With free agency set to start at 12 a.m. on Saturday morning, we took a look at the biggest free-agent questions surrounding the Heat. Today we ask: Is there pressure on the Heat to make the most of their cap space this summer? See below for the other questions we addressed.
As the Heat prepare to attack free agency, it’s important to remember that $35 million in cap space doesn’t come around often.
With Chris Bosh’s salary expected to be removed from Miami’s books and a bunch of players like James Johnson, Willie Reed and Dion Waiters on short-term contracts that have them hitting free agency this offseason, the Heat have room to spend this summer. Miami will enter free agency with about $35 million in cap space.
That’s enough to sign sought after free agents like Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin to a max contract with a 2017-18 salary of $29.7 million. And if the Heat aren’t able to convince a big-name free agent to come to Miami, they should still have enough cap space to re-sign Johnson and Waiters to bring back last season’s core.
In other words, the Heat have financial flexibility this summer. But if things go as planned this offseason, Miami probably won’t have much room to spend next year.
Once Bosh is removed from the Heat’s cap, they will have about $66 million invested in their 2018-19 roster — Hassan Whiteside ($25.4 million), Tyler Johnson ($19.2 million), Goran Dragic ($18.1 million) and Justise Winslow ($3.4 million team option that’s expected to be picked up by the Heat).
The NBA’s salary cap, which is projected to be at $99 million this offseason, is expected to make a small jump to $103 million for the 2018-19 season. That probably won’t leave the Heat with much space to operate next summer.
Consider this: If the Heat sign a max player or just decide to bring back Johnson and Waiters on multiyear contracts this summer, that will likely count as an additional $22-$30 million in 2018-19 cap commitments. Add in retaining Josh Richardson, who could become a restricted free agent next summer, and the Heat will have very little room to maneuver in free agency next year.
That’s not optimal, considering LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Paul George, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldridge can all become free agents in 2018.
But this issue won’t stop the Heat from spending money this summer. Whether it’s signing Johnson and Waiters to multiyear deals or offering Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin a maximum contract, don’t expect Miami to save for next year.
If the Heat really feel like they can lure one of the top 2018 free agents to Miami, they can always create cap space by trading away players. For now, Miami must try to make the most of $35 million in cap space.