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’]

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

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and center Hassan Whiteside. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Perhaps it wasn’t quite an intervention as Pat Riley suggested, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and his embattled player, center Hassan Whiteside, have been in communication all summer.

And Spoelstra says that relationship is not what it appears to be.

“I have absolutely been in touch with Hassan,” Spoelstra said following the Heat’s summer league practice Wednesday at The Clark High School in Las Vegas.

“We’ve gotten together for lunch, in constant contact on the phone and in texts. Like many things in this league, it’s not what it seems on the outside. It’s pretty normal NBA life. I’m looking forward to the start of the season with a healthy Hassan. I know he’s looking forward to that. And we still have a good part of the summer to get better.”

Following the season, after Whiteside spoke out several times about his frustration over lack of playing time, including one profanity-laced outburst that cost him an undisclosed fine from the organization, Riley said Spoelstra and Whiteside needed an “intervention.”

Said Riley: “The disconnect between he and Spo that’s going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan.”

Whiteside is the Heat’s highest paid player, signing a four-year, $98.4 million contract two summers ago. He still is owed $52.5 million the final two seasons of the contract.

Spoelstra was much easier on Whiteside during his season-ending news conference, saying he thought the narrative and story lines about Whiteside were “unfair,” adding “I love working with Hassan.”

Whiteside’s numbers declined during the regular season to 14.0 points and 11.4 rebounds while playing 25.3 minutes per game, a dip of more than seven minutes per game from the previous year when he led the league in rebounding.

Then he was a total non-factor in the postseason, averaging 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds while playing just 15.4 minutes per game as the Heat were eliminated by Philadelphia in five games.

Now, Spoelstra believes the difference will be a healthy Whiteside. The 7-foot center missed 28 games last season, including 18 because of separate left knee bruises. He sat for nine games in March after injuring his left hip.

“I think Hassan having an opportunity to start off the season healthy will be a really big boost for us,” Spoelstra said.

But it isn’t just a healthy Whiteside that has Spoelstra looking forward to this season despite the fact the Heat have yet to make a move with the exception of signing Derrick Jones Jr. to a standard contract. Riley continues to explore trade options but nothing has materialized.

Spoelstra cited the return of guard Dion Waiters, who played 30 games before having ankle surgery; swingman Rodney McGruder, who played 18 after undergoing surgery in October to repair a stress fracture in his leg; and James Johnson, who had surgery to repair a sports hernia surgery following the season, as optimism that the team will be better.

Miami finished last season 44-38 and sixth in the Eastern Conference.

“I look at all those guys that had some injuries that they were dealing with last year as opportunities,” Spoelstra said. “In my mind, you’re almost adding a new player, adding a Derrick Jones, adding a Rodney McGruder, adding a Dion Waiters, adding a healthy Hassan Whiteside. Having a fully healthy James Johnson. These are new players you’re adding into the mix of already a playoff team. That’s something that’s exciting to me.”

Spoelstra also pointed to the improvement made this summer by center Bam Adebayo and Jones.

“We feel really good about our roster,” he said. “We love the internal growth we’ve had. Guys have had tremendous summers already. You’ve seen the improvement that Bam has made in terms of his skill level and running an offense through him. Being a little bit more offensive minded.

“We have great opportunities for internal growth. We have a lot of the guys returning. … we think the continuity and the corporate knowledge we bring from one season to another can really help. What we’re seeing is a lot of turnover every single offseason with a lot of teams. That’s not the easiest thing to manage. We bring some familiarity which we think can be a help.”

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

[Where has Heat second-year center Bam Adebayo shown the most improvement this summer?]

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

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

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on while playing the Chicago Bulls during a pre season game at Quicken Loans Arena on October 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

MIAMI — It’s been exactly four years since LeBron James announced he was leaving the Heat to return to his hometown Cavaliers on July 11, 2014.

