The NBA informed teams last week that its expects the salary cap and luxury tax threshold will increase by about $5 million next season, a development that will give the Heat a bit more flexibility in assembling a supporting cast around its stars.
If the Heat is able to keep LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — who all have early termination options in their contracts this summer but haven’t said whether they will use them — then they will be above the salary cap, which is expected to be $63.2 million, up from $58.6 million this season.
The NBA also projects the luxury tax threshold to rise from $71.7 million to $77 million, and the tax is a big deal to the Heat because it becomes a lot more punitive next season. Because the Heat was a tax-paying team this season and the previous two, Miami will have to pay a repeater tax next season, combined with the regular tax.
Bottom line: If the Heat is $4 million over the tax threshold next season, its tax bill would be $10 million. If the Heat is $10 million over, the tax bill would top $26 million.
So let’s say the Big 3 stays in Miami at the salaries they are due to earn next season in their current contracts: $20.59 million for both James and Bosh, and $20.048 million for Wade. That would add up to $61 million.
Throw in the $2.15 million due Norris Cole, $4.6 million for Udonis Haslem (who assuredly won’t opt out) and $1.6 million for Chris Andersen (who might not opt out, either), and that’s $69.5 million.
And Miami would still have nine roster spots to fill, which would put it over the tax threshold. One could go to center Justin Hamilton, who has an $816,482 team option for next season.
But with a tax threshold of $77 million, the extra maneuverability could make it easier for Miami to re-sign Mario Chalmers and/or use its taxpayer mid-level exception (which will be $3.27 million) and/or use its $2.2 million trade exception (acquired in the Joel Anthony/Toney Douglas trade) without sustaining a crushing tax hit.
The tax hit on signing a 10-year veteran at the $1.4 million minimum is $500,000 below the $1.4 million figure, but only if it’s a one-year contract. That makes signing players to the minimum even more appealing for teams hoping to avoid a tax hit.
• If James and Bosh opt out, all three would be eligible to receive five years and 7.5 percent annual raises from the Heat, compared with four years and 4.5 percent raises from another team. So James could earn more by staying here. If Wade opts out, he likely would be taking less money in exchange for more years.
The original contracts signed by the Big 3 were six-year deals, with opt-out clauses after the fourth and fifth years, meaning the next two summers.
• Michael Beasley and Justin Hamilton were listed as the Heat’s two inactive players. Beasley, who sustained an ankle injury last Monday against Washington, “didn’t really progress the last couple of days the way we had hoped,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra opted not to use Shane Battier, Greg Oden and Douglas, who were all available and in uniform.
• James passed Larry Bird and moved into eighth place on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list with 3,898. Jerry West is seventh at 4,457.
• Bosh, who shot 4 for 13, said: “I had my shots. I just didn’t make them. I’m going to pick that up and the production will be better.”
• The Bobcats decided to return to Charlotte instead of staying in Miami for two days before Game 2 on Wednesday.