the same pick at 35,” one NBA scout told Winderman. “It’s top heavy. It’s a bad draft. There’s a gray range once you get past the number up there in the early teens.”

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Porter, Boylen, White

Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen was unhappy with the direction of the offense under coach Jim Boylen and his role in it, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Markkanen’s frustration had reached a point where he’d rather be dealt if organization changes weren’t made, Cowley continues. It’s possible the new front office executive — the Bulls are lining up interviews with candidates — could look to trade Markkanen if they feel the relationship is beyond repair, Cowley adds.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Within that same story, Cowley writes that the Bulls are keeping a close eye on the Heat. In addition to seeking an interview with Miami’s assistant GM Adam Simon, Chicago has also considered emulating the Heat’s front office structure, and has done homework on free agents like Goran Dragic and Derrick Jones.
  • Otto Porter Jr. will likely be in a lame duck situation as the team’s small forward next season, Cowley writes in a separate story. Porter will surely exercise his $28.5MM option for next season after an injury-plagued campaign and his salary will come off the books just in time for the much-anticipated 2021 free-agent class. Boylen has even hinted he might have Porter come off the bench next season.
  • Boylen’s future with the organization will be determined by the lead executive the Bulls hire, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reports. Boylen has the support of COO Michael Reinsdorf and executive VP John Paxson but a desire of the new executive to hire his own coach wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, Johnson continues, confirming one of his earlier stories. While Reinsdorf has been handling the search, Paxson has been a driving force on the need for change and a more modern front office, Johnson adds.
  • The team’s ceiling for next season with its current group is a low-end playoff seed unless 2019 lottery pick Coby White develops rapidly, Kevin Pelton of ESPN opines. White needs to emerge as a knockdown shooter, something he flashed late in the season.  It’s unlikely the new executive will pursue an extension with Markkanen, but if he bounces back and breaks out, the Bulls can still benefit by utilizing his “relatively modest” $20.2MM cap hold as he enters restricted free agency, Pelton adds.

Heat Notes: Olynyk, Workouts, Herro, Nunn

A month ago at this time, Kelly Olynyk appeared to be facing a difficult offseason decision on his $13.2MM player option, says Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, given the uncertainty that the NBA’s hiatus has created for the salary cap going forward, Olynyk’s decision may be getting easier.

As Jackson writes, Olynyk’s player option is worth more than the mid-level, and only a small handful of teams project to have the cap room required to match or top $13.2MM. Most of those teams with cap space are in the process of rebuilding, which may not appeal to Olynyk — it’s unlikely that any would even be willing to spend big money on him anyway, since the market will be “saturated with players of similar quality,” Jackson observes. It all points to Olynyk likely opting in for at least one more year with the Heat, barring a trade.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Goran Dragic said on Tuesday that Heat coaches are overseeing video-conferencing workouts for Heat players for 90 minutes a day, tweets Jackson. Heat players complete the workouts – including weight-lifting exercises – from home and see their teammates on their screen going through the same drills.
  • In a mailbag, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel acknowledges that the NBA’s suspended season and lost revenue could have a ripple effect on the Heat’s 2020 and 2021 free agency plans. In addition to impacting presumed cap increases, this stoppage could result in more players opting for the financial security of longer-term contracts, Winderman suggests. That might limit Miami’s ability to re-sign veterans like Dragic to one-year deals to maintain cap flexibility for the summer of ’21.
  • Another Sun Sentinel mailbag explores the Heat’s point guard situation, with Winderman writing that he wouldn’t be surprised if Tyler Herro supplants Kendrick Nunn as the starter as soon as next season.

Heat Notes: Haslem, Mulder, Dragic, Free Agency

If the NBA season doesn’t resume, that will likely mark the end of Udonis Haslem‘s long career, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The veteran forward, who will turn 40 in June, returned for another year because he didn’t want to leave the league after a non-playoff season.

Haslem didn’t commit to retiring when asked about the possibility last month, but he has gotten into just three games this year and has played a combined 21 minutes. It’s his fourth straight season with minimal court time as he has evolved into more of an assistant coach than a player. Winderman is confident that Haslem’s number will be retired after 17 years with the Heat.

There’s more this morning from Miami:

  • After the Heat signed Kendrick Nunn off the Warriors‘ G League affiliate late last season, Golden State has done the same thing to Miami by taking Mychal Mulder from the Sioux Falls team, Winderman notes in a separate story. When Mulder signed a 10-day contract with the Warriors in late February, Heat officials expected him to eventually return to the organization. Instead, he had a strong performance in his tryout and earned a multi-year deal. Winderman adds that Miami elected to give a two-way contract to Gabe Vincent rather than Mulder.
  • An associate of Goran Dragic tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald that the point guard expects a sizable one-year offer from the Heat this summer, likely around the $19MM he is currently making. Dragic will be a free agent after five and a half years in Miami, and Jackson notes that his friendship with Jimmy Butler provides extra incentive to keep him around. “We’ll see,” Dragic responded when asked about signing for one season. “A lot of different factors, my family, myself. I would say it’s too soon to talk about it. I’m not thinking about my next contract. I’ve always been a guy in the present.”
  • The Heat can create more cap room this summer than any other playoff team, but they might opt to keep the current core together, Jackson adds in the same piece. Opening cap space would mean renouncing most of their free agents — a group that includes Derrick Jones Jr., Jae Crowder and Meyers Leonard as well as Dragic. Jackson doesn’t see any free agent targets worth that gamble, unless Anthony Davis decides to leave the Lakers, while the potential loss of revenue from the league shutdown makes the salary cap unpredictable.

Southeast Notes: Herro, Butler, Hawks, Jones Jr.

