Update (7/1/15): Luol Deng has exercised his player option. Dwyane Wade declined his option but his return is all but assured. The larger question is to what type of contract the Heat will sign him.
Ken Berger at CBS reported yesterday that the 2015-16 salary cap could jump as much as $2 million higher than the league’s latest projection of $67.1 million, which was made some time ago. Such an increase could have a meaningful impact on the Heat’s plans for Wade.
If the 2015-16 salary cap increases from $67.1 million to as much as $69.1 million, the tax threshold would increase from $81.6 million to as much as $83.8 million.
How much would a $2.2 million increase in the tax threshold help the Heat? If it were to offer Wade a one-year contract at the $22 million max, its payroll would reach into the neighborhood of $100 million. With an $100 million payroll, the tax obligation would fall from $58 million to $49 million. That’s a savings of $9.4 million!
Layer in a potential trade of Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen or Mario Chalmers and Heat’s total payroll obligations, including repeater tax obligations, could fall to $12X million.
And since the luxury tax is calculated as of the last day of the regular season, any potential trades don’t need to happen now (though the clarity would certainly be reassuring). Trading, say, the $1.6 million in salary obligations remaining on the $5.0 million expiring contract of Andersen at the trade deadline — for which the Heat could offer up to $3.4 million in cash and/or a possible 2018, 2020 or 2021 second round draft pick — would save a whopping $18.4 million in taxes for a team with an $100 million payroll (plus the $1.6 million in salary savings, less any cash sent). However, the Heat would need to find a trade partner with enough cap room (or a large enough trade exception) to take on Andersen’s $5.0 million cap hit without sending anything back in return, and that gets harder to find as more time passes.
Winding up with total payroll obligations of $12X million is a hefty some of money, to be sure – a would-be all-time record in total payroll obligations for the Heat – but this is not your typical spending problem. It would be just a one-time issue. The Heat will become very affordable next year, all but assured not to cross the tax threshold. Which would guarantee it does not pay “repeater tax” rates again until at least the 2019-20 season (pending rule changes). Also bear this in mind: the new TV deal, which starts in 2016-17, will itself instantly increase owner PROFITS by an average of $18 million per year, and rising annually. So, would Arison be willing to endure the cost of giving Wade the max for one year?
What would offering Wade a one-year contract at the $22 million max mean for the Heat? The Heat could enter the summer of 2016 with Dragic (PG), Winslow (SG/SF) and Bosh (PF) under contract, and up to $42 million of cap space to spend on Whiteside (C) and another player (assuming a McRoberts trade and an $89.1 million salary cap). Of that $42 million, Whiteside’s max would be $21 million but, at this point, one could reasonably suspect he would command far less. Which leaves enough room for…
That has to be math that the Heat organization itself is doing, right? Would they offer Wade one-year at the max? Would Wade accept?
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…