Heat general manager Andy Elisburg still remembers that day well, especially the feelings he felt immediately after learning of James’ decision to head to Cleveland. In a ESPN story written by Ramona Shelburne that chronicled James’ latest decision to sign with the Lakers, Elisburg revealed that he called Cleveland general manager Koby Altman the morning after news broke that James was leaving the Cavaliers to move to Los Angeles earlier this month. Continue reading “Heat GM Andy Elisburg had advice for Cavaliers GM after losing LeBron: ‘It ends, and you have to start again’”

Report: Carmelo Anthony meets with Heat as his time with Thunder set to come to an end

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Carmelo Anthony (7) celebrates a 3-point basket against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS)

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. Continue reading “Report: Carmelo Anthony meets with Heat as his time with Thunder set to come to an end”

Why have the Heat been so quiet since start of free agency? An explanation of what’s handcuffing them

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Bam Adebayo react during the fourth quarter of the Heat’s Game 4 loss against Philadelphia Miami on Saturday. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

MIAMI — The looming threat of the luxury tax has seemed to handcuff the Heat so far this offseason.

Paying an expensive tax bill on top of player salaries for a roster that’s not considered a title contender is something NBA teams want to stay away from. And that’s the exact situation the Heat are trying to avoid. Continue reading “Why have the Heat been so quiet since start of free agency? An explanation of what’s handcuffing them”

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]

 

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

Miami Heat’s Wayne Ellington (2) attempts a three-point basket as New York Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina, of France, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI — It’s time for another Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). You can also email me at achiang@pbpost.com. Continue reading “Mailbag: Why is it taking so long for the Heat to re-sign Wayne Ellington?”

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

Heat president Pat Riley still has some decisions to make this summer. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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.

[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’]

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

[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]

 

 

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]

Mailbag: Is trading for Jimmy Butler worth the risk for Heat?

Miami Heat NBA basketball team president Pat Riley talks to the media during a season ending press conference in Miami, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

MIAMI — It’s time for another Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44). You can also email me at achiang@pbpost.com.

@adrianw743: What’s a fair offer for Jimmy Butler?

Anthony Chiang: It all depends on whether Jimmy Butler would commit long-term to the Heat. This is very much like the Kawhi Leonard situation. According to a recent report from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, Butler is “frustrated with the nonchalant attitudes of younger teammates — specifically Karl-Anthony Towns” and does not intend to sign an extension with the Timberwolves. Like Leonard, Butler can become a free agent next summer and leave to another team if Minnesota hasn’t traded him by then. But it’s important to note that the Timberwolves would have to be convinced there’s no way they can repair the relationship before turning to trade possibilities. A trade is probably the last resort at this point. Anyway, if Butler does give the Heat a long-term commitment, everything should be on the table to make a deal work. The Tom Thibodeau-led Timberwolves would probably want a defensive minded replacement for Butler, and Josh Richardson fits that mold perfectly. But in order to make salary matching work, Miami would need to include more than that in the trade.

If Butler does not want to give the Heat a long-term commitment, trading away part of the young core for one season of Butler makes little sense … unless the Heat are willing to bet on themselves in getting him to stay similar to what Oklahoma City accomplished with Paul George. Is that a risk Miami is willing to take? If the Leonard situation is any indication, no. But you have to wonder, what do the Heat really have to lose by taking this risk? Yes, a part of their young core. But worst case scenario, Butler leaves after one season and all of a sudden Miami has cap space to work with. As Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti (or A Tribe Called Quest) once said, “Scared money don’t make none.”

@iebrahim81: What’s the buzz around re-signing Winslow? We have two seasons left of him before he becomes a RFA.

Anthony Chiang: Actually, the Heat have one season left before Justise Winslow becomes a restricted free agent. If Miami does not extend Winslow’s contract between now and the 2018-19 regular-season opener, he will become a restricted free agent next summer. What will Winslow be looking for in a new deal? Well, Utah’s Dante Exum just agreed to a 3-year, $33 million contract extension. That’s probably close to what it will take to extend Winslow. The problem is the Heat already have $118 million committed to nine players for the 2019-20 season, and the salary cap is projected at $109 million. That means Miami is already capped out, which leaves little room to extend Winslow if other salary can’t be shed.

[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]

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