Offseason Outlook: Miami Heat

Guaranteed Contracts

Non-Guaranteed Contracts


Restricted Free Agents/Cap Holds

  • None

Unrestricted Free Agents/Cap Holds

  • No. 10 pick ($2,068,100)

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (10th overall)
  • 2nd Round (40th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $42,892,085
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $3,772,068
  • Options: $35,047,576
  • Cap Holds: $2,068,100
  • Total: $83,779,829

The suddenly uncertain future of Dwyane Wade has rocked what appeared to be a relatively simple offseason ahead for the Heat. The primary mission had been to re-sign Goran Dragic, a prospect that seemed like a strong bet even as Dragic confirmed that he was turning down his bargain $7.5MM player option. Yet the notion of the Heat as solid front-runners to retain the point guard was shaken when Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported last month that Wade was open to opting out and that if Wade were to leave the Heat, the chances that Dragic would do the same would increase.

Jan 21, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the first half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Wade reportedly wants a three-year deal, perhaps for as much as $20MM a year, with the Heat preferring that he opt in for his $16.125MM next season and negotiate again next summer, when his existing contract expires. Wade can still score with the best of them in the NBA, finishing 11th in the league with 21.5 points per game. As usual, he dished out more assists than many point guards, racking up 4.8 per game. Still, this past season was the first in which Wade recorded a negative Defensive Box Plus/Minus, a Basketball-Reference metric, and he was a discouraging 77th among shooting guards in ESPN‘s Defensive Real Plus/Minus. The 33-year-old missed 20 games, and it’s become increasingly clear that his body isn’t what it used to be.

The question for the Heat and the rest of the league is just how valuable Wade still is. The Heat have the capacity to pay up to the maximum to retain him, but it would seem unlikely that many teams would be willing to approach that sort of level for a declining star. A one-year offer for the maximum from the Heat might be a logical compromise, but the Heat must be wary of the projected $81.6MM luxury tax line, since they were also taxpayers in three of the last four seasons. Simply bringing back Wade and Luol Deng at the values of their respective player options would mean that the max offer the Heat are expected to make to retain Dragic would give the team approximately $88MM in guaranteed salary for next season, a figure already above the tax line. Another $6MM or so for Wade would cost roughly $18MM in additional taxes. Wade is eminently valuable to the Heat, but perhaps not quite to that extent.

The Heat likely wouldn’t have the capacity to replace Wade with anyone who can score like he can if he were to depart, unless they let go of Dragic and Deng, which presents a catch-22. But in the absence of another team willing to pay dearly for Wade, the Heat may be best advised to let the market dictate Wade’s value. The Heat, should they prove unsuccessful in convincing him to opt in, need not bid against themselves and agree to any sort of deal for Wade without first allowing him to gauge his alternatives.

An opt-in from Deng would help lend some simplicity back to the Heat’s summer, and team president Pat Riley indicated that the Heat would indeed like to keep him. The now 30-year-old didn’t play like the All-Star he once was this past season in Miami, but he nonetheless still looms as a strong complementary piece on the contending team that the Heat want to be. Deng last summer reportedly sought a more lucrative contract than the two-year, nearly $20MM deal he ultimately received, but an underwhelming year in Miami may well have him convinced that he wouldn’t end up with a better deal if he hit the market again this summer. That would suggest that he’d opt in, and while Deng hasn’t indicated that he’s leaning one way or another, he has expressed contentment about playing in Miami.

The uncertainty surrounding Wade, Deng, and perhaps Dragic muddies the draft picture for Miami, which will likely go with the best available talent with the No. 10 pick. The Heat haven’t had the chance to pick in the top 10 since they largely missed with their selection of Michael Beasley in 2008. That suggests that prospects who carry risk, like center Myles Turner of Texas and Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis, might not be as attractive to the Heat as known quantities like Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein and Wisconsin power forward Frank Kaminsky. Still, none of them are perimeter players of the sort who might be able to replace Wade, Deng or Dragic should one of them leave. Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson, Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker and Murray State point guard Cameron Payne are prospects in Miami’s range who’d fit that bill. Our Eddie Scarito has the Heat selecting Wisconsin small forward Sam Dekker in the latest Hoops Rumors Mock Draft.

The Heat have another option to contend with around draft time, and it would seem as though Miami is poised to make Beasley a free agent rather than pick up his team option for next season. That wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of the third tenure that the former No. 2 overall pick has had with Miami, as doing so would at least allow the Heat to keep his Non-Bird rights, but the increased flexibility is probably the Heat’s priority with so much else uncertain. The Heat have a series of partial guarantee dates throughout the summer and early season with their four non-guaranteed contracts, giving the Heat the chance to aggregate them via trade to a team looking to clear salary before those guarantee dates kick in. Hassan Whiteside has one of those four non-guaranteed contracts, but he’s not going anywhere, at least until his contract expires in 2016, when the Heat’s bargain find is poised to command a much more player-friendly deal.

The cataclysmic departure of LeBron James last year left the Heat dented, if not devastated, but they’re still in position to quickly bounce back into Eastern Conference contention if Chris Bosh comes back 100% healthy and the core remains intact. The Heat’s ability to keep that nucleus together isn’t as certain as it seemed when the season ended, but Riley is still as canny and creative as ever. Should trouble present itself, the Heat at least have their executive and the allure of South Beach on their side. Miami would certainly prefer not to have to rebuild, but the franchise would probably be able to do so rather quickly.

Cap Footnotes

1 — Walker’s salary would become partially guaranteed for $100K if he remains under contract through August 1st, for $300K if he remains under contract through November 3rd, and for $500K if he remains under contract through December 1st.
2 — The salary for Ennis would become partially guaranteed for $422,530 if he remains under contract through August 1st and fully guaranteed if he remains under contract through December 1st.
3 — Johnson’s salary would become partially guaranteed for $422,530 if he remains under contract through August 1st.
4 — If he opts out, the cap hold for Wade would be the lesser of $22,500,000 and the league’s maximum salary for a veteran of at least 10 seasons, which is likely to end up around that $22.5MM figure.
5 — The cap hold for Deng would be $11,657,353 if he opts out.
6 — The cap hold for Dragic would be $11,250,000 if he opts out, as he plans to do.
7 — The cap hold for Beasley would be $947,276 if the Heat decline their option on him.

The Basketball Insiders Salary Pages were used in the creation of this post.

View Comments (2)