Could Sacramento Kings be a landing spot for Heat’s Tyler Johnson?

Miami’s Tyler Johnson reacts during a game against Washington on March 6. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – With Sacramento looking to add a shooting guard and losing out on their first choice, could the Kings be a landing spot for the Heat’s Tyler Johnson?

The Kings gave restricted free agent Zach LaVine a four-year, $78 million contract offer that the Bulls matched, leaving Sacramento with about $19.5 million in cap space and still looking for an additional shooting guard. Reports then surfaced Sacramento was preparing to pursue Celtics free agent guard Marcus Smart, but that was shot down and no offer has come so far.

The Kings apparently are not giving up, and Tyler Johnson could be a backup plan if nothing else materializes.

Johnson, whose contract is about to spike to $19.25 million in 2017-18 and has two years remaining, would be cheaper than LaVine seeing the annual payout would be about the same but Johnson would have two fewer years on his deal. Johnson grew up about 120 miles south of Sacramento, in the Bay area, and attended college at Fresno State.

Although the Heat have been dormant since July 1, that doesn’t mean Pat Riley isn’t on the phone. The main objective is to clear cap space, which still would benefit Miami this late in the game with free agents Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem still unsigned and reports surfacing the Heat have met with Carmelo Anthony, who will sever ties with Oklahoma City either through a trade, the NBA’s stretch provision or a buyout.

Freeing up $19 million would put the Heat about $1 million below the salary cap but more importantly about $23 million away from the luxury tax threshold, allowing Riley and the Heat more flexibility to bring back their free agents along with having the option to offer minimum or exception money, depending on what they pay Wade, to other players.

Additionally, Miami would fall about $11 million under the 2019-20 projected salary cap of $109 million. The 2019 free agency class is one of the richest in recent history and although $11 million won’t buy a superstar, it does put the Heat closer in case it can move more money or, at the very least, it allows them to add a solid player.

The other benefit to trading Johnson is it helps alleviate the logjam at shooting guard that could include Dion Waiters, Ellington, Wade, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder. Richardson, who played shooting guard for most of 2017-18, is expected to start at small forward this season.

The Kings are loaded with youth in the backcourt with three of their top four guards – point guards De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III and shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovich – having just one-year in the NBA. Shooting guard Buddy Hield has been in the league two years. Bogdanovich was Sacramento’s second leading scorer last season with 11.8 points per game.

Johnson, who also can fill in at point guard, has played four seasons with the Heat. His scoring slipped to 11.7 point per game last year after averaging 13.7 in 2016-17, when he came off the bench in all 73 games he played.

[Heat coach Eric Glass says Derrick Walton Jr. still contributing despite shooting woes]

[Erik Spoelstra says he, center Hassan Whiteside are in constant contact; adds relationship ‘isn’t what it seems on the outside’]

[What do you need to know about new Heat two-way contract player Duncan Robinson? He’s not just a shooter]

[Heat GM Andy Elisburg had advice for Cavaliers GM after losing LeBron: ‘It ends, and you have to start again’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Without LeBron in East, Josh Richardson believes Heat can go much further in playoffs

The Miami Heat’s Josh Richardson leaps past the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid for a basket during Game 4 of the first-round of the playoffs. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

LAS VEGAS – A lot has changed in the NBA in the last 10 days with several big-name players changing teams and many more still out there looking for deals.

The biggest was LeBron James leaving Cleveland and heading to Los Angeles. James’ departure means a shift in power in the East, something the Miami Heat hope to take advantage of.

“I think it’s open,” Heat forward Josh Richardson said. “The last decade basically it’s been LeBron out of the East every year. I feel like everybody feels they kind of have a clean slate to go ahead and attack this year with more of an open chance.”

And that means the Heat. Richardson and Kelly Olynyk are among the several players in Las Vegas to attend summer league games and check in on Tuesday’s players association meetings.

Richardson was asked what surprised him most about free agency and it wasn’t James’ decision to leave his old team rather one player’s decision to stay with his old team.

