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Heat Trade Dexter Pittman to the Memphis Grizzlies

February 21st, 2013 No comments

The Heat has completed a minor trade with the Memphis Grizzlies at the Feb. 21 deadline that gives the team some financial relief.

Miami sent seldom-used center Dexter Pittman, its 2013 second round draft pick and cash considerations to the Grizzlies in exchange for the draft rights to power forward Ricky Sanchez. The Heat will also acquire an $854,389 trade exception in the deal.

Sanchez will likely never play in the NBA. He was originally drafted in the second round (35th overall) of the 2005 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Puerto Rican native has since played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association (2005-06), the D-League (2006-08), Puerto Rico (2007-11), Venezuela (2009), Mexico (2009-11), Spain (2011-12) and Argentina (2012-13), where the 6’11”, 220-pound 25-year-old has averaged 12.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 31.9 minutes while shooting 42.2% from the field in 28 games for Libertad de Sunchales this season. His draft rights have been traded four times. He was included because each team is required to send the other something in every trade.

The trade exception holds very little practical value for the Heat either. It will allow Miami to trade for a player(s) with a total salary of up to $954,389 (the value of the exception, plus $100K) without being required to send back matching salaries. It cannot be used to sign a free agent, it cannot be traded to another team, and it cannot be combined with another exception or player in order to trade for a more expensive player. By league rule, teams over the salary cap (as are the Heat) are allowed to acquire minimum salary players without regard to salary matching anyway.

The impetus of the trade for the Heat is the roster spot that it creates. Teams are required to carry no fewer than 13 players, but no more than 15 players, on their rosters during the season. The Heat roster now stands at 14.

The Heat will look to add a player, likely a big man, who is currently a free agent or who might become available via buyout by March 1.

In order for a current player to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster, he must be placed on waivers by 11:59 p.m. on March 1. The player does not have to be subsequently signed by March 1. He can be signed as late as for the final game of the regular season to be playoff eligible. And a player who has not appeared on an NBA roster this season can also be signed any time prior to a team’s final regular season game in order to be playoff eligible.

Possible buyout candidates who may be of interest to the Heat include Jermaine O’Neal of the Phoenix Suns, Samuel Dalembert of the Milwaukee Bucks, Chris Kaman of the Dallas Mavericks, and Timofey Mozgov of the Denver Nuggets.

There is some rationale to believe that each could be a buyout candidate, although none is likely to be. The Suns need the roster spot to accommodate the soon-to-be-acquired Marcus Morris, and O’Neal has reportedly been pushing for the chance to play for a contender in the dusk of his 17-year career. The Bucks have agreed to acquire center Gustavo Ayon as part of a multi-player trade involving J.J. Redick, which would add Ayon to a center rotation that includes incumbent starter Larry Sanders and the reportedly unhappy Dalembert. The Mavs are fading out of playoff contention and are dealing with a reportedly unhappy Kaman who, himself, is dealing with a concussion sustained more than three weeks ago. The Nuggets have been looking to deal the seldom-used Mozgov, though they would seemingly have little reason to buy him out; if they do, it’d be simply to do him a solid.

Pittman, who had been banished to the D-League for the bulk of the season and didn’t figure into the team’s future plans, could always have been waived in favor of the roster spot anyway. Therefore, in essence, this trade was actually all about the money. The Heat sent $276,420 in cash to the Grizzlies to cover the remaining portion of Pittman’s contract – the same payout as would have been required were Pittman to have been waived. However, the Heat is no longer on the hook for the $854,389 in luxury taxes his contract created.

The success of this trade, therefore, hinges on the value placed on the draft pick. In trading Pittman, the Heat is essentially saying that its 2013 second round draft pick is worth less than $854,389 in cash.

They’re probably right. If the season were to end today, the pick would wind up being No. 59 overall in next year’s draft. Depending on how the rest of the regular season plays out, it could reasonably increase only to as high as No. 57.

Generally speaking, players picked at these levels wind up never playing in the NBA, let alone become valuable enough to meaningfully contribute to a title contender.

There are some notable exceptions, however. Manu Ginobili was selected No. 57 overall in the 1999 NBA Draft. Second year point guard Isaiah Thomas was selected with the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. But such cases are rare.

And so the trade, unnecessary as it should have been, was probably a marginally good one — at least from the perspective of owner Micky Arison. To see that, think of it this way: Arison probably could not have otherwise sold the No. 59 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft for $854,389.

Of course, the Grizzlies got an even better deal. They had just 12 players on their roster. They needed to get to the NBA minimum of 13. So they took Pittman for free. It’s nothing more than a two-month tryout. If he doesn’t develop, the Grizzlies can waive him at no cost. If he exceeds expectations, Memphis maintains his full Bird rights as a restricted free agent this summer. Yet, smartly, they negotiated for a 2013 second round pick from the Heat as well, again, absolutely free of charge. Free player, free pick. Not a bad day’s work.

