Filling Out the Roster

Many of us have our doubts. We ask ourselves whether it truly can be done. Can the Miami Heat realistically build a championship caliber roster while operating within the confines of the salary cap? It doesn’t seem possible.

We point to the evidence. The four semi-finalists in the 2010 NBA Playoffs have team salaries as follows:

1. Los Angeles Lakers: $91,341,066
2. Boston Celtics: $84,069,655
3. Orlando Magic: $80,449,669
4. Phoenix Suns: $74,738,817

Each is significantly to ridiculously more than the Heat will be able to spend. But for the sake of argument, let’s analyze these numbers for a moment.

Yes, the Lakers, Celtics and Magic made a conscious decision to (over)spend. But they’ve realized some nice returns on their investments. The organizations are wildly profitable, producing an average operating income of more than $20 million during the 2008/09 season. And they’re perennial powerhouses.

I take more of an interest in the Phoenix number. If you recall, the Suns completed a blockbuster trade in July that sent Shaquille O’Neal to the Cavaliers in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavolic and $500,000. For the Suns, the trade was a straight salary dump. Wallace was subsequently bought out for $10 million from a contract that would have paid him $14 million. Pavolic, whose $5.0 million contract was only partially guaranteed for $1.25 million, was waived. With the moves, Phoenix saved $18.0 million in salaries and luxury tax payments.

The maneuvering also meant that $11,250,000 was spent on two players that didn’t make the regular season roster. So the true team salary, for comparative purposes, is a relatively paltry $63,488,817.

At just $63 million, the Suns put a big scare into the defending champions. The Heat, although constrained by the $56.1 million salary cap, will likely spend on the order of $60 million after utilizing its available exceptions. So all of a sudden, creating a winner seems possible. Difficult, but possible.

But operating with such limited funds does have its drawbacks. What it means is that Pat Riley will need to allocate the bulk of Micky’s money on the starting five. Therein lies the problem. The potential lack of depth becomes an overriding concern.

Pat will be cognizant of the team’s need for depth, but he won’t act upon it until the very end. Why? I’ll give you three reasons.

First, he will be distracted by the key names. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson all take priority.

Second, the Heat needs to utilize the entirety of its cap space before adding minimum contract players. Each such player signed with room still available will reduce the team’s cap space by up to $380,785 (i.e., the $854,389 cost of a minimum contract, less a $473,604 roster charge removed).

Third, and perhaps most important, Riley can afford to wait. Several quality options will be available at bargain prices, particularly if the Heat’s offseason plans prove successful.

Let’s scan the free agent universe, by position.

PG. Pat may look to draft Eric Bledsoe. He may bring Steve Blake back to his South Florida roots. He may even make a run at a Darren Collison-type. But whatever decisions are ultimately made, Carlos Arroyo remains a solid last option. The interest is mutual. He’ll be back.

SG/SF. Raja Bell has all but signed a contract to play for the Heat next season already. At his advanced age, Bell won’t set the world on fire. He will be a serviceable role player, serving primarily as a quality backup to Dwyane Wade at shooting guard. He’s a low-mistake player whose greatest value is in helping to space the floor for his teammates. And that’s ok. He is a dangerous 3-point shooter who has shredded the nets to the tune of 41.1% for his career.

The Heat also continues to hold draft rights to Robert Dozier. If you recall, Dozier nearly beat out Dorell Wright on the depth chart before signing with Kolossos Rhodes in Greece this past season. He went on to start all of the team’s 28 games at forward, putting up some nice numbers. In his 25.8 minutes per game, he averaged 9.0 and 6.4 rebounds. His 49.7% shooting from the floor included a robust 47.2% from beyond the arc in his 36 attempts.

Would Quentin Richardson, who’s made $51 million in career earnings, be willing to sacrifice bigger dollars to play opposite close friend Dwyane Wade for one more season?

PF/C. The search for frontcourt depth could produce some interesting storylines. The Heat can retain Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire if it so chooses. But wouldn’t it be nice for Kurt Thomas to close out his career with a Larry O’Brien trophy on the team that originally drafted him 16 seasons prior? Ignoring a forgettable campaign with the Bucks this past season, he remains a serviceable big man even at 37 years of age.

