The NBA’s formal cutdown deadline in most seasons tends to be an artificial deadline. That might not be the case for the Miami Heat.
While Monday is the official deadline for teams to trim to the regular-season 15-player roster limit, most teams will complete their work by the 5 p.m. waiver call on Saturday, in order to avoid players sitting on their roster for the 48-hour waiver period when the 2017-18 pay calendar begins.
But with the Heat already above the salary cap but below the luxury tax, and with some players already guaranteed up to $50,000, there is no penalty for waiting.
That wasn’t the case last season, when the Heat had one opening for the final three players on the roster, with Rodney McGruder getting that spot and Beno Udrih and Briante Weber waived.
But now that McGruder is sidelined, the days leading up to Wednesday’s season opener could be a bit more complex.
The issues at hand going into Saturday’s league-wide personnel whirlwind:
A.J. Hammons: There is hard to find redeeming value here amid the Heat’s glut of big men other than the potential to utilize Hammons’ two seasons of guaranteed salary in an eventual trade. He is due $1.3 million this season and $1.5 million in 2018-19. Because of the guarantees, there is no penalty for the Heat waiting until Monday should Hammons be released.
Derrick Walton Jr.: Walton has agreed to a two-way contract that limits his NBA exposure to 45 days this season, a deal worth between $75,000 and $270,000, depending on time in the NBA. The contract, however, can be converted to a regular NBA contract at any time, roster space allowing. In the interim he cannot be signed away by another team.
Matt Williams Jr.: The Heat hold the right to convert Williams’ contract to a two-way deal in advance of the roster deadline. However, if waived, the decision to accept a two-way Heat contract would then revert to Williams. Teams can sign up to two players to two-way contracts, which do not count against the 15-player roster limit.
Okaro White: White has been guaranteed $453,000, with the balance of his $1.3 million 2017-18 salary becoming guaranteed on opening night if still on the roster. He isn’t expected to be in play at the roster deadline, but it is a situation similar to Weber last year.
Rodney McGruder: Like White, he has been guaranteed $453,000, with the balance of his $1.3 million 2017-18 salary becoming guaranteed on opening night. Even with a potential season-ending leg injury it would be unfathomable for the team to make a roster move from part of their avowed Heat Family.
Erik McCree, DeAndre Liggins, Tony Mitchell: All are expected to be waived and then relocate to the Heat’s developmental-league affiliate, the G League Sioux Falls Skyforce, free to be signed by any NBA team. Of the three, Liggins might get a second look in the wake of McGruder’s injury.
Waiver claim, exception move: While these appeared unlikely until McGruder’s injury, the Heat could make a waiver claim for a minimum-salary player released elsewhere or perhaps put into play the $4.3 million mid-level exception still at their disposal. The exception, however, cannot be utilize in a waiver claim, which could factor into the Heat moving later rather than sooner.
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