Miami Heat Player-by-Player Overview
I have a request. I try to write posts which I believe are unique, in depth and insightful. I hope you agree. I therefore ask that you please not simply copy my work without providing proper credit. It feels rather awful to see my work being exploited. If just you ask, I am more than willing to help out anyone and everyone in any way I can (and do so on a regular basis behind the scenes).
The Miami Heat will start the summer with just six players under contract for the 2016-17 season – Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Josh McRoberts, Justise Winslow, Briante Weber and Josh Richardson. Those six players will cost a combined $49.8 million.
The remaining nine players will become free agents – Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Udonis Haslem, Hassan Whiteside, Gerald Green, Amare Stoudemire, Tyler Johnson, Joe Johnson and Dorell Wright. Those nine players will carry a combined $54.7 million in cap holds.
The Heat will therefore technically start the summer over the cap, with a team salary of $104.5 million against a projected salary cap of $92.0 million.
Here is a brief overview of how things can go from there for all 15 current Heat players.
Contract Status: Bosh, 32, is under contract at $23.7 million, $25.3 million and $26.8 million over the next three seasons.
Notes: Despite him missing the latter half of the season with a blood clot for the second year in a row, the Heat remains hopeful Bosh can play next season. When healthy, he is still one of the best power forwards in the NBA and a potentially ideal floor-spacing frontcourt compliment to Hassan Whiteside in the right offensive system.
If he is forced to retire for medical reasons, Bosh would continue to be paid in full (a majority of which would come from insurance) but the Heat could choose to file for a career-ending injury exclusion on or after February 9, 2017. If the exclusion is granted by the league office, the Heat would be able to waive him and remove his salary off books and gain additional cap room as early as the 2017 trade deadline or the summer of 2017 thereafter.
The best outcome all around is for Bosh to resume his career hopefully without further incident, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t be the dominant player he has been.
Contract Status: Dragic, 30, is under contract at $15.9 million, $17.0 million and $18.1 million over the next three seasons, with a $19.2 million player option for 2019-20.
Notes: Dragic played much better in the second half of the season once the Heat began running the offense through him and pushing the pace. With Dragic in a lead role, the Heat moved to a high-octane offense that went from second-worst in the NBA in scoring prior to the All Star break to fifth best after it. Dragic began to thrive as the Heat began to space the floor and his chemistry with Whiteside began to develop.
Dragic tends to struggle when paired in the backcourt with shooting-challenged players such as Dwyane Wade, and tends to thrive when paired with three-point-shooters who can space the floor around him and give him free runs at the rim. It remains to be seen how good he can be if the Heat were to leverage his skill-set properly.
Though there have been rumors about a potential Heat pursuit of Mike Conley, neither that nor the Dragic trade it would precipitate remains a strong possibility. Dragic is a core member of the Heat family and, barring unforeseen circumstances, he will likely remain in a Heat uniform next season.
Contract Status: McRoberts, 29, is under contract at $5.7 million for next season, with a $6.0 million player option for 2017-18.
Notes: Though McRoberts’ excellent ball-handling and passing skills for a big man continue to dazzle us all, his actual production and games lost to injury have made him less effective in practice than envisioned in theory. That has led to widespread speculation that the Heat will attempt to trade him this summer in order to recover the cap space.
That is a conditional truth. The Heat may look to move McRoberts, but only if it needs the cap space to accomplish whatever scenario it may be pursuing. And even if the team does look to move him, the lack of non-player assets could make it difficult to accomplish. If the Heat can’t move him but it still needs more cap space, it could also choose to waive him and stretch out his cap hit, which would replace his salary figures for the next two seasons with a $2.4 million dead-money cap charge for the next five seasons (through 2020-21). But if it has no need for the added room, the Heat will retain him as valuable frontcourt depth for at least one more season.
Contract Status: Winslow, 20, is entering the second of his four-year rookie-scale contract. He will earn $2.6 million next season, $2.7 million for 2017-18 if the Heat exercises its team option by Oct. 31, and $3.4 million for 2018-19 if the Heat exercises its second team option by Oct. 31, 2017. The Heat can make him a restricted free agent when his contract is complete.
