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In a surprise to nobody, Hassan Whiteside will pick up $27.1 million option

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The Miami Heat have been looking to trade center Hassan Whiteside for a couple of years now, but finding someone who would take on his massive contract proved impossible (at least at the level of sweeteners the Heat were willing to throw in).

Whiteside’s no fool, he is not leaving that money on the table, and in an obvious and expected move will pick up the $27.1 million on his contract. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported it, but everyone knew this was coming.

Whiteside stands to make $27.1 million next season and plans to inform the Heat in the days before the June 29 deadline. Once he formally opts in, the Heat will be about $4 million over the projected $132 million luxury tax threshold, factoring in Miami’s first-round draft pick and forward Ryan Anderson’s expected buyout.

Bam Adebayo is now the starting center in Miami, Whiteside will make that money to come off the bench. That said, Whiteside put up numbers — 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, and he does it efficiently — and he wants more minutes to prove he could do more.

Miami would be more than happy to trade him and let him have those minutes on another team. We’ll see if that massive expiring contract can entice some teams into a trade.

Miami wants to be aggressive this summer, but they are already into the luxury tax, which ties their hands.

Rumor: Heat want to trade Dion Waiters, James Johnson

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We already told you about the report the Miami Heat have interest in J.R. Smith.

Why? As a salary dump. Trade for him around the draft, waive him before July 1 and his $15.7 million non-guaranteed salary becomes $3.9 million against the cap.

Miami is looking to make some other moves to free up cap space this summer, trying to trade some of their bad contracts. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

NBA officials who spoke to the Heat say Miami remains intent on trying to trade one of a few contracts with multiple years remaining, with James Johnson and Dion Waiters considered available on the trade market.

There is a lot of buzz around the league that the Heat will be ultra aggressive this summer, but to do that they will need more financial flexibility. Even if the Heat buy out Ryan Anderson (as expected), they will be roughly $5 million into the luxury tax next season. Which is why these rumors make some sense.

The question becomes what sweeteners are the Heat going to throw in to get a team to take on Waiters $24.8 million over two seasons, or Johnson at $31.5 million over two seasons?

If you’re thinking about a Smith for Waiters or Johnson trade with the Cavaliers, that sweetener question is still the same. Cleveland isn’t giving up one year of Smith for two of Waiters or Johnson without getting something else of value back in the mix (and a second-round pick isn’t going to cut it).

Trading the Goran Dragic or Hassan Whiteside contracts (entering their final years) will also be on the table for the Heat this summer, but it will not be easy to find those players a new home.

Report: Heat could be interested in JR Smith salary dump trade

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Cleveland Cavaliers guard JR Smith has not played professional basketball in 2019. The veteran shooter last suited up on Nov. 19, scoring two points in six minutes in a loss to the Detroit Pistons. Since then, both the Cavaliers and Smith have come together to mutually agree that he should simply just stay home.

Smith signed a wild 4-year, $57 million deal in the summer of 2016 with the Cavaliers. He made $14.7 million this season in Cleveland, and is slated to make $15.7 million next year.

For that reason, Smith is both a buyout candidate and a trade asset. Smith’s deal for 2019-20 is only guaranteed up to $3.87 million until June 30.

What means a team could decide to trade for Smith to empty salary in the direction of Cleveland. They could then either keep Smith, or cut him and pay just his guaranteed amount.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Miami Heat could be looking to add Smith as a means to dump some of their remaining salary.

Via The Athletic:

A team that has expressed an interest in a salary-designed trade of J.R. Smith: the Miami Heat, sources said. The Heat also have contracts they could look to move in the offseason in a deal such as this, and would have to absorb Smith’s deal.

There’s no shortage of candidates on the Miami roster could be included in a trade. Some potential options whose future with the team isn’t clear are Ryan Anderson, Kelly Olynyk, and Dion Waiters. And of course, Hassan Whiteside’s name always seems to get floated in these things.

Pat Riley is usually working levers and pushing buttons so he can land big, splashy free agents, but the team is ostensibly capped out this summer when lots of big names will be on the market. Signing, then cutting Smith could be a way to at least open up some room, both now and in the future.

In bid to avoid luxury tax, Heat waive Rodney McGruder

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The Heat significantly reduced their impending luxury-tax bill by dealing Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington for Ryan Anderson shortly before the trade deadline. The only surprise: Miami didn’t make another trade to escape the tax entirely.

But it might not be too late to dodge the tax.

The Heat waived Rodney McGruder yesterday. If another team claims him, Miami will get under the luxury-tax line this season.

