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ASK IRA: Should Heat be proactive on trade market instead of playing to players’ whims?

Q: Ira, Pat Riley has to stop playing to whims. It worked when Shaquille O’Neal wanted out of the Lakers, same with Goran Dragic and the Suns. But there are hundreds of players under contract. So get on the phone, find a deal, get it done. We’re tired of waiting to see if players connive their way to the Heat. – Tomas.

A: It’s interesting, because this is what NBA trades used to be about – general managers talking over what works best for their teams, informing players they are being moved, and then moving forward drama free. The difference is that the NBA has become a league of player empowerment, with enough avenues to increase leverage. If you are within two years of the end of a contract, which is the case for most, there is the threat to move on through the increasingly open doors of free agency. So now you not only have to trade for personnel and salary fit, but with a degree of long-range planning such as: Will the player demand an extension? Will the player threaten to opt out? Will the player create chemistry issues within the building? Essentially, with almost any trade, while not necessarily tacitly required, there is a degree of not only reaching an agreement with another team, but also agreements with the player and the agent of the player. Or you do what the Raptors did with Kawhi Leonard – accept that it could be over almost before it starts, and simply be willing to live in the moment. Of course, the Nets and 76ers seemingly tried to live in the moment with James Harden, and that did not work out particularly well.

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Q: I will play the fool and try to get inside Pat Riley’s head. He has swallowed his whistle with Jimmy Butler because they were going deep in the playoffs. But I think now he will cut bait early instead of hanging on too long. My hunch is Butler gets moved this off season and it’s Bam Adebayo’s team. – Mark.

A: But, as posited above, it’s not that simple anymore with Jimmy Butler, who assuredly would seek an extension from an acquiring team or perhaps threaten to leave when his 2025 opt-out becomes available. Yes, it essentially could stand as a threat, but still would add layers to the Heat coming away with the best possible trade outcome. Not so sure there are many teams that necessarily would be willing to deal for a one-year rental of a 35-year-old. Instead, now we will get to see if Pat Riley instead can work as a conciliator, with the Heat at their best with both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Q: When does Donovan Mitchell make up his mind? – Rich.

A: Whenever he wants? Until then, it’s rather whether the Cavaliers act proactively, which I doubt would be the case (although a coaching change would be the first sign of Cleveland attempting to find middle ground).