MIAMI — The Heat entered the offseason with a lot of questions surrounding their roster and very little financial flexibility to make significant changes.
Excluding cap holds, the Heat have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $120 million. That puts Miami way above the $101.9 million salary cap and very close to the $123.7 million luxury tax line.
Unable to sign players into space because the Heat are capped out, they will have to rely on exceptions, minimum contracts, the power of Bird rights or even trades to fill out their roster.
Here’s what the Heat have to work with this offseason, with a player-by-player breakdown …
Season stats: Averaged 6.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 19.8 minutes in 69 games (19 starts) as a rookie. He played in the Heat’s five playoff games, with averages of 3.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 15.4 minutes.
Contract status: Set to make $3.0 million in 2018-19 on the second year of his rookie-scale contract. The Heat then have a team option in years three (2019-20) and four (2020-21) of Adebayo’s contract.
What to know?: It was a productive rookie season for Adebayo. Not many expected him to be a consistent contributor as a rookie, but he carved out a role for himself right away. His energy, defensive versatility and obvious upside make him one of the most intriguing players on the Heat’s roster moving forward. But Miami must figure out what its vision is for Adebayo. Is he a power forward or an undersized center? Adebayo could even end up as Hassan Whiteside’s replacement if Whiteside is moved this summer. As for Adebayo, he’s one of the last players the Heat would want to deal this offseason. While still very unlikely, including Adebayo in a trade isn’t completely out of the question if it helps them acquire a star or get rid of a bad contract.
F LUKE BABBITT
Season stats: After being traded to the Heat on NBA trade deadline day in February, Babbitt averaged 2.5 points and shot 24.4 percent from 3-point range in 13 regular-season games. He played just three minutes in the playoffs.
Contract status: Became unrestricted free agent on July 1.
What to know?: The Heat brought Babbitt back to space the floor, but he spent most of his second stint in Miami on the bench. Based on how little the Heat played him, it could be better for both sides to move on from each other. But re-signing Babbitt to a minimum contract is a possibility. If that happens, it will probably come at the back-end of free agency after the Heat have taken care of the rest of their roster.
Season stats: Averaged a team-high 17.3 points on 45.0 percent shooting from the field to go with 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the regular season to earn his first All-Star game appearance. He also led the Heat in scoring in the playoffs, with 18.6 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting. But he scored just a total of 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting in the fourth quarter in the postseason.
Contract status: Set to make $18.1 million in 2018-19 on a contract that includes a player option worth $19.2 million for 2019-20 (the final season of his deal).
What to know?: Dragic is the Heat’s most reliable and consistent player. He’s arguably the best on a starless roster, and that’s good enough to make the playoffs. But the Heat aren’t going to make a deep playoff run with Dragic as their top player. So is it time to trade him? Miami can definitely still use Dragic, and his contract isn’t a bad one. However, if dealing Dragic is going to help Miami’s long-term future then it will probably be explored. That’s the only way he’s not back next season.
Season stats: Averaged 11.2 points and shot 39.2 percent from 3-point range in 77 regular-season games. He set a new career-high and team record for threes made by an individual in a season with 227 made shots from beyond the arc. Ellington averaged 7.8 points and shot 40.0 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs.
Contract status: Became unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Heat have Ellington’s early Bird rights, 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 $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. But re-signing Ellington to this type of deal would likely put the Heat in the luxury tax if other salary can’t be shed, which is an issue.
What to know?: The Heat want to keep Ellington and Ellington wants to stay in Miami. But it’s not that easy. The challenge here for the Heat involves the luxury tax. The Heat are committed to about $120 million in salaries for 2018-19 season. The luxury tax threshold is $123.7 million. Signing Ellington to a starting salary of $10.9 million using his early Bird rights would put the Heat about $7 million over the tax line. In order to avoid it, 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. Ellington’s 3-point shooting is valuable, and the Heat are expected to try to keep him. But it’s hard to see Miami going into the luxury tax for a team that’s far away from title contention. It’s going to take some maneuvering to make room for Ellington.
Season stats: Averaged 0.6 points and 0.7 rebounds in 14 regular-season games. Haslem did not play in the playoffs.
Contract status: Became unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Heat have Haslem’s Bird rights, so they can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him up to his maximum salary.
What to know?: If Haslem wants to return, he’ll be back on a minimum contract again worth about $2.4 million. But does he want to continue his NBA career? Dwyane Wade and Haslem have both made it clear they haven’t decided if they want to return for a 16th season. Retirement is definitely an option for Haslem, especially since he’s seen his playing time dwindle in recent years with the Heat. Haslem has played 202 minutes in 30 games over the past two seasons. His primary role now is team captain, as he’s looked at as the locker room leader. Is that enough to pull Haslem in for another season?
Season stats: Averaged 10.8 points on 50.3 percent shooting, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 3.8 assists in 73 regular-season games (41 starts). In the playoffs, Johnson averaged a stat line of 12.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks.
