LAS VEGAS – More than one week into the start of a new NBA fiscal year and, as expected, the Miami Heat remain the same team they were when free agency kicked off July 1.
The Heat are one of the handful of teams who have yet to make a move since the calendar turned to July. The only announcement coming from the Heat in recent weeks was the signing of forward Derrick Jones Jr. to a standard NBA contract.
But any future moves by president Pat Riley will be made with the luxury tax in mind. With about $120 million committed to 11 players for the upcoming season, Miami is about $4 million away from crossing that luxury tax threshold and that is something the Heat would like to avoid, especially for a team that is not a contender.
The luxury tax comes into play in several scenarios.
The Heat are one of three teams that have been linked to Carmelo Anthony, who will part ways with Oklahoma City. If the Thunder is unable to trade Anthony, who is due $27.9 million this season, he could be available for a minimum contract. The Heat’s issue is two-fold: Where would Anthony fit in with a roster that is deep with rotational players and where does Miami stand with Wayne Ellington?
Ellington remains a free agent, and the top unrestricted free agent according to some. The fact that Ellington, one of the top 3-point threats in a league that values 3-point shooters, remains on the market is surprising. The Heat could still be hoping to make a trade to shed some salary to bring back Ellington at a higher price (but certainly not close to the $10.9 million they could pay him). If not, will Ellington settle for something close to the $6.3 million he made last season, whether it is with the Heat or another team?
For every dollar the Heat exceeds the $123.733 million luxury tax threshold up to $4,999,999 they pay a tax rate of $1.50. From $5 million to $9,999,999 over they pay a tax rate of $1.75, from $10 million to $14,999,999 they pay a tax rate of $2.50.
If the Heat matches Ellington’s contract from last season and pays him $6.3 million, he would in essence cost them about $9.8 million because of their luxury tax bill. If they were to give him his max of $10.9 million he would cost them more than $23 million.
That is not happening.
And remember, money has dried up around the league. Just three teams – Atlanta, Brooklyn and Sacramento – have space remaining of any significant. With all three building with youth, it is unlikely they would have a need to sign the 30-year-old Ellington?
One caveat: Every team has until the end of the season to get back under the luxury tax line. So, Miami could be willing to go over that line at the start of the season to a certain point with the confidence they can make moves by the trading deadline to get back under.
Other things to watch as the summer progresses when it comes to the Heat:
Kawhi Leonard: This story will not go away even though many believe Leonard could play out the year in San Antonio. Still, talks can continue for months, which means we will be hearing Leonard rumors throughout the summer. Whether the Spurs turn to the Heat and the Heat are willing to give up most of their good young players remains to be seen.
Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem: Both players are contemplating retirement and the Heat are awaiting their decisions. Haslem would return on a $2.4 million veterans minimum and the Associated Press reported Wade is seeking the Heat’s $5.4 million mid-level exception. That decision could be tied to what happens with Ellington and any luxury tax implications.
Hassan Whiteside: It is looking more and more unlikely that the Heat are able to move Whiteside and the remaining $52.5 million on his contract. Two teams that could have been trade partners for a 7-foot center came off the board this weekend. The Trail Blazers brought back Jusuf Nurkic on a four-year, $48 million contract on Saturday and today it is being reported the Bucks are signing Brook Lopez to a one year deal.
Veteran minimums: The Heat already have too many rotational players but Riley still will look for any bargains that might fit this roster. And several intriguing names remain on the market including Parker, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas and Rodney Hood. Parker, Smart and Hood are restricted. The possibility of any landing with Miami is remote unless moves are made to free up cap and roster space.
If you were not able to ask a question this time, send them along for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From @ChrisHypeTrain: Where would Carmelo Anthony fit in with the Heat?
Oklahoma City is moving on from Anthony. The question is how do they part? Will it be a trade? Will OKC stretch the $27.9 million they owe him in the final year of his deal? Do the two sides agree to a buyout?
The later two scenarios would make Anthony a free agent and available to any team – presumably for the $3.4 million veteran minimum – including the Heat.
Does an Anthony deal make sense for the Heat?
