MIAMI — The Heat signed nine free agents this past offseason.
That makes Thursday, Dec. 15 a pretty important date for Miami. Why?
NBA rules say free agents who signed in the offseason are not eligible to be traded until Dec. 15 or three months after their signing, whichever is later. With so many offseason acquisitions on Miami’s current roster, eight Heat players will become trade-eligible on Thursday.
These are the eight who become trade-eligible: Hassan Whiteside ($22.1 million), Wayne Ellington ($6 million), Derrick Williams ($4.6 million), Udonis Haslem ($4 million), James Johnson ($4 million), Dion Waiters ($2.9 million), Willie Reed ($1 million) and Rodney McGruder ($874,000).
Tyler Johnson was also signed by the Heat as a free agent this past offseason, but he does not become trade-eligible until Jan. 15 and he has the right to block any trade this season because of how he was signed. Johnson is earning $5.6 million this season in the first year of a four-year, $50 million contract, as the Heat matched the Nets’ offer sheet to keep Johnson as a restricted free agent this past summer.
With the NBA trade deadline set for Feb. 23, Heat president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg have two months to make trades involving these players. With Miami off to a 7-17 start this season, moves are definitely possible.
But don’t expect for the Heat to use Thursday as the green light to make an immediate trade. Miami isn’t known for making trades months before the deadline.
Miami dealt Mario Chalmers and James Ennis to Memphis for Beno Udrih and Jarnell Stokes last November. But that move was made to help reduce the team’s luxury tax burden, which is not a factor this season for the Heat.
The trade that brought Goran Dragic to the Heat was made in February 2015 on the day of the NBA’s trade deadline. The Heat traded Dexter Pittman away to Memphis in February 2013, and traded Chris Quinn to the Nets in January 2010 and Shaun Livingston to the Grizzlies in January 2009.
As those trades show, the Heat aren’t known for making trades in December. Riley and Elisburg want to see a healthy version of this Heat team before making any drastic moves, as 12 Miami players (including Chris Bosh) have combined to miss 100 games due to injuries over the first 24 games of the season.
Another factor that could make the Heat wait until February to agree to a trade is the Chris Bosh factor. The Heat are eligible to apply for salary-cap relief from Chris Bosh’s contract starting on Feb. 9 — the one-year anniversary of the last game Bosh played — and could go from being capped out to having $24 million in cap space.
Thursday is just the start of what’s going to be a very interesting two months for the Heat.