Heat withdraw qualifying offer to Derrick Walton Jr. Here’s what it means

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks with guard Derrick Walton Jr. during a game last season.
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

MIAMI — The Heat have withdrawn their qualifying offer to guard Derrick Walton Jr., which makes him an unrestricted free agent.

The Heat had until Friday to make this decision or else the two-way contract offer would have remained on the table until Walton decided if he wanted to take it or not. The qualifying offer included a $50,000 guarantee for next season.

Walton, who will remain with the Heat’s summer-league team this week, has struggled with his shooting during summer play in Sacramento and Las Vegas. The 23-year-old is averaging 7.2 points on 12-of-49 shooting from the floor (24.5 percent) and 3-of-27 shooting on threes (11.1 percent) entering Thursday’s game against Pelicans in Las Vegas.

“It’s really hard in this game, especially when you’re a shooter when your shot is not going to find a way to impact the game,” Heat summer league coach Eric Glass said of Walton after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s done that. He’s never put his head down. He’s never turned down an open shot. He’s focused on giving to his teammates and competing on the defensive end of the floor and that’s all you can ask for.”

Walton signed a two-way contract with the Heat last July after going undrafted out of Michigan in 2017. He split last season between the Heat and Miami’s G League developmental team in Sioux Falls, and averaged 1.8, points 1.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 16 games with the Heat and averaged 16.1 points, 7.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 27 games with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

By withdrawing their qualifying offer to Walton, the Heat have lost their ability to match any outside offers and he’s now allowed to sign with any team.

While this news could mark the end of Walton’s time with the Heat as a two-way contract player, the team did fill one of its two two-way spots earlier this week. Miami signed sweet-shooting forward Duncan Robinson, who went undrafted last month, to a two-way deal on Tuesday.

With one two-way contract slot still open, the Heat could wait until later in the offseason or even until after the season begins to fill that empty spot.

“I think we’re probably leaning to maybe get a two-way done sometime after summer league and then we might keep one open just because we like the flexibility,” said Chet Kammerer, the organization’s vice president of player personnel, before the Heat used a two-way deal to sign Robinson.

“But we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. That’s some of our thinking now. We might hold one. Because it worked. As it turned out, it proved pretty valuable.”

Excluding cap holds, the Heat currently have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $120 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), guard/forward Rodney McGruder ($1.5 million) and forward Derrick Jones Jr. ($1.5 million).

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