Miami has two obstacles. First, with 11 players due about $120 million, the Heat are about $18 million over the cap and just $4 million shy of the luxury tax line, something Pat Riley is trying to avoid crossing. Without any other moves, Anthony would put you closer to that luxury tax line, and that’s without Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade or Udonis Haslem under contract. And if Anthony wants to come to the Heat, one of the biggest reasons would be to play alongside his friend, Wade.
Secondly, the Heat’s roster is lacking great players but has an excess of good players who could be in the rotation. The 6-foot-8 Anthony played most of his minutes at power forward last season which means coach Erik Spoelstra would have to find minutes for Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo and Anthony in the power rotation. And if the thought is to give Anthony more minutes at small forward then he’s competing with Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder and Derrick Jones Jr. for playing time.
As for his role in Miami, Anthony would step in as one of the top scoring options and the Heat would find a way to hide his defensive deficiencies.
Unless a third team is involved, and Atlanta really is the only one with enough cap space, the Thunder likely are not going to trade Anthony to the Heat because Miami would then have to match Anthony’s salary in the deal and that does nothing to help OKC reduce its mammoth luxury tax bill.
So, for the Heat to sign Anthony, they need to make a trade that not only would shed salary but also include a player or two, especially one of the power forwards. Ideally, enough cap space is created to fit in Anthony, Wade and Ellington.
The best fit among the three teams linked to Anthony is Houston. There, he also gets to play with one of his friends, Chris Paul, but more importantly, he’d replace Trevor Ariza, who signed with the Suns, although it is not ideal considering Ariza is a small forward. Anthony’s role in Houston would be similar to what is was in OKC as the third option.
As for the Lakers, yes, Anthony also is close to LeBron James, but the Lakers have an overabundance of players up front. The plan is to play James at power forward with Kyle Kuzma coming off the bench. We know James will play 36-38 minutes a game. Signing Anthony could cut into Kuzma’s minutes, something the Lakers do not want to do after he had such a strong rookie season.
From DjHitbwoy: Is this the perfect season for the Miami Heat to trade and tank? With us having a 2019 first round pick we can look forward to drafting Zion Williamson and try trading Whiteside contract to LA Clippers
Didn’t we hear enough of this in 2017 when fans wanted the Heat to go against everything the franchise stands for an tank after that 11-30 start? The Heat never will enter a season with the objective to lose as many games as possible and hope for a high pick. Trading Hassan Whiteside will be challenging and may not happen this summer. If not, the Heat will work tirelessly with Whiteside to improve his game with the hopes of moving up in the standings.
Oklahoma City’s vision of a Super Team was a flop and now the Thunder are looking at a tumultuous summer after being eliminated in six games by the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.
Russell Westbrook’s five-year, $205 million extension is ready to kick in and the 2016-17 MVP likely is not going anywhere. But the same cannot be said about any of the Thunder’s other stars, and even coach Billy Donovan, whose job could be in jeopardy.
Paul George is entering free agency and his future in OKC is uncertain. But whether George stays or ends up in Los Angeles, the Thunder are stuck with the aging Carmelo Anthony. OKC would like nothing more than for Anthony to decline his player option but someone who turns 34 in a month and is coming off the worst season of his career is not going to turn down $27.9 million.
So then what?
If Anthony remains expect the Thunder to attempt to buy out his deal, similar to what the Bulls did with Dwyane Wade last summer. But, first, OKC may try to get something in return and this is where the Miami Heat could come in.
Miami has its issues with the cap and could be a trade partner for the Thunder. The Heat, though, likely would have to shed long term money to make it worth paying nearly $30 million for one year of a fading star.
With center Steven Adams under contract for three more years and $77.5 million, unless this turns into a blockbuster, including Hassan Whiteside ($25.4 million next season, $27.1 million in 2019-20) in a deal could be difficult.
More realistic would be Miami packaging two contracts, say James Johnson ($14.4 million next season, three years total remaining) and Tyler Johnson ($19.2 million each of the next two years) and take back an additional cheaper contract to make the deal work.
The Thunder, who, like the Heat, already are significantly over the cap next season, would then get two players they could plug in around Westbrook, with James Johnson as their starting power forward and Tyler coming off the bench.