Notes: Winslow’s defense during his rookie season was even better than advertised, but his offense left lots of room for improvement. Winslow needs to work on the accuracy of his outside shot, his touch around the rim, and his propensity to turn the ball over despite solid ball-handling skills. If he can make strides in those areas, he could achieve his star potential.
Contract Status: Richardson, 23, is under contract at $874,636 for 2016-17 and $1.0 million for 2017-18. While both seasons are non-guaranteed, the Heat will certainly retain him this summer. The Heat can make him a restricted free agent when his contract is complete.
Notes: Richardson was perhaps the league’s best second-round draft pick from last summer, on perhaps the league’s best contract given to a second-round draft pick last summer. He seemingly came from nowhere to lead the entire NBA in three-point shooting percentage after the All-Star break. In that span of time, he proved to be a strong two-way athlete who posseses the ability not only shoot but also attack the rim if the situation called for it on offense, as well as the tools to develop into a strong contributor on defense. He is capable of playing multiple positions, but is best suited off the ball at shooting guard or small forward. Depending upon where his shooting levels off, it is not all that difficult to imagine him as a future starter in the Heat backcourt.
Contract Status: Weber, 23, is under contract at $874,636 for 2016-17 and $1.0 million for 2017-18. His salary for next season is partially guaranteed for $218,659, while the following season is fully non-guaranteed. If he completes his contract, the Heat can thereafter make him a restricted free agent.
Notes: Weber is a developmental project. His partial guarantee for next season likely means that he will make it at least to the Heat’s training camp in October. From there, however, he will need to earn his spot on the Heat’s 15-man regular season roster.
Contract Status: Wade, 34, will be an unrestricted free agent with a $30.0 million cap hold.
Notes: Wade won’t be the Heat’s first focus next summer (Whiteside), but he will return. His large cap hold essentially means nothing.
Much as with last season, Wade will push for the large multi-year contract to close out his career that he justifiably deserves while the Heat will be incentivized to negotiate for a single-season deal. The first-year salary in his new deal will impact the Heat’s ability to bring back Deng and Joe Johnson this summer, while the length of his deal will impact the team’s total available cap space for 2017. Don’t be surprised if Wade, realizing this, doesn’t push quite as hard for the Heat to retain Deng and Johnson this summer as he otherwise might.
One possible outcome is a potential one-year contract that uses up most if not all of the cap space that remains after taking care of Whiteside, which figures to be at least $18 million. Another possible outcome, perhaps in a Kevin Durant scenario, is a potential one-year minimum-salary contract that frees up cap space to utilize elsewhere in exchange for a huge contract that leverages his full Bird rights next summer.
Contract Status: Deng, 31, will be an unrestricted free agent with a $13.2 million cap hold.
Notes: Deng had a wildly anomalistic season for the Heat. With Miami utilizing him primarily as a floor-spacing wing shooter prior to the All Star break, he shot a stellar 40 percent on corner three-pointers but was nonetheless completely ineffective for the team overall. When he shifted to power forward in the absence of Bosh after the All Star break, he was completely ineffective at spacing the floor (30 percent from the corners) but nonetheless thrived for the Heat as a scorer, rebounder and defender. In the playoffs, he was unstoppable with his scoring and three-point shooting in the first round, and then completely disappeared in the second round.
With Bosh likely to return alongside Whiteside in the frontcourt to start next season, what the Heat will need from the small forward position is a player who can space the floor and play solid perimeter defense. At this point, Winslow would appear to be the best defensive option, Richardson the best three-point shooting option, and Deng the most polished all-around option. Pat Riley would love to bring him back, but finances could get in the way.
Deng will surely be looking to secure one last lucrative multi-year contract to close out his career. The Heat, however, likely won’t be in a position to offer him a large contract (with the vast majority of cap space likely to be allocated to Whiteside and Wade) or a long-term contract (with the Heat likely to be looking to maximize its 2017 cap space). With more than $1 billion in cap space around the league, Deng will surely test the market to see what he can get. He may be forced to weigh a large if not necessarily long-term offer from elsewhere with his desire to remain with a Heat team that won’t be able to match it.