“The biggest thing that surprised me, probably (Paul George) staying in Oklahoma City,” he said. “I thought he was leaving.”

Olynyk agrees the conference is more open but he warns a lot of teams are hunting to replace the Cavaliers in the Finals. Cleveland has come out of the East four consecutive years, a streak that matches Miami’s from 2011-2014 when James played for the Heat.

“It definitely opens up a little bit, but there’s still a lot of great teams,” Olynyk said. “It’s only one player gone.”

Could one of those be the Miami Heat? The Heat have been quiet during free agency, which was not unexpected. Miami entered $18 million over the salary cap and Pat Riley knew if he were going to make any moves it would have to be through trades and, so far, none have materialized.

Still, the Heat, including Richardson and Olynyk, believe Miami has enough within to improve from its 44-win 2017-18 season, which had them No. 6 in the East. Miami then lost to Philadelphia in five games in the first round of the playoffs.

“I think we’re still a playoff team in the East, definitely,” Olynyk said. “We have a way to go. But if we keep building on last year and hopefully improve. … take our shot at it.”

Richardson took that one step further.

“Yeah, definitely,” Richardson said. “We felt like that last year. With No. 23 out of there it’s a little tough but I think we’re contenders.”

[Mailbag: Why is it taking so long for the Heat to re-sign Wayne Ellington?]

[Derrick Jones Jr. is likely through for summer league after spraining right ankle in Heat’s loss to Hornets]

[As the offseason continues, we update where Heat stand in free agency and the trade market]

[No one will ever see John Crotty’s debut as the Heat TV analyst]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

Derrick Jones Jr. is likely through for summer league after spraining right ankle in Heat’s loss to Hornets

Forward Derrick Jones Jr., shown here during the Heat’s victory over the Kings in Sacramento on Thursday, left Sunday’s game in Las Vegas with a sprained right ankle. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

LAS VEGAS – For 7 ½ minutes, the Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr. entertained the Cox Pavillion crowd Sunday with an assortment of dunks – either attacking the basket with the ball in his hands or by throwing down teammate’s miss on the put back.

But late in the first quarter those “oohs” and “aahs” turned to cringes after Jones rolled his ankle and was helped off the court.

The early diagnoses is a sprained right ankle and Jones did not return for the Heat’s 94-90 loss to the Hornets. Jones likely will not play again in summer league.

Jones was injured when he went up to block a shot and landed on somebody’s foot. He emerged from the locker room following the game with just a brace on his ankle. He said he still felt pain but was never concerned it was anything worse.

“It’s not something that I can’t tolerate,” he said. “Ankle sprains happen. It’s the game of basketball. So you’ve got to do what you can do.”

Coach Eric Glass was disappointed, especially after Jones’ start. He made all four of his shots including three dunks and a 3-pointer.

“He was on his way to a game, so it’s sort of disappointing,” Glass said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

Jones has been Miami’s best player during their first week of summer league games after signing a two-year contract on June 30. He averaged 21.3 points on 22-of-42 shooting in the three games in Sacramento, adding 22 rebounds, six steals and four blocks. He did not in the Heat’s first game in Las Vegas, a 110-84 loss to the Pelicans on Saturday.

Jones’ athletic ability was a big hit with the crowds in both cities with several highlight reel dunks that brought the fans out of their seats. One of those to see a big improvement is his Heat teammate, Josh Richardson.

“He’s been aggressive, attacking the rim,” said Richardson, who has been at Miami’s two games in Las Vegas. “His jump shot looks a lot better. He’s been knocking threes down. I’m proud of the work he’s put in.”

Daryl Macon led the Heat with 17 points Sunday as Glass gave Bam Adebayo the game off. Adebayo had played in four straight games.

After calling Saturday’s loss to New Orleans “embarrassing,” Glass was much happier with the effort Sunday.

“We had an overall presence on the court,” he said. “We had much better connection. We had much, much better communication. Our effort was better.

“It’s never going to be perfect, especially in summer league. There’s a lot of moving parts, a lot of new things. But that was a Miami Heat performance tonight. The last game I don’t know what that was.”