Contract status: Set to make $14.7 million in 2018-19, which is the second year of a four-year, $60 million free-agent deal he signed with the Heat last summer. Johnson is due $15.3 million in 2019-20 and has a player option worth $16 million in 2020-21.
What to know?: The Heat decided to make a long-term investment in Johnson last offseason despite his age and history of inconsistency. Johnson responded this season with a solid year, but inconsistency was an issue at times. Still, Johnson is a team captain and one of the Heat’s top two-way players. Miami has to hope Johnson continues to grow because it’s going to be difficult to move his contract unless a sweetener like Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo or a draft pick is attached.
Season stats: Averaged 11.7 points on 43.5 percent shooting, 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 72 regular-season games (39 starts). In the playoffs, Johnson averaged 8.0 points on 53.8 percent shooting as he played through a left thumb injury suffered in Game 3 of the Heat’s first-round series.
Contract status: Set to make $19.2 million in 2018-19, which is the third year of a four-year deal he signed with the Heat in the summer of 2016. Johnson has a player option worth $19.2 million in 2019-20.
What to know?: This contract is about to get expensive. After making $5.9 million in 2017-18, Johnson’s cap number spikes to $19.2 million this upcoming season. It’s going to be extremely difficult to move this contract, as he’s set to become the second-highest paid player on the Heat’s roster behind only Hassan Whiteside. But that doesn’t mean Miami won’t try. Unless the Heat are willing to get a bad contract in return or include one of their young assets like Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and/or Josh Richardson in a deal, it’s hard to imagine any team willing to take on Johnson’s salary for the next two seasons.
DERRICK JONES JR.
Season stats: While playing on a two-way deal last season, he averaged 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14 regular-season games (eight starts) with the Heat. Jones 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.
Contract status: After playing on a two-way contract last season, the Heat signed Jones to a standard NBA contract on July 1. The minimum-salary deal agreed upon is for two years with a starting salary of about $1.5 million for this upcoming season. The first year of the contract is guaranteed and the second year is not.
What to know?: The Heat are intrigued by Jones. His athleticism, defensive potential and length attracted Miami to the 21-year-old. The Heat even had enough confidence in Jones to give him eight spot starts, and they often put him on the opponent’s top perimeter player. He’s still far from a finished product, though. Miami would like to see Jones improve his 3-point shooting and become a more reliable offensive threat. But the Heat believed in Jones enough to sign him to an NBA contract this summer.
Season stats: Averaged 5.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in 18 regular-season games. He missed the first 60 games of the season after undergoing preseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia.
Contract status: Set to make $1.5 million in 2018-19, which is the final season on the three-year contract he signed with the Heat in the summer of 2016.
What to know?: On a Heat roster that includes a few questionable contracts, McGruder has one of the team-friendly deals. An injury derailed McGruder’s season this year, but a full offseason and preseason could put him back in the Heat’s rotation next season. As part of a crowded wing depth chart that includes Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow — and possibly Dwyane Wade and Wayne Ellington — McGruder will have to earn his minutes. But at $1.5 million, he’s worth every penny as an extra weapon off the Heat’s bench.
Season stats: Averaged 4.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in 23 regular-season games (three starts). Mickey did not play in the playoffs.
Contract status: Heat declined the $1.6 million team option on Mickey’s contract, a league source confirmed to the Palm Beach Post on May 10. Mickey became an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
What to know?: Mickey’s $1.6 million price tag wasn’t expensive. But in the end, the Heat are looking to save every dollar they can in an effort to avoid the luxury tax. That’s one of the reasons Miami decided to decline the team option on Mickey’s deal. While he had some positive moments in his only season with the Heat, Mickey’s minutes were limited. He played just 59 minutes after Dec. 30 and didn’t log any postseason minutes.
Season stats: Averaged career-highs in points (11.5), rebounds (5.7) and assists (2.7) in 76 regular-season games. Olynyk averaged 12.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the playoffs.
Contract status: Set to make $12.5 million in 2018-19, which is the second year of a four-year free-agent deal he signed with the Heat last summer. Olynyk is due $13.1 million in 2019-20 and has a player option worth $13.6 million in 2020-21.
What to know?: When grading last offseason’s Heat signings, Olynyk’s contract has turned out to be the best value so far. In his first year with Miami, he turned in the best statistical season of his career. Coach Erik Spoelstra even played Olynyk over Hassan Whiteside at times this season. If Whiteside is traded, Olynyk would be the natural choice to replace him as the Heat’s starting center. Even if Whiteside returns, Olynyk has already proven he deserves a consistent role after finishing the regular season with the top plus-minus on the team.
Season stats: Averaged career-highs in points (12.9 points), rebounds (3.5), assists (2.9), steals (1.5) and blocks (0.9) in 81 regular-season games. Richardson also proved to be one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, as he limited those he guarded to 41.6 percent shooting in the regular season and 37.0 percent shooting in the playoffs.
