Mailbag: Can Miami Heat afford to re-sign Wayne Ellington? Why you keep Udonis Haslem around

The Heat’s Wayne Ellington reacts to making a 3-point basket against the Hornets during Miami’s victory in Charlotte on Saturday. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

MIAMI – The Heat mailbag is filling up so it’s time to start emptying it out.

If you were not able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at tdangelo@pbpostcom.

From Bill, Fort Lauderdale: With Wayne Ellington having the best season of his career, will the Heat be able to afford him this summer?

Ellington will be a free agent in July after the Heat brought him back for $6.27 million. He is averaging a career-high 11.2 points while shooting 40.6 percent on threes. His 140 3-point field goals are third most in the league, 16 behind Stephen Curry, who has played 155 more minutes than Ellington and 14 behind Klay Thompson, who has played 363 more minutes.

But the question is not if the Heat can pay Ellington. Miami has his early Bird rights and can offer him a 75 percent raise with 8 percent increases with the contract required to be a minimum of two years and a maximum of four.

That means the Heat could give Ellington a deal of two years for about $22.8 million or four years for about $46.5 million, with both contracts starting at just under $11 million. The bigger issue is with the luxury tax. The Heat are committed to about $119 million in salaries for 2018-19 season. The luxury tax is projected to be about $124 million. Signing Ellington to his early Bird rights would put the Heat about $6 million over the luxury tax.

All of this is assuming the Heat do not make a move that could save some salary. One or two trades by the Feb. 8 deadline or in late June and the team salary structure changes. And remember, the reason Ellington is here is because nobody is better than GM Andy Elisburg at creative bookkeeping. Additionally, who knows what the market will be for Ellington when the season ends. He could go on a tear and with the emphasis on 3-point shooting it could increase or perhaps it’s not as high for a player who comes off the bench and likely will  average somewhere around 12-14 points.

From @AsherWildMan6: I understand the importance and can appreciate all Haslem has done for the Heat, but what is the point of him eating a roster spot? You can’t predict injuries, but we could have predicted minutes played by Haslem and I think there’s been more injuries then Haslem minutes. Isn’t this a tough spot for Miami right now?

Udonis Haslem signed a one-year veteran’s minimum contract for about $2.3 million to return for a 15th season. Last season he played in 16 games and he is on the same pace this season having played in eight games while averaging just 5.6 minutes per game.

Carrying Haslem was much more of burden a year ago because not only did Chris Bosh occupy one of the 15 roster spots all season but there were no two-way contracts, so the Heat did not have those extra two players at their disposal when injuries hit. Miami is in a similar spot this year as far as injuries with Rodney McGruder, Okaro White and now Dion Waiters missing significant time (McGruder has yet to play but will return and Waiters is out for the rest of the season), but they’ve found reinforcements in two-way players Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr., which has given them a 17-man roster for most of the season, or at least until Jones’ and Walton’s 45-day NBA limits expire.

Haslem’s value to this team, and coaching staff, far exceeds what he does on the court. He is as close to a player-coach as there is in the league and Erik Spoelstra loves having Haslem’s knowledge and experience at his disposal. Just watch a game and see how involved Haslem is, especially during time outs when he’s either in the huddle or has pulled aside a player for an individual talk.

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