MIAMI — With zero salary cap room left, the Heat will have to depend on the $4.3 million room exception and minimum contracts to fill out the rest of their roster.
But Heat president Pat Riley isn’t in a rush to use the exception.
“We’ll probably hold on to the room mid-level,” Riley said to the team’s beat reporters Monday. “… We have 10 guys that we really like, 11 or 12 guys that we feel are going to be fighting for rotation minutes. So then I’m going to add another room mid-level guy who’s going to be fighting for 10 minutes or eight minutes? There are certain guys also that you want now to get 25 legitimate minutes a night, not 12 and then 20 and then 10 and then 28 or whatever and try to get into it consistently with some of our younger guys. But we have [the exception] in hand and I think that’s good. If something pops up that’s really good, then we’ll think about using it.”
That makes sense and it sounds like the Heat could just save the exception for an opportunity down the road (maybe if Dwyane Wade becomes available if he’s bought out by the Bulls). Remember, the exception does not expire until the end of the regular season.
But it’s important to note that Riley said something similar about the Heat’s $2.9 million room exception last summer — “There isn’t anybody out there right now that I want to give it to. It’s something you can use somewhere in February or March.”
A week later, the Heat used the exception to sign Dion Waiters.
So, don’t be too surprised if Miami ends up using its exception before the start of the regular season. Here are five free agents who could make sense for this situation …
Tony Allen, SG: The downside is that Allen is 35 years old. The upside is that he’s still a very good perimeter defender. With age a concern, signing Allen to a one-year deal worth $4.3 million could make sense for the Heat. Plus, Allen wouldn’t have to log heavy minutes with Miami. With Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters on the roster, Allen would be an effective situational player for the Heat as another above average defender.
Arron Afflalo, SG: Want the Heat to add shooting and defense? Afflalo is your guy. He made 41.1 percent of his threes last season and he’s a 38.6 percent 3-point shooter for his career. Oh, and he’s a really efficient shooter from the corners. Afflalo made 30 of the 58 3-point shots (51.7 percent) he took from the corners last season. But his defense took a step back, as players defended by Afflalo shot 49.3 percent from the field last season. It wasn’t long ago that Afflalo limited players to 42.5 percent shooting in the 2014-15 season. At 31 years old, the Heat could probably get Afflalo back to that defensive level.
Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF: A versatile player who has logged significant minutes at both the small forward and shooting guard positions. In fact, Muhammad spent 50 percent of his playing time at small forward and the other 50 percent at shooting guard in the 2015-16 season. The Heat like this type of versatility, and Muhammad would bring some added depth at the three. He averaged 9.9 points in 78 games in a bench role for the Timberwolves last season. 3-point shooting is not necessarily a strength, though. He’s made 32.3 percent of his 3-pointers over his NBA career.
Derrick Rose or Rajon Rondo, PG: Going to list these two high-profile players together because … they carry a lot of the same pros and cons. One positive is that Rose/Rondo would give the Heat a true back-up point guard with plenty of experience. But Miami doesn’t believe it needs another true point guard on the roster. On top of that, Rose/Rondo will probably want consistent minutes next season and that could get in the way of playing time for Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder. So although these are attractive names, Rose/Rondo don’t seem like the right fit for Miami right now.