The Heat would get a player with one season left but even in that one year Anthony would probably be their leading scorer. Anthony averaged 22.4 points two seasons ago in New York and believes he has something left. He said as much following the playoffs when he went on a rant on how he was used this season and on his future, most notably telling reporters he was not going to “sacrifice” and come off the bench. “So that’s out of the question,” he said.
“I think everybody knows I’ve sacrificed damn near everything and was willing to sacrifice nearly everything for this situation to work out,” he said. “It wasn’t no strategy to me being here, me being a part of the actual system and what type of player and things like that.
“As far as being effective as that type of player, I don’t think I can be effective as that type of player. I think I was willing to accept that challenge in that role, but I think I bring a little bit more to the game as far as being more knowledgeable and what I still can do as a basketball player.”
Unless Pat Riley has other deals in mind that would make the Heat an instant contender, this would be more about the future while keeping Miami somewhat competitive next season. And, with Wade and Anthony being close, perhaps the thought of playing alongside Anthony would help keep Wade around another year.
Now, if the Heat and Thunder really want to make a splash then they could pull off the mega-deal with the Heat shipping James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Whiteside to OKC for Anthony and Adams.
That would change the looks of things and solve some cap issues.
When Oklahoma City acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to go along with MVP Russell Westbrook, it was rolling the dice that this ‘Big Three’ could challenge Golden State in the West.
Even after winning 6-of-8, the Thunder remain at .500 and the experiment of putting three of the top isolation players in the league in the same lineup is not working.
So now what?
If this doesn’t turnaround fast, OKC will have no choice but to start listening to offers for George and several reports say executives around the league are watching the situation closely. Trading George would be the logical choice for the Thunder considering he is just 27 years old, a four-time all-star who averaged more than 23 points a game and about six rebounds his last two seasons in Indiana and OKC will have no chance of re-signing the 6-foot-9 small forward if this season continues to go south.
Which brings us to the Miami Heat.
The Heat, like the Thunder, have hovered around .500 all season. Miami is 14-14 – as is OKC – entering tonight’s game against the Clippers. Although the record is disappointing, the Heat actually is about where they should be considering the schedule and playing 13 games without center Hassan Whiteside. Still, Pat Riley never rests and if there is a way to acquire a star and even though it would come with a risk he’s going to kick the tires.
If Sam Presti is on Line 1, Riley certainly will pick up. And as of Friday, Miami’s pool of tradeable assets got much deeper with James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk among those now eligible to be dealt.
The biggest question for anybody looking into acquiring George – and the one OKC had to consider in June when it made the deal with Indiana – is, he is set to become a free agent following this season. And it is no secret the Southern California native desires to return home and play for the Lakers.
So, could the Heat pull off a trade for George? Should they?
First, the Heat would assume George’s ‘Bird Rights’ in a trade, meaning they could exceed the salary cap to re-sign him to a contract that could be as long as five years. Another team looking to sign George would be capped at four years.
George’s starting salary as an eight-year veteran can be up to $29.7 million.
Trading for a player entering free agency is a risk, though with high reward, considering the Thunder will not get full value in return because of the threat he’ll leave at the end of the season. Then it would come down to the Heat gauging George’s interest in returning to Miami before making the deal. Or making the trade believing they could convince him to return.
George is making $19.5 million this season. He has one year remaining on the five-year contract he signed before the 2014-15 season, but with a player option, he is expected to opt out of that final year.
So what does Miami have to offer? Plenty now but what would OKC want. Would the Heat just part with Whiteside, who is making $24.8 million this season, the second of a four-year, $98.4 million deal, to get out from under that deal? Or would it be some combination of James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Olynyk and Justise Winslow?
One thing to remember: Being located in the No. 41 media market in the country, OKC isn’t exactly a top free agent destination. In fact, the biggest free agent movement in franchise history was when it lost Kevin Durant, who signed with Golden State in 2016.
So while some teams are looking for expiring contracts, the Thunder may be looking for players under contract to play alongside Westbrook, who they locked down with a five-year, $205 million extension in September.
