The Miami Heat cut down its roster from 20 to 17 on Saturday afternoon, waiving forwards DeAndre Liggins, Erik McCree and Tony Mitchell who all appear headed to play with the franchise’s G-League affiliate Sioux Falls.
The moves mean reserve center A.J. Hammons, who was acquired in the Josh McRoberts trade and whose contract is guaranteed this season, will likely make the 15-man roster, and guard Matt Williams Jr., a lethal three-point shooter, will likely join guard Derrick Walton Jr. as the Heat’s second two-way contract player.
Both Williams Jr. and Walton Jr. could open the season with the Heat in Orlando next Wednesday before joining the G-League team in Sioux Falls when it opens camp on Oct. 23, thus accruing several days of NBA service time and making money consistent with the rookie minimum.
Two-way players do not count toward the NBA roster maximum of 15 players and they can only spend 45 service days in the NBA before a team must sign them to a contract or waive them. Sioux Falls play its first game on Nov. 4.
Coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday he likes the NBA’s two-way contract system because it allows the franchise to protect two assets its developing from being plucked by another team.
“You’re guaranteed of continuing this development and the relationship,” he said. “We felt frustrated at times in years past. You spend some time with these young players in summer league, the rest of the summer and training camp. You feel like you’re making some ground and you want to continue that process. But then you have to cut them and they’re up for grabs to everybody else even though we feel that we have a great selling point for players that really want to commit to player development and commit to our Sioux Falls program, that you can get better. Even if they’re not specifically under our rights.”
Walton Jr. (6-1, 185) is a player the Heat likes a lot internally because he can score and create for teammates. Walton Jr. averaged 2.8 points, was 3-of-7 on three-pointers and had a good assist (11) to turnover (5) ratio in 62 minutes worth of preseason action over six games.
“Derrick has some moxie to him,” Spoelstra said after the Heat’s win at home over the Wizards on Wednesday. “He’s not afraid of these kind of big moments. He’s just pretty steady for a point guard. He has that college experience that produces that.”
Williams Jr. was 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) shooting this preseason in 39 minutes worth of action over six games. All of his shots were three-pointers.
Hammons missed a week because of the flu and never played in a preseason game. With the Heat loaded in the power rotation with Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, Bam Adebayo, Jordan Mickey and Udonis Haslem, Miami may still look to unload Hammons in the coming days and find a replacement on the wing for the injured Rodney McGruder.
“He’s catching up since he missed some time,” Spoelstra said Thursday. “Just working on our system, making sure he understands what our principles are. He’s doing conditioning right now. He’s just getting his energy back up from the flu.”
Liggins, who was signed Tuesday and has previous NBA experience having played with the Heat in 2014, started in his only preseason game with the Heat Friday in Kansas City against Philadelphia and had five points, three rebounds and a steal in nearly 27 minutes of action.
McCree, who was signed on September 18, appeared in two preseason games with the Heat totaling six points, three rebounds, one assist and a steal while shooting 3-of-8 from the field.
Mitchell, who was signed on Thursday, did not appear in a preseason game.