Landry Nnoko had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat. Rashad Vaughn added 16 points.

The Heat (2-3 in summer league, 0-2 in Las Vegas) are off Monday. They return to action at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday against Utah.

[As the offseason continues, we update where Heat stand in free agency and the trade market]

[No one will ever see John Crotty’s debut as the Heat TV analyst]

[Three takeaways: Heat routed by Pelicans; Eric Glass calls performance ’embarrassing’]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

Heat mailbag: Where does Carmelo Anthony fit it with the Heat (if he does at all). That & more on tanking

Carmelo Anthony cheers on his Oklahoma City teammates during the Thunder’s playoff series against the Utah Jazza in April. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Time for another Miami Heat mailbag

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 tdangelo@pbpost.com.

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.

[Heat’s Dan Craig named assistant for USA National Team camp]

[Heat not worried about Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot. ‘What’s important to us is he’s playing defense’ – Eric Glass]

[Heat video room has produced long line of successful NBA coaches, executives – is Eric Glass next?]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

What are Heat’s trade options now when it comes to Hassan Whiteside, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler? An update

Reports say Jimmy Butler (right) is not a big fan of teammate Karl-Anthony Towns and may want out of Minnesota. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO – With the free agent market drying up, teams now will start re-assessing their trade options, something the Miami Heat were forced to do from the start.

The Heat were not a player in free agency this season with a roster that comes in about $18 million over the salary cap. That left Pat Riley’s lone avenue to upgrade the team through the trade market, which even for Riley will be difficult given the makeup of the roster.

Here are where things stand with three names when it comes to the Heat:

Hassan Whiteside: The biggest question surrounding the Heat this summer is if Riley will be able to pull off a deal involving Whiteside.

The market for Whiteside and the $52.5 million remaining on his contract was not great to start with and has diminished following the draft and free agency. Less than a month ago Phoenix, Dallas and Washington were looking for big men. Now, all three have found their center with the Suns drafting DeAndre Ayton, the Mavericks agreeing with free agent DeAndre Jordan and the Wizards and Dwight Howard ready to strike a deal now that Howard has finalized his buyout with the Nets.

That leaves two teams that still could be looking for an upgrade in the middle: Milwaukee and Portland.

The Bucks are waiting for someone to offer restricted free agent forward Jabari Parker and then must decide if they want to retain Parker and at what price. The Heat could try to work out a deal involving Parker but any sign-and-trade would put Miami into the hard cap. Any trade with Milwaukee, whether for Parker or not, likely would include center John Henson.

The Blazers have shown interest in Whiteside before and their starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, is a restricted free agent. The two players have similar numbers but Whiteside is a better rebounder and defender and would be a better fit for Portland.

The Heat would like to finding cap relief while upgrading the roster in any trade involving Whiteside. That will be very difficult.

Jimmy Butler: A new name has entered the trade market with Tuesday’s report that Butler is fed up with the attitude of his Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns and is unlikely to sign an extension with the Timberwolves.

Butler, though, presents the same problem as Kawhi Leonard. Butler will make $18.7 million this season before a player option in 2019, which means he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. And with reports that Butler and Boston’s Kyrie Irving would one day like to play together, trading for Butler also is a risk.

The biggest issue, according to NBA sources, is Miami is unwilling to risk losing all its best young players for what could be a one-year rental, which could be the case with Butler. But a year ago, nobody thought Oklahoma City had a shot of retaining Paul George after acquiring him in a trade, and even after a season that ended in disappointment George re-signed with the Thunder.

So, would Riley take that risk with Butler and trade some combination of his young players (Josh Richardson certainly would have to be in a Butler deal) if he received at least a confirmation that the Heat would have a chance to retain him next summer? Perhaps.

Kawhi Leonard: The Leonard trade rumors have cooled a bit with the Spurs willing to be patient. The latest is Leonard may not be so keen on teaming up with LeBron James on the Lakers and now the Clippers could come into play if San Antonio is willing to deal with a Western Conference team.

