Joel Anthony will reportedly decline his $885,120 player option, and test free agency.
This is good news for both the Heat and Joel.
The Heat now recovers up to $885,120 in additional spending money (or $411,516, net of the incremental $473,604 roster charge for having fewer than 12 players on the roster).
For Joel, it is a chance to get a bigger payday. Joel’s statistics don’t immediately jump off the page. In his sixteen minutes of action per game, he displayed limited – though improving – scoring touch. But he’s a scrappy kid who hustles after every ball and is a shot-blocking force on the block. He finished with the 15th most blocks in the league. His 3.96 blocks per 48 minutes is seventh-best among all players.
Teams looking to strengthen their interior defenses may take a look at the 6’9″, 245-pound Canadian-born, three-year veteran.
But Miami will have the clear inside track to retain him.
First, the Heat can choose to make him a restricted free agent, which would afford the right to match any outside offers. To do so, however, the Heat would be required to extend him a qualifying offer of $1,060,120. The qualifying offer is essentially a contract offer, which prevents the Heat from not offering Joel a contract and waiting to swoop in when he tries to sign elsewhere. This amount would count against the Heat’s salary cap as soon as it is offered, and Joel could then accept it at any time in lieu of continuing to test the free agent market. And while it would be more than the original $885,120 salary Joel opted out of, the Heat would be able withdraw its outstanding qualifying offer at any time if it so chose, in which case the charge would be wiped away and Anthony would become an unrestricted free agent. The qualifying offer cannot be withdrawn after July 23 without the player’s consent.
If Miami chooses not to extend Joel a qualifying offer, his cap hold to start the off-season will be the minimum salary applicable to a three-year veteran less the amount that would be reimbursed by the league, or $854,389. Note that this figure is $30,731 less than the $885,120 salary he opted out of. So, Miami would get an instant cap savings, albeit tiny. The risk to this approach would be that Joel could simply sign a contract with any team he wants any time he wants, and Riley would be powerless to stop him.
Second, and more important, is that the Heat will hold Joel’s Bird rights (whether or not a qualifying offer is ultimately extended). Because Miami will retain his Bird rights, it will be able to utilize all of its cap room (less the $1,060,120 cap hold if a qualifying offer is extended or the $854,389 cap hold if it is not) on other players and then come back to Joel. At that point, Miami will be able exceed the cap to offer Joel whatever salary he wants – all the way up to a maximum contract for a player with less than seven years of experience.
Extending Joel a qualifying offer appears more likely at this point than either keeping him unrestricted or cutting ties with him outright. Why? Because there is absolutely no drawback to keeping his qualifying offer on the books right up until the second Riley would rather use the cap space elsewhere.
The most likely course of action will be as follows. The Heat will extend Joel a qualifying offer by June 30, which will count $1,060,120 against the salary cap. Prior to July 24, however, it will be rescinded. When it is, his cap hold will be reduced to $854,389, giving the Heat an additional $205,731 to spend on its outside free agents. At this point, the Heat will still retain his Bird rights (and he will be unrestricted). Once the team’s entire cap space is used up, the Heat will then utilize Joel’s Bird rights to replace his $854,389 cap hold with the significant raise he deserves, allowing the Heat to legally exceed the salary cap.
So, at least for now, Joel doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.