Welcome to the second edition of the Miami Herald’s new Miami Heat mailbag.
This will be a weekly feature throughout the season and offseason. It’s here to answer your questions about the team, whatever those questions might be.
If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang). You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Peter: If you would have told me in 2015 when the Heat used a second-round pick to draft Josh Richardson that we could flip him for an All-Star player like Jimmy Butler, I would have done the deal in a second. Why is the Heat now hesitant to do that trade?
Anthony Chiang: Because a lot has changed over the past three years. With the help of the Heat, Josh Richardson has turned himself into a quality two-way player who is still growing. Richardson is already better than most expected him to be when he was drafted in 2015 and he’s not done improving. That’s the first reason Miami is hesitant.
Second, value matters. There aren’t too many contracts out there that have the value of Richardson’s deal. He’s in the first year of a four-year, $42 million extension he signed last offseason. That means Richardson is under a bargain contract for three more seasons after this one, and he’s making an average of $10.5 million in that time. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler is set to earn $20.4 million this season and will be looking to sign a five-year, $190 million extension with any team he’s traded to. That contract would come with a cap hit of $43 million in the final year of the deal, which is more than the entire value of Richardson’s four-year, $42 million extension. So yes, Butler is better than Richardson right now. But, how much better? Richardson will earn $42 million over the next four seasons, while Butler will make over $200 million over the next six seasons. Is the gap between Richardson and Butler that big?
This isn’t an easy decision to make. The Heat has to weigh all of this and more in any trade discussions it has with the Minnesota Timberwolves. To make all of this even more complicated, other players involved in a potential trade would change how one looks at the Richardson for Butler swap. For example, if the Heat can shed a bad contract while giving up Richardson for Butler, it makes easier to accept. But if the Heat has to take on a bad contract from Minnesota in this deal, there’s no reason to accept. Again, all of this is just not as simple as many think it is.
@T0928Tucker: Who will make the roster’s 15th spot? And the two two-way spots? My prediction: Briante Weber is the 15th and Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten hold onto the two-way contracts.
Anthony: There’s a real chance nobody takes the Heat’s 15th roster spot, with the 14 players under guaranteed contracts as the only locks to make the team. With Miami’s two two-way contract players -- Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten -- allowed to spend up to 45 days on NBA rosters, it can use them to fill any holes if Dion Waiters and James Johnson continue to miss time due to injuries. And that 45-day clock does not begin until the Oct. 22 start of G League training camps – three games into the Heat’s regular season. That means Miami will have its two-way contract players for the opening week of the season whether it fills the 15th roster spot or not. Plus, keeping a 15th player is just going to add to the Heat’s luxury-tax bill, which is currently at about $9.7 million. At approximately $6.3 million above the tax line, the Heat needs to shed that amount of payroll by the end of the season in order to get below the tax and avoid paying a penalty.
Either way, we’ll know the answer to this question soon. With 20 players on the preseason roster, the Heat has to get down to (or below) the regular-season limit of 15 by Monday’s deadline at 5 p.m. Most of the moves have to be made by Saturday because of the league’s 48-hour waiver period.