2017 Free Agency Preview: What will it take for the Miami Heat to re-sign James Johnson?

James Johnson of the Miami Heat reacts to a play during a game against the Orlando Magic at American Airlines Arena in February. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

With free agency set to start at 12 a.m. Saturday, we’ll take a look at the biggest free-agent questions surrounding the Heat. Today we ask, what will it take for the Miami Heat to re-sign James Johnson? We’ll shift to a different question each day leading up to the start of free agency.

[Monday’s question: Should the Heat forget about ‘whales’ and bring back last season’s core?]

[Wednesday’s question: Can the Miami Heat find a way to keep Dion Waiters?]

[Thursday’s question: What mid-level free agents should the Heat pursue?]

[Friday’s question:  Is there more pressure than usual on the Heat to get it right this summer?]

 

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James Johnson has said all the right things about his one year with the Miami Heat. He has praised the organization and the culture and thanked coach Erik Spoelstra repeatedly since arriving.

“I think the Heat already did plenty for me and even more than that,” Johnson said during an appearance on WTVJ-Miami’s Sports Final about two weeks ago.

“Just giving me the stage to work on and the opportunity to go out there and to become the best player I can be. They definitely gave me that stepping stone or eight stepping stones. For me, I feel like they did already more than what I had asked them or thought they would do. Anything after that, I’m truly grateful for the Miami Heat and I’m truly honored to be a part of it and hopefully it keeps on going.”

All signs point toward the versatile 6-foot-8, 250 pound Johnson and the Heat agreeing to a long term deal. But what will that take?

Johnson is looking for the first, and likely only, big pay day in his career. He is 30 years old and the $4 million contract he signed last summer with the Heat was the most lucrative of his eight-year career. In fact, he has made about $17 million total while playing for four different franchises.

And now he’s in line to sign a three or four year contract that could at least triple that number.

The Heat easily can fit in Johnson considering they should be about $35 million under the cap. But Miami is looking to make a splash and adding Johnson is just a piece, and not the largest piece. Say Miami brings back Johnson, now it wants enough room left over to add a max player like Gordon Hayward, or they could attempt to add two more starters, including re-signing guard Dion Waiters.

To get the most out of their money, the Heat could ask Johnson take a hometown discount, something he mentioned could be a possibility. But if Johnson receives one of those what Pat Riley called  “out of whack” contracts that were handed out last year (see: Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Joakim Noah, Chandler Parsons, etc.) then the Heat likely will back off.

Johnson had his best season in 2016-17, averaging career-highs in points (12.8), rebounds (4.9) and assists (3.6) while coming off the bench for all but five games. He is versatile, perhaps best described as a point forward. And he often played as the center in Spoelstra’s smaller lineup.

Those numbers could earn Johnson a contract starting as high as $15 million a season.

No matter the number, Johnson’s decision may be determined by the years. He likely will seek a four-year deal. If the Heat want to go there, perhaps four-years for around $50 million would convince Johnson to return.

[Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni beats out Heat’s Erik Spoelstra, Spurs’ Gregg Popovich for Coach of the Year]

[Hassan Whiteside left off NBA’s All-Defensive teams; James Johnson didn’t even get one vote]

[Heat’s Rodney McGruder finishes just short of making NBA All-Rookie team]n?]

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