9:45 a.m. update: The Heat agreed on a new deal with Goran Dragic this morning (five years, $90 million), which both sides had expected for months.
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Another nerve-fraying summer for the Heat has essentially become a three-step plan: Re-sign Goran Dragic (both sides are optimistic that will happen on a five-year deal for at least $90 million), re-signing Dwyane Wade and finding another shooter for its bench.
There could be a fourth step if the Heat dumps a player or two to lessen its luxury-tax burden, which wouldn't be surprising because the tax ramifications are so severe otherwise.
On the Wade front, several Heat people are optimistic a deal will get done, even though Wade is expected to at least consider other options.
As Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick noted, Wade and Heat owner Micky Arison have met to discuss the situation. And Wade isn't acting like somebody who's about to leave; he has been in contact with the Heat’s first-round pick Justise Winslow.
What's more, ESPN’s Chris Broussard said “league execs [are] telling me there is not a robust market for D-Wade because of his age (33) and injury problems.”
And several teams that would be appealing to Wade appear to be prioritizing other free agents. At this point, it would be surprising if Wade leaves the Heat.
Asking and answering as free agency starts:
### What’s realistically within Miami’s price range as far as outside help?
If Wade and Dragic re-sign, Miami likely would have only a $3.4 million taxpayer’s midlevel exception, but there’s no assurance the Heat would use it because of a potentially large tax bill. The chance of Miami using its exception increases if the Heat dumps Mario Chalmers and/or Josh McRoberts and/or Chris Andersen without taking money back.
Depending on Wade’s and Dragic’s first-year salaries, using that $3.4 million could result in a tax hit of between $10 million and $15 million if Miami doesn’t dump a few players to lower payroll.
Remember Pat Riley said Friday, speaking generally: “This is also a business, as much as it is about basketball.”
If Wade surprisingly bolts, then Miami probably would have a $5.5 million mid-level exception and possibly a $2.1 million bi-annual depending on where its payroll falls.
At $5.5 million, the Heat could be in the mix for Mike Dunleavy, Gerald Green, and (buyer beware) JR Smith, though Chicago wants to keep Dunleavy and Cleveland also is said to be pursuing him. The $5.5 million probably wouldn’t be enough for Monta Ellis, an expected Heat target if Wade bolts.
But at $3.4 million or less, realistic names --- should Miami even spend exception money --- would include Marcus Thornton (there has been Heat interest in the past), Alan Anderson, Marco Bellinelli (Yahoo! says Charlotte has made him a priority and has a full $5.5 million midlevel), Omri Casspi, Wayne Ellington, Dorell Wright, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Terry, Rodney Stuckey, Mo Williams, J.J. Barea (ESPN Dallas reports Heat interest), Aaron Brooks and C.J. Watson.
Some of those names could be available at the minimum, as could Leandro Barbosa, John Jenkins, Richard Jefferson, Rasual Butler, Luke Babbitt, Jimmer Fredette, Gary Neal, James Jones, Willie Green and Gigi Datome.
Among power forwards (should Miami care to add one at the minimum), Broussard today mentioned Carlos Boozer (who we've previously mentioned as a possibility) and Sacramento's Derrick Williams as players of interest to the Heat.
Keep this in mind: For players signing minimum deals (topping out at $1.5 million), teams are charged a tax hit only on $947,000.
### Where could Wade go?
Two Wade associates cite the Lakers as his top choice other than the Heat. But the Lakers have only two centers under contract (Tarik Black and Robert Sacre) and reportedly will initially target LaMarcus Aldridge (he's meeting with them tonight), DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love and Greg Monroe. The Lakers have about $23 million to spend –-- not enough for an elite power rotation player and Wade.
For the Lakers to turn to Wade, they probably would need to miss out on all four of those centers or power forwards. And even then, they are expected to turn to Tyson Chandler and Robin Lopez.
The Lakers, by the way, could miss out on all of its four targets. Aldridge is strongly considering the Spurs; Jordan is meeting with multiple teams; Love reportedly leans toward staying in Cleveland; and the Knicks are “about as close to a done deal” for Monroe “as you can get,” according to The New York Daily News.
