Mailbag: Will luxury tax become issue for Heat when trying to re-sign Wayne Ellington?

Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington prepares to take a free throw during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Miami. The Kings defeated the Heat 89-88. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

It’s time for another Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). You can also email me at achiang@pbpost.com.

@iamtzamac: As Wayne Ellington emerges as a key piece for the Heat this season, do you think Pat Riley would secure him a long-term contract this coming 2018 Free Agency?

Anthony Chiang: Wayne Ellington has turned into one of the most valuable players on the roster with his 3-point shooting ability. He ranks fourth in the league in 3-pointers made this season with 153, and he makes a difference even when he’s not making his shots with opponents making Ellington a scouting report priority when facing the Heat. The question is, will the Heat be able to keep Ellington when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer? It’s not going to be easy, considering he’s on his way to a career-best season that will earn him a pay raise. On top of that, the Heat are already close to the luxury tax line with 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due a combined $119 million. That puts them way above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line.

Going into the luxury tax seems unlikely, even to bring back Ellington, for a Heat team that’s not considered a title contender. So, here are Miami’s options if it wants to avoid the tax: let Ellington sign with another team in free agency OR try to trade a player/players for less 2018-19 salary to create cap room under the tax to keep Ellington. One advantage the Heat have is that Ellington will have early Bird rights this offseason, which allows Miami to exceed the cap to pay him 175 percent of his current $6.27 million salary. That means the Heat can offer Ellington a deal starting at about $10.9 million next season, with early Bird rights allowing Miami to offer him eight percent raises off the first year salary on a contract that’s required to be a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years.

We know the Heat would like to keep Ellington and we also know Ellington would like to stay with the Heat. But in order to get any of this done, the Heat will have to find a way to create more room under the tax. And the only way to do that is through trades.

@No1Better89: East just got a little tougher for the Heat after the Blake Griffin trade. Agree or no?

Anthony Chiang: Well, it just got a little tougher for Hassan Whiteside to make the All-Star team. With Blake Griffin moving from the Clippers to the Pistons, it brings another star frontcourt player to the East. But I’m still not sold on Detroit. The Pistons gave up a lot to land Griffin, with Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic all going to the Clippers in the trade. Detroit is currently 22-26 and 2.5 games out of the East’s final playoff spot. Sure, adding Griffin helps. He will be the best player on the court most nights. But Detroit gave up two starters — Harris and Bradley — to make the trade. Let’s wait and see on the Pistons. By the way, the Heat close out their four-game trip against the Pistons on Saturday.

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