Assuming Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic exercise their player options for next season, the Heat won’t be in position to open up cap room this summer. The club would have over $129MM in guaranteed money on its books for 2019/20 in that scenario, well above the projected $109MM cap.
However, with the contracts for Whiteside and Dragic set to expire in 2020, Heat president Pat Riley believes his team can be a major player during free agency that offseason. Riley said as much in an interview with Heat reporter Jason Jackson (video link), as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel relays.
“In 2020, we’ll have a lot of room,” Riley said. “We’ll also have the possibility to have enough room to go after two max contracts, and we’re going to do that. So we’re planning that 2020 will be the room year.”
The NBA’s latest salary cap projection calls for a $118MM cap for 2020/21. Currently, the Heat project to have about $71.6MM on their books for that season if James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk pick up ’20/21 player options. So Riley’s suggestion that the team will have two max slots may hinge on one or both of those players opting out.
While Riley and the Heat are eyeing that 2020 offseason as their next opportunity to make a major splash in free agency, it sounds like he’s not ruling out the possibility of pursuing upgrades this coming summer, when the club will have a mid-level exception available.
“We’re chasing a playoff spot and we’re young, and then we’re going to be chasing some players that could come in,” Riley said, per Winderman. “If we could get one or two players to come in with this group, this young group, then I think the sky’s the limit for this team in the next couple of years.”
Here’s more from Riley on the Heat, via Winderman:
- If they continue to slump, the Heat – who currently rank 10th in our reverse standings – would be in position to snag a pretty favorable draft pick. However, Riley wants to see the squad continue pushing for one of the final playoff spots in the East. “It’s absolutely essential that they grow with experience, but not only experience with the playing time, but they get to the playoffs,” Riley said. “… I don’t care if you’re fighting for spot number eight or seven or five or three or the top spot or you’re fighting for a championship. You’ve got to be chasing something that’s positive.”
- While Riley sounds far more interested in earning the No. 8 seed than in landing a top-10 pick in the draft, he dismissed the idea that he doesn’t value draft picks: “People think I don’t believe in draft picks. They’re so wrong. … Draft picks are very important to us.”
- Riley suggests that Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Josh Richardson are the key members of the Heat’s young core going forward. However, the club president also mentioned Derrick Jones Jr., and noted that players like Dion Waiters (25), Olynyk (27), and Whiteside (28) are still fairly young.