Future Consideration: Breaking Down the Heat’s Moves at the Trade Deadline
Get Better or Shed Money?
Everyone expected the Miami Heat to be big players at this year’s trade deadline. Pat Riley has been known to roll the dice in the past, and with Chris Bosh’s season suddenly in doubt, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see Riley pull off a blockbuster deal. Unfortunately, Riley decided to play it safe and has put much faith in his current roster.
There was never any speculation that Bosh or Wade would be dealt, but there were constant rumors swirling around Hassan Whiteside, and occasionally about Goran Dragic. There was a time when everyone thought Whiteside and Dwight Howard would be swapped, but character and maturity issues surrounding both of them prevented this from materializing. When word about Bosh’s injury got out, there were some reports that Winslow would be traded for frontcourt depth, but these rumors never picked up any steam either. Ultimately, Riley kept quiet at the deadline, which was definitely in the best interest for the Heat’s future.
What Actually Happened?
This NBA trade deadline was extremely quiet to say the least. No superstar was traded, but high quality talents including Tobias Harris, Brandon Jennings, Jeff Green, Markieff Morris, and Courtney Lee were all forced to start a new chapter of their career in a different city.
The Heat were actually participants in three different trades, but all of them were simply salary-shedding moves. These moves, which I will explain in much depth below, benefitted Miami’s organizational leaders much more than Erik Spoelstra and the actual roster.
How the NBA’s Rules Affected the Heat:
Before I begin to analyze the actual trades, let me explain to you why Heat owner Micky Arison was trying to dump as much salary as possible. To start the season, the Miami Heat were way above the luxury tax. This normally isn’t an issue because paying the luxury tax has become a norm in the NBA, but a new rule in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has forced teams to make sure they are under the luxury tax at least two out of every four seasons.
This new rule is called the repeater tax. It is very complicated, so I will keep it as simple as possible. Under the luxury tax, teams are forced to pay a certain amount for every dollar that exceeds the cap. The repeater tax comes into play when a team is over the luxury tax for three out of the past four years. I don’t want to get into the numbers because that would bore everyone including myself, so I’ll just say that the repeater tax is much, much larger than the typical luxury tax. Obviously, owners don’t want to pay this excessive amount, so they tend to do anything they can to avoid it.
This perfectly explains all of the moves Pat Riley made at the trade deadline. If the Heat didn’t get their salary under the cap, they would have had to pay over $20 million in taxes. This would have forced the Heat to be the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater tax. I know what you’re thinking, “Who cares? The owner is insanely rich, so what’s the difference whether he loses $20 million or not?” This makes complete sense, but no one wants to just lose millions of dollars for no reason. You can’t forget that the NBA is a business and these owners hate losing, whether it’s money or games.
The Heat avoided the luxury tax last season but had to pay it the two seasons before that. Getting under the cap this season allows them to escape the repeater tax, until at least the 2019-2020 season. If they were forced to pay the repeater tax this season, they would be eligible for it again next season.
As you can see, these were financial-based moves rather than roster improvement-based moves. But, trades are trades, so let’s get into the process of breaking down each one.
Breakdown of Trades:
The first move the Miami Heat made was a three-team trade that involved the Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies. Charlotte undoubtedly got the most talent, acquiring sharpshooting Courtney Lee from Memphis in order to help secure a playoff berth. Miami clearly made this move as a salary dump. They got Brian Roberts from Charlotte, while giving up Chris Anderson along with two highly protected second round draft picks. This helped shed $2.2 million in the total team salary, and ultimately saved them upwards of $6 million in the luxury tax. According to ESPN Staff Writer Kevin Pelton, the Heat won this deal and were given an overall grade of an A-.
The next trade that occurred was, again, made to simply dump salary; this time it was with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Heat traded forward Jarnell Stokes and $700,000 for a protected second round pick. The Pelicans ended up waiving Stokes, but profited a nifty $450,000 in the process. Even though Stokes is only making slightly under $850,000 this year, it got the Heat one step closer to officially being under the salary cap.
Miami’s last trade came right before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline. The Heat dealt the newly acquired Roberts and a second round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for cash considerations. Miami only needed to shed $2.1 million to officially be under the salary cap, but decided to move Robert’s $2.8 million contract. He would have been their third-string point guard behind Goran Dragic and Beno Udrih, so it’s not like he would have gotten much playing time, if any. This saved them over $6 million, and potentially tens of millions down the line.
Kevin Pelton gave the Heat an A+ for making this deal, who stated that, “The long-term financial benefits could also be much bigger than this year’s savings.” It’s evident that this deal was the final piece of Miami’s financially-oriented puzzle.
Overall, Miami gave up one quality rotation player (Mario Chalmers, who was dealt to Memphis in November), Chris Anderson, and three second-round picks to save over $20 million. Even though Pat Riley didn’t manage to pull off the mega deal that would propel the Heat to the Conference Finals, he still ended up making positive moves at the trade deadline.
Obviously, none of these were the trades that Heat fans were looking for, but they were made with the future in mind. The Heat only have six players under contract for next season, totaling just above $50 million. With the salary cap expected to balloon to $89 million next season and $108 million the following season, the Heat are in prime position to bring in quality free agents to bolster the roster before the 2016/17 season.