Contract status: Set to make $9.4 million in 2018-19 as part of the four-year, $42 million extension he signed last offseason. The extension begins in 2018-19. Richardson is due $10.1 million in 2019-20, $10.9 million in 2020-21 and has a player option worth $11.6 million in 2021-22.
What to know?: Richardson’s contract has good value. The Heat have a young player who has continued to improve on both ends of the floor under a palatable contract for the next four seasons. That’s a good thing. It doesn’t make sense for the Heat to deal him, unless they’re required to include him in a trade to move one of their bad contracts or the deal brings back a big-time star. At this price point, Richardson is an asset the Heat must make the most of — whether that means continuing to develop him or including him in the right trade. Richardson was not eligible to be traded until the 2017-18 Heat season ended because of the structure of his contract. But that restriction has now been lifted.
Season stats: After being traded to the Heat on NBA trade deadline day in February, Wade averaged 12.0 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 21 regular-season games. In the playoffs, he averaged 16.6 points on 44.3 percent shooting, 4.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Wade was the only Heat player to record a positive plus-minus in the postseason.
Contract status: Became unrestricted free agent on July 1.
What to know?: Wade can still play. That was obvious in the playoffs, when he looked like the Heat’s best player at times. But Wade has made it clear that he will consider retirement this offseason. If he does decide to continue his career, it will very likely be with the Heat. But what can Miami offer him as it hovers around the luxury tax? Probably just a minimum contract or the $5.3 million taxpayer mid-level exception. There is the question of fit on this roster, too. Dion Waiters is expected to return from ankle surgery for the start of the season, and the Heat still have Rodney McGruder, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Justise Winslow. Add Wade to that list and Erik Spoelstra is going to have a hard time finding minutes for all of those wing players.
Season stats: Averaged 14.3 points on 39.8 percent shooting, 2.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 30 regular-season games before his season was cut short by ankle surgery.
Contract status: Set to make $11.6 million in 2018-19, which is the second year of a four-year, $52 million free-agent deal he signed with the Heat last summer. Waiters is due $12.1 million in 2019-20 and $12.7 million in 2020-21.
What to know?: Before Waiters went down, he was the Heat’s starting shooting guard. He’s one of the only players on the roster who can create his own offense consistently, but the Heat would like to see him to do it more efficiently. Is this a good or bad contract? Nobody really knows yet because Waiters’ ankle seemed to bother him even when he was playing this season and it eventually cut his year short. It will be difficult to trade Waiters this offseason because of that uncertainty. Year 1 of the deal wasn’t what the Heat envisioned because of his injury, but they hope they will get a healthy and effective Waiters for the final three years of the contract.
DERRICK WALTON JR.
Season stats: The two-way contract player averaged 1.8 points and 1.0 assist in 16 regular-season games with the Heat. Walton averaged 16.1 points and 7.0 assists in 27 games with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Contract status: Became restricted free agent on July 1 after Miami extended a qualifying offer to him with hopes of bringing him back on a two-way deal. The Heat are allowed to match any outside offers Walton receives.
What to know?: There’s just too many guards on the Heat roster to even think about signing Walton to a standard minimum contract. Bringing him back on a two-way contract is the most likely scenario. Walton was a G League standout, but didn’t do much on the NBA level as a rookie. Another developmental season as a two-way player in the Heat’s system probably would be good for both sides.
Season stats: Averaged 14.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 54 regular-season games. In the playoffs, Whiteside averaged 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in 15.4 minutes.
Contract status: Set to make $25.4 million in 2018-19, which is the third season of a four-year, $98 million free-agent deal he signed with the Heat in the summer of 2016. Whiteside has a player option worth $27.1 million in 2019-20, the final season of his contract.
What to know?: What will the Heat do with Whiteside? That’s the big question surrounding the organization in the 2018 offseason. Whiteside has been vocal about his displeasure with his playing time and how Erik Spoelstra uses him. As the Heat’s highest paid player, Whiteside averaged just 15.4 minutes of playing time in the playoffs. Reserve centers Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo ate into his minutes. Now, Miami must figure out if Whiteside is still in its future plans. He should be right in the middle of his prime, but injuries and diminished playing time helped make this season a disappointing one for Whiteside. If the Heat decide they want to trade him, there’s one problem: Whiteside’s trade value looks to be pretty low right now.
Season stats: Averaged 7.8 points and shot a career-best 38.0 percent from 3-point range to go with 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 68 regular-season games. In the playoffs, Winslow averaged 9.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists.
Contract status: Set to make $3.5 million in 2018-19. The Heat have until Oct. 31 to decide if they want to keep Winslow by extending his contract beyond 2018-19.
What to know?: Winslow showed steady growth with his outside shot and overall game this season, and he turned it up a notch to really impress in the playoffs. At $3.5 million next season, Winslow is a bargain. But how much are the Heat willing to invest in him past next season? That’s the big question. With big money already committed to Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters past 2018-19, the Heat could be limited in how much they offer Winslow when it comes to an extension.