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The wait is almost over.
NBA free agency officially begins at 12:01 am on July 1. But for the Miami Heat, the uncertainty starts to be clarified 23 hours and 58 minutes before that.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade and forward Luol Deng have until 11:59 pm on June 29 to decide whether to exercise the player options – for $16.1 million and $10.2 million, respectively – on their contracts. If the deadline passes and the Heat has not heard back, both players by default will have chosen to join guard Goran Dragic in opting out and becoming unrestricted free agents.
If Wade and Deng both opt out, the Heat would start the summer with as much as $19 million of room below the projected $67.1 million salary cap. But, realistically, it won’t have any cap room at all.
That’s because the Heat is expected to quickly resolve the free agency status of Dragic.
Dragic has indicated that he enjoys Miami, and will remain with the Heat if his financial goals are met. The Heat paid a steep price to get him, headlined by two future first round draft picks, which tells you everything you need to know about how willing they will be to pay him his money. Dragic will be eligible to receive a five-year deal, with a total payout of as much as $108 million. If he gets it, his contract would start at $18.9 million, and rise to $20.2 million for the 2016-17 season.
For a player entering his age 29 season, however, it could prove to be an overpay, even with the cap due to rise dramatically next year. A smaller deal that pays out the max in the first year, declines by the max in the second year, before again maxing out for the final three years would be a nice concession by Dragic, in that it would give the Heat more flexibility for the summer of 2016 but still pay out a lofty $97 million. That may still seem like a hefty sum, but it would represent a 10 percent discount from a max contract, and a whopping 30 percent discount from a potential max contract a player of his tenure could sign the following summer. If he acquiesces, his contract would still start at $18.9 million, but his 2016-17 salary would fall to $17.4 million.
If the Heat re-signs Dragic, it would still be capped out even if Wade and Deng decline their options. Utilizing cap space, therefore, is not a realistic option for the Heat this summer. Read more…