MIAMI — Willie Reed has decided to test the market.
Reed has told the Heat that he will decline his player option and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, according to a source. The Vertical was the first to report the news Thursday.
This isn’t a surprise considering Reed’s player option to return to the Heat next season was worth $1.6 million. The 27-year-old is expected to get more than double that amount in free agency this summer after an impressive season as Hassan Whiteside’s backup.
The way Reed’s contract is structured gives him time to change his mind and opt-in to his player option before the June 29 deadline, but that is very unlikely. His opt-out will only become official when that option expires once that June 29 deadline passes.
Reed has made it known that he wants to return to Miami, but the Heat will have to decide how much they want to invest in the center position with $98 million already invested in Whiteside. The Heat could need to use their “room” mid-level exception worth $4.3 million to retain Reed, but even that may not be enough.
“We all have families,” Reed said in April when asked about returning to the Heat. “We all want to be a part of something special. I love this team, I love these guys in the locker room. Being here would be great. Hopefully something works out. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m just going to continue to do my part, continue to embrace this culture and embrace those guys that are around this summer as we continue to try to get better.”
Reed earned this free agent opportunity with a quality season, averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in a bench role with Miami. After playing in 39 games for the Nets as a rookie in the 2015-16 season, he got on the court for 71 games with the Heat this season.
Reed’s most impressive performances came as a starter with Whiteside sidelined, as he recorded 22 points and 18 rebounds in a loss to the Suns on Jan. 3 and contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds in a loss to the Lakers on Jan. 6.
With the Heat expected to have about $38 million in cap space after it clears Chris Bosh’s contract off their salary cap, Miami needs to prioritize its free agents. And if the Heat want to bring back this season’s core, their top two priorities are expected to be re-signing James Johnson and Dion Waiters.
Reed has remained in Miami this summer for his offseason work. He’s shared video clips through social media of his offseason workouts at the Heat’s practice courts in AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I definitely will be around here working out this summer,” Reed said in April. “My family loves Miami, obviously. I can take my son and my family to the beach whenever I want. Go down to the beach and then just continue to work out and work on my body, do some yoga, do some boxing, do some conditioning stuff and try to get better for next season.”
Last week, forward Josh McRoberts exercised his opt-in to return to the Heat for $6 million next season. Miami is still waiting on Dion Waiters to make the official decision on his player option, but he will almost certainly opt out to become a free agent with more money available on the open market.