The Heat bypassed using the NBA’s stretch provision on any player by Thursday’s league deadline -- a move that potentially creates more financial flexibility for Miami in a year but diminishes its chances of signing a highly-paid player on the buyout market next February or March.
The stretch provision allows a team to release a player and stretch his cap hits over several years (twice the length of the remaining time on the player’s contract, plus another year).
Miami opted to keep Kyle Lowry and the final year of his contract, meaning he will be on the Heat’s books for $29.7 million this upcoming season -- or on another team’s books at that amount, if he is traded before the mid-February trade deadline.
The Heat’s other alternative, which it opted not to do by the Aug. 31 NBA deadline, was release Lowry and carry $9.9 million dead money cap hits for the next three seasons.
The Heat decided not to use the stretch provision on Lowry even before Portland guard Damian Lillard asked to be traded to the Heat on July 1.
The decision to eschew the waive and stretch provision with Lowry or any other player gives the Heat more financial flexibility in future years, though that flexibility would be at least partially offset if Miami succeeds in ongoing efforts to acquire Lillard.
But the decision on Lowry also makes it impossible for the Heat to add a particularly pricey player in the buyout market unless Miami can trim more than $7 million off its payroll in the months ahead.
Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, beginning this season, teams that are $7 million above the $165.2 million luxury tax threshold cannot sign players who are waived during the regular season and have a salary exceeding this season’s full mid-level exception ($12.4 million).
The Heat’s payroll stands at $179.3 million, which is above that $172.3 million “first apron” but less than the even more onerous $182.7 million “second apron.”
With the current Heat payroll, the Heat - under these new rules - would not have been permitted to sign Kevin Love in the buyout market in February. Love earned $28.9 million last season before agreeing to a buyout with the Cavaliers and signing with Miami during the All Star break.
As a team currently over the first apron, the Heat can match salaries up to 110 percent of the players involved in a trade, rather than the traditional 125 percent. Beginning next offseason, teams above the first apron will only be able to trade for a player who makes up to the value of the salary being traded away.
The Heat has 13 players under standard contracts and must add a 14th player before its Oct. 25 regular season opener against Detroit. By adding a 14th player on a minimum contract, Miami can avoid surpassing the second apron. But a potential Lillard trade could change the equation.
Among the onerous consequences of surpassing the second apron: Beginning in mid-April next season, teams above the second apron cannot aggregate player salaries in a trade, cannot deal one of its own players in a sign-and-trade and cannot sweeten trades with cash, among other impediments.
The Heat likely will try to avoid becoming a second apron team in its continued attempts to acquire Lillard.
Miami’s looming 2023-24 luxury tax payment, using the formula that the NBA utilized in recent years, stands at $27 million. But a team’s luxury tax bill isn’t set until the final day of the regular season, giving teams 7 ½ months to add or shed salary.
THIS AND THAT
Lillard remains resolute about wanting to be traded to the Heat, a source has said. But that apparently hasn’t stopped Jayson Tatum from lobbying Lillard to be open to a trade to Boston, according to ESPN’s Marc Spears.
That lobbying by Tatum hasn’t worked with Lillard, Spears said.
▪ NBA legend Jerry West called Bam Adebayo the most underrated player in the NBA during a recent appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show.”
He’s “really good,” West said. “He plays every night. He gets numbers every night. Even if he doesn’t score on some nights, he’s still going help them win because of his value to his team. And he doesn’t get a lot of publicity.”
▪ The Heat will host its annual scrimmage benefiting cancer care and research at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9 at Kaseya Center. Admission to the annual Red, White & Pink Game is $5; tickets went on sale on Thursday.
There is an eight-ticket maximum per transaction. The parking charge is $5 per vehicle.