Are the Miami Heat in position to sign a max player in 2017?

Miami Heat president Pat Riley (AP Photo/ Pat Carter)
Miami Heat president Pat Riley (AP Photo/ Pat Carter)

The Heat picked financial flexibility over Dwyane Wade.

After missing out on Kevin Durant, Miami’s top priority this offeason has been to preserve cap space for next summer. So it’s not a surprise the Heat built their 15-man roster with short-term contracts.

[Tim Duncan retires: His link to the Miami Heat]

[Despite messy breakup, Dwyane Wade still loves Pat Riley]

Miami currently has about $91 million invested in 11 players for the 2017-18 season. With the salary cap projected to jump to $102 million next summer, that would leave the Heat with about $11 million of cap space.

That’s not enough to sign a max player, though.

Using the $102 million salary cap projection, the max salaries are projected to be about $24 million for players with fewer than seven seasons of NBA experience, $28.8 million for players with seven to nine seasons of experience, and $33.6 million for players with 10 or more seasons of experience.

How can the Heat open up more space to spend in free agency next offseason? Here are some ideas …

1. About $16 million of the Heat’s $91 million invested in players for the 2017-18 season is tied to player or team options.

Josh McRoberts’ contract includes a player option for the $6 million he’s set to make in the 2017-18 season. With his Heat tenure off to a disappointing start and free-agent market inflation, McRoberts could opt to become a free agent next summer. That would open up $6 million of additional space for the Heat.

Guard Wayne Ellington’s two-year contract includes a team option for the $6.1 million he’s set to make in the 2017-18 season. That’s not bad value in this market, but the Heat will likely decline that option if they need room for a big-name free agent. If Miami opts to decline its option on Ellington, the Heat’s cap space will jump from $11 million to about $17 million.

Forward Justise Winslow’s rookie contract includes a team option for the $2.7 million he’s scheduled to make in the 2017-18 season. But don’t expect the Heat to decline this one, as they will almost definitely accept the team option to lock Winslow in at this cheap price for another year. Miami probably can’t open up additional cap space here.

However, the Heat might be able to free up $1 million with the way Willie Reed’s contract is structured. According to Basketball Insiders, Reed’s contract with Miami includes a player option for the $1.1 million he’s set to make in the 2017-18 season. If Reed has a solid season with the Heat, there’s a good chance he will decline that player option to look for more money on the free-agent market.

2. The Heat have some trade chips on their roster they could use to open up space next summer.

Considering Mike Conley is set to make $26.5 million this upcoming season, fellow point guard Goran Dragic’s contract doesn’t look too bad. Dragic will make $17 million in the 2017-18 season and many teams will be willing to take that salary for a player of his caliber. If the Heat need to make space for a max player, trading Dragic would free another $17 million of cap room.

3. Although the Heat are optimistic Chris Bosh will be able to play this upcoming season, his situation could end up opening up a huge amount of space for Miami.

Bosh remains a question mark for this upcoming season after blood clot issues sidelined him for a second consecutive season.

If Bosh is forced to retire because of his health, the Heat would not receive salary-cap relief until the one-year anniversary of his last game (Feb. 9, 2017). This would take Bosh’s $25.3 million salary for the 2017-18 season off the Heat’s books, opening up a huge chunk of money for Miami to spend next summer.

Even though the Miami is currently projected to have just $11 million of cap space next offseason, there are definitely ways for the Heat to put themselves in position to sign a max player. Miami will have to decide which path it takes.

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