Heat’s True Cap Position
With the February 18th trade deadline now passed with Miami standing pat, the hope for the Heat of tomorrow rests firmly in the coming offseason. Riley has staked his reputation on Miami’s ability to produce a championship caliber product through what will be one of the most talented free agent markets in league history.
Exactly how much cap space the Heat will have is a subject of much confusion. There have been many figures published, showing numbers anywhere from $12 million to more than twice that figure. What’s the true number? Well, that depends…
Here is a look at the Heat’s salary commitments for the 2010/11 season (footnotes below):
Michael Beasley: $4,962,240
Daequan Cook: $2,169,857
James Jones: $1,856,000 (2)
Joel Anthony: $885,120 (3)
Mario Chalmers: $0 (4)
First Round Draft Picks: $0 (5)
Roster Charge: $4,262,436 (6)
Total Salary: $30,704,561
Remember this figure: $30,704,561.
It represents the committed player salaries going into this summer’s free agent market. Subtract $30,704,561 from whatever amount the salary cap comes in at, and you’ll end up with the amount of cap space Pat Riley has to spend on free agents and draft picks.
In 2009 the cap dropped from $58.7 million to $57.7 million, accompanied by a warning from the league to the teams of a projected revenue drop in the range of 2.5% to 5.0% for the 2009/10 season. This would result in a 2010/11 cap in the range of $50.4 million to $53.6 million. Mid-season returns have led to a revised projection that is in the higher end of this range, so the best estimate at this time is $53 million to $54 million (see Forecasting/Salary Cap Calculator to see exactly how the NBA calculates the salary cap).
With a $54 million cap, the Heat would have $23,295,439 in spending power to build around a Wade and Beasley core. With that money, the Heat could add a second max contract player and a player making $7.2 million before it runs out of cap space. Once all cap space is gone, Miami would only be able to sign players to minimum contracts.
(1) Dwyane Wade has a $17,149,244 Player Option for 2010/11. He will most definitely forgo this salary in favor of signing a new long-term contract this offseason, even though in a new contract he would be making less money in 2010/11. The first year of his new contract will be 105% of his 2009/10 salary, and if he stays in Miami his annual raises will be $1,739,735.
(2) James Jones’ contract calls for the following payments: (i) $4,650,000 in 2010/11, (ii) $4,970,000 in 2011/12, and (iii) $5,290,000 in 2012/13. His contract is partially guaranteed through June 2010 (after which it becomes fully guaranteed). That means if the Heat decide to waive him, the team will still owe him (and the team’s total salary will include) the following amounts: (i) $1,856,000 in 2010/11, (ii) $1,984,000 in 2011/12, and (iii) $2,112,000 in 2012/13.
(3) Joel Anthony has a Player Option for 2010/11 at the minimum $885,120. If Anthony chooses not to exercise the option, instead choosing to test the free agent market, the Heat will recover the cap space.
(4) The Heat holds an $854,389 Team Option on Mario Chalmers for 2010/11. The Heat can choose to waive him at no cost or keep him for that amount.
(5) First (but not second) round draft picks are paid based on a salary scale, and they count against the salary cap as soon as they are drafted (even if they are not yet signed). The Heat has at least one draft pick, and could have a second from Toronto if the Raptors make the playoffs. In order to know exactly how much these picks would count against the cap, one needs to know where in the draft they are selected. However, the Heat can choose to trade the pick (or draft a player and immediately cut him) if they would rather use the cap space to sign a free agent. The more likely scenario is that Miami will keep its draft picks and have its team salary increased accordingly.
(6) In the offseason, all NBA teams must carry at least 12 players on its roster. For every player below 12, the teams will incur a $473,604 roster charge. This is only a temporary charge. Every time a team with fewer than 12 players signs an additional player, a roster charge gets reimbursed to the team’s total salary. Since the Heat will have as few as 3 players on its roster to begin the offseason (Wade, Beasley and Cook), it will incur as many as 9 charges.