The surprising Heat may be able to keep this year’s team together and still have cap room to be players on the free agent market, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. With team president Pat Riley saying at the All-Star break that he would use the rest of the season to evaluate which players will be kept, Jackson assesses the situation for several impending free agents:
- James Johnson should get at least $10MM annually after his best NBA season, and possibly a contract similar to Evan Turner‘s at $70MM over four years. Johnson loves the team and the city, and the organization wants to bring him back.
- Dion Waiters is also enjoying a breakthrough season and wants to sign a long-term deal with the Heat. But if Dwyane Wade stays in Chicago, there will be little competition at the shooting guard position in free agency and Waiters could get an offer of $14MM per year or more.
- Wayne Ellington‘s $6.3MM deal for next season doesn’t need to be guaranteed until July 7th, the first day after the moratorium is lifted. The Heat will know where they stand with free agents before making that decision.
- Willie Reed can opt out of hiss $1.5MM deal, and Miami may need to use part or all of its $4.3MM room exception to keep him.
- The Heat have Bird rights on Luke Babbitt, so if he re-signs he will only count $1.47MM against the cap regardless of his salary.
If Chris Bosh is cleared off the cap as expected, Miami will have about $41MM in available space, with three small cap holds. If the Heat elect to keep Ellington and Babbitt, while using the room exception for Reed, that figure will be closer to $33MM. Jackson expects Riley to use that money to chase top-level free agents before committing to any of his current players.
There’s more today out of Miami:
- The Heat aren’t sure when Waiters will return from a sprained ankle he suffered Friday, Jackson writes in a separate story. Waiters was on crutches after the game and has been ruled out for today’s contest with Portland. Coach Erik Spoelstra said it’s too early to talk about when Waiters might play again. “He’s young. He heals fast,” Spoelstra said. “He healed very fast from the last one and he rolled that one all the way over. There’s no way to really tell until we get through this process. We’ll see how he feels after this weekend.”
- Wade is turning aside questions about free agency, but Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel envisions a scenario where the veteran guard could return to Miami next season. If Wade opts out of his $23.8MM deal, Miami could create additional cap room by trading Tyler Johnson, possibly to the Nets, who made the four-year, $50MM offer that the Heat elected to match.