In Dwyane Wade’s farewell season, the Miami Heat missed out on playoffs by two games. As they say goodbye to their franchise icon for a second time, they look towards an uncertain future. In the near-term, it’s likely the Heat will look similar to today minus a couple moves around the edges. This summer and next season as a whole is about the Heat setting things up for the future.
Wade is retiring and longtime teammate Udonis Haslem may join him. Beyond those two, Miami has only two pending free agents: Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, who both have player options. Considering those options are for $19.2 million and $27.1 million, respectively, it’s likely both Dragic and Whiteside will opt in. Neither can recoup that sort of single season value as free agents this summer, so they’ll take it while they can get it.
After that, the Heat roster is split right down the middle with guaranteed and partial/non-guaranteed contracts. After signing most of their own players in recent years, Miami has Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Dion Waiters all under contract through the 2020-21 season. Add Kelly Olynyk (a free agent signee two summers ago) and Bam Adebayo (still on his rookie scale deal), along with Dragic and Whiteside, and you have eight players under contract for a combined $113 million. Of that group, only Adebayo makes less than $10 million for next season.
Of the players whose contracts are partial/non-guaranteed, there are the typical upside plays with Derrick Jones Jr, Yante Maten, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. All four of those players are currently roster fillers, of which Miami hopes one or two will blossom into regular rotation players. Jones has shown some promise in the NBA, while Maten, Robinson and Nunn have all done their work in the G-League to this point.
Alongside those four is Ryan Anderson, whose contract is an interesting case. When Anderson was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Phoenix Suns last season, he agreed to reduce his guaranteed amount from $21.3 million to $15.6 million, with the full $21.3 million guaranteeing on July 10th. How Miami approaches Anderson is interesting. While he’s not likely to provide on-court value to the Heat commensurate with his salary, that figure is big enough to be a nice amount towards salary-matching in a trade. The later guarantee date means that the Heat should have an idea of what moves are available to them before they need to guarantee Anderson’s full salary. If there is no trade to be made, expect Miami to waive Anderson to save about $5.5 million and to get themselves within range of avoiding the luxury tax.
With few free agents and only Anderson as a real roster decision, it could be a quiet start to the offseason for the Heat. At the draft, they’re likely looking at the best player available with their late lottery pick. Part of that is the unknown of where the roster is going past this season, but also because Miami has fairly versatile players on the roster. Outside of pure centers Whiteside and Adebayo, everyone else can play two to three positions, which gives Pat Riley the luxury of selecting best player available. In addition, Miami can gamble on a player who might need a year or two of development as the roster doesn’t have many open avenues to playing time in the immediate future.
The above is of course predicated on Riley waiting out the contracts of Dragic and Whiteside and hitting the summer of 2020 with considerable cap space. Expect Miami to be active in trade talks as they’ll look to move money if they can. Keep in mind, however, that is something Riley will only do if they don’t take on money past this season. The only way the Heat will take on money past this year is if the player they get back is believed to have at least two or three good years left.
Miami has been one of the NBA’s most stable franchises for the better part of a decade now. But that stability in part has led to a cap sheet that doesn’t have any truly terrible salaries on it, but has far too many bigger-than-they-should-be contracts for players Miami retained and signed. They’ve missed the playoffs in the three of the five seasons since LeBron James left the franchise in 2014. Despite being in conversations about acquiring a superstar, they haven’t landed anyone, which has left the Heat with an overpaid and below-average team that has to battle just to make the playoffs.
It’s easy to see the Miami summer being very quiet, especially if Riley takes the wait it out approach. But the Heat have enough mid-range to big contracts, that they could get involved in trades to reshape the roster this offseason. If Riley gets a read that waiting for free agency isn’t the way to go, he can easily put together a couple of players to match salary for anyone in the NBA. It’s all about patience vs the desire to move things forward now. The patient approach has worked in Miami before, but it’s less of a sure thing than ever that it will work again. And this time around there is no Dwyane Wade farewell tour to mask a below-average team missing the playoffs.
Guaranteed Contracts (6): Bam Adebayo, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow
Partial/Non-Guaranteed Contracts (5): Ryan Anderson, Derrick Jones Jr., Yante Maten, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson
Potential Free Agents (4): Goran Dragic (UFA – Player Option), Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside (UFA – Player Option)
“Dead” Money on Cap ($350,087): A.J. Hammons
First Round Draft Pick(s): #13
Maximum Cap Space: $20.6 million
Projected Cap Space: None. $36.0 million over