If not, Miami probably could get into the conversation but would fall in behind the Sixers and Boston – do not believe the reports the Celtics completely are out of the Leonard talks, not with their abundance of young desirable players and draft picks. Philadelphia is building a package around Dario Saric, Robert Covington and first-round picks, likely including Miami’s unprotected 2021 pick the Sixers received from Phoenix.

Miami could top that Sixers offer but, again, the biggest issue is the Heat could lose all its best young players for what could be a one-year rental. Miami will not part with Richardson, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow for a player who is set to enter the market as a free agent next summer. Miami could seek some kind of commitment from Leonard but even then nothing is guaranteed.

[As Wayne Ellington watch continues, an updated look on where Heat and Ellington stand]

[Former Michigan star Duncan Robinson impressing Heat with his basketball IQ, 3-point shooting]

[Three takeaways: Heat find 3-point range early, defeat Lakers for first summer league win]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

What’s in store for the Miami Heat this offseason? A roster breakdown with a look at what’s next for each player

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 … Continue reading “What’s in store for the Miami Heat this offseason? A roster breakdown with a look at what’s next for each player”

What does LeBron James joining the Lakers mean for the Miami Heat and rest of the Eastern Conference?

The Los Angeles Lakers will welcome LeBron James to their team and the Western Conference. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO – The Miami Heat are getting better by standing pat.

OK, that’s not what Heat followers, clamoring for Pat Riley to do something, do anything, just for the sake of making a change, want to hear. But the Eastern Conference, already considered the undercard to the heavy weight fight that is the Western Conference, just watched the Cleveland Cavaliers go from a team that has gone to four consecutive Finals to one that is headed for the lottery.

And everybody else will benefit.

LeBron James’ decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers will send the Cavs into another tailspin. The last time he left, Cleveland went from a team that won 127 games in the two previous seasons to 97 in the next four. And that means a bump for every team in the East, including the Heat.

Miami is, for the most part, free agency bystanders this summer with a roster that is about $18 million over the cap. The Heat won 44 games last season and finished sixth in a race in which the final three teams were separated by one game. Riley already has floated the idea that the Heat may have to suck it up for another offseason, bring back the same old gang and try to improve from within, which can happen with Dion Waiters expected to be healthy for a full season and young players like Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo trending in a position direction.

And with Cleveland falling back and none of the seven lottery teams in the East making any significant additions, the Heat not only clearly are one of the East’s top eight teams, their ceiling just got a bit higher and Miami will go into this season believing they are one of the top 4 teams in the East.

LeBron’s decision must have been met by some clinking of the glasses not only in Miami but in Boston (now clearly the Conference favorite), Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Toronto … especially in Toronto, which has been eliminated from the playoffs by the Cavaliers the last three seasons, the last two in sweeps.

But it could even mean more to the Heat. The Lakers are trying to swing a trade with San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard which would mean Philadelphia would not. The Sixers already have lost two key members of their rotation in free agency – Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilysova – and have struck out on LeBron. If Philly whiffs on Leonard (and somehow also loses free agent JJ Redick), then the Sixers will be holding a big bag of cash they will be desperate to spend, a scenario that could further weaken the conference and create even more distance between Boston and everyone else.

But LeBron’s decision may go even deeper. As July approached, several Eastern Conference teams were looking to make changes, tired of the same old stale results. Chief among them, Toronto and Washington. Now, what if each of these franchises feel as though they were given new life and decide a drastic move isn’t necessary?

The Raptors might just decide to stick with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and look at their 59-win season in a whole different light considering their kryptonite is out of the East.

And the Wizards might believe once again their nucleus of John Wall and Bradley Beal and Otto Porter (Washington already shipped center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers) is good enough to make a run.

As for the Heat, LeBron’s departure will not mean Riley is ready to close up shop and call it a summer. Riley knows he’s in salary cap hell and the only way to improve this roster is through a trade or two. If Riley can find a way to do that, whether that means moving a bad contract or even trading one of the Heat’s young assets, he will pull the trigger on any deal.

