The Heat so far has drawn the line in its attempt to shed salary, showing no interest in sweetening deals to entice teams to take its sizable contracts.
The question is whether that will change, especially if Dwyane Wade returns to Miami and pushes the Heat even further above the luxury tax threshold.
Two high-ranking executives with other teams said this week that Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters have all been made available by Miami in trade discussions.
But they said that in their team’s conversations with Miami, the Heat has not offered a first-round pick, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson or any of its other appealing assets as a carrot for a team to take on any of those contracts.
With the Heat surpassing the luxury tax threshold by more than $3 million to sign Wayne Ellington, Miami’s projected tax payment would be $4.9 million. But a team’s tax is based on its payroll on the final day of the regular season, giving the Heat nine months to get under the tax — which would be its strong preference.
And if Wade agrees to return for the Heat’s $5.3 million exception, the Heat’s tax would balloon well over $10 million.
So in that scenario, the Heat might consider attaching assets, such as a draft pick, to a contract despite its unwillingness to do that to this point.
As an example, the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night shed $21 million salary and saved $43 million in potential luxury tax payments by trading forward Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur and a 2019 protected first-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick to Brooklyn for Isaiah Whitehead, who will be waived.
The Heat’s preference would be moving a big contract (such as Johnson’s) to a team willing to absorb his salary for a similar or slightly worse player earning less or, better yet, for a future draft pick. Those types of deals haven’t materialized, but Miami’s efforts to trim payroll continued this week, according to an executive who has spoken to Miami.
Whiteside is due $24.4 million and $27.1 million in the final two seasons of his contract. Johnson is owed $19.2 million each of his final two seasons. And Waiters, coming off ankle surgery, is owed $11.5 million, $12.1 million and $12.7 million in the final three seasons of his deal.
Multiple NBA people said they continue to hear Houston as Carmelo Anthony’s likely destination, and Yahoo’s Shams Charinia tweeted on Friday that the Rockets “have emerged as strong front-runners to acquire Carmelo Anthony once he is free from Oklahoma City.”
Anthony also has been considering the Heat. Both the Heat and Rockets were given permission to meet with Anthony in Las Vegas this past week.
JONES’ NEW CAREER
James Jones, who played in Miami at three different levels (American High, UM and six seasons with the Heat), has risen to a high-ranking position in an NBA front office as the Phoenix Suns’ vice president of basketball operations.
Jones, who has held the job for a year, said this week that “I thought it would be a possibility [to work in a front office]. Fresh off the loss in the Finals with the Cavs [in 2017], and [Suns owner] Robert Sarver approached me with the opportunity to move into the front office. Everything that I did as a player prepared me to jump right into it and having an appreciation for the amount of work that goes into it.”
Jones, who won two championships with the Heat and one in Cleveland, said Pat Riley, in conversations during the past year, “has been great. He hasn’t told me anything but to continue to be who I am and continue to work. I’m extremely grateful because there’s so much I learned from Pat that was unspoken and it’s definitely going to help me the rest of my career.”
Jones, who is in UM’s Sports Hall of Fame, said his six years with the Heat “helped me a lot. I spent most of my life in Miami as a player. I spent most of my professional career in Miami as a player. I was fortunate enough to play on some young up-and-coming teams and some championship teams, winning a couple of titles.
“So without that opportunity, without Pat, Micky [Arison] and Spo [Erik Spoelstra] believing in me and giving me that opportunity, I wouldn’t have had the chance to grow into the person I am today. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop the mind-set it takes to work in the front office. I’m thankful to Pat, Andy [Elisburg], Spo, everyone there.”
▪ The Heat plays Boston at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center on UNLV’s campus, on ESPN2. If Miami wins, it would play at 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
Of the Heat advancing in the tournament, summer league coach Eric Glass said: “I’m happy for the guys because it’s one more opportunity they have to maybe earn a job. That’s the biggest thing.”