Mailbag: Will Dion Waiters, James Johnson actually take less money to return to the Heat?

The Miami Heat’s James Johnson and Goran Dragic, left, greet Dion Waiters (11) as they lead in the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. The Heat won, 108-101. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

The start of free agency is still a few months away, but the speculation has already begun.

Dion Waiters and James Johnson are the Heat’s two big free agents-to-be. Both want to re-sign with Miami, but will they take less money to to leave room for the Heat to add another quality free agent to the roster?

We answer that question and more in this week’s installment of the Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

@BeatKameron: Do you feel like players such as Dion Waiters and James Johnson bought into the culture enough to take less money to return to the Heat this offseason?

Anthony Chiang: Do I think Dion and James bought into the Heat’s culture? Definitely. I think we can say that pretty definitively. But does that mean Dion and James are going to take less money to return to Miami? I’m not so sure about that. Although both impending free agents have made it clear they want to re-sign with the Heat this summer, a lot of it is going to come down to money. Luol Deng and Joe Johnson wanted to return to Miami last offseason, but more money lured them away. Luol got a four-year deal worth $72 million from the Lakers and Joe got a two-year deal worth $22 million from the Jazz. A similar scenario could play out with Dion and James, who are each expected to get big pay raises this summer.

It’s important to remember that Dion and James are both looking for the first big contracts of their NBA careers. Dion has made $19.7 million over his five-year NBA career and James has never made more than $4 million in a season. Who knows how they will react when then see offers that could be worth around $15 million per season this summer …

Steve, Palm Beach Gardens: Should the Heat bring back Udonis Haslem? He barely played this season and he’ll be one year older next season.

Anthony Chiang: Yes. Udonis didn’t play much this season, but he played an important role in Miami’s turnaround. As the Heat’s veteran leader, players and even coach Erik Spoelstra leaned on him during the rough 11-30 start. When Hassan Whiteside was asked if Miami would have recorded a 30-11 record over the second half of the season without Udonis, Hassan answered, “I don’t know. I really don’t.” Yes, Udonis will be 37 on June 9. But his experience is invaluable to this Heat team, especially if they bring back this season’s roster. With Chris Bosh expected to be off the roster, Goran Dragic is currently the second-oldest player on the team at 31.

Plus, Udonis still insists that he can give the Heat quality minutes off the bench if needed. Who are we to doubt him?

[Could Toronto Raptors free agents Kyle Lowry or Serge Ibaka be on the Heat’s radar?]

[Miami Heat Mailbag: Better chance Bulls trade Jimmy Butler or Dwyane Wade turns down $24 million?]

[Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra named NBCA co-Coach of the Year]

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