Barry Jackson

Heat has options with exception; Bosh’s letter; Heat notes

Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James during the Big Three era of Heat basketball.
Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James during the Big Three era of Heat basketball. Miami Herald File

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Sunday:

• After somehow fitting James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk and Wayne Ellington into their cap space, the Heat now has two more vehicles to sign players: a $4.3 million exception and minimum contracts.

Once Udonis Haslem resigns, the Heat will have 14 under contract, with 13 essentially assured of making the team barring trades. (New center A.J. Hammons must win a job in camp.)

Which leaves this question: Should the Heat uses its exception on a player who might not play a lot or save it as a carrot for a player bought out in January or February? Say, for example, Dwyane Wade? (And don’t think this thought hasn’t occurred to the Heat.)

There are several NBA starters, or at the very least, top eight rotation players left in free agency: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Ersan Ilyasova, CJ Miles, JaVale McGee, Marreese Speights, Aaron Afflalo, Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Bogut (coming off injury), Thabo Sefolosha, perhaps Ian Clark, Brandon Jennings, Gerald Henderson, Monta Ellis, among others.

From a positional need standpoint, swingmen Miles and Afflalo would make the most sense because they can play small forward, the one position where the Heat lacks a clearly established NBA starter.

Miles shot 41.3 percent on threes for Indiana last season, while averaging 10.7 points. Afflalo shot 41.1 percent on threes for the Kings, while averaging 8.4 points.

Update: Miles agreed to a 3-year, $25 million contract with Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

As it stands, Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder will compete for the small forward job, with Winslow the front-runner. The Heat believes Winslow can become a productive NBA starter. James Johnson, it should be noted, has a lot of experience playing small forward but was mostly a power forward in his first season with the Heat.

As for the bigs such as Speights, the Heat already seems set in its power rotation, with Hassan Whiteside, Johnson and Olynyk, plus Bam Adebayo and Okaro White and possibly Hammons behind the top three.

What about Rose? It’s still difficult to envision him being forced to settle for exception money. And if he does, there seemingly would be options where he could get more playing time than Miami.

But if the Heat did consider the scenario of Rose as a backup to Goran Dragic, the logjam in the backcourt could be addressed by using Josh Richardson at small forward.

There’s also a case to be made to hold onto that $4.3 million chip, because there are going to be at least 10 NBA teams going nowhere this season, and that chip could come in handy if those teams cut loose any of their quality veterans next spring.

• Chris Bosh, released by the Heat on Tuesday, wrote a touching letter to the city of Miami.

He closed it thusly: “Even when things changed for me and I couldn’t play, people still supported me and let me know what basketball in Miami meant for them. I truly cherish those encounters. Those good-luck chants or someone simply caring enough to ask about my health—they might seem like small gestures but they are some of my fondest memories.

“We went through life together, Miami. You showed me how to stay strong and push through in the toughest moments. And although I didn’t like it at the time, it made all the difference in the long run. It made me a better man, the person I am today. Thank you.

Thank you to everyone—here in Miami, across the nation and around the world—who has been a part of #TeamBosh. I hope you will continue to follow me on my journey, wherever that leads me.”

Here’s the full letter, which was posted on chrisbosh.com. It’s worth reading, an eloquent piece by a gentleman who exuded class during his Heat tenure.

• Before signing Olynyk, the Heat conveyed to Luke Babbitt that it was interested in re-signing him.

But there hasn’t been an offer since the Olynyk signing (at least as of late afternoon Saturday), and Babbitt is now considering other options, while also being open to Heat interest should Miami make an offer.

• For those who wondered, the Heat opted for Olynyk instead of Rudy Gay because: 1) It considers Olynyk the better player. 2) It had more concerns about its power rotation than small forward. 3) It has some questions about Gay, including whether he would be a good fit and his January ruptured Achilles.

Miami had some interest in Gay at low money, but the Spurs gave him two years and $17 million.

• Hammons, the center acquired from Dallas in the Josh McRoberts salary-dumping deal, debuted for Miami’s Summer League team in Las Vegas on Saturday and had five points and a rebound in 16 minutes, hitting a three and finishing 2 for 4 from the field.

The 7-foot Hammons, the Big 10’s Defensive Player of the Year at Purdue in 2016, played in only 22 games as a second-round rookie for Dallas last season, with 48 points, 36 rebounds and 13 blocks in 163 minutes.

“He’s got a big body; terrific defender in college,” ESPN college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg said during the Heat-Spurs Summer League telecast on Saturday. “He’s improved his body, his ability to run. He’s a very good position defender. He scores usually on the left block with a little jump hook. He’s now showing the ability to step out and knock down a shot.”

• Bam Adebayo continued to impress with 18 points, 10 rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes of that 75-74 Heat win against the Spurs.

Greenberg spoke of “his ability to rebound, run the floor. If he shows the ability to score, he becomes a complete frontcourt player in the NBA.”

Incidentally, Adebayo had 101 dunks last season at Kentucky, the most ever by a college player coached by John Calipari (according to ESPN).

Miami continues play in the Las Vegas Summer League with a game against the Washington Wizards at 4:30 p.m. Monday, on NBA TV.

If you missed it, here’s my Saturday post with some eye-opening stuff that shows Dion Waiters’ value, plus Waiters’ reaction to staying with the Heat... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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