Mailbag: What’s standing between the Heat re-signing Wayne Ellington this summer?

Miami Heat’s Wayne Ellington (2) attempts a three-point basket as New York Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina, of France, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — 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.

jzlegit13: Is our biggest summer move going to be re-signing Wayne Ellington?

Anthony Chiang: I know you’re trying to be sarcastic here, but I’m going to use this opportunity to explain the challenge behind keeping Wayne Ellington in Miami. Ellington, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after spending the past two seasons with the Heat, is expected to get a pay raise in free agency from this past season’s $6.27 million salary. And as presently constructed, the Heat would have to go into the punitive luxury tax to keep him — something that’s hard to envision them doing for a team that’s not considered a title contender. Miami has 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due $119 million. That puts the Heat way above the projected $101 million salary cap, very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line, and in a tough position when it comes to Ellington’s impending free agency. The Heat have Ellington’s early Bird rights, though, which allows them to exceed the cap to pay him 175 percent of his current $6.27 million salary. That means Miami can offer Ellington a deal starting at $10.9 million next season (the max he can make with the Heat next season), with early Bird rights allowing for a contract that includes eight percent raises off the first year salary and is required to be a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years. Let’s say the Heat offered Ellington a contract starting at $9 million next season, which would move their team payroll over $130 million after the rest of their roster is rounded out. In this scenario, Miami would be paying a luxury tax bill of more than $10 million on top of Ellington’s salary if the rest of the roster remains intact. In other words, the Heat need to make some moves in order to make room for Ellington because it’s hard to envision Miami paying this type of money for a team that was just eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

But it is important to note NBA teams have until the end of the regular season to get below the luxury tax line before they receive their tax bills for that year. So even if the Heat cross the threshold this offseason, they can avoid paying the extra money if they find a way to get back under the tax line before the end of the regular season. The Heat want Ellington back and Ellington wants to stay in Miami. We’ll see if they can strike a deal.

@jtzus: Any meaning why Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were in Miami yesterday?

Anthony Chiang: Simple. Because it’s the offseason and it’s Miami. Plenty of NBA stars spend part of their summers down here, and it doesn’t mean they’re going to play for the Heat. They’re just enjoying the city on their off time.

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