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ASK IRA: Are there ulterior motives behind Heat’s benching of Ellington?

Q: Ira, Wayne Ellington might be our most valuable trade asset (based on his contract). So why would the Heat hide him from teams when they could be showcasing him? I like Wayne, but we also need draft picks. — Edwin.

A: One thing about Wayne is that 10 years into his career, teams knows who he is and what he is. It’s not as if they have to be convinced that his ability is still there to hit game-changing 3-pointers. So it’s not as if the Heat have to showcase him. In fact, you could look at it another way, that there is no need to expose him to injury in case a tempting deal is on the table. In a perfect world, the Heat would attempt to tie Wayne in with one of their less-appealing contracts. But I don’t think a suitor is going to take on James Johnson, Dion Waiters or Tyler Johnson just because they might be interested in Wayne. And remember, because he is on a one-year deal with Bird Rights, Wayne has the ability to veto any trade. So perhaps that is another part of the equation, that by being reduced to spectator, perhaps Wayne would be more amenable to sign off on a trade. That is not to say that in any way is the reasoning behind his lack of playing time. For now, the most likely explanation there is the upgraded play by Tyler Johnson and the emergence of Derrick Jones Jr.

Q: We have a well-documented need at point guard, a lack of draft picks, and no available cap space. Yet our organization does possess a proven ability to rehabilitate fledging but talented athletic players. All this would make a trade for Markelle Fultz seem like a no-brainer. He’s not a whale but he’s just splashy enough to fit Pat Riley’s agenda. With Detroit showing interest and perhaps setting the market could you see us pursuing the youngster? — Phil, Los Angeles.

A: Except the 76ers reportedly are insisting on a first-round pick in return, as if to recoup some of their losses. And that is where the Heat have to be careful, because why pay that price to rehab someone else’s failed asset when you can simply draft one of your own, at a lower price point?

Q: Why is the luxury tax such a scary thing? It’s not as though most NBA clubs operate on a razor-thin margin, and even if they do, they’re owned by rich guys for whom a couple of million, or a couple of dozen million, is really just small change. — Joe.

A: When it comes to the luxury tax, money is part of it. You also lose the ability to utilize certain salary mechanisms and trade mechanisms. Beyond that, if you get into the repeater tax — which is still possible for the Heat if their makeover is handled through trades — then bidding for free agents with exception money can easily be trumped by opposing teams because of the overall cost. (It is a lot easier for an opposing team to up their bid knowing your cost with be double, triple or even more.) Follow him at or

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