McGruder won’t be eligible for the upcoming playoffs, and he’ll be a free agent this summer. But a team claiming him can this offseason:

  • Make him a restricted free agent with a $3,021,354* qualifying offer
  • Count him against the salary cap at just that amount until he’s signed or renounced
  • Use Early Bird Rights to exceed the cap to re-sign him to a starting salary up to the estimated average player salary

*Correction: McGruder is entitled to a higher qualifying offer because he met the starter criteria.

McGruder is a solid 3-and-D wing with some complementary skills. Plenty of teams would benefit from having the 27-year-old.

Including the Heat, who are still in the playoff race. But they deemed saving money more important than maximizing their long odds of reaching the postseason.

A team claiming McGruder off waivers must use a trade exception or cap space and have an open roster spot. No team will cross this year’s luxury-tax line to add McGruder. The Clippers make a lot of sense, especially because they could use his low cap hold next summer while pursuing star free agents. But teams below the Clippers in the standings will have priority and could also make a claim.

If McGruder goes unclaimed, Miami will lose him and still be on the hook for the luxury tax. So, this is a high-stakes waiver period for the Heat.

Pat Riley: Heat will pursue two max players in 2020

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In the 1995-96 season, the Heat traded for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.

In 2004, the Heat traded for Shaquille O’Neal.

In 2010, the Heat signed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Will Miami makes its next star splash in 2020?

Near-star Josh Richardson is locked into a relatively cheap contract for two more years. Bam Adebayo has two more seasons on his relatively low-paying rookie-scale deal. Justise Winslow, who’s maybe finding his groove, is guaranteed two more seasons on his rookie-scale extension.

That core could appeal to free agents in 2020, when Hassan Whiteside‘s, Ryan Anderson‘s and Goran Dragic‘s contracts expire.

Heat:

Heat president Pat Riley, in an interview with Jason Jackson:

We’re chasing a playoff spot when we’re young. And then we’re going to be chasing some players that can come in. If we can 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 years.

We’ve done this four times now, had a good group of players, young players, and then either through free agency or through trade brought the superstar in.

In 2020, we’ll have a lot of room. 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.

We’re very fluid. We’re very on top of it. And we are a destination place, Jax. The tax, the sun, the beautiful city. It’s a very progressive city, diverse city. So, we are a destination place. And we’re going to be moving in that direction.

That’s quite ambitious. But Riley has executed grand plans before. That will only embolden him to pursue this one.

It won’t be easy.

Miami projects to have just $34 million of cap space in 2020. A single max salary that summer projects to be $30 million-$41 million, depending on the player’s experience.

James Johnson ($16,047,100) and Kelly Olynyk ($13,598,243) have player options for the 2020-21 season. It’s difficult to see a 33-year-old Johnson or 29-year-old Olynyk declining those options. The Heat also owe Dion Waiters $12,650,000 that season.

Of course, there’s plenty of time to unload contracts. If this is Riley’s vision, keep an eye on those three players between now and next year’s trade deadline. Miami could also move its next two first-round picks to unload salary.

But even if the Heat clear double-max cap room, whom would the spend it on?

Anthony Davis is the big prize in 2020 free agency. After that, it’s slim pickings.

Most of this year’s All-Stars are already under contract for 2020-21. Several more – Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker, D'Angelo Russell and Nikola Vucevic – will be free agents this summer. While some could sign a one-year or 1+1 contract to return to free agency next summer, I wouldn’t bet on that. Dwyane Wade will be retired by then and is already in Miami. Dirk Nowitzki will also likely retire by then, but even if he doesn’t, he’s neither leaving the Mavericks nor commanding a substantial salary.

That leaves Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Simmons will be eligible for a contract extension this offseason. Even if he doesn’t sign one, he’ll be restricted in 2020. It’s nearly impossible to see him getting away in free agency that year.

Lowry will be 34. The Heat showed interest in him before, but that was five years ago. As he leaves his prime, he won’t draw nearly as much attention.

Aldridge will become a 2020 free agent only if waived. His $24 million salary for 2020-21 is $7 million guaranteed. But if his team would rather pay him $7 million to leave than $24 million to stay, that’d say something about his value.

Other players will emerge. This is far from set in stone. But a little more than a year out, the 2020 free-agent class looks very weak.

Is that really the year the Heat want to splurge?

Riley has already once admitted he regretted saying he planned to go whale hunting. I wonder whether his 2020 plan will eventually inspire a similar evaluation.