What about other options for Wade? Several of the other potentially appealing teams are pursuing other players, at least initially.
The Knicks have $27 million in space, but Yahoo! reports they’re front-runners for Monroe and Aaron Afflalo, who combined would take all of that cap space. Chicago is not likely because the Bulls have made a max offer to restricted free agent Jimmy Butler. Milwaukee can't be ruled out but the Bucks are reportedly targeting Tyson Chandler with its cap space. Detroit has cap space and Wade has a history with Stan Van Gundy but does Wade want to finish his career playing for a non-contender?
Dallas has more than $20 million in space and needs to replace Monta Ellis; but Aldridge, Jordan, Wes Matthews and Danny Green are reportedly its priority targets. And the Spurs are initially pursuing others, including Aldridge.
Other playoff teams with the cap space to make competitive bids for Wade, if they choose, include Atlanta (if Hawks lose DeMarre Carroll), Portland (which has more than $40 million if Aldridge and Matthews bolt), Indiana, Phoenix and Toronto.
The Clippers and Cavaliers could offer no more than mid-level exception money, making them unlikely.
### What can the Heat do if Wade leaves?
If Wade bolts --- and again, this would surprise the Heat --- it would still be difficult for Miami to get under the cap.
Here’s why: Chris Bosh, Dragic, Luol Deng and Justise Winslow would take up between $50 million and $53 million of a $67 million cap. Throw in Chris Andersen ($5 million salary), Mario Chalmers ($4.3 million), Udonis Haslem’s $2.9 million and Josh McRoberts ($5.5 million) and other low-salary players or cap holds and that would leave the Heat with only exception money --- not enough to land any of the other top free-agent shooting guards (Afflalo, Green, Matthews, Ellis or probably Lou Williams).
The Heat could create room to offer Ellis a deal starting with a salary of at least $8 million only if it loses Wade and trades four of its non-minimum backups.
### Why is the luxury tax worrisome for Miami?
Because the Heat falls into the category of repeater tax teams --- a punitive penalty for franchises that have surpassed the tax threshold three of the past four seasons.
Say the Heat gives Wade a contract starting at $18 million and Dragic $17 million. Without trading anyone, that would leave the Heat with a payroll of about $93 million, with a projected tax threshold of $81 million. (That tax threshold and the cap could end up slightly higher than expected, CBS reported late tonight.)
But instead of having a dollar-for-dollar $12 million luxury tax payment, the Heat instead would be taxed by increments of 2.5 percent for each dollar over the tax (on money spent between $1 and $4.99 million over the threshold), 2.75 percent (for money spent between $5 million and $9.99 million); 3.5 percent (for money spent between $10 million and $14.99 million over the threshold) and so forth.
So if the Heat is $12 million over the cap, that would be a $33 million tax hit.
And trading Andersen and Chalmers could save the Heat $26 million or more in this scenario. Trading McRoberts and Chalmers would save even more.
### Receiver Greg Jennings told ESPN’s Vikings reporter recently that he didn’t think he would sign with the Dolphins until a phone conversation with president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum.
That eased his concerns about how he would fit in and whether he could assert himself as a leader here. Though some evaluators say Jennings has lost something, Ryan Tannehill said: “It’s unbelievable how he can break corners down, with his savviness of how to get guys leaning.”
### ESPN analyst Damien Woody, talking about the Dolphins this week: “The last couple of years they've melted at the end, which tells me they’re soft. They’re soft mentally. Until they’re able to finish, you know, I’m going to call it what it is.”
### Please see the last post for details on the Dolphins' training camp schedule, which was released today.
### Look for former Dolphins and Hurricanes receiver Randal Hill to announce plans to run for U.S. Congress in District 24 in Miami.
### UM's entire 2015 recruiting class is now enrolled, without an academic casaulty in the bunch.
### The Cowboys aren't the only team that UM coaches visited to pick up tips this offseson. Art Kehoe said he and tight ends coach Larry Scott went to Dolphins camp. And Kehoe said he met with Tampa Bay coaches as well.