James Johnson, Olynyk and Waiters (although OKC isn’t likely to want Waiters back after he played there before coming to Miami) are under contract for three more seasons while Tyler Johnson has two more years left on his deal.
Then there is the flip side of the gamble when dealing for an expiring contract. If the Heat trade away, say, $25 to $30 million in salary, and George comes to Miami but walks in July, are the Heat OK considering they now would open cap space.
With the current roster, Miami’s projected payroll for next season is about $120 million. The salary cap is projected to be about $108 million. Even though Miami would not be getting the full value, opening up $10 to $20 million would give them some flexibility this summer.
Something the Heat would have to seriously consider if they decide to make a move for George.
The NBA season kicks off tonight with Golden State looking to become the first team since the Miami Heat in 2012 and 13 to repeat. With everybody returning and Finals MVP Kevin Durant even more comfortable after a year in the system, the Warriors could be even better than the team that won 67 games last year and defeated the Cavaliers in five games in the Finals.
But some of their biggest challengers loaded up with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joining league MVP Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and Houston gambling on a James Harden-Chris Paul backcourt.
The East underwent changes, too, with Cleveland and Boston pulling off the stunner of the summer by swapping point guards Kyrie Irving (to the Celtics) and Isaiah Thomas (to the Cavs). LeBron James also convinced Dwyane Wade to join him in Cleveland and the Celtics added Gordon Hayward.
Our Heat writers, Tom D’Angelo and Anthony Chiang teamed up to make The Palm Beach Post’s playoff and postseason awards picks.
1. Boston Celtics
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Washington Wizards
4. Toronto Raptors
5. Miami Heat
6. Milwaukee Bucks
7. Philadelphia 76ers
8. Charlotte Hornets
Eastern Conference playoffs
Boston over Charlotte
Cleveland over Philadelphia
Washington over Milwaukee
Miami over Toronto
Boston over Miami
Cleveland over Washington
Cleveland over Boston
1. Golden State
2. Oklahoma City
5. San Antonio
8. L.A. Clippers
Western Conference Playoffs
Golden State over the Clippers
Oklahoma City over Portland
Denver over Houston
Minnesota over San Antonio
Golden State over Minnesota
Oklahoma City over Denver
Golden State over Oklahoma City
Golden State over Cleveland
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Cleveland
If nothing else, James will be motivated more than ever thanks to the Irving drama and losing to the Warriors in the Finals. And without Irving, he will take on more responsibility. Let’s face it, LeBron can pick his number when it comes to scoring and he will pick a number that is enough to earn him his fifth MVP Award.
Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas
The No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft has been compared to players like Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Damian Lillard just because of the athleticism he brings to the point guard position. With the Mavericks not expected to make the playoffs this season, Smith should get plenty of opportunities to rack up big numbers.
Most Improved Player: D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn
Russell has not lived up to being the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, getting lost in the Lakers rebuilding/tanking mode the last two years. He was traded for two reasons: To make room for Lonzo Ball and as incentive for the Nets to take Timofey Mozgov’s contract. But Russell is skilled and he will become one of the Nets’ top options, which should result in his production soaring.
Sixth Man of the Year:Eric Gordon, Houston
Gordon won this award last season and he’ll win it again this year. He flourished in his first season in Mike D’Antoni’s system, making a career-high 3.3 3-pointers per game at a 37.2 percent rate. Gordon will get even more open looks this season with Chris Paul joining James Harden in Houston.
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Golden State
Golden State finished with the NBA’s second-best defensive rating last season. Want to know why? Just look at Green play defense. He can guard every position on the floor. The Warriors’ defense will be one of the best in the league again and Green will win this award for a second consecutive season.
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota
The Timberwolves are headed in the right direction after adding Jimmy Butler to the improving Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Minnesota had the third-worst record in the West last season (31-51) and we predict a big jump to around 48 wins.
And a new season means plenty of changes around the league. On Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a second blockbuster deal of the offseason, this time acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks. Could the Heat have gotten involved? We answer that and more in our latest mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question, send them in for future mailbags via Twitter to @Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44.
From ChrisHypeTrain: OKC didn’t give up much for Carmelo Anthony or even Paul George. Why didn’t the Heat go after either player?
