Heat Check

Riley, Heat turn to Plan C: sign Olynyk, on verge of trade to clear cap space for Johnson, Ellington

Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) celebrates his basket with guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the fourth quarter of Game 7 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Monday, May 15, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) celebrates his basket with guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the fourth quarter of Game 7 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Monday, May 15, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) AP

Just when you thought Pat Riley was going to settle into Plan B and bring back the same Miami Heat team that finished the second half of last season 30-11, he turned to Plan C on Thursday night.

In a surprising move, the Heat reached an agreement to sign former Celtics center Kelly Olynyk, 26, to a four-year, $50 million deal and was in the midst of completing a trade with the Dallas Mavericks to free up more cap space to re-sign forward James Johnson and guard Wayne Ellington, a league source confirmed.

According to The Vertical, Miami will reportedly send forward Josh McRoberts (on the final year of a $6 million deal) and a future second round pick to Dallas for center A.J. Hammons, a 2016 second round pick who could be released to free up cap space.

Johnson’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, confirmed late Thursday night the Heat and Johnson agreed to a four-year, $60 million deal.

With news of that deal, it may take some creative cap work for the Heat to retain Ellington. Miami has until 11:59 p.m. Friday to pick up his $6.3 million option for next season.

Miami Heat president Pat Riley talks about free agent James Johnson at a presser on early July 2017.

As for Johnson, who turns 31 on Feb. 20, he was instrumental to the team’s second-half turnaround last season. He often guarded all five positions on the floor and created mismatches as a 6-8, 250-pound ball-handler.

He’s expected to be in the Heat’s starting lineup at power forward.

Olynyk, meanwhile, was a key player off the bench for the Celtics his first four seasons in the league as both a scorer and rebounder.

With Miami, he can help stretch the floor with his three-point shot and either backup Hassan Whiteside or play alongside him as a power forward. The 7-footer is a career 36.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc, who averaged 9.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in his time with the Celtics.

All of Thursday’s news comes a day after the Heat reached an agreement to resign guard Dion Waiters to a four-year, $52 million contract.

On Thursday, Miami waited until 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh cleared waivers shortly after 5 p.m. to begin making any moves.

Bosh, 33, hasn’t played since February 2016, but is now free to sign with another team and the Heat will not be on the hook salary-cap wise for any of the remaining $52.1 million owed to him over the next two seasons even if Bosh does end up playing for another team down the road. Bosh was due $25.3 million next season.

Although Miami missed out on its top free agent target when Jazz All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward picked Boston over the Heat and Utah, Riley said after last month’s NBA Draft he would consider this summer a success if the Heat was simply able to retain its own free agents following a 41-41 season and ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Pulling off the Olynyk signing and retaining Johnson, Waiters and Ellington would certainly make the Heat better in a weakened Eastern Conference. Miami’s frontcourt, weakened by injuries last season to McRoberts and the health issues of Bosh, would now have four quality options in Whiteside, Olynyk, Johnson and rookie Bam Adebayo.

Miami Heat's James Johnson talks to the media about feeling at home in Miami but as an older player he still needs to consider money and the "ring".

Assuming the Heat retains Ellington, Miami would have 10 of the 14 players from last season’s team under contract (not counting the recently waived Bosh) plus Adebayo ($2.5 million).

The other returnees are Whiteside ($23.7M), point guard Goran Dragic ($17M), Justise Winslow ($2.7M) and Okaro White ($1.3M) and guards Tyler Johnson ($5.9M), Josh Richardson ($1.5M) and Rodney McGruder ($1.3M).

The Heat would then have three vacant roster spots to fill. Captain Udonis Haslem could re-sign for the veteran’s minimum ($2.3M) and Miami could also retain three-point specialist Luke Babbitt ($1.5M). Miami appears willing to do both.

Backup center Willie Reed, who has reportedly drawn interest from the Pacers, 76ers, Hawks and Rockets, is likely to fall out of the Heat’s price range and plans.

Miami still has a $4.3 million cap exception at its disposal (once it reaches the salary cap of $99 million), but the exception cannot be combined with cap space.

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