Heat fans remember Dwyane Wade's time in Miami
The Miami Heat’s post-Dwyane Wade era roster makeover went into overdrive Sunday with team reeling in four new players, re-signing veteran Udonis Haslem and matching a four-year, $50 million offer to restricted free agent Tyler Johnson.
After 10 days of free agency, the Heat’s roster is back at 15 but will look vastly different from the one that lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals only two months ago.
A quick summary:
▪ Six veteran players are gone: Wade, a 12-time All-Star who returned home to Chicago, starting forwards Luol Deng (Los Angeles Lakers) and Joe Johnson (Utah Jazz) and reserves Gerald Green, Amar’e Stoudemire and Dorell Wright.
▪ Three free agents are coming back: league-leading shot blocker Hassan Whiteside (signed a four-year, $98 million contract), Tyler Johnson, a key rotation player last season, and Haslem, a 36-year-old veteran and locker room leader.
▪ And six new faces have arrived: guards Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder (amember of the Heat’s NBA Developmental League affiliate Sioux Falls), forwards Derrick Williams, James Johnson and Luke Babbitt, and center Willie Reed.
The commitment to Tyler Johnson, an undrafted 24-year-old combo guard with only 73 games of experience in the league, was the biggest news of the day Sunday and significant considering the structure of the contract the Heat had to match to keep him from going to the Brooklyn Nets.
“We are extremely happy to re-sign Tyler,” team president Pat Riley said in a statement released by the team. “He, Hassan, Justise [Winslow] and Josh [Richardson] have grown together as an exciting, athletic, highly skilled young core over the last couple of years. They are going to have a tremendous opportunity this season and we are looking forward to watching them play together on the floor.”
Although the deal will only cost the Heat $5.6 and $5.9 million over Johnson’s next two seasons, his salary cap number will shoot up to $18.9 and $19.6 million over the final two seasons of the contract.
Still, Sunday’s moves won’t preclude Miami from entering next summer as a viable player in free agency when stars such as Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Chris Paul hit the market.
As it stands, the Heat has about $82 million tied into seven players for the 2017-18 season including team options expected to be used to retain Winslow and Richardson.
With the salary cap jumping from $94 million to $102 million, that would leave the Heat with roughly $20 million in cap space next summer. But that’s only if none of the other team options are used to retain players or Riley decides to start trading away assets to clear up space. Miami also owns its 2017 first-round pick.
Outside of the commitments to Whiteside and Tyler Johnson, every other transaction the Heat made this season was geared toward giving them cap flexibility in the summer of 2017.
Miami began the day Sunday by agreeing to short-term deals with Ellington (two years, $12 million; only the first year is guaranteed) and James Johnson (one year, $4 million).
A career 37.6 percent three-point shooter who has made 112 career starts and played for six different teams, Ellington, who spent last season with the Nets, has enjoyed his best days as a professional against the Heat. He has averaged 11.1 points and shot 49.2 percent (29 of 59) from beyond the three-point line against the Miami in his career. He averaged seven points and shot 37 percent from beyond the arc against everyone else.
Twice he has made a career-high seven three-pointers in a game, and both games were against Miami, including this past season when Ellington scored a season-high 26 points in the Nets’ upset of the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Dec. 28.
He’s also known for being a good guy off the court. Last season Ellington was the recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award as selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, given annually to the player, coach or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
James Johnson, meanwhile, can play both small forward and power forward. A limited offensive player who has never averaged more than 9.2 points per game (2010-11), Johnson (6-9, 250) is known more for his defense.
Last season, he made 32 starts for the Raptors, posting a modest 5.0 points and 2.2 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game over 57 games.
Haslem, who has taken large discounts to stay with the Heat, finalized a one-year, $4 million contract, ensuring his 14th season in Miami. If he plays a 15th season and returns at the minimum, it would be roughly equivalent to a two-year, $5.8 million deal.
“For over a decade, Udonis has embodied what it means to wear the Miami Heat uniform,” Riley said in a statement released by the team. “He has been the pillar and constant of this organization, and is a true champion in every sense of the word. We are thrilled that Udonis is back to help impart his leadership and instill the Heat culture with his new teammates.”
After locking down Haslem, Miami traded a 2018 second-ound pick and cash to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for veteran small forward Luke Babbitt.
The pick, acquired in the Jarnell Stokes trade last season, belonged to New Orleans in the first place and was heavily protected.
Babbitt (6-9, 225 pounds) has shot 40.7 percent beyond the three-point line throughout his career with New Orleans and Portland and averaged 7.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in 47 games last season with the Pelicans. In three of his six NBA seasons, Babbitt has hit at least 40 percent of his three-point field goal attempts.
He’s set to earn the league minimum of $1,227,286 for a player with six years experience.
Miami’s final pickup of the day was the 6-11, 231-pound, Reed, who played for the Heat in the 2015 Summer League before he was signed by the Nets.
Miami Herald sportswriters Barry Jackson and Ethan J. Skolnick contributed to this report.