The Miami Heat will have several tough decisions to make this offseason.
Miami currently has only four players with guaranteed contracts (valued at $48.2 million) for the 2016-17 season, per Basketball Insiders. That number could jump to seven players and around $51 million, if Tyler Johnson ($1.18 million) receives and accepts his qualifying offer and Josh Richardson ($874,636) along with Briante Weber’s ($874,636) return — Richardson ($874,636) and Weber ($874,636) both have non-guaranteed contracts.
Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, and Josh McRoberts are the players with fully guaranteed deals.
According to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, Richardson –whose contract becomes fully guaranteed on September 1 – and Weber, whose contract becomes partially guaranteed on the first day of the season, are expected to be back with the Heat due to their low-salaries.
Richardson is a good shooter and can handle the ball relatively well, but does little else. The 22-year-old averaged 6.6 points and 2.1 rebounds, as well as 1.7 assists, while shooting in 52 regular season games. He shot 45.2 percent from the floor and 46.1 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season. Richardson then averaged 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists while shooting 37.1 percent from the field and 37.0 percent on three-point attempts during the postseason.
Weber is a pass first point guard that has the ability to create havoc on the defensive end. He struggles shooting the ball and is a non-threat from beyond the arc. The 23-year-old averaged 4.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in seven games with Memphis and Miami.
Tyler Johnson reportedly would like to return to the Heat. The 24-year-old played well in his 36 games this year, averaging 8.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range. He missed three months following shoulder surgery. The New York Post suggests that the New York Knicks may be interested in Johnson.
Depending on what the Heat ultimately decides to do with the three players above, the Heat will have at least seven unrestricted free agents – Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Luol Deng, Udonis Haslem, Amar’e Stoudemire, Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, and Dorell Wright. The bigger problem for the Heat is that they are already against the cap, as Wade has a cap hold of $29 million and Deng has a cap hold of $13.1 million.
The Heat’s top offseason priority is to re-sign Whiteside, according to Miami’s president, Pat Riley.
“He’s a game-changer, I don’t even think he’s reached his real ceiling.”
Whiteside, who was named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team, had a career year in 2015-16. The 26-year-old produced 41 double-doubles and three triple-doubles. He finished the season averaging 14.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks. Whiteside also shot 60.6 percent from the field and improved his free throw shooting to 65 percent, which is up from 50 percent in 2014-15.
Whiteside is expected to have plenty of suitors this summer and will likely command a max salary. However, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Heat will try to lock up Whiteside for a little less than the max. Jackson says that Miami will try to sell Whiteside on the lack of income tax in Florida, his comfort level with the Heat, and the fact that his current team could offer him bigger raises than any other suitor.
Miami also plans to try to re-sign Wade, Joe Johnson, and Deng. The Heat want Wade to take another one-year deal (like he did last summer), in the $15-20 million range, in order to give them some financial flexibility. The 34-year-old played in 74 games last season, his highest total since 2010-11, and averaged 19 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game. Wade upped his production in the playoffs, averaging 21.4 points, 5.6 boards, and 4.3 assists while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 52.2 percent from the three-point line.
Johnson was a lifesaver for the Heat. Miami went 16-8 after signing Johnson, who received his release from the Brooklyn Nets following the trade deadline. The 34-year-old scored in double-figures 18 times during that stretch and averaged 13.4 points while shooting 51.8 percent from the floor. The Heat are expected to offer their $2.8 million mid-level exemption, but ESPN expects Johnson to look to sign with a title contender as he looks for his first championship.
Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel believes that it will be hard for the Heat to keep Deng if they re-sign Whiteside or bring another free agent. The 31-year-old, who is expected to draw interest from several teams this offseason and may command around $12 million a year, thrived after Chris Bosh was derailed by his blood clots. Deng averaged 12.3 points and 6.0 caroms for the season.
Speaking of Bosh, Brian Windhorst of ESPN recently wrote that the Heat are fearful that the 32-year-old may never play again. Bosh was in the midst of his best season since 2011-12 before he was shut down as a result of blood clots.
If Bosh is unable to play next season, it would likely limit Miami’s cap flexibility. Bosh signed a fully-guaranteed five-year, $118 million contract to stay with the Heat in the summer of 2014. No matter what happens from here on out, he’ll receive every dollar owed to him on that deal.
Amar’e Stoudemire, Gerald Green, and Dorell Wright are not expected to return to the Heat. Although the Heat reportedly would welcome Stoudemire and Green back, if they accept the veteran’s minimum salary. On the other hand, Haslem, who has spent his entire 13-year career in Miami, is expected back though he will likely also have to accept the veteran’s minimum to secure his return.
Since there is so much uncertainty with the Heat at this point, they may ultimately have several areas of need. But if Whiteside and Wade return, Bobby Marks of The Vertical believes they will turn their attention to obtaining a starting small forward. Miami may also have to look for Bosh’s replacement, if he is not deemed fit to play.
The Heat do not have a draft pick in this year’s draft, marking the first time since 2006 that Miami does not have a draft selection. Marks also noted that the Heat do not have the ability to buy their way into second round as they used their remaining cash at the trade deadline.
That doesn’t that Miami won’t ultimately end up with a draft choice come June 23. Winderman believes that the Heat may try to trade Dragic and/or McRoberts in an attempt to clear cap space. If Miami deals Dragic, they are expected to ask for at least one first round choice in return.
[Photo by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press]