Mailbag: What are Miami Heat’s options with about $38 million in cap space?

The Miami Heat should have about $38 million in cap space and bringing back guard Dion Waiters is one of their priorities. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat will have options when it comes to free agency.

The Heat can spend most of their money on a free agent looking for max money. They can chose to go all in on their own free agents. They can opt for a combination: bring back one of their free agents and sign another who could fill a starting role.

So which direction is the most likely? We answer that in today’s Heat mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

From: @AsherWildMan6: After the so called “whales” are signed, can’t Miami with the cap space they have set the tone for who gets what in free agency? In other words, after Gordon, Blake, Lowry, those guys are signed wouldn’t Miami have most money left to sign guys they want in “their” range of what they want to pay? Can anyone really give Waiters Luol Deng money other than Miami this year? Seems Miami has upper hand in free agency this year.

The Heat are projected to have around $38 million in cap space once Chris Bosh is off the books. The only team expected to have more is Philadelphia. Teams will find ways to add space but the problem is there just are not that many “whales” that will be worth pursuing and many of those will re-sign with their old team, eating up most of their cap room. So, yes, once those elite players are gone and assuming the Heat do not sign a player like Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin, Miami will be in great shape.

Miami will have plenty of options when it comes to the non-max players, starting with making offers to their own free agents, James Johnson and/or Dion Waiters. If either receives an offer that the Heat are not willing to match, players like Danilo Gallinari or Serge Ibaka could become options.

As for Waiters, I still believe somebody is willing to offer him a nice four year deal, and maybe even for $18 million a year like Deng got from the Lakers last season. My guess is the market will start at $15 million a year for Waiters but he’ll sign for more whether it’s with Miami or somewhere else. Remember, it only takes one.

From: @ChrisHypeTrain: Is there a better chance the heat spend their money on a max free agent or re-sign Dion Waiters and JJ?

How about both? Okay, that might be a stretch. But signing one max free agent like Gordon Hayward and re-signing James Johnson is possible, although it would take some creative salary cap maneuvering by GM Andy Elisburg.

But the more likely scenario is the Heat re-sign both Waiters and Johnson and then find a solid rotational player with the remaining money, especially because there won’t be many franchise-altering super stars on the market. Of course, there is the possibility that one of the two re-sign, which could still leave the Heat with $20 to $24 million to add a high quality starter.

[Consensus mock draft has Indiana’s OG Anunoby going 14th to Heat]

[Mailbag: What is the best possible outcome for the Heat in the NBA draft?]

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Miami Heat Mailbag: Where would small forward Rudy Gay fit in as a free agent signing?

Sacramento’s Rudy Gay drives to the basket in a game at New York in December. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

While teams are focusing on working out players for the June 22 draft, free agency always is on their minds.

The Heat and Pat Riley have decisions to make, not only with their own free agents like James Johnson and Dion Waiters, but who to pursue whether they sign both Johnson and Waiters, one of them or neither.

Which leads us to today’s question. If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

From: @MV305MIA How hard will we go after Rudy Gay?

Gay already has informed the Kings he will opt out of the final year of his contract that would have paid him $14.3 million and become an unrestricted free agent.

The 6-foot-8 Gay will be 31 when training camp starts. He averaged 18.7 points on .455 shooting including .372 on threes (although he’s only averaging about one 3-pointer per game in his career), 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 30 games last season before tearing his Achilles. His ESPN player efficiency rating was ninth in the league at 17.95. He is a career .452 shooter and two years removed from averaging his career-high 21.1 points, which came during his first full season in Sacramento.

Reports surfaced early last season that the Heat may have been exploring a deal with the Kings involving Gay. Some rank Gay as a borderline top-10 free agent while others have him lower. Among small forwards he generally falls in behind Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward, Danilo Gallinari and Otto Porter. The Heat could have conversations with all but Durant, who is a lock to return to Golden State, but could settle on Gay as a backup policy or as a lower priced option than, say, a Hayward.

Gay has been somewhat of an enigma. While his numbers have been pretty steady – between 18 to 20 points and around six boards each year – many believe he could be doing more. He typically is among the league leaders in efficiency, landing in the top 15 in each of the last seven seasons and in the top 10 in four of those.

Although Gay’s age and recent injury could be a deterrent, he would be a nice addition to any team and would certainly give the Heat another option offensively on the wing and also as a small-ball power forward. And his athleticism makes him a solid defender.

If Miami loses Johnson and Waiters and pursues a power forward (say, Blake Griffin or Serge Ibaka), Gay could fit in well, or he could be brought in to go along with either Johnson or Waiters if one of the two returns.

[Dion Waiters makes it clear he wants to return to Heat — ‘Let’s get it over with as quick as possible’]

[Erik Spoelstra a finalist for another coach of the year award]

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Could Danilo Gallinari be an option for Miami Heat in free agency?

Denver’s Danilo Gallinari shoots over Miami’s Rodney McGruder during the Nuggets win in Miami on Sunday. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

MIAMI – Did Heat fans get a glimpse of the future on Sunday?

Denver’s 6-foot-10 wing man, Danilo Gallinari, who dropped 29 on Miami in the Nuggets’ win, is expected to decline his $16.1 million player option this summer and become a free agent. He likely will be second best player at his position behind Utah’s Gordon Hayward.

But is he a viable option if the Heat cannot sign Hayward?

Gallinari, 28, is having his second best scoring season, averaging 17.7 points, a bit under the 19.5 points he averaged in 2015-16. Both years he averaged a little more than five rebounds and two assists per game.

This season though has been his best from the floor since his rookie year with the Knicks, shooting 43.9 percent, 38.4 on threes.

Although those scoring/shooting numbers are not as good as the 6-8 Hayward’s (21.7 ppg, 46.3 percent from the floor, 38.9 on threes), Gallinari defense has been a bit better, holding the players he covers to 41.6 percent, 3.2 percent below their average, compared to Hayward’s minus 2.5.

Defense, though, is neither players’ strong suit, and certainly the weakness in Gallinari’s game. And Denver is one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

[Why is there no Last Two Minute Report for the Heat’s loss to the Nuggets?]

[Heat take Monday off for mental break with playoff fate still uncertain]

If Miami signs Gallinari as the small forward, it would then have to upgrade the defense at power forward, where Luke Babbitt is not expected to return as the starter.

Gallinari can be a matchup nightmare with his size. Just look at Sunday when the Heat were forced to guard him with 6-4 Rodney McGruder for much of game. Gallinari would just rise and shoot over the pesky McGrude. He was 11-of-19 from the floor, 3-of-7 threes.

Gallinari’s strength is his catch-and-shoot game and he can also get to the line, averaging 6.2 free throws per game (Goran Dragic leads the Heat with 5.1 per game). And Gallinari takes advantage of those trips making 90.2 percent of his free throws. The Heat are last in the league at 70.4 percent.

The other downside is Gallinari’s injury history. He averaged 56 games the last two season and has played 59 this year, missing time with a groin strain and a knee injury.

While nobody is saying Gallinari is a better option than the 27-year-old Hayward, he may be a nice second option, especially considering that many believe if Hayward leaves Utah he may prefer to play for his old Butler University coach, Boston’s Brad Stevens.

And Gallinari would be cheaper. While Hayward is expected to receive a max contract starting at $31 million a year, Gallinari likely is in the $20-25 million a year range.

With somewhere around $40 million to spend this summer, the Heat must decide if they want to use at least half of that on what could be the second best wing player on the market.

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