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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.

Pacers use size to pull off big 111-102 win over Pistons

Associated Press
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Thaddeus Young scored 19 points and Domantas Sabonis added 18 points and 12 rebounds Monday night to help the Indiana Pacers snap a three-game losing streak with a 111-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

It was a crucial win for the Pacers, who had lost seven of their previous eight and their grip on potentially having home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Myles Turner chipped in with 17 points and five blocks.

Wayne Ellington scored a season-high 26 points and Andre Drummond had 18 points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons. Detroit started the night in the No. 6 spot with a 1 1/2-game lead over Orlando for the final playoff spot in the East.

But after a sluggish start, the struggling and short-handed Pacers finally got the spark they needed from their two big men, Sabonis and Turner.

Sabonis made his first five shots as Indiana charged back from an early 10-point deficit, and Turner made the big plays in the second half, including a 3-pointer and two free throws late in the third to give the Pacers an 87-80 edge.

The combination was just enough for the Pacers to slip past the Pistons, who were firing on all cylinders early to take a 33-23 lead.

Sabonis spurred a 12-5 second-quarter charge that got the Pacers within 43-41 and Indiana closed out the half on a 7-2 run to take a 59-55 lead.

When the recharged Pistons rallied in the third quarter with runs of 9-0 and 7-0 to retake a 77-74 lead, Sabonis answered with a short hook shot, Bojan Bogdanovic scored on a fast break and Turner scored seven points in the decisive 13-3 run that gave Indiana an 87-80 lead after the third quarter.

Sabonis also started the game-sealing 9-0 run with a 9-footer early in the fourth.

 

Wayne Ellington officially signs with Detroit Pistons

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There are playoff teams — and even Finals contenders — who are scouring the buyout market for shooters and wings who can help them. Which makes it interesting that Wesley Mathews decided to sign with the Pacers (and try to fill in some Victor Oladipo minutes), not going to a contender.

Now sharpshooting two guard Wayne Ellington has also chosen not to chase a ring.

Ellington was traded from Miami to Phoenix in a salary dump move for the Heat. The Suns quickly bought Ellington out and waived him, freeing him up to become a Piston.

Ellington shot 36.8 percent from three on 6.2 attempts per game this season in Miami, and that may be low for him.

He likely will start in Detroit and get a lot of run, which is clearly why he signed with the Pistons. Ellington had options and could have chased a ring, but he chose to get on the court and play. You have to like that attitude… unless you’re one of those contenders.

Report: Wayne Ellington signing with Pistons

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The Pistons just traded their best wing (Reggie Bullock) and another rotation wing (Stanley Johnson). And Detroit was already thin at the position.

Yet, the ninth-place Pistons – 1.5 games out of postseason position – also insist they’re still trying to make the playoffs.

Wayne Ellington will make that more feasible.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Like with Wesley Matthews choosing the Pacers, this is another surprising post-buyout decision. Both wings were likely pursued by better teams.

The sharp-shooting Ellington will likely start in Detroit, though it’s possible Luke Kennard or Bruce Brown starts and gets partnered with a bigger wing than Ellington. Either way, Ellington is primed for a bigger role than he had with the Heat. That’s clearly part of the reason he approved a trade from Miami/buyout from the Suns.

The Pistons have $2,889,072 of their mid-level exception remaining, but they’re also just $2,634,613 below the luxury-tax line. I’d be shocked if they go into the tax for Ellington. Still, Detroit can beat the pro-rated minimum Ellington could get from most other interested teams today ($762,306).

This signing casts the Pistons’ pre-deadline moves in a better light. Detroit got a younger players in Thon Maker and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk plus a second-round pick. Though the immediate downgrade on the wing stands, Ellington softens the blow.

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

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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.