Point guard Goran Dragic has decided to opt into the final season of his contract with the Heat, according to multiple league sources.
Dragic, who turned 33 on May 6, is now locked into the fifth and final year of the $85 million deal he signed with the Heat in the summer of 2015. He opted into a salary of $19.2 million for 2019-20.
With Dragic set to become a free agent in 2020 when his contract expires, his agent Rade Filipovich said Dragic “wants to stay in Miami forever.”
Dragic’s decision came earlier than expected, considering he had until June 29 to make it. With Dragic informing the Heat he will opt-in, he immediately becomes trade eligible.
If Dragic had delayed his decision past the June 20 NBA Draft, it would have prevented the Heat from including him in any draft-day trade or one that includes another team’s 2019 draft pick. Players with options in their contracts for the upcoming season can’t be traded until they opt-in.
There were no assurances given to Dragic by the Heat that he wouldn’t be traded, but Filipovich said Heat president Pat Riley indicated that he “likes Goran and his character and his game.”
The Heat currently has just one selection in this month’s draft — the No. 13 pick.
When asked his player option decision in April, Dragic said: “It’s a lot of factors. My family, where they feel comfortable. Me, where I’m going to feel comfortable. Winning. Everything. Where I feel that they want me, so it’s a lot of stuff. But like I said, I’m happy here in Miami. I told that to Pat and everybody, so we’ll see.”
Dragic averaged 13.7 points on 41.3 percent shooting from the field and 34.8 percent shooting on threes, 3.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists this past season. He missed 46 games, with right knee surgery in December forcing him to sit out 31 consecutive games until he returned immediately after the All-Star break in February.
With the Heat using a patient and cautious approach in bringing back Dragic following knee surgery and the emergence of 23-year-old Justise Winslow as a point guard, Dragic averaged 26.5 minutes of playing time after he returned from injury and did not return to the starting lineup until late March.
Dragic said early in the offseason that he had not experienced a setback with his surgically repaired knee and just needs to work on strengthening it for next season.
The Heat now awaits word from center Hassan Whiteside, who has until June 29 to decide on the $27.1 million player option in his contract. Like Dragic, Whiteside is expected to opt-in.
The Heat has 13 players under contract for 2019-20 (not accounting for an allocation for the first-round draft pick) who are due about $140 million. That includes the four players (Derrick Jones Jr., Yante Maten, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn) who don’t have their full 2019-20 salaries guaranteed yet. It also includes Whiteside and his player option.
The $140 million of combined salaries can be lowered by about $6 million by waiving Ryan Anderson by July 10. That still puts the Heat far above the projected $109 million salary cap and just above the projected $132 million luxury tax line.