Will Newton/Getty Images

In bid to avoid luxury tax, Heat waive Rodney McGruder

Leave a comment

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

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
6 Comments

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.

Report: Heat trading Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington to Suns for Ryan Anderson

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
6 Comments

The Heat excel at getting players to help reduce the team’s luxury-tax bill, most infamously with Beno Udrih – injured and out for the rest of the season – accepting a buyout in 2016.

This year, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington are cooperating.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Johnson was entitled to a trade bonus of $1,043,817. But this deal doesn’t meet salary-matching requirements if he gets the full amount. It’d work only if Johnson gets $111,563 or less. So, he had to waive the rest of his trade bonus (or more) to allow the deal. I’m not sure why he left money on the table to leave Miami, which is in the playoff hunt and where he’s getting plenty of playing time, to get to lowly Phoenix. Perhaps, he sees an opportunity with the Suns desperate at point guard. The Heat’s backcourt is more crowded with Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Dwyane Wade, Rodney McGruder, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic, who’ll eventually get healthy. Still, it’s not as if the Suns will remain content with Johnson. They’ll keep searching for upgrades.

As someone on a one-year contract who’ll have Bird Rights this offseason, Ellington had the right to veto any trade. His decision to approve makes more sense. He wasn’t playing in Miami, and it seems Phoenix will flip him to a better team or, more likely, buy him out. The sweet-shooting Ellington could help plenty of winners.

The Heat now reduce their pending luxury-tax bill by $7,958,197 and save $1,841,835 on the players’ remaining salaries for the rest of this season (though Miami will have to pay any trade bonus Johnson received). Now just $1,176,019 over the luxury-tax line, expect the Heat to find another move that gets them fully out of the tax before tomorrow’s trade deadline.

Miami also shapes up to save money next season. Johnson will be due $19,245,370, but just $15,643,750 of Ryan Anderson‘s $21,264,635 2019-20 salary is guaranteed.

The 30-year-old Anderson hasn’t played much for the Suns, and this trade calls attention to him reducing his 2019-20 guarantee to facilitate a trade from the Rockets last offseason. Miami has even less of a place for Adnderson, and it appears that money is going down the drain for him.

That leaves Johnson as the only player involved in this trade likely to receive a substantial role with his new team. The 26-year-old is a reasonable combo guard who’s wildly overpaid. Phoenix apparently values at him at the $3,601,620 difference between Johnson’s salary and Anderson’s guaranteed amount next season plus the cost of taking Ellington now. Considering any team considering trading for Johnson next season will consider him at his full salary, I don’t like the Suns’ move here.

For the Heat, it’s a big money-saver that couldn’t be turned down. It’ll look even better if/when they fully dodge the tax with one more move.

Three Things to Know: Damian Lillard goes off for a Portland-record 10 three pointers

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Damian Lillard goes off for a Portland-record 10 three-pointers in Blazers’ victory. When Damian Lillard gets hot —yes, I believe in the hot-hand theory, so sue me — there is no more dangerous player in the NBA.

Wednesday night, Lillard was hot — 10 three-pointers made on his way to 41 points, sparking a 115-112 win over Orlando. Lillard was 10-of-15 from three on the night.

The previous Portland record had been nine threes in a game, which Lillard co-held with Nicolas Batum. The Blazers also tied a team record with 12 threes in the first half. They ended up needing all of that against a pesky Orlando team that is playing everyone tough right now behind the career-best play of Nikola Vucevic.

2) Kyle Korver will help but isn’t the answer in Utah. The scuffling Utah Jazz got a little better on Wednesday.

For one thing, the Jazz got Donovan Mitchell back from injury, their offense looked less bad (not quite good, but better) as Utah got a win on the road in Brooklyn. That improved the Jazz to 10-12 and moved them up to 13th in the crowded West (still way below expectations, we all thought this was a top-three team in the West before the season).

Utah also got better because they traded for Kyle Korver. The Jazz are sending Alec Burks and two future second-round picks (theirs in 2020 and the Wizards in 2021) to Cleveland for the 37-year-old sharpshooter.

The trade should make Utah a little better, but it isn’t a game changer — they still need a high-quality secondary playmaker to take some of the pressure off Mitchell. However, Korver should help the second unit.

As a team, the Jazz have struggled from three this season, shooting 31.9 percent, third worst in the league. Joe Ingles has carried the team’s shooting load hitting 38.5 percent from three on six attempts per game, but the rest of the team combined is shooting 30.2 percent from deep. Donovan Mitchell is taking 6.7 threes a game and hitting 28.9 percent, Jae Crowder is 6.2 per game and is knocking down 29.2 percent, and even Grayson Allen — drafted out of Duke as a shooter — is at 28.6 percent. Second spectrum tracking data shows the Jazz as a team are generating good looks but not hitting the shot — Utah as a team is shooting 31.1 percent on open threes (defender 4-6 feet away) and 34.5 percent on wide open threes (defender more than six feet away, Utah’s shooting percentage on those is sixth worst in the league).

