Heat Picks Up Option on Mario Chalmers

The Miami Heat has picked up its team option on guard Mario Chalmers.

And now there are three.

Point guard Mario Chalmers has become the third Miami Heat player secured on the books for 2010-11. The Heat has picked up its third year option on his three-year contract. The team had until June 30, the official end of the 2009-10 season, to make its decision.

Chalmers now joins Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook as the only Heat players locked into 2010-11 salaries.

Still to be determined are the $885,120 player option held by center Joel Anthony, who faces a June 24 deadline, the $17.1 million player option held by Dwyane Wade, and the Heat’s buyout decision on the final three years of the contract of James Jones.

Both Wade and Jones are expected to become unrestricted free agents, with the decisions on those matters due by June 30, a day before the N.B.A.’s free-agency negotiating period begins.

Upon acquiring Chalmers in the second round of the 2008 draft, the Heat extended the former KansasUniversity standout a three-year contract that included a team option for the final season. Chalmers, who earned $756,000 this past season, is now guaranteed $854,389 for what will be the final season of his contract. Because the option has been decided, he also is now eligible to be traded.

With the N.B.A.’s salary cap, which will be announced just prior to the July 8 start of the offseason signing period, expected to fall at about $56 million for 2010-11, the Heat, with Beasley, Cook and Chalmers, now has $8.0 million in committed salary for next season. Factoring in the $1.9 million Jones would receive if he were waived, as a partial guarantee on his $4.7 million 2010-11 salary, it would put the Heat at roughly $9.8 million in committed payroll. 

Beyond such figures, if he were to opt out of his existing contract as expected, Wade would be eligible this offseason for a six-year contract starting at $16.6 million.

With the bulk of its cap space seemingly targeted for free agents at other positions, such as small forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and power forward Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors, the Heat figure to be limited in its options at point guard this offseason.

The free-agent pool at the position is relatively thin, featuring the likes of Raymond Felton, Luke Ridnour, Steve Blake, Earl Watson, Randy Foye, Nate Robinson Derek Fisher and Jason Williams, all of whom likely would come at a higher salary than what Chalmers is now locked into.

Beyond expected No. 1 overall selection John Wall, the draft also is limited at point guard, with the Heat having worked out several prospects at the position in advance of next week’s No. 18 selection, most notably Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe.

The addition of Chalmers reduces the Heat’s total available cap space by a net $380,785 (after incorporating one fewer roster charge).

There was an alternative for the Heat to re-sign Chalmers without utilizing cap space. Had the team instead chosen to decline its option on Chalmers, it could have utilized its cap space to accomplish all of its outside free agent dreams and then circled back to him, utilizing the minimum player salary exception to sign him to the same contract he now has.

Such an approach, however, was not without its significant drawbacks. Chalmers would have become an unrestricted free agent in the interim, free to sign with any team. And the Heat would have had to renounce his Bird rights in the process, which would pose problems as the Heat looks to retain him next summer on a new, long-term contract.

After a promising rookie season, Chalmers had a down year this past season. He started the first 22 games, before first being replaced as the starting point guard by Carlos Arroyo, then Rafer Alston, and then Arroyo again. Throughout an uneven season that included defensive struggles against quicker players, he never fell below second on the team’s depth chart at point guard. He ranked 19th in the league this past season in steals-to-turnover ratio and 33rd in steals. He placed second on the Heat in 3-pointers, assists and steals.

He and Bledsoe or 2009 second-round pick Patrick Beverley could end up making an intriguing low-cost point guard tandem for the future.

1 Response

  1. Heat-Struck says:

    The only problem I see with not taking Chalmers’s option, is that he could possibly bolt to another team that would offer him more money. And with all the available money out there, I think he could do better than the minimum offer… even get a better role possibly.

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