In July, the Thunder acquired George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. On Saturday they parted with Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick for Anthony. And although it doesn’t seem like much, it would have been difficult for the Heat to get involved with either player.
Remember, Miami is limited when it come to trades, at least for the next few months. Any free agent that signed this summer is not allowed to be traded until Dec. 15 at the earliest which took James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk among others off the board.
Pat Riley then had to weight putting together a package of two or three of his primary players for George, who likely would have been a one-year rental considering his desire to play with the Lakers (George will be a free agent next summer) or 33-year-old Anthony whose style would not have fit into what the Heat preach and is owed more than $54 million the next two seasons.
The Heat probably are looking to move Tyler Johnson, who after making $5.8 million this year is on the books for $18.8 million and $19.6 million the next two years. But teams like the Pacers and Knicks do not want that contract cutting into their cap, either, so it would have been difficult trading Tyler. The Heat were not looking to move Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic for players who would have been such a short-term fix.
The Heat made the right move by moving on from both players.
From @ifotomedia: Do you think Olynyk can make a big difference for the Heat?
The Heat certainly think so, jumping on Kelly Olynyk and signing him for $50 million over the next four years after losing out on Gordon Hayward.
Olynyk should be a solid addition. First, the Heat love the way he competes, seeing it three or four times a year while he was with the Celtics. But he’s also a versatile player, one who is 7-foot and has averaged more than eight rebounds per 36 minutes in his career and also made 254 threes in four years. Olynyk is athletic and although he’s never been known for his defense the Heat believe he will be just fine defending stretch fours and centers.
Here is what coach Erik Spoelstra had to say this summer about Olynyk.
“He’s a very skilled big that can do a lot of different things. He fits well into our positionless style of basketball because he can play with basically any combination of players. I think what he does highlights a lot of the strengths of guys that we currently have.”
“I’m going to take (Sunday night and some of (Monday) and speak to the teams or players that are on my list and go from there,” he told the AP. “My decision is a pure basketball decision and I’ll make the one that fits me best at this point in my career, and with what I feel I have to offer a team that needs what I have to offer.”
Wade averaged 18.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 60 games with the Bulls last season. So he still has something left to contribute whether as a starter or in a reduced role off the bench.
The Cavaliers clearly remain one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and to most the favorite to return to the Finals for a fourth straight season. The Spurs and Thunder are positioned to possibly challenge the Warriors out West, but are not in as good a position in their conference as the Cavs are in the East.
The Heat? Despite bringing back virtually every key player from their 30-11 finish a year ago, Miami’s ceiling appears to be sneaking into the top half the Eastern Conference and grabbing home court for the first round of the playoffs. Realistically, the Heat are looking at a No. 5 or 6 seed.
And although Miami is fourth among those four teams, Wade might have more difficulty finding minutes in Miami than he would on any of the other teams.
The Heat are loaded in the backcourt with Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters as the starters and a group that includes Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder all competing for minutes.
Even without Wade, many are wondering how coach Erik Spoelstra is going to find playing time for everyone.
Wade would fit into the roster of any of the other teams with much more ease, but none as easily as Cleveland.
The Cavaliers are entering the season with JR Smith and Iman Shumpert at shooting guard. Sign Wade and he immediately moves into the starting lineup and is reunited with his buddy, LeBron James.
San Antonio’s starter at shooting guard is Danny Green and Manu Ginobili is its sixth man. Even if he didn’t start, Wade would find his way into the rotation. Although Andre Roberson is the starter in OKC, the issue would be personnel. Although Wade would be in the mix to start or be a sixth man, by acquiring Carmelo Anthony over the weekend OKC now has three of the top 10 isolation players in the league to go along with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. There just would not be enough basketballs to make Wade happy.
The only check mark for the Heat is money, but that will be the last priority for Wade.
Wade is giving back approximately $8 million for his freedom, but that still leaves him with a $15.8 million paycheck from the Bulls this season. Miami can offer Wade its $4.3 million exception, but he still can make $3.3 million from the Spurs, $2.5 million from the Cavs and $2.3 million from the Thunder, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
Add it all up and it’s probably not enough for Wade to bring his career full circle and return to Miami.