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Riley Guarantees Dexter Pittman’s Contract

June 29th, 2012 1 comment

Working in advance of the league’s October 31 deadline for such moves, Heat president Pat Riley picked up the 2010-11 rookie-scale option on the contract of first-round pick Daequan Cook late in 2009.

Eight months later, Riley changed his mind. Attempting to clear as much salary-cap space as possible for free agency, the Heat traded the underperforming Cook and the 18th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In exchange, the Heat received the No. 32 selection. That pick became Dexter Pittman.

Pittman signed a three-year minimum salary contract with the last of the Heat’s remaining cap space in July of 2010. The final year, for the upcoming 2012-13 season, was fully unguaranteed, becoming guaranteed if not waived before June 30, 2012. Earlier today, Riley confirmed that the Heat would let that deadline pass, thus guaranteeing his contract.

The decision to retain Pittman is certainly understandable. The Heat desperately needs size. Apart from Pittman, LeBron James is currently the heaviest player on the Heat. Only Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony are taller.

While the Heat implemented its small-ball philosophy with great success during its playoff run, a strategy that the Heat seem destined to employ for the whole of next season, don’t kid yourself. It’s a strategy borne more out of necessity than desire.

But Pittman, who has played a total of 320 big-league minutes over the course of his two seasons in the league, is hardly a definitive answer at center. Any flashes of low-post skill he has displayed have thus far been more than offset by his propensity to foul (sometimes violently).

Therefore, while the decision to retain him may be understandable, the manner in which Riley chose to do so was certainly not. One must question what prompted Riley to offer a guarantee to a player who seemingly didn’t require one. He could have, and should have, waived the wide-bodied center prior to the June 30 deadline, and thereafter re-signed him to a make-good, training camp contract. Of course, the risk with such an approach is that some other team might make Pittman a better offer. But let’s be realistic. A better offer wasn’t coming.

Riley has done this before. In July of 2010, 2009 second round pick Patrick Beverley was offered a questionable (or, frankly, inexplicable) two-year fully guaranteed contract – making him the only player in the league to try out for the team that drafted him, fail to make the team, and then be offered a multi-season guaranteed contract the season after. Despite the guarantee, Beverley was waived one day prior to the start of the regular season. Total unnecessary cost incurred: $2.1 million (including the tax).

Unlike Beverley, however, Pittman’s spot on the roster is all but guaranteed. The cash-strapped Heat can no longer afford to repeat its sins of the past and eat guaranteed salary. It’s simply too expensive. Letting Pittman go would add an additional $1.7 million to a payroll already projected to approach $100 million, the highest in franchise history by a wide margin. The Heat is, for better or worse, invested in Pittman’s continued development.

Said Riley: “We expect improvement. Big guys, when you draft them late or in the second round, it’s a two- or three-year project. He’s going into his third year. We are going to give him a great shot and we expect this year he might be able to really contribute to us.”

The Heat now has eleven players under guaranteed contract for 2012-13. By league rules, the team must employ at least thirteen, but no more than fifteen, on its regular season roster. It can carry as many as twenty during the offseason.

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Everything is Done: How Did It All Happen?

July 17th, 2010 5 comments

The Miami Heat finished last season with 16 players under contract and a team salary far in excess of the salary cap. They then created enough salary cap room to sign everyone who is on the roster today. Now they are far in excess of the salary cap once again.

So how did it all happen? How did they manage to get so far below the salary cap and then above it again all in the same season? With creative financing!

Everything has now been finalized. It’s done. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown.

(Note: The actions below, in some cases, may be out of order. They have been structured so as to make evident the Heat’s thought process along the way, as well as to promote ease of reader comprehension. Full comprehension also requires an understanding of cap holds and roster charges, which are described in detail here.)

This is a snapshot of the Heat’s salary cap situation at the end of last season:

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Heat signs Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman

July 16th, 2010 9 comments

One hour ago, the Miami Heat did not have a single center on its roster. Now it has two.

Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman have each signed contracts.

Joel Anthony

Anthony, soon to be 28 years old, has accepted a five-year, $18.25 million deal.

He will add value to the organization as a defensive and shot-blocking specialist. But the deal is too rich, and far too long.

Anthony is a 6-foot, 9-inch power forward playing out of position at center against a league of giants due to extreme offensive deficiencies. He is perhaps the single worst offensive player in game today. His inability to catch the basketball invites double teams toward his more talented teammates. When he does catch it, he’s often utterly confused as to what to do with it. When he’s on the floor, the Heat effectively plays offense four-against-five.

Even more troubling is how shockingly poor he is at rebounding. He seems to lack both the instincts for finding the ball and the coordination to grab it when comes his way. Oftentimes, any value he creates on the defensive end is entirely offset by his inability to capitalize on it by grabbing a rebound.

If you’re a wildly undersized center who can’t play offense and can’t rebound the basketball, it’s difficult to justify a contract greater than the minimum salary.

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