Joe Smith, Juwan Howard, Louis Amundson, Sheldon Williams and Tim Thomas are all free agent bigs already playing for the minimum this season. Wouldn’t it be funny if Howard were to don a Heat jersey?


Money will be tight. Pat knew it when he made his decision nearly three years ago to pursue a rebuilding plan in the coming offseason. The team’s depth will undoubtedly suffer in the short term. But there are some quality, inexpensive pieces available on the free agent market. And more will avail themselves as the Heat lands top tier players.

5 Responses

  1. Vincent says:

    Good Morning Albert
    I have a few question ,
    1.Question: Can Riley trade the contract of O’neil , Qrich ,UH and Wright without
    the player signing a new deal…How do Pat Riley best utilize there contract…

    I know after signing FA and use up all of the cap space.
    Pat Riley can use there contract in a sign and trade.

    If you not on or
    check -it out…..

    luv your site..

  2. Albert says:

    Prior to July 1, each of the above names will be in the last season of his contract. A team cannot trade any player after the trade deadline occurring in the last season of the player’s contract.

    After July 1, each of these names will become free agents. The only way for the Heat to trade them would be via sign-and-trade. A free agent who signs with his prior team pursuant to a S&T must be offered a contract of three years, with the first year fully protected for lack of skill.

    Given the large size of their cap holds (JO: $24,166,800, QRich: $13,050,000, UD: $10,650,000 and DWright: $5,774,330), Riley would be best served by either (i) re-signing them to contracts smaller than the value of their cap holds if he so chooses, (ii) pursuing a sign-and-trade or (iii) renouncing them in order to recover the cap space. From a technical standpoint, the Heat will enter the offseason over the salary cap and no renouncements will be made until the Heat needs the cap space in order to sign an outside free agent.

    In summary, each will remain on the roster until Riley decides to re-sign him, trade him, or waive him in order to create more cap space.

    Also, I am the poster “answerthink” on the RealGM boards. I spend the majority of my time, however, helping to answer people’s technical questions in the CBA/Business Related forum.

  3. Vincent says:

    I can see Haslem ending his career in Orlando..It still close to MIAMI
    Stan luv UH …Riley will just be unable to clear enough space for UH..

    But Orl. could or should be willing to deal player on there roster
    IN order to save the MLE….

    So a Matt Barns f. UH is nice return
    Brandon Bass (4m)f. UH(Magic offer 5m)
    Matt Barns(3m) and Brandon Bass(4m) f. UH(magic offer 6) & 2nd

    Bass played very little for Magic this season
    The Magic does not have Barns bird right..
    So the only way Barns return to the Magic is by Orlando using the MLE

    This why I beleive there a slight chance Barns will be availible

  4. Albert says:

    The Magic still holds Non-Bird rights on Matt Barnes, which would enable the team to offer him 120% of his previous salary, or $1.9 million, without utilizing its MLE. Barnes will seek a bigger payday though, which would force the Magic to eat into its MLE.

    Orlando already has more than $80 million in salary commitments, so they are unlikely to take on significant salary. But, as you mention, they do have several valuable trade pieces (a topic I discuss at the bottom of this post).

    In order to free up cap space for a second max contract free agent, the Heat will probably need to make a decision on Haslem first. If his salary demands prove too great, a trade involving Brandon Bass could make sense. But Riley will be pursuing Chris Bosh. Even $4.0 million is a lot to spend on a backup PF when all you have is $56.1 million to work with.

    I’m not quite sure I see the rationale for the Heat in a trade for Matt Barnes. He has publicly declared his intention to opt out of his contract, which would make him an unrestricted free agent. The Heat could sign him outright if it chose to do so, without the hassle of involving Orlando.

  5. Vincent says:

    Thanks ….

    I refer to Haslem being a chip (alas ONeil,Wright and QRich)
    Once the Heat are at the limit of 56 Mil.

    To my understanding If Pat decision to lose Haslem,or the names above
    Pat can still do a Sign and Trade deal ever if we(Heat)was to renonce these free agents

    But the whould not have Cap space to sign them out right..

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