Contract Status: Haslem, 36 on June 9, will be an unrestricted free agent with a $5.4 million cap hold.
Notes: Haslem’s rights will be renounced if the Heat uses cap space. At this point in his career, he is nothing more than a minimum salary player. The Heat values his toughness and leadership, and will surely offer him that.
Contract Status: Johnson, 25, will be a restricted free agent once the Heat extends a $1.2 million qualifying offer.
Notes: Johnson will have three primary choices this summer: (i) he can sign a contract with another team, with such offers limited by league rule to no higher than $5.6 million next season and $6.1 million in 2017-18, after which it can spike considerably, to $23.6 million and $24.4 million, respectively, in a potential third and fourth season (for a four-year total of up to $59.5 million), which the Heat could choose to match, (ii) he can sign directly with the Heat for up to $6.2 million in the first year and standard raises thereafter (for a four-year total of up to $27.6 million), or (iii) he can accept his $1.2 million qualifying offer, after which he would become a potential restricted free agent next summer but be eligible to receive up to a full max contract.
While he has often been miscast by the Heat as a point guard, Johnson is a shooting guard. Despite his diminutive appearance, he is a strong three-point shooter when he has his feet set, as well as a strong rim-attacker, rebounder and defender. He is a big part of the Heat future, with only an excessively large offer sheet that the Heat declines to match preventing his return.
Contract Status: Whiteside, 27 on June 13, will be an unrestricted free agent with a $980,431 cap hold.
Notes: The Heat can theoretically sit on Whiteside’s cap hold, use all of its cap space elsewhere, and then circle back to him to give him a contract that exceeds the cap, but only to give him a contract with: (i) a starting salary no higher than $6.2 million, and (ii) a term no shorter than two years. Otherwise, the Heat will need to allocate cap space to re-sign him.
Whiteside will gets max contract offers starting at $21.6 million on the open market. The Heat will try to get him to accept a contract with a lower starting salary, potentially leveraging several key differentiating factors in its pitch to him:
- Higher annual raises. The Heat can offer raises of up to 7.5 percent of his first year salary, versus 4.5 percent for all other teams. That means a four-year deal starting at $20.7 million with Miami could equal a maximum four-year deal starting at $21.6 million elsewhere.
- Lower state income taxes. State income tax disparities depend largely upon to which team a Heat offer would be compared, but could produce upward of $1.5 million in annual savings relative to teams in New York or California (and many millions of dollars per year when considering potential future endorsement income) after factoring in jock tax obligations. That means a four-year deal starting in the range of $19 million with Miami could equal a maximum four-year deal starting at $21.6 million for teams like the L.A. Lakers or New York Knicks.
- Bonus potential. The Heat can offer an unlikely bonus that would increase his total payout in ways other teams likely can’t. It is unclear whether it will leverage such a creative structure, but doing so could make a four-year deal starting at $17.6 million with Miami — or perhaps even as low at $16 million when factoring a lack of state income taxes — equivalent to a maximum four-year deal starting at $21.6 million elsewhere.
- Non-financial factors. The Heat was the only team in the NBA actually willing to give him a shot after being banished to places like China and Lebanon and being dumped by a Memphis Grizzlies team that was initially willing to sign him but then axed him in favor of keeping an unfilled roster spot. He likes it here, and he now has the potential to become a major part of a potential Eastern Conference powerhouse. Miami is the known quantity, and therefore the low-risk choice.
The Heat could build out a four-year offer to Whiteside that starts as low as $16 million and still credibly be considered equivalent to a full maximum contract offered elsewhere. Whether Whiteside will agree to such an arrangement is still unknown, and Miami will likely ultimately pay whatever it takes to retain him.
Contract Status: Johnson, 35 on June 29, will be an unrestricted free agent with a $980,431 cap hold.
