The Miami Heat’s decision to enter the regular season with 14 players isn’t surprising, but it is a rare one.
How rare? The Heat is on track to start the season with fewer than the NBA maximum of 15 players for the first time since 2003-04, and that team didn’t stay with 14 players for very long as it added guard Kirk Penney less than a week later to get up to the 15-player limit.
But as it stands right now, the Heat will enter Wednesday’s season opener against the Magic with the NBA minimum of 14 players on its roster after waiving Rodney Purvis, Raphiael Putney, Jarnell Stokes and Briante Weber on Saturday.
NBA teams have a 5 p.m. Monday deadline to cut rosters to a maximum of 15 players, which does not include those under two-way contracts. Because of the 48-hour waiver period, teams had to make these moves by 5 p.m. Saturday.
There are no surprises among the 14 players who are set to start the season on the Heat’s roster. Each one is under a guaranteed contract — Hassan Whiteside ($25.4 million cap hit for this season), Tyler Johnson ($19.2 million), Goran Dragic ($18.1 million), James Johnson ($14.7 million), Kelly Olynyk ($12.5 million), Dion Waiters ($11.6 million), Josh Richardson ($9.4 million), Wayne Ellington ($6.3 million), Justise Winslow ($3.4 million), Bam Adebayo ($3 million), Rodney McGruder ($1.5 million), Derrick Jones Jr. ($1.5 million), Dwyane Wade ($1.5 million) and Udonis Haslem ($1.5 million).
The Heat usually prefers to keep the maximum of 15 players on its roster as a proactive approach in case of injuries or depth issues. However, Miami’s position above the luxury tax helped push the team to move forward with 14.
With the Heat already about $6.3 million above the luxury tax threshold, its luxury tax bill stands at about $9.7 million in addition to normal player salaries. Keeping a 15th player on the minimum scale salary of $1.5 million would have added $2.6 million to that bill to push it to a total of about $12.3 million, which means a 15th player would have cost the Heat a total of about $4 million between salary and tax.
Miami has until the end of the regular season to make moves to reduce the tax burden or get completely below the line to avoid paying the penalty. With this current roster, the Heat has to shed about $6.3 million over the next six months to avoid the $9.7 million bill.
Undrafted rookies Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten will remain on two-way contracts with the Heat and are expected to spend a lot of time with the organization’s developmental affiliate in South Dakota, the G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce. These players don’t count against Miami’s salary cap or 15-man roster, and can’t be poached by another team as they can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams and the rest of the time must be spent with the G League affiliate.
Robinson, who averaged 6.7 points on 36.1 percent shooting in six preseason games, and Maten, who averaged 7.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in six preseason games, are expected to be with the Heat when it opens the season next week because two-way contract players’ 45-day clock does not begin until the Oct. 22 start of G League training camps — three games into Miami’s regular season.
The four Heat players who were waived Saturday — Purvis, Putney, Weber and Stokes — will have the option to join the Skyforce unless another NBA team signs them.
Weber and Stokes could end up with Sioux Falls as returning-rights players because they have previously been with the Skyforce. Both players were on the Sioux Falls team that won the championship in 2016 under current Heat assistant coach Dan Craig.
Weber was disappointed by the Heat’s decision to waive him. The point guard tweeted Saturday morning: “Some things just don’t change smh [shake my head].”
Weber has been through this before with Miami, first signing with the Heat on Oct. 19, 2015 and re-signing with the team two more times since then. He’s played in one regular-game for the Heat during his multiple stints with the organization, and averaged 9 points, 3 assists and 2.6 steals in five preseason games this year.
Stokes averaged 5.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in the preseason.