Barry Jackson

Why the Heat is reportedly interested in trading for Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith

Viral “J.R. Smith Challenge” video pokes fun at Cavaliers player’s gaffe during NBA Finals

The viral "J.R. Smith Challenge" video pokes fun at J.R. Smith dribbling out the clock during the NBA Finals, when he could have taken an easy shot for the win. Video by Samuel Grubbs.
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The viral "J.R. Smith Challenge" video pokes fun at J.R. Smith dribbling out the clock during the NBA Finals, when he could have taken an easy shot for the win. Video by Samuel Grubbs.

The Heat has expressed interest in trading for Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith’s unique contract in a move that could create more spending flexibility for Miami this offseason, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

As we reported last week, NBA officials who spoke to the Heat say Miami remains intent on trying to trade one of a few contracts with multiple years remaining, with James Johnson and Dion Waiters considered available on the trade market.

The reason Smith’s contract is appealing: Even though he’s due $15.6 million next season, only $3.87 million is fully guaranteed. So a team that traded for Smith could waive him by a July 1 deadline, with only $3.87 million counting on that team’s payroll and salary cap for next season.

That would be Miami’s presumed intent if it traded for Smith, 33, who averaged 6.7 points in 11 games last season.

Another reason a pursuit of Smith’s contract would be appealing to Miami: Smith’s full cap hit ($15.6 million) is used for trade purposes, not the small guaranteed amount. That means the Heat, hypothetically, could trade Johnson (due $15.1 million next season) or Waiters (due $12.1 million next season) and another small piece for Smith within salary cap rules.

Whether Miami would have interest in trading Johnson or Waiters for essentially nothing but cap relief is unclear. It’s also unclear if Cleveland would have interest in assuming the final two years and $31 million of Johnson’s deal or the final two years and $25 million of the contract for Waiters, who previously played for Cleveland.

If the Heat could acquire Smith without taking additional salary back, it would allow Miami to get under the luxury tax threshold and potentially give it enough space to use its full mid-level exception this summer.

If the Heat buys out Ryan Anderson as expected by a July 10 deadline, Miami’s cap commitments for next season (including its first-round draft pick) would be about $137 million – about $5 million above the tax threshold. That presumes Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic opt into their contracts for next season, as expected.

But if Miami traded Johnson for Smith and waived him, the Heat would drop to $125 million in commitments — still well above the $109 million cap but giving Miami enough space to potentially use the $9.2 million midlevel exception if its chooses, or part of it.

With its current salary situation, Miami could use a $5.7 million taxpayer midlevel exception if it chooses but likely would not because of tax implications.

Teams below the tax line can use the full midlevel exception as long as they don’t exceed the tax apron, which is expected to be $138 million next season —$6 million above the tax line.

THIS AND THAT

We reported last week that Kentucky power forward P.J. Washington will work out for the Heat in June, according to a source. And ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony reported Tuesday that Washington’s workout for the Heat will be Sunday and the first of six private workouts for one of three Kentucky players expected to go in the first round of the June 20 draft.

Washington is among several players expected to receive strong consideration for the Heat’s pick at No. 13.

An associate said Udonis Haslem is training hard three to four days a week, with the intensity of someone who wants to play next season. Haslem said during the season that he was leaning toward playing another season.

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