As the Heat moves toward finalizing its regular-season roster for opening night, it’s also working to stock its G League affiliate with intriguing prospects.
The Heat faces imminent roster decisions as it enters Friday’s preseason finale against the Rockets at AmericanAirlines Arena with 20 players. NBA teams have a 5 p.m. Monday deadline to cut rosters to a maximum of 15 players for the regular season, with those moves needing to be made by 5 p.m. Saturday because of the 48-hour waiver period.
Those roster decisions will have a direct impact on Miami’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Skyforce. Why?
The Heat’s opening-night roster is believed to be set with 14 players because of its position against the NBA hard cap — Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, Meyers Leonard, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Udonis Haslem, Derrick Jones Jr., Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn and KZ Okpala.
The difficult decisions have to do with the other six players on the Heat’s roster, who are on track to end up with the Skyforce. Those six players (forwards Kyle Alexander and Chris Silva, and guards Davon Reed, Daryl Macon, Skyler Flatten and Bubu Palo) are all on Exhibit 10 contracts as of Friday morning.
“I always tell our guys this is a Miami Heat contract to be executed for you to play in Sioux Falls,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But until that transition happens based on whatever they’re hearing from their inner circle or their agent and so forth, you don’t necessarily know how everybody will take it. But these guys have been terrific. We’ve invested everything we have in them from a resource standpoint, in terms of staff, development, in the weight room, in the training room, on the basketball court. We want to give them everything we have. We want them to accomplish their dreams.”
Exhibit 10 contracts are limited to a $50,000 guarantee and leaves the option open for a player to eventually join Miami’s G League affiliate. Exhibit 10 deals do not count against the salary cap or hard cap and can be converted to a two-way contract.
That’s where the Heat has a decision to make.
Both of the Heat’s two-way contract spots are empty. The Raptors are the only other team in the NBA that has both of its two-way contract slots still available.
Under league rules, the Heat could theoretically keep all six of its current Exhibit 10 players plus the other two Exhibit 10 players it released Tuesday (guards Jeremiah Martin and Mychal Mulder) within its developmental system.
The Heat could keep two of the players by converting their contracts to two-way deals, which allows a player to spend up to 45 days with an NBA team during the G League season and the rest of the time must be spent with the team’s developmental affiliate.
Miami can also move Palo and Mulder to the Skyforce because it holds both players’ G League rights — Palo has played the past five seasons with the Skyforce, and Mulder was acquired by Sioux Falls via trade this offseason.
The remaining four Exhibit 10 contract players can be the four affiliate players the Heat is allowed to designate. The Heat must waive those players before funneling them to Sioux Falls as affiliate players, but they also have the option to play elsewhere after being waived.
Only the players receiving two-way contracts will remain under the Heat’s control. The others waived, even if they agree to become affiliate players with the Heat, can sign with any NBA team at any point.
Here’s a rundown of the eight players the Heat has signed to Exhibit 10 contracts this year (as of Friday morning) ...
▪ Silva, who went undrafted out of South Carolina this year, appears to be one of the leading candidates for a Heat two-way deal. He has averaged 5.8 points and four rebounds in 9.1 minutes through four preseason games. The 23-year-old’s best performance came in the preseason opener, with 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
Silva has drawn comparisons to Heat veteran forward Udonis Haslem because they were both coached by Frank Martin and play with the same physical and relentless attitude.
“I mentioned that to Chris in one of our film sessions that just the way he approaches the game every single day with that competitive edginess to him is similar to the guy who’s going to have his number retired here,” Spoelstra said. “That’s a perfect example of somebody who may have had to do it in a different way, not getting draft and having to play overseas. But he fought and scratched and crawled his way back to be in this league, and he was not going to take no for an answer. Just from the little bit I’ve gotten to know Chris, I think he’s going to be similar. He’s going to make you have to make decisions.”
▪ Reed, who played college basketball at Miami and was a second-round pick in 2017, is averaging 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in three preseason games. He also appears to be a top candidate for a two-way deal. But either way, he’s interested in joining the Skyforce to continue his time in the Heat’s developmental system.
“I want to be a part of this organization,” Reed said. “This is something me and my agent eyed as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Whatever path it may be, we’ll evaluate. But this is definitely somewhere I want to be.”
▪ Alexander, 22, has played in just one preseason game with the Heat, recording four rebounds and one block. Whether it’s on a two-way deal or as an affiliate player, Alexander wants to play for the Skyforce and remain in the Heat’s developmental system.
“They’ve put all the resources into us,” said Alexander, who went undrafted this year out of Tennessee. “It’s not like other organizations, I heard, where you got your Exhibit 10 guys working out by themselves. No, they have us all together. I really appreciate that. They’re a hard-working organization. Just like Tennessee, they pride themselves in hard work. I definitely want to be a part of this. So I’m definitely going to go to South Dakota, as long as they still want me to go. But it’s just a matter of what contract I’ll be on. A lot of guys go to the G League and go, ‘Why am I here?’ They’re trying to get out. But I’m going to really embrace it and make the most of it.”
▪ Macon, 23, has averaged 2.7 points, 0.7 rebounds and 0.7 assists in three preseason games with the Heat. He also hinted at remaining in Miami’s developmental program.
“I love it here,” Macon said. “I came here two years ago. This is where I started off first out of college. I love it here. Great people around, great development team, great coaching staff. I love it all around.”
▪ Flatten, who was signed by the Heat on Tuesday, has not played for Miami yet this preseason. He played his entire collegiate career at South Dakota State. He averaged 15.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 33 games (all starts) as a senior last season.
▪ Palo, who was signed by the Heat on Tuesday, has not played for Miami yet this preseason. But he has already played five seasons for the Skyforce (including on the 2016 G League Championship team).
▪ Martin, who was waived by the Heat on Tuesday, recorded a steal in six minutes in his one preseason game with Miami. After going undrafted out of Memphis this year, Martin appeared in six summer league games (two starts) with the Heat. He averaged five points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 19.1 minutes while shooting 43.5 percent from the field.
▪ Mulder, who was waived by the Heat on Tuesday, appeared in two preseason games with Miami. He totaled two points and a rebound in 15 minutes of action. Mulder went undrafted out of Kentucky in 2017.