The 2014 NBA offseason is the most important offseason for Miami since 2010 when they were catapulted into contender status by signing three franchise stars. Miami’s big three have opted out and the team is preparing for a frenzy of signings to upgrade their roster and entice the stars to return. In order to gain significant talent the star trio needed to opt out of their contracts so that each contract could be restructured to free cap space to enable the Heat to sign marque free agents.
After the trio resign, the Heat cannot hope to have any more than $18 million left of the league mandated $66 million salary cap. Lebron James is pushing his team and teammates to open cap space, so he can be fairly compensated with a maximum $22.2 million annual salary. Chris Bosh is expected to sign a contract between $15 and $17 million annually and Dwyane Wade is expected to take the biggest pay cut, with an annual salary of $10 or $11 million a year.
Adding current salary obligation, Norris Cole at $2.1 million annually and draft pick Shabazz Napier, who is expected to sign a rookie contract starting at $1.1 million, the Heat will have between $47.2 and $53.4 million of their salary cap spent. That leaves the Heat $18.8 to $12.6 million to sign roster upgrades.
What about Udonis Haslem and Ray Allen?
That is where Miami will have to be smart. The Heat should push to sign both Haslem and Allen for the veteran’s minimum. A team above or nearly above the soft salary cap can surpass the salary cap using a host of exceptions to sign players. I have written before about Miami’s traded player exception. Another exception is the mid-level exception. Additionally, teams can sign as many players as they like for the league’s veteran minimum. The minimum is determined by how many years a player has been in the league. For Ray Allen and UD, who have been in the league at least, ten years, their minimum is nearly $1.5 million a year. Another likely veteran to sign for the minimum is center Greg Oden. Oden only has three years of experience, making his minimum just under $1 million. Pat Riley has expressed interest in resigning Oden.
A likely add-on who may be willing to take a veteran’s minimum contract is aging star Vince Carter. Carter is 37 and in the last throes of a long NBA career. The perennial all-star has yet won a championship in his fifteen year career, meaning he may be willing to make a few million less a year to play with the best team in the eastern conference.
Before signing veteran’s minimum contracts the Heat should pursue marque free agent point guard Kyle Lowry. Rumors persist, that Lowry has a desire to play in Miami and will be willing to take a play cut to do so. Lowry’s open market value is expected to be between $11 and $9 million. If Lowry is willing to take a pay cut and sign for a multiyear $8.5 million annual contract the Heat will be in a position to sign him. Another method to conserve cap space and sign Lowry may be through a sign and trade where Miami can use its $2.2 million traded player exception. Miami could trade Norris Cole (at $2.1) for Kyle Lowry (at $9.5) and use their exception to reduce Lowry’s cap hit by $2.2 million.
Another marque free agent for the Heat to consider, if Lowry is not willing to take the steep pay cut, is forward Loul Deng. Deng is coming off of a $14.3 million contract and may be willing to take a pay cut to play for a contender who can defeat the Bulls in the postseason. If Deng is willing to play for a salary in the $9 to $8 million range the Heat may pursue him similarly to how they might pursue Lowry, outright signing Deng for $8.5 million or a sign and trade to utilize their trade exception.
After signing either Lowry or Deng the Heat will have between $3 and $5 million to use for a middle of the road role player. A player I like in Miami’s system is forward Josh McRoberts. McRoberts is coming off of a two year $5.5 Million dollar contract. McRoberts is not an overly talented player in any one aspect, but is proficient in every aspect. Miami can sign him for between $3 and $4 million annually.
After signing their two free agents, resigning their star trio, but prior to signing their veteran role players the Miami Heat will have about $64 million of their $66 million spent. Another important salary cap limit is the NBA luxury tax. If a team’s salary surpasses the mark, that team pays a punitive tax to the league and reduces the size of the following year’s midlevel exception. In the 2014-2015 NBA season the luxury tax is expected to be $77 million. This leaves Miami with about $13 million to sign players using various salary cap exceptions.
With about $4 million going towards resigning veterans on the previous roster and $2 million for hopefully signing Vince Carter, Miami would be left with their midlevel exception to sign the twelfth player of their roster.
In this scenario Miami’s midlevel exception would be worth $5.3 million a year for up to four years. A perfect fit in this salary range is center Spencer Hawes. Hawes is coming off of an annual salary of $6.5 million and will likely take a contender discount after being on losing teams for his entire career. Hawes is perfect for Miami’s style of offense, as he can consistently knock down his midrange and three point shots.
If Miami cannot clear enough cap space to gain the full midlevel exception Miami will have the Tax payer’s midlevel exception, worth about $3.2 million a year for three years. A great fit for that salary range is aging center Emeka Okafor. Okafor is positioned to make $4 to $5 million a year and would love to take a pay cut to play on a championship caliber team.
G: Dwyane Wade $11 Million
G: Ray Allen $1.5 Million
G: Vince Carter $1.5 Million
G: Kyle Lowry $8.7 Million
G: Shabazz Napier $1.1 Million
G: Norris Cole $2.1 Million
F: Lebron James $22.2 Million
F: Chris Bosh $17 Million
F: Josh McRoberts $4 Million
F: Udonis Haslem $1.5 Million
C: Greg Oden $1 Million
C: Spencer Hawes $5.3 Million
Total: $76.9 Million
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