ASK IRA: Are Heat falling behind NBA spending curve?

Q: Ira, big, big, big money is coming into the game. When Donald Sterling was forced to sell, Steve Ballmer came in spending and the Clippers are closer to a championship. With the Nets, Joseph Tsai has spent on his Big Threes. And now whoever buys the Suns from Robert Sarver will come in wanting to win. Are our pockets deep enough? – Sandy.

A: The way it has been explained to me from within is that the Heat’s approach to both the luxury tax and being hard capped is fundamentally a function of basketball operations, of wanting to maintain needed flexibility when it comes to personnel – and to perhaps eventually go all-in with a major move. That certainly already has happened during the Shaquille O’Neal era and then to create the Big Three. In fact, some of the pushback from Heat critics has been the amount spent on the likes of Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry and even the contract that will take Jimmy Butler to age 36. And even before that, by the end many were questioning the money spent on Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson. The NBA is rife with spending that hampers as much as it enhances (and, yes, it also can enhance, as shown by the Golden State Warriors’ position against the tax). Now, if this were a league that did not have a salary cap, then spend like the Mets and Yankees in baseball if a championship is the ultimate goal. But for whatever Micky Arison might or might not be willing to spend, there is the checks-and-balances oversight from Andy Elisburg when it comes to how dollars spent impact the overall roster and personnel structure. To that end, it will be interesting to see what happens regarding the tax with the Heat’s decision on a Tyler Herro extension. But rare is it that the Heat (and Arison) allow money to walk out the door.

Q: As of today, they’re the same or worse than last year. Only hope right now is in internal improvement by Victor Oladipo returning to All-Star form – Kevin.

A: After four injury-limited seasons, that might be too high of a bar. A good place to start with Victor Oladipo would be to function as a reliable two-way sixth man. That would allow the opportunity for Tyler Herro to potentially move into the starting lineup and also boost the overall rotation. Asking for too much for Victor, or expecting too much, could be asking for trouble.

Q: Hi, Ira, Love the ‘5 at 35′ series. Thank you so much for doing it. I’ve followed the team as long as you’ve covered them, and it’s great to see so many names and people appreciated. I really love the trips down memory lane. – Phillip, San Francisco.

A: It’s been fun, but I also appreciate that when camp starts next week there actually will be news relevant to the moment, which is why I limited the scale to just two weeks, even though the addendum to your comment did include some interesting options for lists, as well. (Although I’m not sure about Top 5 coaches, since the Heat only have had five full-time coaches in their 35 seasons: Ron Rothstein, Kevin Loughery, Pat Riley, Stan Van Gundy and Erik Spoelstra, with Alvin Gentry briefly serving as interim coach.)

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