A six-pack of Miami Heat notes on a Thursday:
▪ Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who will be a Heat target in 2021 free agency and a target if ever made available via trade, is very much aware of Heat fans lobbying him on the merits of playing for Miami.
Virtually every Beal tweet — on any subject — is followed by Heat fans imploring him to come to Miami.
“It’s hard to avoid it. I have a phone so I see it all,” Beal said this week, via NBC.com, speaking, in general, of fans who want him to join their team. “I can post a picture of Deuce and someone will be like ‘Man, he needs some Miami sun!’ and I’m like ‘OK?’
“It’s a great thing that a lot of people love your game and want you on their team, but I love the situation I have too.”
Beal has until Oct. 21 to decide whether to accept a three-year, $111 million extension.
“Honestly you might slap me, but I haven’t thought about it,” Beal said. “I’m just getting better and letting my agent [Mark Bartelstein and Wizards general manager] Tommy [Sheppard] and everybody else deal with it.
“I just go hoop. Every day I see somebody and they ask ‘Beal, you leaving?’ and I’m like ‘I’m still living in D.C., I ain’t going nowhere.’”
A source close to Beal said he would be surprised if Beal accepts the extension offer by the Oct. 21 deadline and instead expects him to see how things go with the Wizards this season before making any decisions on his future.
Beal — who feels some measure of loyalty to the Wizards, according to the associate — has not given the Wizards any indication that he wants to leave, and the Wizards would not consider making him available in trade talks unless it becomes clear to them that they would lose him in free agency in 2021.
The associate said if Beal opts for free agency in 2021, the Heat will receive strong consideration, as would the Los Angeles teams and potentially a few others. But the Heat is definitely on his radar if he decides to move on from the Wizards — a decision that has not yet been made, according to the associate.
▪ Two smart, respected sportswriters — Zach Lowe and Jackie MacMullan — opined on Heat issues on ESPN’s The Jump this week. What they said and my two cents:
Lowe: “They have the strangest collection of players in the whole league. They’re huge. They have three really big wings who can play power forward if you need them to.
“They have three centers, two of whom are strictly shooting centers in Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard. Dion Waiters is back from Waiters Island.
“The challenge for them is constructing lineups that have enough shooting and enough defense. It’s very hard for them. I know they’re invigorated by having a true blue superstar on their team in Jimmy Butler. I like their mix. I think they’re going to be really good.
“They had quietly become a bad offensive team. They were 26th in scoring last year. All the passing and cutting and handoffs looked pretty and it didn’t lead anywhere. That’s why they’re excited to have a guy who can take the ball and make stuff happen, a guy who can actually get to the line, which they hadn’t done.”
My two cents: I agree with most of this. The challenge for Erik Spoelstra - with a roster that’s middle of the pack - is the concern of being at a deficit offensively if he uses a lineup with a defensive bent, which is often his inclination.
Butler gives the Heat their best two-way player since the Big Three era, but if you surround him with your best defenders - Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and Derrick Jones Jr. or James Johnson - that’s a group that could have serious droughts offensively.
Conversely, if you use a lineup with three or four of your best shooters — among Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro and Leonard and Olynyk and Waiters — that would leave Miami at a deficit defensively.
Training camp, preseason and the early stages of the regular season will offer Spoelstra a chance to determine the best mix of those two aforementioned groups.
Coaches who don’t have the NBA’s best rosters are in a similar predicament, but it’s pronounced with the Heat.
As far as Lowe’s prediction that the Heat is “going to be really good,” I would like to see evidence before deeming this team more than a seventh or eighth seed.
No one is disputing Butler’s value — he’s Miami’s best in-his-prime player since the final year of the Big Three era — but the view here is the loss of three of Miami’s six best players (Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside) is being underestimated.
▪ MacMullan, in discussing any potential Heat trade involving Chris Paul, made the case that Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow wouldn’t be enough value for Paul, from an OKC standpoint.
I don’t agree. OKC could justifiably ask for that — and far more — if Paul, 34, were three years younger or didn’t have three years and $124 million left on an onerous contract.
But he’s well past his prime, not durable and due to earn $39 million, $41 million and $44 million over the next two seasons. So offering Winslow — instead, of say, Johnson or Leonard and another inconsequential piece, along with Dragic’s expiring contract — is excessive from Miami’s standpoint, even if OKC were to offer the Heat back one of the two first-round picks it owns.
▪ As we noted on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz), the Heat — at this point — isn’t expecting anything to materialize on the Paul front. That, obviously, could change if Thunder executive Sam Presti surprisingly decides to give Miami back its 2021 and 2023 first rounders.
The Heat, which wants to be a player in 2021 free agency, also would want some indication that Paul would be willing to opt out of his $44 million player option in 2021-22 (potentially with the wink-wink understanding of a more modest deal over multiple years). But ESPN’s Scottie Pippen said he cannot see Paul willing to do that.
As we tweeted, OKC thinks it’s giving the Heat a quality asset and shouldn’t need to go out of its way to entice Miami. Miami respects Paul but feels like it’s doing OKC a favor by taking on Paul’s onerous contract and should be richly compensated for doing so.
▪ An NBA scout on what the Heat is getting in Leonard: “He’s gotten better, had some major games in the playoffs. Not sure that’s who he is. But he can shoot, and it will be interesting to see if he can build on what he did in the playoffs.
“He’s a stretch five or four. You could do a lot worse as a backup five. He’s not terrible defensively but not particularly physical or a shot blocker. That’s a good acquisition for them.”
▪ Whereas Sports Illustrated rated Butler 11th among all NBA players, ESPN rated him 21st.
The scout said Butler’s biggest asset to the Heat will be his ability to create his own shot, get to the free throw line and be a go-to player. He said he believes he has diminished slightly defensively, from the games he has evaluated, but is still a clearly above average defender.
“Butler has been on four teams in three years and it will interesting how this plays out,” the scout said, noting his team, if it had the cap space, would not have given him a four-year max but that a case could be made either way. “Very good player, but would not call him a superstar.”
Here’s my Thursday six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes.
Here’s my Thursday Dolphins notebook (with colleague David Wilson) with more roster and injury news and other things.
Here’s my Thursday piece on several Dolphins veterans not playing up to past standards and their thoughts on whether the lopsided losses are dragging them down.