Just because Cleveland’s loss is the Heat’s gain does not mean the work is done.

Stars migrating from East to West is not new. Just a year ago, two of the East’s best players made the same journey, Paul George and Jimmy Butler.

Now, the West has all five players from the All-NBA first team, the top five scorers and seven of the top eight rebounders.

While the West has LeBron and Kevin Durant and Steph Curry and James Harden and Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis and we can go on and on and on, the East has. … Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving and some nice young rising players who could one day get to that stage.

So, take a moment to celebrate Eastern Conference. LeBron is gone.

[Heat summer League preview: Expect to see plenty of Bam Adebayo]

[Heat sign Derrick Jones Jr. to standard contract, pushing roster to 11 players]

[Miami Heat swingman Rodney McGruder’s contract guaranteed for 2018-19]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

2018 Miami Heat Free Agency Primer: What you need to know about the Heat’s salary cap situation

Heat players Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Wayne Ellington and Bam Adebayo look from the bench during overtime against the Brooklyn Nets at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

MIAMI — With free agency upon us, here’s a look at the Heat’s salary cap situation.

Miami currently has 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $119 million (assuming Rodney McGruder’s $1.5 million salary is guaranteed by Saturday’s deadline, as expected). That puts the Heat way above the $101.9 million salary cap, very close to the $123.7 million luxury tax line and not in a position to aggressively pursue free agents. Continue reading “2018 Miami Heat Free Agency Primer: What you need to know about the Heat’s salary cap situation”

UPDATED: Miami Heat swingman Rodney McGruder’s contract guaranteed for 2018-19

Heat wing Rodney McGruder’s contract is guaranteed for the 2018-19 season. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Rodney McGruder is returning for a third season with the Miami Heat.

The Heat allowed the midnight deadline to pass on the contract for the 6-foot-5 shooting guard/small forward, assuring that his $1.545 million deal is guaranteed for the 2018-19 season.

McGruder signed a three-year, partially-guaranteed contract for $2.5 million in 2016. He will collect on all three years, making $543,471 in 2016-17 and $1.313 million last season.

When asked about McGruder’s return following last week’s draft, president Pat Riley was noncommittal, citing the Heat’s “tight roster.” But Riley added: “We love Rodney.”

The Heat now have 10 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $119 million. That puts Miami about $17 million above the projected $101.869 million salary cap and very close to the projected $123.733 million luxury tax line.

McGruder, who turns 27 next month, played in just 18 games last season after undergoing surgery in October to repair a left tibia stress fracture. His role was limited and he averaged just 5.1 points in 16.6 minutes per game.

“Rodney was on his way,” coach Erik Spoelstra said following the season. “He was probably the most productive player in training camp and through the beginning of preseason and he had basically 80 percent of his regular season taken away from him and then a totally different role than probably he anticipated and probably what he certainly was going to earn based on his offseason and the beginning of the season.”

McGruder burst onto the scene in 2016-17, making an NBA roster for the first time on the final cut down day. McGruder, who had played two years in the developmental league and a year in Hungry, stepped in for the injured Justise Winslow and started 65 games at small forward. He finished the season playing in a team-high 78 games and averaged 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists. Miami relied on him to guard some the best scoring wings in the league, including Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Paul George and Jimmy Butler.

McGruder will battle for playing time on a roster that could be loaded with shooting guards and small forwards including Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Winslow, McGruder and possibly Wayne Ellington and/or Dwyane Wade.

2018 Heat Offseason Preview

[With no cap space to use in free agency this summer, is planning for future Heat’s best bet?]

[Friday’s question: Does Hassan Whiteside’s contract make him untradeable?]

[Thursday’s question: With no cap space, can Heat turn to trades to improve roster?]

[Wednesday’s question: Will 3-point specialist Wayne Ellington return to Heat?]

[Tuesday’s question: Will Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem return for a 16th NBA season or retire?]

[Monday’s question: LeBron James could be on the move again, do the Heat have a chance of bringing him back?]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

Time move on Heat Nation, LeBron James is not walking through that door anytime soon

It’s time to move on from the idea of ever seen LeBron James in a Miami Heat uniform again. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

For those who still believed LeBron James: The Sequel was coming soon to an arena on Biscayne Blvd., it’s now time to move on.

