Barry Jackson

Why trading Tyler Johnson’s contract will be more difficult and complicated for Heat

Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson passes the ball against Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green during a game on Feb. 7, 2018. Johnson’s salary rises dramatically the next two seasons.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson passes the ball against Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green during a game on Feb. 7, 2018. Johnson’s salary rises dramatically the next two seasons.

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Monday:

▪ The expectation is that the Heat will explore moving the final two years of Tyler Johnson’s contract as early as this summer, but the backloaded nature of his deal isn’t the only reason that it will be difficult to achieve.

In addition to making $19.2 million both next season and in 2019-20 (the final two years of his contract), Johnson confirmed he also has a 15 percent salary bonus if he’s traded.

The Heat must pay that trade kicker, which would be worth $3.2 million if he’s traded this summer.

But the team trading for Johnson would need to add $1.6 million to his cap hit the next two seasons, putting that annual cap hit at more than $20 million for the team trading for him.

He said his agent, Austin Brown, smartly inserted that trade kicker to make it more difficult for a trade to be completed, because Johnson is happy with the Heat.

Any attempt to trade Johnson would be driven by two financial motivators:

1. The desire to avoid paying a luxury tax if the Heat re-signs Wayne Ellington, re-signs Dwyane Wade or uses a midlevel exception.

2. To increase the chance of Miami having meaningful salary cap room in 2018 or 2019. Even if Johnson is dealt for an expiring contract, the Heat wouldn’t have much cap room in 2018 unless more salary is purged.

Johnson is making $5.8 million this season. The Nets backloaded the four-year, $50 million contract offer to Johnson in the summer of 2016, with Miami matching that offer shortly after Wade left for Chicago.

The final year of the contract is a player option, but it’s difficult to envision Johnson opting out of $19.2 million in 2019-20.

Johnson’s scoring average has dropped from 13.7 to 11.5 and shooting percentage from 43.3 to 41.7 — two other reasons shedding his salary in a trade will be awfully difficult to Miami this offseason.

▪ Swingman Marco Belinelli, whose three-pointers helped fuel a 76ers comeback in a win against the Heat last Wednesday, told me that his agent told him that Miami was interested in acquiring him before the trade deadline, as we reported.

But the Heat and Hawks weren’t able to match up salaries to complete a deal, with Belinelli earning too much ($6.6 million) to fit into the Heat’s $5.5 million disabled player exception.

That exception can be used until March 12, likely on a player bought out.

The Heat stopped pursuing Belinelli after it acquired Luke Babbitt and Wade. The Hawks then bought Belinelli out, and he signed with Philadelphia.

▪ After a stretch of hitting 10 three-pointers in 16 attempts at one point, Justise Winslow is now just 12 for his last 46 from the field (26 percent) and has made just 2 of his last 11 three-point attempts (18 percent).

Players defended by Winslow are shooting 45.7 percent against him, slightly lower than what they shoot overall (45.9). His ball-handling has been an asset.

When Kelly Olynyk and Rodney McGruder return, Erik Spoelstra will have 12 players who could make a case to be in an NBA rotation. That leaves Winslow, among others, at risk.

▪ There are several reasons Bam Adebayo is getting some of Hassan Whiteside’s playing time, and this is interesting: Though Whiteside averages one blocked shot more per game than Adebayo (1.7 to 0.7), players guarded by Adebayo are shooting just 43.6 percent, compared with 47.5 percent against Whiteside.

▪ In 98 games with the Heat when Dwyane Wade was on the roster the first time around, Dragic averaged 14.8 points, including a career-low 14.1 points in 2015-16.

But Dragic disputes any notion that Wade’s presence limits his game.

“People [got] this wrong, they said me and D-Wade we didn’t coexist or something,” Dragic said last week. “You know when you come to a new team it’s hard to find your spot at first. We had [Chris Bosh] at first, we had D-Wade, Joe Johnson, Luol Deng. There were a lot of players, they were good and you just need time to adjust and fit into the system. You could see the last year together we demonstrated we can play together.”

Wade and Dragic have played 13 minutes together in Wade’s games back with the Heat, and Miami has outscored the opponent by one point during that time, despite shooting just 10 for 27 from the field during those minutes.

“That was never a concern for me, maybe for you guys outside this locker room,” Dragic said. “I had a great relationship with him. He helped me a lot. I always said that. I’m happy to have him here. You know in the playoff run we had, we played well together. So, it is what it is, regardless of what people said.”

▪ One big reason the Heat has lost seven games by six or fewer points since Jan. 25:

Up until that point, Miami was shooting 47.2 percent on three-pointers (25 for 53) in clutch situations, defined by the NBA as the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer.

Since then, Miami is just 6 for 27 on clutch threes, lowering its season percentage on clutch threes to 38.8 (31 for 80). That includes a Wade three that bounced off at the buzzer in last week’s two-point loss to Philadelphia.

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