ASK IRA: Are Heat already in a better place, even without a Lillard trade?

Q: Definitely a net gain for the Heat’s roster this year, compared to last. Much more height and size. One more potential gain. – Orlando Robinson may become a better backup center than Cody Zeller. – Morgan, New Orleans.

A: First, the player stepping in for Cody Zeller, in that support role behind Bam Adebayo, likely will be Thomas Bryant. So can the Heat get him back to the form of his pre-injury self when he was with the Wizards? Then you have to account for the losses of Gabe Vincent and Max Strus. For argument’s sake, you can consider Josh Richardson in and Max out as a wash. So then you get down to whether you have offset the loss of Gabe Vincent either with the addition of Jaime Jaquez Jr. or the growth of Nikola Jovic. You also could point to potential growth from Tyler Herro and Bam, but that first has to be witnessed. So “definitely” a net gain? That might be a reach. But it is a possibility if things fall into place and players such as Jaquez, Jovic and even Robinson step up in the void of a Lillard trade.

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Q: Are you saying that a healthy Tyler Herro would have been enough to defeat the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals? I don’t think Tyler’s game is that consistently good at this point in his career. – Rodney.

A: I’m saying he would have helped. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Tyler Herro is a very good player, one who makes the Heat better. Only once in the NBA Finals against the Nuggets did the Heat score more than 95 points, and that’s the game they won. So, yes, Tyler would have helped. Buckets are what the Heat needed.

Q: Why does everyone overlook the possibility that the Blazers might just have Damian Lillard sit out away from the team until they feel they have exhausted all trade possibilities? People think the young core of Portland won’t thrive because of him being there in camp and during the season, but he doesn’t have to be there after all. – Paul, Miami.

A: Actually, he does, if he wants. Teams are not allowed to summarily exile a player. They have the option not to play him, but they cannot keep him away from team activities, including games. Plus, Damian Lillard is coming off the best offensive year of his career and wants to play. So do the Blazers want to make a bad look look even worse?