Barry Jackson

Heat expected to meet with Hayward; a look at free agent scenarios

Miami Heat's Josh McRoberts and Justise Winslow defend against Utah's Gordon Hayward, 20, in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thurs., Nov. 12, 2015.
Miami Heat's Josh McRoberts and Justise Winslow defend against Utah's Gordon Hayward, 20, in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thurs., Nov. 12, 2015. pportal@elnuevoherald.com

Utah forward Gordon Hayward is expected to meet with the Heat and Boston Celtics after the start of free agency on Saturday, Yahoo! reported on Tuesday, adding that the Celtics are angling to get a commitment from Hayward before trading for Indiana’s Paul George.

If the Heat fails to land either Hayward or the Clippers’ Blake Griffin (whom Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins predicted will end up with the Heat), Miami is expected to pivot back to James Johnson and Dion Waiters.

That’s a tricky course to navigate, but it could help somewhat that Hayward and Johnson share the same agent – Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein.

Asking and answering on Heat free agency:

• So let’s get greedy. Is there any way the Heat could get Hayward or Griffin and keep either Johnson or Waiters?

Word of a $99 million cap – lower than expected - makes it difficult, though not impossible. Presuming Hayward and Griffin will insist on max deals (at $29.7 million next season), the Heat (if it lands either) would be left with $5.7 million in cap space without Johnson or Waiters or Wayne Ellington.

One scout said he would be surprised if the bidding for Waiters soars much above $10 million, if that, because of his small sample size of high-level play this past season. One prominent agent who does not represent Waiters predicted he would get $8 million to $10 million annually, with Johnson falling in somewhere between $10 million and $15 million.

If the Heat is fortunate enough to land Hayward or Griffin, Miami could clear out another $4 million (giving the Heat more than $9 million) by releasing Josh McRoberts and stretching his cap hits over three years, at $2 million per year.

That might be enough for Waiters, with the potential to clear out a bit more by dumping Okaro White ($1.3 million salary, with a cap savings of less than half that).

Keeping Johnson (in the Hayward scenario) could be trickier, unless the Heat executes a sign-and-trade with Utah or trades Tyler Johnson or Justise Winslow for no money back.

• What about signing Hayward and keeping Waiters and Johnson?

That’s asking to move mountains.

It likely would require finding a team to take McRoberts ($6 million), Tyler Johnson ($5.8 million) and Winslow ($2.7 million) for no money back - and trading or letting Wayne Ellington go before his July 7 guarantee deadline date. All of those moves would leave Miami with $48-$50 million in space - $29.7 million for Hayward, and the rest to be split between Waiters and Johnson – and even that might not be enough to keep those two.

• Beyond Hayward and Griffin, who among the next tier of unrestricted free agents might the Heat pursue?

An inquiry on Paul Millsap is expected, but not nearly at the level of his $34 million max.

Serge Ibaka would be a realistic option only if Griffin and Johnson sign elsewhere. Rudy Gay has interest in the Heat, and Miami likes him, but any marriage likely would need to be at a rate below his market value, unless Johnson or Waiters leaves and the Heat is scrambling for talent. From what we sense, it would be surprising if the Heat makes an enormous offer to Danilo Gallinari.

Zach Randolph, Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson and perhaps Ersan Ilyasova and Taj Gibson would be free agents likely on Miami’s radar if the Heat doesn’t sign Griffin or James Johnson or perhaps as depth even if he stays.

And P.J. Tucker and Jeff Green would be names to keep in mind as potential small forward depth, depending on how much cap space the Heat has left after attending to its primary business (Hayward or Griffin or Johnson/Waiters, etc.).

• What is the likelihood of the Heat re-signing backup center Willie Reed?

Miami isn’t optimistic. Though Miami could use cap space to sign him, keeping him likely would need to be with the Heat’s $4.3 million exception. But Reed figures to get more than that. That money could be enough for a backup big such as Mike Muscala or David Lee.

• So if the Heat doesn’t get Hayward or Griffin but keeps Waiters and Johnson, how much money would it realistically have left?

Even the Heat isn’t sure what offers Waiters and Johnson will command elsewhere. If they get $25 million combined, that leaves about $10 million – enough to keep Ellington at $6.3 million and perhaps keep Luke Babbitt ($1.45 million cap hit regardless of salary).

Or, in that scenario, the Heat could waive and stretch McRoberts, get to about $14 million, and have enough to keep Ellington and make a legitimate bid for third-price-tier free agents such as Randolph or Gay, or smaller offers for depth pieces such as Jonas Jerebko, Ian Clark, C.J. Miles, Omri Casspi, Anthony Tolliver, Green or Tucker.

When I asked him, Pat Riley insisted last week he would consider it a successful summer by merely keeping Johnson, Waiters and Ellington.

• Why can’t the Heat just exceed the cap to re-sign Waiters, Johnson, Reed and add other players and keep Ellington?

The cap doesn’t work that way. Miami can’t exceed the cap to sign any of those players because they don’t have Bird rights.

The only incumbent free agent that Miami can exceed the cap to re-sign is Babbitt, who is an option at the minimum or slightly above, with his cap hit already determined.

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