MIAMI — Plan B has begun.
After putting the full-court press on sought-after free-agent forward Gordon Hayward, Miami has now moved on. Hayward announced his decision to sign with the Celtics on Tuesday night, choosing Boston over Miami and incumbent Utah.
Just a day after Hayward committed to the Celtics, shooting guard Dion Waiters agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal to return to the Heat with a starting salary of $12 million for this upcoming season, ESPN first reported Wednesday.
Basketball Insiders reported the four-year contract includes no team or player options.
Now that the Hayward domino has fallen, Miami is expected to move fast to re-sign some of its own free agents. Waiters became the first to reach an agreement with the Heat, with Miami still working to re-sign forward James Johnson.
With Waiters’ $12 million salary for this upcoming season, it leaves the Heat with about $23 million in cap space this summer. Depending on how much of that money goes to Johnson, Miami should still have enough space remaining to bring in at least one mid-level free agent.
Some of that remaining space could also go toward retaining Wayne Ellington. The Heat must decide by Friday whether to guarantee Ellington’s $6.3 million salary for the 2017-18 season or waive him and make him available for any team to claim at that price.
The Heat’s other free agents are center Willie Reed, and forwards Luke Babbitt and Udonis Haslem.
Reed, who served as a quality backup to center Hassan Whiteside last season, is still available and is open to returning to the Heat. But he has received interest from the 76ers, Pacers, Rockets and Hawks, according to HoopsHype, and it’s unknown how much Miami is willing to pay Reed after drafting big man Bam Adebayo in the first round.
“I love Miami and I’d love to be back there, but I understand it’s a business,” Reed said to HoopsHype. “I also have a family. I signed for the minimum there last year; it was a two-year deal, and I felt I had a good enough season to opt out. Now, I have an opportunity to take care of my family after being in the D-League and overseas for multiple years. This is an opportunity for me to make sure my family is set for life. If Miami can provide that opportunity, I’d be more than happy to be back there.”
As for Babbitt, he’s the only incumbent free agent the Heat can exceed the $99 million salary cap to re-sign. Because the Heat acquired Babbitt in a trade last summer, they have his Bird rights and could go over the cap beyond his $1.5 million cap hold to bring him back. If the Heat need to eliminate Babbitt’s cap hold to create space, re-signing him on the veteran minimum is another realistic possibility.
Although Haslem is still on the market, he’s expected to re-sign with the Heat on the NBA veteran minimum contract worth about $2.3 million once the roster is filled out later in free agency. The 37-year-old is preparing for his 15th NBA season, with the first 14 seasons all coming with Miami.
When Waiters officially inks his new deal with the Heat once signings are allowed beginning Thursday at noon, Miami will have 10 players under contract for the 2017-18 season: Hassan Whiteside ($23.8 million), Goran Dragic ($17 million), Dion Waiters ($12 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) and Adebayo ($2.5 million).
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.
Miami can also look at outside free-agent options like forward Rudy Gay, a name that has been linked to the Heat. Most of the top free agents already committed to teams as Miami waited on Hayward’s decision, but here are some of the players still available.
The list of wing players still available in free agency includes Derrick Rose, C.J. Miles, Tyreke Evans, Tony Allen, Aaron Brooks, Vince Carter, Gerald Henderson, Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Green and Anthony Morrow, among others.
The list of frontcourt players still available in free agency includes Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries, Jonas Jerebko, David Lee, Mike Muscala, Marreese Speights, Tiago Splitter, Aron Baynes and Dewayne Dedmon, among others.