Kendrick Nunn on his Heat summer debut
To sign any free agent, including Udonis Haslem, the Heat needed to release a player on a nonguaranteed/partially guaranteed contract or make a trade that shed salary.
On Monday, the Heat made that move by waiving a player on a partially guaranteed deal. Miami released forward Yante Maten, whose guarantee was set to increase from $100,000 to $150,000 for this upcoming season if he was not released by Thursday. The move brings the Heat’s roster to 13 players under standard NBA contracts.
The Heat is likely to open the season with a 13- or 14-player roster due to the hard cap it is operating under because of the sign-and-trade acquisition of Jimmy Butler. Miami now stands a little more than $2 million below the $138.9 million hard cap, which is enough room to sign a veteran such as Haslem to the minimum.
Haslem is still deciding whether to return for a 17th NBA season or retire. If Haslem returns and signs a one-year, $2.6 million veteran minimum contract with Miami, he will count about $1.6 million against the hard cap.
Maten, who was one of the Heat’s two-way contract players last season, averaged 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in five Las Vegas summer league games earlier this month. Undrafted in 2018 out of Georgia, he averaged 23.5 points on 53.9 percent shooting from the field and 32.7 percent shooting on threes and 9.6 rebounds for the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, last season.
Maten is not eligible to join the Skyforce or sign a two-way contract with the Heat this season because he has already received more than $50,000 in guarantees from Miami.
With the release of Maten, the Heat has three remaining players under nonguaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts counting against the hard cap: forward Derrick Jones Jr. (full 2019-20 salary of $1.6 million), forward Duncan Robinson ($1.4 million) and guard Kendrick Nunn ($1.4 million).
Jones, 22, is pretty much a certainty to make the roster, as he’s expected to be a consistent part of the Heat’s rotation next season. Jones’ full $1.6 million salary becomes guaranteed Thursday.
Robinson is also on the track to make the Heat’s regular-season roster, unless he’s traded, because he has already been guaranteed $1 million of his full $1.4 million salary for next season. The rest of his salary becomes guaranteed if he’s still on Miami’s roster at midseason.
As for Nunn, the 23-year-old made a very strong case to make the Heat’s roster as one of the standouts at summer league. Nunn, who was named to the NBA Summer League First Team, averaged 22 points while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 38.5 percent shooting on threes, 4.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists in six summer league games.
Nunn has been guaranteed $50,000, and it jumps to $150,000 if he’s not waived by Thursday. While Nunn has not been given any assurances from the Heat on what will happen during the next few days, the expectation is that he will remain on the roster past this week because of his impressive summer and the team’s decision to waive Maten.
The Heat currently has 10 players under guaranteed contracts: Butler (a 2019-20 salary of $32.7 million); Goran Dragic ($19.2 million); James Johnson ($15.3 million); Kelly Olynyk ($13.1 million); Justise Winslow ($13 million); Dion Waiters ($12.1 million); Meyers Leonard ($11.3 million); Tyler Herro ($3.6 million); Bam Adebayo ($3.5 million); and KZ Okpala ($898,000).
Along with the three players under nonguaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts, the Heat also signed Kyle Alexander, Jeremiah Martin and Chris Silva to Exhibit 9 and 10 contracts, which includes an invitation to training camp and leaves open the possibility for all three to eventually play for Miami’s G League affiliate. The Heat still has not filled either of its two two-way contract spots.
NBA teams are allowed to carry a maximum of 20 players up until the start of the regular season, when the limit is cut to 15. The current Heat roster includes 16 players.