Miami Heat

What if Udonis Haslem does decide to return? A look at where Heat’s roster stands

The start of free agency is just days away, but the Heat’s roster for next season looks like it’s already almost full.

As it stands, the Heat has 13 players who are realistic candidates to make next season’s 15-man roster: Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr., Duncan Robinson, Yante Maten, and draft picks Tyler Herro and KZ Okpala.

Jones’ full $1.6 million salary for 2019-20 becomes guaranteed Aug. 1. Robinson and Maten hold partially guaranteed $1.4 million contracts for 2019-20. Guard Kendrick Nunn is not on the list, but he will also have an opportunity to make the Heat’s roster as he holds a non-guaranteed $1.4 million deal for 2019-20.

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With the Heat already above the luxury-tax threshold, it could move forward with a 14-player roster (one shy of the league limit) this upcoming season. The two additional two-way contracts the Heat can offer are not included in this total, which allows Miami to sign two players who don’t count against the roster limit or salary cap and spend most of the season in the G League.

If the Heat uses a full, 15-man roster, the last spot is expected to belong to Udonis Haslem if he returns for his 17th season. Haslem, 39, is still considering retirement.

Haslem delivered a message through Instagram on Monday morning for those questioning whether the Heat should again use its final roster spot on a veteran who has logged only 277 minutes in 40 regular-season games since the start of the 2016-17 season.

“What I’ve grown to realize in my life is that my obsession with success, my drive to overcome obstacles and my overall work ethics is way higher than most. And I’m OK with that,” Haslem wrote Monday as part of a long Instagram post accompanied by a photo of him in a gym. “It makes sense why most think I should retire at 39. Cause most would. Cause most are average minded. Most don’t look like this at 39! Hell they ain’t look like this at 19. Lol. So y’all keep worrying about the last spot on the roster while I sit back and stay ready so I don’t gotta get ready. I’m not saying I’m playing next year but if u with me then u will support whatever I do!! Not tell me what to do!!”

The capped-out Heat will have to rely on exceptions, minimum contracts, the power of Bird Rights, and trades to fill out its roster.

With the Heat already more than $20 million over the projected $109 million salary cap for 2019-20, the expectation is Haslem would play another season at a veteran minimum salary, which is $2.6 million, if he returns. Haslem has played on a minimum deal in each of the previous two seasons.

“We had a great conversation about a lot of things and what he feels and how he feels about whether he should play, about the city, about the team,” Heat president Pat Riley said last week about his end-of-season meeting with Haslem. “He told me that he’s not finished yet with these guys. He feels like he could do some more mentoring and that can be done in any capacity, whether he wants to play or it’s in another capacity. I’ve never said this about many players that I’ve coached or managed — he doesn’t want to — but I think he would be an exceptional coach.”

Haslem is the Heat’s lone free agent this offseason, with Dwyane Wade now retired.

Free agent negotiations are allowed to begin on Sunday at 6 p.m, with free agents allowed to sign contracts starting at noon on July 6.

More on Heat’s draft-night trade

According to Eric Pincus, a salary-cap expert for Basketball Insiders and NBA TV, the draft-night trade between the Heat and Nuggets included Denver sending $1.2 million to Miami and the less favorable of 2022 second-round picks from either Denver or Philadelphia.

The Nuggets acquired Oregon center Bol Bol after Miami drafted Bol with the No. 44 overall pick to complete the trade.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.