Notes: Johnson is a fascinating story. He had a guaranteed $24.9 million salary with the Brooklyn Nets this season, but reduced his payout by $3 million in order to secure his release at the buyout deadline in late February. Immediately after being released, he signed a $414K rest-of-season minimum salary contract with the Heat. The Heat saw him as a strong wing player who, despite his advancing age and fading defensive abilities, could both space the floor and create his own offense. It seemed like a wonderful addition for the final two months of the regular season. He was huge part of the Heat’s move to its high-powered post-All-Star-Break offense, scoring over 13 points per game and shooting 52 percent from the floor and 42 percent from behind the three-point line. But he struggled mightily in the playoffs. Now he could be caught in a numbers game.
The Heat will surely look to retain Whiteside and Wade, and may be forced to allocate most or all of its cap space to do so, which would leave no room for Johnson. If that scenario plays out, the Heat will likely make Johnson an offer at the mid-level exception for room teams ($2.9 million, or $5.9 million over two years) (or perhaps an up to three-year deal that allows the Heat to exceed the cap to dole out a starting salary of up to $1.9 million and a total payout of up to $5.8 million). No team is going to offer him a long-term contract at age 35, but that will nonetheless be substantially less than what he might be able to garner on a short-term deal on the open market. It’s not unreasonable to think that he might accept it anyway – after all, he has already made $196 million during his NBA career, $40 million more than Wade. But it’s also not unreasonable to think that he will pursue larger offers on the open market. It’s all come down to whether he wants to take less to stay in Miami.
Contract Status: Green, 30, will be an unrestricted free agent with a $980,431 cap hold.
Notes: Green struggled through wild on- and off-court consistency issues last season, at times presenting himself as a huge offensive force with a surprisingly solid commitment to defense and at other times making himself virtually unplayable. Overall, not good at all. He will not be a primary focus for the Heat this summer. Another season at the $1.4 million minimum salary is an outside possibility (as is, but less so, an up to four-year deal starting at $1.7 million and paying out up to $7.2 million) depending upon how the back end of the roster shakes out.
Contract Status: Stoudemire, 33, will be an unrestricted free agent with a $980,431 cap hold.
Notes: Stoudemire went from complete non-contributor to start the season, to unexpected starter over the second half of the season, and back to complete non-contributor for the playoffs. While he provided quality depth at the minimum salary this past season, he will not be a primary focus for the Heat this summer.
Another season at the $1.6 million minimum salary is a possibility (as is, but less so, an up to three-year deal starting at $1.9 million and paying out up to $5.8 million). While he likely won’t get substantially higher offers elsewhere, whether he would accept is unclear. He very much likes living in Miami, but was also visibly upset with his lack of playing time during the playoffs.
Contract Status: Wright, 30, will be an unrestricted free agent with a $980,431 cap hold.
Notes: Wright was signed at the very end of the regular season as insurance for the playoffs. As expected, he barely played. A return at the $1.6 million minimum salary is certainly possible (as is, but less so, an up to four-year deal starting at $1.9 million and paying out up to $8.0 million).
Miami Heat Overall
The Heat will surely pursue Kevin Durant (and LeBron James, if he proves interested) this summer. If such a scenario were possible, it would completely alter the dynamic of the Heat summer. The Heat’s plans would be catered to, and dictated by, whatever he should want as an impetus so sign.
Assuming Durant (and James) is not interested in Miami, Pat Riley and the Heat organization will likely turn their initial attention to Hassan Whiteside, paying whatever it takes to retain him and then offering up most if not all of whatever cap space is left over to Wade as an enticement to sign a single-season deal.
When all of the team’s cap space is used up, Riley will likely then exceed the cap in hitting its 20-player maximum offseason roster by: (i) re-signing Tyler Johnson (or matching whatever reasonable offer sheet he has signed elsewhere), (ii) offering Joe Johnson the $2.9 million mid-level exception for room teams, and (iii) pursuing single-season minimum salary contracts with some or all of Beno Udrih, Udonis Haslem, Amare Stoudemire, as well as with veteran wing players who can shoot three-pointers and/or play solid defense, veteran big frontcourt players, and rookie free agents.
The Heat roster would, in large part, remain the same as the team bides its time to the summer of 2017, except: (i) Luol Deng would likely be lost, (ii) Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson would each have the benefit of a full year of NBA experience, and (iii) Chris Bosh would hopefully return to health.