The Chosen One has chosen to forgo the final year of his Cleveland contract that would have paid him $35.6 million, to pursue bigger and better things as he enters the final quarter of his career.

Bigger and better things that almost certainly do not include the Miami Heat.

James informed the Cavaliers of his decision earlier today, according to several reports, and will hit the open market at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, which surely will add another layer of crazy to what every year is a fascinating NBA free agency period.

The decision (as opposed to The Decision III, which is coming soon) is not what Heat Nation wanted to hear. LeBron has essentially eliminated any teams over the cap as his future employer, which realistically reduces his options to the Lakers, Cavaliers and an outside chance Philadelphia jumps into the mix. The Cavaliers can offer James a five-year deal worth more a little more than $200. Any other team with space can sign him for four years and about $150 million.

LeBron taking his talents to South Beach for a second time in eight years had a much better chance of happening if he picked up that final year of his deal. That would have expanded the pool of teams to those over the cap, which would have put the Rockets and Heat at the top of the list, although Miami probably still would have been a distant second.

Miami is $18 million over the projected $101 million salary cap for the 2018-19 season and that’s with 10 players and before any decisions are made on Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Wayne Ellington. Just by rounding out their roster with minimum deals that would put the Heat close to $125 million.

James’ next max contract will come with a starting salary of $35.4 million. So, to add LeBron as a straight up free agent, and not in a sign-and-trade, the Heat would have to shed at least $53 million in salary.

Not happening.

As for a sign-and-trade, that, too, is very difficult because it triggers the hard cap, which is projected at $129 million. Teams receiving the free agent in the sign-and-trade deal — in this case the Heat — can’t surpass the $129 million apron at the end of the trade. Because of this, Miami would have to send out at least $31 million to take James’ $35 million salary back in a sign-and-trade.

Even if the Cavaliers wanted the Heat’s three youngest assets with the most potential – Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow – their 2018-19 salaries come to $16.7 million. The Cavs are not taking back another $14 million in long term salaries, especially if it is to help out the Heat. If Cleveland is going to lose LeBron, it certainly would rather see him go West.

If LeBron opted in it would have been a signal that a trade was lined up, probably meaning he was headed to either Houston or Miami. But even then, Houston is a much more attractive option with their backcourt of MVP James Harden and free agent Chris Paul, who, along with Wade, is part of LeBron’s inner circle when it comes to his peers. LeBron then would have formed a Big Three that could have challenged Golden State’s stranglehold on the league.

Some, though, might still believe the Heat have a chance and LeBron still could request a sit down with Pat Riley. And because we are talking LeBron and Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg’s magic calculator, perhaps it is foolish to completely count out the Heat until LeBron’s signature is on a contract with another team’s logo in the header.

Any news surrounding LeBron goes viral. But any LeBron news leading up to his free agency tends to break the Internet.

LeBron was in Miami last weekend, attending his son’s basketball game and the Internet was wild with speculation. He also was spotted in Brickell. The craziest speculation was an unconfirmed report that LeBron was involved in some clandestine meeting with Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra during the week.

But this is not 2010. The Heat are not flush with money and Miami does not have bargaining chips like a Wade in his prime or Chris Bosh to entice the best player on the planet.

Unless Riley can pull off a miracle that would make any other of the splashy moves he has made in his 23 years in Miami look ho-hum, it’s time to move on Heat Nation.

LeBron James is not walking through that door.

2018 Heat Offseason Preview

[Monday’s question: LeBron James could be on the move again, do the Heat have a chance of bringing him back?]

[Tuesday’s question: Will Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem return for a 16th NBA season or retire?]

[Wednesday’s question: Will 3-point specialist Wayne Ellington return to Heat?]

[Thursday’s question: With no cap space, can Heat turn to trades to improve roster?]

[Friday’s question: Does Hassan Whiteside’s contract make him untradeable?]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]