MIAMI – Heat President Pat Riley has said several times he is not expecting mass movement during free agency this summer. And if he’s right, it won’t be because he and GM Andy Elisburg sat back and watched the big names come off the board without the Miami putting up a fight.
The free for all starts July 1 and the Heat are major players with around $35 million in cap space, a number that was reduced by about $3 million this week for all teams when it was announce the projected salary cap will be $99 million. And although we saw a frenzy last summer with inexplicable contracts being offered that many teams now have come to regret, Riley believes many hard lessons were learned.
“A lot of the business was done quickly over the phone with a lot of these players and some of the contracts out of whack,” Riley said about the summer of 2016. “I don’t know if you’re going to see that this year. I think there might be a little bit more discipline in how teams go about that whole process.”
Some teams started dumping those bad contracts in the last week. The Lakers dealt Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to the Nets and the Hawks peddled Dwight Howard (three years, $70.5 million) to the Hornets.
Riley expects several of the max free agents – Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry – to re-sign with their existing teams because of the rules that allow those teams to offer their players longer, more lucrative deals. For some, staying put will mean up to $75 million more and for others up to $40 million more. Those numbers, though, are a bit misleading because players can sign for five years with their existing teams and are limited to four years if they jump ship.
“From what we understand most of the great ones will re-sign with their teams and I can understand why they would,” Riley said.
While that almost certainly is true for Durant and Curry, others appear in play, including Paul and Griffin, who could leave the Clippers under the right circumstances.
Even though most of the speculation has Riley making a serious pitch for Hayward – the seven-year veteran is coming off his breakout season (and first All-Star game) in which he averaged 21.9 points – he is bracing Heat fans for the possibility that the 2017-18 team closely will resemble the one that needed a 30-11 run during the second half of last season to finish .500.
Riley was asked if he would consider it a successful summer if he re-signed forward James Johnson and guard Dion Waiters and brought back guard Wayne Ellington.
“Yes, I would,” he said early Friday morning. “We’re working on that, talking about that. But now we can spend the next (eight) days getting that together.”
Bringing back all three likely would leave the Heat with $5 to $8 million to spend, along with two exceptions for $4.3 million and $3.3 million.
“We have a plan,” Riley said. “We have a Plan A. And we have a Plan B. There’s no D, E, F or G. We feel good about the plan. You never know what’s going to happen in free agency. We have great respect for the two guys, three guys, four guys that we have that are free agents. But, we’ll see what happens on July 1st. It’s always a pretty exciting time.”
Riley is hoping the Heat have some resolution on the first day – free agency starts at midnight. He believes a shorter moratorium – July 1 to July 6 – could speed up the process although last year Hassan Whiteside announced just hours into free agency that he was remaining with the Heat and Dwyane Wade’s decision to sign with Chicago came on July 6.
Riley referenced the crazy summer of 2010 when he landed LeBron James and Chris Bosh. James’ made-for-TV announcement was July 9, two days after it was reported Bosh was leaving Toronto for Miami.
“It’s not like it was in 2010 when you had a (longer) moratorium and guys are flying all over the place, taking meetings,” Riley said. “That was incredible the itinerary we had and the number of players we flew around in 36 hours to see.”