Could the Heat next summer seize on its ability to become a Wells Fargo and parlay that into a meaningful asset?
Among the many interesting things team president Pat Riley said in his season-ending news conference in April was this:
“Having room doesn’t mean you have to sign anybody. You can take players in. Room is valuable, but you don’t have to just save it for an unrestricted free agent. Who knows? We could be a bank. We could use it as a bank. Maybe we’re at that state we just want to bank it.”
And if Kelly Olynyk decides, next May or June, to opt out of the $13.6 million he’s owed in 2020-21, the Heat will be in position to potentially become a bank for the first time in many years. And in the process, the Heat would have a chance to gain a valuable draft asset that could either be used to select a young player or placed in a deal to acquire an All-Star-caliber player such as Bradley Beal, if Washington makes him available.
Here’s how it would work, keeping in mind that the 2020-21 NBA salary cap is projected to be $118 million.
If Olynyk opts out, which is quite possible if he has a good season, Miami would be left with $90.9 million in 2020-21 cap commitments for eight players, factoring in the $5.2 million charge for Ryan Anderson.
But that figure doesn’t include $4 million in cap holds and also doesn’t include cap holds for 2020 free agents Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard, who would need to be renounced to achieve maximum cap space. Nor does it include a modest cap hold for Derrick Jones Jr., or the money due a player the Heat picks in the first round in 2020, or non-guaranteed $1.6 million deals for Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson.
With all of that considered, if Dragic and Leonard are renounced and Jones not re-signed, the Heat could achieve $19 million in space next summer in an Olynyk-opt-out scenario, about $16 million if Nunn and Robinson are kept.
That would position the Heat to do exactly what Atlanta and the Clippers and other teams have done — take on a player that a team is trying to move, with a draft pick attached. The player, of course, must have only one year left on his contract so that it doesn’t affect the Heat’s 2021 cap space.
Last month, the Clippers helped the Heat by taking Mo Harkless (due $11 million this season on an expiring contract), with Miami giving the Clippers a protected 2023 first-round pick in exchange for doing so.
With next summer’s free agent class among the worst in years — and Miami determined to keep open space for 2021 — becoming a bank next summer makes a lot of sense for Miami, especially if a team trading a player to Miami adds a first-round pick to entice Miami.
Can the Heat find a team that needs Miami as a bank? Too early to tell. With the lack of star players available next summer, the odds of teams needing to shed salary to add a free agent aren’t as a great as this summer. But it’s still a possibility and one that could serve the Heat well.
Miami’s other option, in an Olynyk-opt-out scenario, is using its cap space on a player for one year and then re-signing Dragic or Leonard on a team-friendly deal for one year, without impacting 2021 cap space.
If Olynyk opts in, Miami could become a bank and absorb an $8 million or so player only if it moves on from Dragic, Leonard, Jones, Robinson and Nunn and trades its first-round pick (which wouldn’t make sense unless used in a package for an All-Star player). So that’s less likely.
How else could the Heat acquire an extra first-round pick to use in a trade to lure an All-Star? By trading assets before the February trade deadline, though that’s not ideal if Miami is firmly in playoff contention at that point, as it expects to be.
What’s clear is that adding another first-round pick would help in any potential trade for a disgruntled star, because Miami is the only team in the league not permitted to trade any future pick at this time, with its 2021 and 2023 picks already due Oklahoma City. Miami could trade its 2020 pick only after making the selection for another team.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Josh Richardson met with coach Erik Spoelstra after the Heat traded him to Philadelphia, and the classy Spoelstra expressed appreciation for what Richardson did here. We hear Riley also reached out to Richardson.
▪ NBA.com stats guru John Schumann tweeted a list of the 27 players with at least 40 field-goal attempts to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the four quarter or overtime over the past five seasons, as sorted by field-goal percentage.
Jimmy Butler ranks fourth — behind only Anthony Davis, LeBron James and C.J. McCollom — at 41.5 percent from the field on those shots (27 for 65).
The bottom five on that list of 27, in terms of shooting percentage: Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, Paul George and Reggie Jackson. Dwyane Wade was 22nd at 26.2 percent.
Butler, incidentally, is 9 for 23 on three-pointers in that situation (39.1 percent). Only Steph Curry — at 40.6 percent — shot better on threes in that situation than Butler among the 27 players ranked.