MIAMI — It’s been a quiet offseason for the Heat … so far.
The only moves Miami has made since free agency began on July 1 have been signing Derrick Jones Jr. to a standard NBA contract and reaching an agreement with Duncan Robinson on a two-way deal. But things could get busy soon, especially with a 10-time All-Star on the Heat’s radar.
Carmelo Anthony and Oklahoma City will part ways at some point this offseason in order to help reduce a historic $310 million payroll and luxury tax bill. The Thunder will facilitate Anthony’s exit either through a trade, the NBA’s stretch provision or a combined buyout and stretch.
According to a Tuesday report from ESPN, the Thunder granted Anthony permission to meet with prospective teams. That included meetings with the Heat and Rockets at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in recent days.
The Rockets, Lakers and Heat have all been linked to Anthony since news surfaced that his short stay in Oklahoma City would end this offseason. The 34-year-old Anthony is coming off a year in which he averaged a career-low 16.2 points and shot a career-worst 40.4 percent from the field in his first — and looks like only — season with Oklahoma City.
Heat president Pat Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg and coach Erik Spoelstra are all in Las Vegas for summer league action. According to ESPN’s report, Spoelstra has been a “strong advocate” of signing Anthony, who could play as a power forward with the Heat and help an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in offensive rating last season.
Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, also represents longtime Heat players Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. Wade and Haslem remain unsigned free agents, with both expected to return to Miami if they decide against retirement.
What do the Heat have to offer him? Not much.
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.
That means the Heat only have a minimum contract or exception money (can’t use both the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception and Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception in same season) to offer Anthony. Miami could use the $5.3 million Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception for Anthony, but that was thought to be reserved for Wade if he decides to return.
The Heat could shed other salary, but it’s unlikely they would be able to get rid of enough to create space under the $101.9 million cap to sign Anthony. However, shedding salary could be done to make it easier to use the $8.6 million Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception for Anthony, an exception that triggers a hard cap at the $129.8 million apron.
The problem is that using the exception on Anthony would leave the Heat with just a minimum deal to offer Wade. The Associated Press has reported that Wade will not play on a minimum contract, which would be worth about $2.4 million in his case.
Plus, Miami still has its own free agent Wayne Ellington to worry about. The Heat would like to bring back Ellington, but the parties have not been able to reach an agreement yet as Miami works to avoid an expensive luxury tax bill.
The Lakers and Rockets don’t have much more than the Heat — in terms of money — to offer Anthony, so it could basically come down to him choosing a minimum deal in Miami over minimum deals or exception money in Los Angeles and Houston if he wants to play for the Heat.
According to ESPN, the Thunder are working on trade scenarios involving Anthony in which he would be moved as an expiring contract and immediately be waived. But with Anthony set to make $27.9 million this upcoming season, the more likely scenario is that Oklahoma City uses the stretch provision to slash his cap hit for the upcoming season to a more palatable $9.3 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons.