Barry Jackson

Heat makes first signing of free agent period

Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr., seen here during a January game against Milwaukee, agreed to terms on a two-year standard deal with the Heat this offseason.
Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr., seen here during a January game against Milwaukee, agreed to terms on a two-year standard deal with the Heat this offseason. AP

In its first move of the NBA's free-agent period, the Heat on Sunday gave a standard two-year contract to swingman Derrick Jones Jr., rewarding a player who flashed considerable athleticism and upside during his stint with the team last season.

The Heat opted to give Jones a two-year minimum-salary deal instead of signing him to another two-way deal that would have limited his NBA service time to no more than 45 days next season.

The first year of the deal (at $1.4 million) is guaranteed; the second year (at $1.6 million) is not guaranteed.

Jones, 6-7, played on that two-way deal last season - splitting his time between the Heat's G-League team in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Miami - but the Heat decided Jones is worthy of a spot on the 15-man roster.

He appeared in 14 games for the Heat last season, starting eight, and averaged 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds, while playing 15.1 minutes per game and shooting 38.8 percent from the field but just 18.8 percent (3 for 16 on threes).

In 52 NBA games, including 36 with Phoenix, the runner up in the 2017 slam-dunk contest has shot 51.1 percent from the field but just 6 for 29 (20.7 percent) on three-pointers.

The Heat believes he can become a very good wing defender.

Players defended by Jones last season shot 47.4 percent (36 for 76), but Miami believes that high number is not reflective of his defensive upside.

"He's improved this year with us," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in late March. "I think he has to break into this program as a defensive-minded player. That's really where his potential is. It's been very intentional that we try to get him on the best wing opponent every night and really embrace that challenge regardless of how many minutes he plays and what his offensive responsibility is. He has to guard; he has to be able to impact on that side of the floor. And that got better. It still has a long ways to go, but he's starting to understand where he can break through."

Jones entered free agency as a restricted free agent, with the Heat holding the right to match an offer by any team.

The Heat can sign any two players it wishes to a two-way contract. Former Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. might again end up being one of those players, but that's far from assured. The Heat recently extended a qualifying offer to Walton, making him a restricted free agent.

Miami now that more than $120 million committed to 11 players on its roster next season, a figure well above the $102 million salary cap and just below the NBA's $123 million luxury tax threshold.

The Heat remains in discussions with free agent guard Wayne Ellington, with both sides mutually interested in a return.

Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, the Heat's other prominent free agents, had not informed the Heat of their plans as of Saturday night.

Wade is mulling whether to play next season but has said he will play only for the Heat.

Haslem has said he's considering playing overseas in pursuit of more playing time

Heat president Pat Riley has said both will be offered new contracts.

Luke Babbitt and Jordan Mickey are the Heat's other unrestricted free agents.

The Heat can surpass the salary cap to re-sign Ellington and has three other mechanisms to sign any other player - a $5.3 million taxpayer's midlevel exception, a $3.4 million bi-annual exception or a league minimum contract.

The 11 players now under standard contracts are Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson and Jones Jr.

NBA teams must carry at least 14 players on standard contracts but no more than 15, with two additional players permitted to sign two-way contracts.

Related stories from Miami Herald