After trading former first-round draft pick Shabazz Napier over the weekend, the Heat continued revamping its roster Monday by parting ways with two more players from last season’s team.
For the second consecutive day, the Heat dumped a player under a guaranteed contract, sending Zoran Dragic — younger brother of starting point guard Goran Dragic — to the Boston Celtics. Later in the day, Miami released journeyman forward Henry Walker to provide further roster flexibility and reduce its tax burden.
The separation of the Dragic brothers comes as a mild surprise. The two were traded to the Heat in February as somewhat of a package deal. But while Goran quickly became a star player in Miami, his younger brother played more last season for the Heat’s D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. With Boston, Zoran might have a better chance to earn playing time.
Similar to the deal that sent Napier to Orlando, the Heat received a protected second-round pick from the Celtics in exchange for Zoran Dragic.
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With three players from last season gone in the past two days, the Heat’s roster for the start of training camp is starting to take shape. The roster currently totals 14 players, and the addition of second-round pick Josh Richardson — who impressed during the summer leagues — would bring the lineup to the NBA’s roster limit of 15.
The Heat had 17 players under contract before the weekend, but an approaching deadline spurred this latest bit of offseason business.
Ennis’ contract had a partial guarantee clause that would have taken effect Saturday, but the Heat has amended it so Ennis will earn his entire $845,000 salary only if he’s on the team on the first day of the regular season. If he’s not, he earns nothing.
The deadline to partially guarantee the contract of Tyler Johnson is still Saturday. Johnson appears safe after the Napier deal.
Meanwhile, the Heat might still be looking to shop guard Mario Chalmers, who remained the subject of trade speculation Monday even after the flurry of deals.
Moving Chalmers off the Heat’s books (he is scheduled to earn $4.3 million this upcoming season) could save the team millions in luxury taxes.
At this point, though, the Heat must begin to weigh the cost of slashing payroll with depth behind its stellar starting lineup (not to mention loyalty to longtime players).
Chalmers is a proven veteran who can play either shooting guard or point guard. His experience would be important next season if Goran Dragic or Dwyane Wade misses time.
Behind Chalmers, the Heat’s only current potential backup point guard is Johnson, the second-year player who exceeded expectations last season and, just as importantly, was identified and cultivated by the Heat’s player development program.
Johnson handled the ball some this summer before sustaining a broken jaw in the Orlando summer league. Richardson also is a potential backup point guard (he played the position during his senior season at Tennessee), but he will be completely untested when the season begins.
FANS GIVE, RECEIVE
Heat fans David and Evelyn Adams donated $7,500 to The “V” Foundation recently in exchange for a night at a Heat game with Miami radio personalities Dan Le Batard and Stugotz.
The couple will watch a game of their choice next season with Le Batard and Stugotz, and then meet Heat president Pat Riley.
“Dan is a really smart guy, so I can’t wait to watch a game with him,” David Adams said.
David Adams, whose family has been affected by cancer, gives annually to The “V” Foundation, which was started in honor of late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano.
In a neat twist, David’s father, Bill, played high school basketball and football against Riley in upstate New York.
ROSTER TAKING SHAPE
A look at the Heat’s lineup following Monday’s moves:
▪ Forwards: Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Justise Winslow, Udonis Haslem, James Ennis, Josh McRoberts.
▪ Center: Hassan Whiteside, Chris Andersen, Amar’e Stoudemire.
▪ Guards: Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers, Tyler Johnson, Gerald Green.