Two more options have become available for the Miami Heat’s $4.3 million mid-level exception.
The San Antonio Spurs have renounced the rights to 6-foot-6 wing Jonathon Simmons, making him an unrestricted free agent. Simmons, 27, was undrafted out of Houston in 2012 and signed with the Spurs in 2015. The last two seasons he played for San Antonio, including 78 games in 2016-17, while also spending time with its developmental league team in Austin. He made about $874,000 last season.
The Utah Jazz are prepared to waive Boris Diaw before the 6-8 forward’s contract becomes guaranteed. Diaw, 35, earned $7.5 million last season. He signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the Spurs in 2014 of which $21 million was guaranteed. Last summer the Spurs traded Diaw to the Jazz to clear cap space to sign Pau Gasol. Diaw’s salary for this season was guaranteed only if he is not waived before July 16.
Heat President Pat Riley said Monday the team was holding onto their mid-level exception in case “something pops up that’s really good” in which case Miami would consider using it.
“We have 10 guys that we really like, 11 or 12 guys that we feel are going to be fighting for rotation minutes,” Riley said. “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.”
But Riley said the same thing a year ago and about two weeks later the Heat used their exception on Dion Waiters.
The Simmons move is a bit more surprising and he would provide the Heat with a more useful player. Even though most of his minutes have come at shooting guard, an area in which the Heat are deep, he has logged time at small forward. Justise Winslow is the lone natural small forward on the Heat roster although Miami has several shooting guards, like Simmons, who play the position, including Rodney McGruder, who started 65 games at the spot last season.
Simmons is a two-way player who averaged 6.2 points and 2.1 rebounds last season but emerged in the playoffs after All-Star Kawhi Leonard was injured. Simmons averaged 10.5 points and shot 45.6 percent in 15 playoffs games. But in his last seven games, including four starts, he averaged 15.4 points and scored 22 points in Game 2 of the conference finals against the Warriors.
Simmons’ post-season may have driven his price above the Heat’s MLE. The Vertical is reporting that Simmons and the Spurs are not talking and that Simmons is looking elsewhere for a deal. Many of the teams that showed initial interest in Simmons no longer have the cap space.
Diaw has played on five teams in his 14 seasons. He averaged 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds last season but much like the Heat’s Udonis Haslem, who entered the league the same season as Diaw (2003), he has built a reputation of being a mentor, a leader and solid locker room guy.
But Diaw’s skills declined last season. A noted outside shooter for his size, his three-point shooting fell to 24.7 percent last season. He shot 36 percent on threes the previous four seasons.