Miami Heat’s ‘training camp will be about more competition,’ says Riley
As expected, center Hassan Whiteside opted into the final season of his contract with the Heat on Friday, according to a league source.
Whiteside, who turned 30 on June 13, is now locked into the fourth and final year of the $98 million deal he signed with the Heat in the summer of 2016. He opted into a salary of $27.1 million for 2019-20 and is the Heat’s highest-paid player.
While there was a report that surfaced earlier in the week that Whiteside could opt in and then request a trade from the Heat, a league source said no trade demand has been made or is expected to be made.
“There’s been nothing like that,” Heat president Pat Riley said early Friday morning when asked about a possible trade demand from Whiteside. “Everything that you read like that, I read a comment or something, a blurb in the paper the other day about that. There’s nothing going on. I do believe he’s going to opt in and he’s going to come to training camp like everybody else this year and earn it. And I think that’s where we are right now with all of our players. And it’ll be the same thing with Goran [Dragic]. It’s going to be very competitive.”
The timing of the opt in is not a surprise, as waiting until after Thursday’s draft prohibited the Heat from including him in any draft-day trade or one that includes another team’s 2019 draft pick. But now that Whiteside has opted in, he is trade eligible.
Whiteside averaged 12.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 72 games this past season. He played 23.3 minutes per game, which is the fewest minutes he’s averaged since joining the Heat in the middle of the 2014-15 season.
After starting in each of his first 53 games last season, Whiteside was moved to a bench role.
Bam Adebayo, who just completed his second NBA season, took Whiteside’s spot in the Heat’s starting lineup. Whiteside served as a reserve in the Heat’s final 20 games.
That new bench role prompted Whiteside to say of his player option in April: “I’m definitely going to weigh my options. It’s definitely a decision I got to make and do the best for me. I feel like if I’m playing, I’m going to produce so it will take care of itself. ... I don’t think I’m a 20-minute guy. I average what, 20 minutes? So I think I can play more and I can do more. So I definitely think what I bring to the game is at a high level for my position. You know, I led the league in categories that you would want a big man to lead the league in. I feel like I can keep doing that.”
Whiteside has pointed to his per-36 numbers in the past as proof that he can do more with additional playing time. He averaged 19.1 points and a league-leading 17.6 rebounds per 36 minutes this past season.
But in the end, Whiteside opted in to remain under contract with the Heat. Goran Dragic also opted into the final season of his contract with the Heat, which will pay him $19.2 million in 2019-20.
Without counting the Heat’s two draft picks, Tyler Herro and KZ Okpala, the Heat now has 13 players under contract for 2019-20 who are due about $140 million.
That number does not include Udonis Haslem, who becomes a free agent July 1 and is still deciding whether to return for a 17th NBA season or retire. But it does include the four players (Derrick Jones Jr., Yante Maten, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn) who don’t have their full 2019-20 salaries guaranteed yet.
The $140 million of combined salaries can be lowered by about $6 million by waiving Ryan Anderson by July 10 — a move that’s expected. But even with that cap savings, the Heat has about $138 million in 2019-20 salary cap commitments when factoring in Herro’s $3.6 million cap hit. That still puts Miami above the projected $109 million salary cap and just above the projected $132 million luxury tax line for next season.
The Heat currently has no cap space to spend and is above the luxury tax threshold. Free agent negotiations are allowed to begin on June 30.