Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
- Chris Andersen: Two years, $2.85MM. Signed via minimum salary exception. Second year is player option.
- Roger Mason Jr.: One year, $1.27MM. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed.
- Michael Beasley: One year, $1.03MM. Signed via minimum salary exception. Non-guaranteed.
- Greg Oden: One year, $1.03MM. Signed via minimum salary exception.
- Acquired No. 50 pick in 2013 from the Hawks in exchange for a 2017 second-round pick (31-40 protected).
- James Ennis (Round 2, 50th overall). Playing overseas.
- Larry Drew II
- Eric Griffin
- Charlie Westbrook
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
Most NBA executives spend their time trying how to figure out how to build a championship team. The task for Heat president Pat Riley is figuring out how to keep a two-time champion together. Riley may have trademarked the term “three-peat,” but he’s never overseen one as a coach or an executive. This could be the last chance for Riley, now 68, to do so, and the last chance for him to show he’s capable of providing LeBron James with a place where he can continue to compete for titles before the four-time MVP can opt for free agency next summer.
Making the task more difficult is the luxury tax, which for the first time includes escalating incremental rates that make it more than a dollar-for-dollar arrangement in 2013/14. Heat owner Micky Arison appears OK with paying some tax penalties, but there is a limit to the depth of his pockets. So, the Heat sacrificed Mike Miller, using the amnesty clause to get rid of the final two years and $12.8MM of his contract. Miller’s $6.2MM salary for this season alone could have cost the team more than three times as much, considering the tax.
The Heat could have saved a more modest amount if they’d chosen to amnesty Joel Anthony and the two years and $7.6MM remaining on his deal, but neither Miller nor Anthony were mainstays in the team’s rotation during the team’s back-to-back championship seasons. Of course, Miller proved his value during the playoffs, but the odds that he could resurface with a heroic performance at just the right time for a third season in a row were low enough to convince the Heat that they were better off removing his salary from their books.
The team’s new austerity kick showed up in its deal with Greg Oden. Riley convinced Oden to take a one-year, minimum-salary contract rather than a two-year pact that included a player option. That allowed the Heat to reduce the cap hit for Oden’s five-year veteran’s minimum to the equivalent of a two-year veteran’s minimum, a savings of a few hundred thousand dollars that makes it easier for the team to carry 15 players rather than the minimum 13 to begin the regular season. Those extra men on the roster could prove handy as Oden continues to recover at a slow pace from the injuries that derailed his career. The former first-round pick may make a negligible contribution to the Heat, but Riley’s ability to twist his arm into accepting less when the volume of his suitors suggested he could have commanded more shouldn’t be understated.
Chris Andersen wound up re-signing for a two-year deal with a player option, the kind of contract that Oden gave up, but he, too, probably sacrificed what might have been more money after his energetic play off the bench last season invigorated the bench and revived his career. The Heat have been keen on such reclamation projects of late, and took on another this summer in Michael Beasley. There was little wrangling required to get him to accept a non-guaranteed minimum-salary deal that amounted to a training camp invitation, but Oden’s sacrifice helps the Heat keep him on the roster as the regular season dawns. Beasley’s contrition for his past transgressions has been the other key to his continued presence on the roster, but ultimately, as with Oden, there are few expectations that he’ll make a difference on the court this year.
Roger Mason Jr., the Heat’s least-heralded new addition, could be the most important. He played a fairly significant role for New Orleans last season, averaging 5.3 points and 41.5% three-point shooting in 17.7 minutes per game over 69 contests, 13 of them starts. He, more than anyone else, could wind up the replacement for Miller’s occasional sharpshooting, and the 33-year-old’s veteran presence and leadership ability as a union executive should offset the addition of Beasley and his questionable demeanor to the locker room. Like Beasley, he’s essentially a training camp invitee, so the Heat could cut his non-guaranteed deal anytime before January 10th.
Perhaps the most significant move the team made was to give coach Erik Spoelstra an extension. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who revealed that the deal is for four years, argues that the deal is an important step toward convincing James to stay, given the close relationship between coach and superstar. It nonetheless ensures some stability for the franchise in what could be some tumultuous years ahead.
The ability for James to opt out of his contract after this season will hang over the franchise all year. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also have early termination options, meaning it’s possible that the Heat could look much different in a year’s time. Riley and the rest of the front office have prepared as best they can, saving money on little-used players, strengthening the bond with LeBron’s trusted coach, and largely maintaining a championship roster. James has said he won’t spend the season giving hints about his next move, so we’ll have to wait until the summer to know whether the Heat have done enough to convince him to stay. For now, the task is how to help James cement his legacy — no matter how much more time he’ll spend building it in Miami — with that “three-peat” that’s proven so elusive for Riley.
Luke Adams contributed to this post.