The Heat, which has tried unsuccessfully for months to make a trade to thin its roster and its payroll, on Wednesday completed a deal to send guards Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington to Phoenix a day before the NBA’s trade deadline, two league sources confirmed.
In return, the Heat receives Ryan Anderson, a 6-10 perimeter shooting power forward, who is due slightly more money than Johnson this season but will save the Heat about $4 million next season. The Heat also created a $6.27 million trade exception in the deal, according to ESPN.
Anderson is due $20.4 million this season but has a $15.6 million guarantee next season if he’s waived by the Heat July 10, which would be expected. Johnson, conversely, is due $19.3 million this season and next season.
The Suns also must pay a $3.2 million trade kicker as part of acquiring Johnson.
Ellington is due $6.2 million in an expiring contract.
As a result of the moves, the Heat saves about $5.1 million in payroll this season and will lower its luxury tax bill from $9.7 million to $1.8 million.
Miami could get under the tax threshold by Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline by making a minor move, such as trading Rodney McGruder.
Anderson, at one point in his career, averaged 19.8 points as a starter for New Orleans in 2013-14 and 17.0 points as a backup, primarily, for the Pelicans in 2015-16. But he has been in decline since.
He averaged 9.3 points in 66 games, including 50 starts, for Houston last season and has played sparingly for the Suns this season.
He’s a career 38.0 percent three-point shooter but is just 7 for 34 (20.6 percent) on threes this season, while averaging 3.7 points in 15 games, including eight starts.
As part of his trade to Phoenix last year, Anderson agreed to reduce the guarantee on his 2019-20 salary from $21 million to $15.6 million if he’s waived by July 10.
Signed by the Heat as an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State in 2014, Johnson was a revelation initially before his backloaded contract became something of an albatross.
Johnson averaged 11 points in 257 games for the Heat, including 56 starts, over five seasons.
This season, he was averaging 10.8 points in 44 games, including 10 starts. Johnson, who started the Heat’s past three games, scored four points in 29 minutes in Tuesday’s win in Portland.
Shortly after losing Dwyane Wade to Chicago in the summer of 2016, the Heat opted to match Brooklyn’s backloaded four-year, $50 million contract.
The deal paid Johnson $5.9 million each of the past two seasons before jumping to $19.3 million this season and next.
Ellington converted 227 three pointers for the Heat last season, most ever by an NBA nonstarter. But he was a healthy scratch in 28 games this season, including the past two, and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, had conveyed to the Heat in recent weeks that his client wanted to play — whether here or elsewhere.
Ellington, had the contractual right to veto a trade, granted the Heat permission to trade him to Phoenix, Bartelstein said by phone. It’s expected that Ellington will receive a buyout from the Suns.
Ellington finished his Heat career averaging 6.5 points in 189 games, including 13 starts. This season, he averaged 8.4 points in 25 appearances, including 12 starts.
With the departure of Johnson and Ellington, the Heat likely will go with Dwyane Wade and Dion Waiters at shooting guard.
Waiters has said he would prefer to resume starting, a role he held for Miami before being sidelined for a full year because of an ankle injury and subsequent surgery.
Before the return of Goran Dragic from knee surgery, the Heat’s rotation — barring further moves — would likely include starters Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow and Waiters or Wade (with the other one playing off the bench), plus James Johnson, Bam Adebayo and possibly McGruder or Anderson off the bench.
Dragic would join that rotation when he returns at some point after the All-Star break.
The Heat has 13 players on its roster after Wednesday’s trade and can add one or two more, though it’s questionable if Miami would do that immediately because of luxury tax reasons. The Heat, by league rule, must resume carrying at least 14 players within two weeks.
Both of the Heat’s players on two-way contracts, Yante Maten and Duncan Robinson, have considerable time remaining that can be spent with the Heat this season, per league rules that limit two-way players to 45 days of NBA service.
Maten has been impressive for the Heat’s G League team in South Dakota but has missed substantial time recently with an ankle injury. The Heat could convert his two-way contract into a standard deal.