Heat guard Tyler Herro initially feared he might be done for the regular season when he injured his foot, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Herro, who suffered the injury on February 3, might be able to take off the protective boot sometime this week, Chiang adds. The 13th pick in last June’s draft, Herro is averaging 13.1 PPG and shooting 39.3% from deep.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Jimmy Butler‘s personality hasn’t changed but he has helped, rather than hurt, the Heat’s team chemistry, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details. Guard Goran Dragic says the franchise’s culture made Butler fit seamlessly into the locker room. “They push you here. Jimmy is the same,” he said. “If you’re not used to it, it can [be] like, ‘I don’t like him.’ But this is the perfect situation for us and Jimmy. He just wants you and the team to get better.”
  • The Hawks will be looking to accelerate their rebuild during this offseason, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes in his latest mailbag. They will likely look to add younger veterans instead of acquiring bad contracts as they did last offseason, Kirschner continues. Davis Bertans, Joe Harris, Gordon Hayward, Evan Fournier and Maurice Harkless are potential targets, Kirschner adds.
  • Re-signing Derrick Jones Jr. and Dragic will likely be at the top of the Heat’s priority list this offseason, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines. Negotiations will Jones could be tricky, since Miami wants to protect its cap space for the summer of 2021, when the free agent market could be robust. At his young age, Jones will probably be looking for a long-term contract, Winderman adds.

Heat Notes: Butler, Waiters, Roster, Dragic

After a hard-fought 117-116 overtime win over his old Sixers team Saturday, the Heat’s new All-Star wing Jimmy Butler reflected on the mentality of this year’s much improved Miami squad, Ira Winderman of the Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

“We can’t be happy with where we are,” Butler said. “Nobody in this locker room is, nobody in this organization is. We’ve got a couple of more levels to get this thing up before it gets real.”  

The Heat sit at 24-8, the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. They have won their last five games in a row.

In a separate piece for the Sun-Sentinel, Winderman notes that coach Erik Spoelstra is not concerned with Butler’s shooting percentages through 28 games this season. Butler is shooting 42.6% from the field and 27.6% from three-point range.

“It’s early in the season. It will level out,” Spoelstra noted. “I don’t even look at the field-goal percentage number. If you factor in free-throw attempts and free throws, he is one of the most efficient offensive basketball players in the league.”

Butler is connecting on 83% of his 9.4 free throw attempts per game.

There’s more out of South Beach:

  • Embattled Heat off-guard Dion Waiters has returned to practice, according to Khobi Price of the Florida Sun-Sentinel. He has yet to see on-court action this season, having been suspended three times thus far. Waiters has played just 120 of a possible 278 games during his stormy tenure in Miami, due to injuries and suspensions. The No. 4 pick in 2012 is currently in the third year of a fully-guaranteed four-year, $52MM contract he signed in the summer of 2017.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel spoke with an anonymous Eastern Conference NBA advance scout about how the Heat stack up against the top-seeded team in the East, the Bucks. “You have the best player in the league in Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. He’s really hard to stop. You really have to be solid in the middle,” the scout told Winderman. “I think Miami has the ability with [Bam] Adebayo and [Meyers] Leonard and some big guys. You can’t let him get into the middle.”
  • The Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang takes a look at the friendship and on-court chemistry blossoming between Butler and the Heat’s most recent All-Star, Goran Dragic, now their sixth man. Chiang observes that, across the 284 on-court minutes Butler and Dragic have shared this season, Miami has outscored opposing teams by 66 points. “[Dragic] is moving up on my all-time favorite teammates list,” Butler said.

Heat Notes: Culture, Wade, Butler, Jones

Michael Lee of The Athletic takes a look at the infamous Heat culture that has Miami off to a red-hot 21-8 start this season, surprising many. The Heat are the No. 3 seed in the East. Their mix of savvy veterans like Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic and fast-developing youth has been stellar. The roster is decorated with diverse players sporting the ability to switch across multiple positions and handle the rock.

17-year Heat lifer Udonis Haslem credits Miami’s front office, captained by team president Pat Riley, with putting together their impressive depth. “They do a great job of digging down and getting these diamonds in the rough,” Haslem raved. “You know it’s not always draft picks. It’s not always free agency. Sometimes, it’s getting your hands dirty, getting in the mud and going to the G League, picking up a guy that’s been waived from another team, doing your homework, getting an undrafted [player].” 

Here’s more out of Miami:

  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald unpacks an extensive recent Dwyane Wade conversation with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes on their new Showtime video podcast All The Smoke. Wade touched on the Heat’s recent drama with oft-suspended wing Dion Waiters. “It’s unfortunate what’s going on with him,” Wade told Barnes and Jackson. “The kid loves to hoop. What we’re seeing right now is now that the game was taken away from him, he doesn’t know how to deal with it.” Wade also discussed a desire to return to the Heat one day in an organizational capacity. “I would love to migrate back to the organization as I figure out what my life is going to be about and continue to give back to that city as they gave to me for so many years,” he said during the podcast.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel observes that 30 year-old Jimmy Butler‘s “odometer” as an All-NBA talent puts the current Heat in conflict with their supposed 2021 free agency plan. The team only has $60MM committed to their books during a summer when talents like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Bradley Beal, Victor OladipoJrue Holiday, and, yes, LeBron James could all become available.
  • The return of Goran Dragic to the Heat’s bench unit could serve as a boon for developing small forward Derrick Jones, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details. “Goran gets downhill, makes my guy guard him and he just puts the ball in the air and lets me do the rest,” Jones observed. The athletic fourth-year swingman has been one of the team’s best wing defenders in limited minutes, and has now developed an outside shooting game, averaging 34.6% from deep this season. When guard Justise Winslow returns to the lineup from his back injury, Jackson opines that coach Erik Spoelstra should expand his rotation to 10 players to accommodate the improving Jones.

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.