SACRAMENTO – The Philadelphia 76ers are bringing back guard JJ Redick.
Where does that leave Heat free agent Wayne Ellington?
Ellington, 30, is one of several shooting guards who remain on the market the second day of free agency. But with players agreeing at a whirlwind pace, money drying up and teams looking to show fiscal responsibility, it appears Ellington’s options are dwindling.
The Heat and Ellington would like to get this done. Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra sincerely have a soft spot for a player who not only gives everything he has to make himself better but is as solid a person off the court as he is an asset on the court. And Ellington proved how valuable he is on the court last season when he established the Heat’s single-season record with 227 made 3-points, which was tied for sixth in the league.
But for the Heat to bring back Ellington at the $10.9 million they are allowed to pay him next year by having his early Bird rights, that would put them about $7 million into the luxury tax, and that does not include money for Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. With a team that isn’t a contender in the Eastern Conference, Miami is not likely to foot a large luxury tax bill.
The Associated Press reported 23 teams reached out to Ellington at the start of free agency although just eight had enough cap space to sign players above the exceptions. Among them, the Lakers, Suns, Phoenix have handed out significant deals. Atlanta, Chicago and Sacramento have space but they appear more interested in using that for trades. Indiana has just enough room but they signed Doug McDermott.
Which leaves. … the 76ers.
Philadelphia still has about $13 million remaining in cap space and could target Ellington, whether or not they are able to acquire Kawhi Leonard. After losing Ersan Ilyasova (Milwaukee) and Marco Belinelli (San Antonio) the Sixers could use another shooter, especially in the backcourt on a roster that includes two guards _ Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz – who are challenged offensively when it comes to perimeter shooting.
And remember, Ellington was born and raised in the Philadelphia area and relished the opportunity to play in front of family and friends during the playoffs.
The point is coming soon where many, many free agents will start scrambling for deals. Among the shooting guards still available: Tyreke Evans, Zach LaVine, Jamal Crawford, Avery Bradley, Rodney Hood and, of course, Wade.
The chances of Miami bringing back Ellington appear to hinge on two things: Whether Wade and Haslem return (and that may not even be known for weeks or even longer) but more likely whether Riley can make a trade to move some contracts and open enough space to re-sign Ellington without crossing the luxury tax line.