MIAMI — The Heat have extended a qualifying offer to two-way contract player Derrick Jones Jr., the Palm Beach Post has confirmed.
The move is not a surprise, as it makes Jones a restricted free agent and allows the Heat to match offers from other teams this summer. The Heat had until June 29 to extend the qualifying offer.
This news does not necessarily mean that Jones will be part of the Heat’s 15-man roster next season. The qualifying offer is actually another two-way contract worth $77,250, and Miami could just decide to bring the 21-year-old forward back for another two-way season unless it is forced to match standard contract offers he receives as a restricted free agent.
A player can’t play under two-way contracts for the same team for more than three years total. Jones, who will become a restricted free agent at the July 1 start of free agency, just completed his first season with the Heat under this type of deal.
The Heat signed Jones in the middle of this past season on Dec. 31, and he averaged 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14 regular-season games (eight starts) with Miami. He averaged 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 13 games with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
The Heat have not extended a qualifying offer to their other two-way contract player, Derrick Walton Jr., yet. If Miami decides not to make the offer before the June 29 deadline, Walton will become an unrestricted free agent.
There are now six free agents from the Heat’s 2017-18 season-ending roster: Luke Babbitt, Wayne Ellington, Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade, Jordan Mickey and Jones.
Miami also has a decision to make on Rodney McGruder this summer, as his $1.5 million salary is non-guaranteed for this upcoming season. The Heat have until June 30 to guarantee his contract, and they will almost certainly choose to bring him back on that cheap price tag.
Excluding cap holds, the Heat have 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $119 million: center Hassan Whiteside ($25.4 million), guard Tyler Johnson ($19.2 million), guard Goran Dragic ($18.1 million), forward James Johnson ($14.7 million), center Kelly Olynyk ($12.5 million), guard Dion Waiters ($11.6 million), forward/guard Josh Richardson ($9.4 million), forward Justise Winslow ($3.5 million), center Bam Adebayo ($3.0 million) and guard/forward McGruder ($1.5 million — assuming Miami guarantees his salary).
That puts the Heat way above the projected $101 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123 million luxury tax line.