Korver is shooting 46.3 percent from beyond the arc this season on 3.4 attempts per game. The Jazz need that.

Expect Korver to play with Utah’s second unit — the Jazz have really struggled with their shooting and spacing the second Ingles goes to the bench. Now Korver will come in and provide some of that shooting. Korver is 37 and will be 38 before the playoffs start, he doesn’t move as well as he once did and the Jazz will get torched a few times on defense because of him, but when the Jazz have the ball defenders can’t leave him. The Jazz are a system team, they can run Korver off a series of picks to get him looks and the defenses will have to respect him.

Korver isn’t the answer to all the Jazz problems — their defense has been average this season (and just bad when Rudy Gobert sits) and they need another playmaker — but he helps them in a key area. Korver makes them better.

And the price was not that steep, but was as good a haul as Cleveland could expect. Burks can give them some nightly minutes on the wing this season, and he is in the last year of his contract so he helps free up some cap space for Cleveland. With this deal happening now, it’s also possible the Cavs could flip Burks in another deal at the trade deadline. The two second-round pick is about right — no team was giving up a first for Korver — and that 2021 Washington one has the potential to be a high second rounder with some real value.

3) After thrashing by Dallas 128-108, Houston is now the 14-seed in the West. Going into this season we expected the Rockets to be the second-best team in the West, third best at worst. It felt like they took a step back in the off-season on the wing, but this team still had the MVP James Harden, plus Chris Paul and Clint Capela.

After getting crushed by Dallas 128-108 on Wednesday, the 9-11 Rockets are the 14 seed in the West. (The good news for Houston is it’s the crowded West, so it is just 1.5 games out of the playoffs and, amazingly, five games out of first place.)

The Rockets were without Chris Paul again Wednesday (hamstring) and guys missing time has been one factor in the slow start for the Rockets. But it’s more than that. Carmelo Anthony is gone, Jeff Bzdelik is back on the bench as an assistant coach, and yet the defense is still a disaster — third worst in the NBA for the season, worst in the NBA by 5.1 points per 100 possessions in the last five games.

The Rockets’ roster is top-heavy, but that’s how it is with contenders (the Warriors have the same situation). The problem in Houston is Daryl Morey’s off-season bets on role players have not worked out at all — it’s not just that Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Ryan Anderson are gone, it’s that their replacements (Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss) have not worked out. At all. Then you throw in the injuries, not just to CP3 but to Gerald Green and Nene, and you have a team that just lacks depth and continuity. The nights Harden can’t bail them out, they lose (and sometimes, even when he drops 54, they lose).

When the Rockets get healthy they will be good enough to make the playoffs (the team is 8-4 when both Paul and Harden play), but they are not the team we thought they could be. Morey is actively looking for trades that will help fill in the wing depth, but that may be too little, too late at this point.

• BONUS THING TO KNOW: Watch Khris Middleton‘s game-winner for Milwaukee. Kids, this is why your coaches preach rebounding.

Milwaukee grabbed three offensive rebounds in the final 10 seconds, eventually kicking the ball out to Middleton who drained a three and gave the Bucks a 116-113 win over the Bulls Wednesday.

Report: Suns will not pick up fourth-year option on Dragan Bender

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If you want to know what ultimately did in Ryan McDonough as the Suns’ general manager, go back to the draft of 2016.

At No. 8, the Sacramento Kings took Marquise Chriss for the Suns in a trade that sent the rights to  Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Kings — Bogdanovic made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team last season with 11.8 points per game while shooting 39.2 percent from three. (Georgios Papagiannis also went to Sacramento in that deal.) Chriss never panned out and was sent to Houston along with Brandon Knight for the aging Ryan Anderson last summer. The Rockets are not expected to pick up next year’s rookie contract option on Chriss. Phoenix struck out there.

At No. 4, McDonough and the Suns to Dragan Bender.

Tuesday it was announced the team will not pick up the option on his fourth season, still on his rookie contract. From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Suns will decline Bender’s option, freeing themselves of the $5.8 million salary that he would have been guaranteed in 2019-20, league sources said….

“Of course, I wished they picked up my option but I’m not going to let this stop me from reaching my goals,” Bender told ESPN in a text message.

The Suns’ new management is trying to move on from the mistakes of the past. As they should.

Last season the Suns tried to make it work with Bender, playing him in all 82 games and 25 minutes a night, but he was passive on offense and scored 6.5 points per game, with a PER of 7.1 (the kind of number that suggests a G-League player).

Bender (and Chriss) will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. The rest of this season he has to impress some team enough to take a flier on him (that may require some Summer League run, where Bender has not impressed in the past