2017 Miami Heat Free Agency Primer: What you need to know about the Heat’s salary cap situation

MIAMI — With free agency upon us, here’s a look at the Heat’s salary cap situation.

The NBA has reportedly set the salary cap for the 2017-18 season at $99,093,000, and Miami is expected to have about $35 million in cap space this summer once Chris Bosh’s contract is removed from its books.

Miami Heat NBA basketball team president Pat Riley talks to the media during a season ending press conference in Miami, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

How do do we calculate $35 million in cap space for the Heat? You arrive at that number only when counting the 2017-18 salaries of Hassan Whiteside ($23.8 million), Goran Dragic ($17 million), Josh McRoberts ($6 million), Tyler Johnson ($5.9 million), Justise Winslow ($2.7 million), Josh Richardson ($1.5 million), Rodney McGruder ($1.3 million), Okaro White ($1.3 million), Bam Adebayo ($2.5 million), and three cap holds to fill a minimum 12-player roster that would combine to account for about $2.4 million.

Add all of these numbers up, and the Heat have about $64.4 million currently invested in their roster. When you use the 2017-18 salary cap of $99 million and subtract the $64.4 million Miami already has on its cap, it leaves the Heat with about $34.6 million to spend this offseason.

The Heat also have the $4.3 million room exception and the $3.3 million bi-annual exception, but they can’t use both of them. Teams that use the room exception can’t use the bi-annual exception, so that leaves Miami with just the $4.3 million room exception this summer and it can’t be combined with cap space.

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The Heat also have their own free agents to worry about, as Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt, Willie Reed and Udonis Haslem will be unrestricted free agents. In addition, Miami must decide by July 7 whether to guarantee Wayne Ellington’s $6.3 million salary or waive him.

If the Heat choose to retain Ellington and pick up his $6.3 million team option, Miami is left with about $28.3 million. That’s not enough to also sign a player like sought after free agent Gordon Hayward, who the Heat are set to meet with Saturday, to a maximum contract.

Under the $99 million salary cap, Hayward is eligible for a $29.7 million max contract.

It’s also important to note that the only incumbent free agent that the Heat can exceed the $99 million salary cap to re-sign is Babbitt. Because the Heat acquired Babbitt in a trade, they have his Bird rights and could go over the cap beyond his $1.5 million cap hold to bring him back.

Miami doesn’t have this luxury with Waiters, Johnson, Reed, Haslem or Ellington. The Heat must fit these players under the salary cap to re-sign them.

But there is one way the Heat can create additional cap space. The Heat could decide to release and use the stretch provision on McRoberts’ contract to free up an additional $4 million in cap space.

Instead of McRoberts’ $6 million cap hit next season, the “stretch provision” would split up that burden to a $2 million annual cap hit over the next three seasons and would give the Heat an extra $4 million in cap space this summer.

As you can see, the Heat have flexibility and cap space … and that’s a good thing for Miami.

“We’ll attack it the way the Miami Heat typically does,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of free agency, “and we’ll see what happens.”

Buckle up, everybody.

As you wait for the frenzy to begin, here’s a look at the five Heat questions we discussed to preview free agency …

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

[Tuesday’s question: What will it take for the Heat to re-sign James Johnson?]

[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?]

And while you’re at it, here’s some more free agency content to read …

[A look at each player on the Miami Heat’s roster: Who will be back next season?]

[Heat have balancing act to consider early in free agency]

[Heat among leaders to sign Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka according to Las Vegas book]

[Add ‘culture’ to the Miami Heat’s list of selling points in free agency]

[Heat set to meet with free agent Gordon Hayward on Saturday]

[Hoping the Heat can restructure Wayne Ellington’s contract to create additional cap space? Here’s why that’s not a feasible option]

[Does Chris Paul going to Rockets raise the bar for the Heat in free agency?]

 

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