Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat have reportedly reached an agreement that will sever the relationship between the two parties. Bosh will be a free agent and the Heat will be able to wipe his salary off their cap ledger. While removing Bosh’s prohibitive salary is a positive step for Pat Riley and the Heat, it won’t come close to solving their massive cap problems.
Last summer Miami freaked out about the possibility of losing Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson to free agency. So they locked Whiteside up with a four-year, $98 million deal, and matched the New Jersey Nets’ four-year, $50 million offer to Johnson. Neither guy was the star the Heat needed in 2016-17.
Whiteside averaged 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, while his PER of 22.68 ranked 26th in the NBA. That’s a solid season, but he is also about to turn 28 and is under contract for three more years and $75 million. That’s a lot of dough.
Johnson averaged 13.7 points, 3.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 29.8 minutes per game. But he shot just 43.3 percent from the floor, down from 48.6 percent the previous year. The 25-year-old’s PER rose to 15.94, but that ranked just 107th in the league. Considering he’ll be making $19.25 million in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 those numbers are unacceptable.
Meanwhile, Goran Dragic scored a lot of points but did little else for the Heat. He averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game, but the 31-year-old’s PER of 19.84 ranked 47th in the NBA. He’s due to make $54.3 million over the next three years and, again, that’s simply not good enough.
The point of the last three paragraphs is that Riley and the Heat bet on guys who haven’t performed. Now with Bosh’s $25.3 million salary for 2017-18 and $26.8 million for 2018-19 off the books there is some wiggle room there. The Heat have roughly $67.85 million committed for next season, but $58.8 million of that is going to Whiteside, Dragic, Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Josh McRoberts. That’s a lot of money to guys who aren’t providing a ton of value.
Still, Depending on waiver and option decisions, the Heat will wind up with between $14 million and $37 million in cap space.
Riley now has the money to chase a big free agent, but who is going to be tempted by Miami’s current roster? If Justise Winslow comes back healthy next season, that’s a nice piece to have, and Miami does possess the 14th pick in a deep 2017 NBA Draft. But the Heat simply don’t have the kind of roster that can challenge the big boys in the Eastern Conference, even if they do manage to land a star-level talent.
Do we really believe Whiteside, Dragic and (insert All-Star — not named LeBron James — here) could best the Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers? Clearly not. And unfortunately for Miami, the team also doesn’t have enough attractive, cheap assets to cobble together a trade for someone like Paul George. The Indiana Pacers will be looking for youth and value to build around, not mid-career guys with big contracts.
This offseason should be fascinating for the Heat. They have the money to make a big splash now, but they don’t have the roster to entice a big name. Can Riley work some unexpected magic? I’d never count him out, but the situation doesn’t look great on South Beach.