- It has been a tale of two seasons for Dion Waiters, who is enjoying perhaps his best year as a pro in Miami, but has also been slowed by various injuries, including the ankle sprain that currently sidelines him. Still, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel doesn’t expect those injuries to give the Heat much additional leverage in contract talks this summer with Waiters, since they’re not serious, long-term ailments.
In the latest edition of his mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel broached the subject of Miami adding depth to their shaky roster. As one of Winderman’s readers pointed out, the Heat are within striking distance of a playoff spot, but are missing several players due to injury. What’s more, they’ve committed a roster spot to Udonis Haslem– a great clubhouse presence who isn’t an in-game contributor at this point in his career. In response, Winderman wrote:
“The Heat, for at least another week, not only won’t be able to dress the allowable 13 players, but like Sunday, will only be able to dress 11. Yes, I appreciate the ‘we have enough’ mentality that coaches such as Erik Spoelstra stress. But having enough does not mean having the maximum possible resources in a playoff race that will make every game count. Whether it is signing Carlos Boozer back from China or adding a defensive wing, you raise a legitimate point. This team is hemorrhaging roster spots, and if the mantra is to be all-hands-on-deck, then playing with a full deck would be the best place to start.”
Now tied with Detroit for the eighth seed of the Eastern Conference, the Heat enter a vital stretch of their season without Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, or Josh McRoberts. While the team could pursue Lance Stephenson, whose second 10-day contract in Minnesota recently expired, he won’t be playoff eligible. Aside from reaching out to Boozer, Winderman lists Okaro White– who is “hardly getting off the bench lately”- as a potential source of production.
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.
A source with connections to basketball in China tells Stein that the Clippers and Heat are among the teams closely following Boozer’s exploits with the Guangdong Southern Tigers. Both teams have fully stocked rosters and would have to waive someone to make room for Boozer. The Heat have an obvious candidate as they are expected to seek a medical retirement for Chris Bosh at some point.
The 34-year-old Boozer last played in the NBA during the 2014/15 season, when he appeared in 71 games with the Lakers. He also spent time with the Cavaliers, Jazz and Bulls during a 13-year career.
Boozer would be eligible for the playoffs because he hasn’t been on another NBA roster this season. However, Guangdong’s success may work against him if the Chinese postseason lasts too long. Boozer must return to the United States and be signed by April 12th, the last day of the regular season, to participate in the playoffs.
- A stress fracture in his left foot has kept Heat forward Josh McRoberts out of action since December 27th, but he still might play this season, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Coach Erik Spoelstra offered an update today, saying, “He’s on the court a little bit now, and we’ll just have to see how he progresses.” McRoberts missed the preseason with a stress reaction in the foot, then returned to start 14 straight games before being sidelined again. He has a player option for 2017/18 worth slightly more than $6MM.
Dion Waiters is looking at a substantial raise this summer and he wants it to come from Miami, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The 25-year-old shooting guard is making an impressive case for himself in free agency, averaging a career-best 16.0 points per game and fueling a second-half surge that has the Heat back in the playoff race. Waiters, who is making $2.9MM this season, hopes his long-term future is in South Florida. “I want to get it done as quick as possible,” he said. “Let’s keep this thing rolling by any means. I don’t want to go into free agency with a couple days and make a decision. I don’t want that. I know where I want to be. Let’s just get it done. My mom loves it here. Would be mad at me [if I left]. My son loves it. My family loves it.”
There’s more news out of Miami:
- Waiters plans to contact former Heat star Dwyane Wade for tips on improving his game, Jackson writes in the same piece. He seems like an obvious candidate as Waiters has taken over Wade’s spot as a primary scorer in coach Erik Spoelstra’s offense. “I am definitely going to reach out to him to see if I can propel my game to a new level,” Waiters said. “That’s what the best players do.” If Waiters remains in Miami, it might prevent the Heat from having a reunion with Wade, who can opt out of his $23.8MM deal with the Bulls this summer.
- The Heat aren’t sure how a bruised right eye socket will affect point guard Goran Dragic, relays Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Dragic suffered the injury in the third quarter Saturday when he was hit with an elbow by Toronto’s Cory Joseph. Dragic said his vision was blurry, but he wasn’t dizzy and hopes to play tonight in Indiana. “The plan right now is to travel him,” Spoelstra said Saturday night. “We’ll see; we’ll be smart about it.”
- Development of players throughout the season has led the Heat to reassess not only their playoff chances, but their long-term future, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.
- Disabled player exceptions will expire for 2017 on Friday, and that’s relevant for the Heat, who received a modest DPE worth about $1.3MM when Justise Winslow went down for the season. As Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald details, that exception figures to go unused. Check out our glossary entry for more details on how disabled player exceptions work.
- In a separate piece for the Herald, Jackson breaks down why it makes more sense for the Heat to make a push for the playoffs rather than hoping to land in the lottery.
- The Heat have several options for dealing with Wayne Ellington‘s contract this summer, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. The guard has emerged as an elite source of production beyond the arc and may command significant amount more on the open market than if the franchise were to just pick up his $6.3MM option for 2017/18.
- Though he isn’t even on the Heat roster anymore, Cavaliers forward Derrick Williams has nothing but good things to say about Pat Riley, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. “The way things were going at that time, it was mutually agreed,” Williams said. “That was the best thing. We were both on the same page. It was a mutual parting. Everything [Riley] told me was the truth. I don’t think we have enough of that around here [in the NBA].”
Magic Johnson’s ascension to the Lakers‘ president of basketball operations hasn’t been met with universal praise. Sam Amick of USA Today recently summarized Johnson’s promotion, emphasizing the necessity of Magic recruiting elite players in free agency.
“If this massive move is going to pay off, it’s Johnson’s ability to attract and select the right talent that will determine his value,” Amick wrote. “But if Magic shoots an airball on the free agency recruiting front in July, perhaps suffering the same fate as the Lakers’ jettisoned basketball execs who couldn’t convince Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, then he’s just another inexperienced former player who is learning on the job.”
For what it’s worth, Johnson will enter the position with a powerful NBA figure supporting him. In an interview with Harvey Araton of The Vertical, Heat president Pat Riley gave Magic his full endorsement.
“Why shouldn’t Earvin get an opportunity?” Riley said. “Earvin is a guy who has been a prolific businessman…he’s gone into companies and changed management, changed the culture. He’s charismatic, gets up in front of people and puts an immediate face on an organization. To me, it’s a no-brainer that Earvin was given that position to capture the attention of the people in L.A. and to try to recapture that sense of continuity.”
Riley’s connection to Johnson has been well-documented. As head coach of the Lakers, Riley coached Magic to four NBA titles, calling Johnson “The smartest player I ever coached.”
“To adamantly say Earvin is not qualified is nonsense. Like Jerry West, he’s a prodigal son of the Lakers,” Riley added. “With everything that goes on, who knows how long he’s going to be there? And it’s not going to happen for him this year, or even in two years. But if they keep their [top-three protected] draft pick, with the young players they have, and Earvin’s reputation in that market, he’ll have a chance.”