Barry Jackson

Miami Heat expresses interest in Richardson extension; Spoelstra assesses roster

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson, drives against Magic's Evan Fournier #10 and Nikola Vucevic, in the second quarter of the Miami Heat vs Orlando Magic, NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, December 20, 2016.
Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson, drives against Magic's Evan Fournier #10 and Nikola Vucevic, in the second quarter of the Miami Heat vs Orlando Magic, NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, December 20, 2016. pportal@miamiherald.com

Guard Josh Richardson became eligible for a contract extension on Thursday, and the Heat privately has expressed interest in offering him one, according to a league source.

The Heat, as of Thursday afternoon, had not made an offer, but one is expected in the coming weeks, the league source said.

Heat officials have been away during one of the NBA’s traditionally quiet periods.

Beginning Thursday, the Heat could offer Richardson a contract up to four years in length and for as much as $41 million in total value, with Richardson having the option of accepting it or opting instead, if he chooses, to become a restricted free agent next summer, with Miami having the right the exceed the cap to keep him.

But a four-year deal, while valued at $41 million now, ultimately could be adjusted and worth as much as $44 million, depending on the NBA’s BRI (Basketball Related Income) for the coming season.

Richardson is expected to consider a contract extension, but terms will ultimately dictate whether he accepts. He might be tempted by a two-year deal with a third year option.

If Richardson and the Heat do not agree to terms on an extension, the Heat would be positioned to keep him next summer if it chooses.

Teams have the right to match offers for restricted free agents, with the Heat having no limitations in that regard because Richardson will have Bird Rights. And it’s unlikely Richardson’s deal, if he signs one next summer, would put the Heat over the projected $125 million luxury tax threshold for 2018-19.

Richardson will earn $1.5 million this upcoming season regardless of whether he accepts the extension (which would kick in beginning in 2018-19) and here’s one thing he likely will consider: The mother lode of salary cap space available in the NBA the past two summers will be considerably less prevalant next year.

After leading the NBA in three-point shooting in the second half of his rookie season, Richardson missed time with assorted injuries last season and finished with averages of 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 30.5 minutes, while shooting 39.4 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range in 53 games.

But Richardson averaged 15 points per game and had 14 steals and eight blocks over Miami’s pressure-packed final six games.

And among all NBA guards who defended at least 300 shots last season, Richardson was ninth-best, allowing the player he was guarding to shoot 41 percent (215 for 524). Those players shot 43.9 overall.

SPOELSTRA’S VIEWS

Erik Spoelstra, in advance of his involvement in Saturday’s NBA Africa game in South Africa, addressed his roster in a conference call with reporters on Thursday:

• On the addition of Olynyk and other additions: “We think Kelly can help. One, we respected his competitive spirit when we played against him. And we felt that competitiveness fit our personality. You never know until you end up coaching somebody, but our experiences against him were something that we really expected.

"And then, secondly, his skill set is something that we think fits really well with the guys that we have. He's a very skilled big that can do a lot of different things. He fits well into our position-less style of basketball, because he can play with basically any combination of players, and I think what he does highlights a lot of the strengths of guys that we currently have.”

• Spoelstra said: “We think Bam [Adebayo] can help. Adding Justise [Winslow] back into the mix, we think that'll help considerably. So we're excited about it. But we also understand how tough it is in this league."

• On keeping most of the team together: "I think it's been pretty well documented that everybody wanted an opportunity to bring the group back together. Nothing is guaranteed, obviously, in this league, but the way the group and the team came together, connected and competed for each other, that the group wanted an opportunity to explore this further and we were given that opportunity, I think everybody obviously is pretty excited about it.

“We're going aim high and ultimately we'll find out when we start playing games. "But we love our group. We love the fact that we were able to bring the majority of the team back together and add some guys that we think can help."

• On losing Willie Reed to the Clippers: “It is always tough in this league, because it is a business but ultimately you still want to be able to build relationships, communicate through the process of business. I called Willie right after he signed in L.A. and wished him luck and thanked him again for everything that he did with us and his contributions this year. And obviously that relationship will continue. We're always going to root for him.

"I think he'll be a great fit there, coming off the bench. I think you'll see a lot of what he provided us, but out there. So my philosophy on that is we're always in the business to help players while we're trying to build championship-level, competitive teams. But we're here to help players reach their dreams, as well. So if players do sign somewhere, I just hope it's in the West and not in the East."

The Heat initially thought it wouldn’t be able to afford Reed and filled its power rotation before Reed ultimately settled for $1.5 million from Los Angeles, less than expected.

• ESPN, using its Real Plus/Minus formula, predicted the Heat would win 42.3 games and finish seventh in the East behind Boston, (49.4 projected wins), Cleveland (49.2), Washington (47.5), Milwaukee (46.9), Charlotte (44.1) and Toronto (43.4).

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