There was a time when the 4th of July weekend had the Miami Heat in scramble mode.
This was particularly the case in 2016, when the Heat put Dwyane Wade’s free agency negotiations on hold after Kevin Durant announced on July 4 that he was leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Pat Riley and Micky Arison for theirs Pitch to pack sent to the since-travelled forward in New York’s Hamptons.
Then there’s the holiday weekend like this year, with crickets from the heat and most of the league as Durant debates goals again after requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets.
The hold has been constant since NBA Free Agency opening day on Thursday, when the Heat lost PJ Tucker to the Philadelphia 76ers and re-signed Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done, though, even if the team moves to the larger NBA Summer League in Las Vegas after Tuesday’s California Classic Summer League finals in San Francisco.
For the heat, several elements remain at play and need to be addressed:
Caleb Martin: The Heat have a $2.1 million qualifying offer that makes Martin a restricted free agent and allows them to match outside offers to the energetic forward.
However, there are limitations.
Because the Heat are above salary cap and don’t have bird rights on Martin, they can’t match outside offers above the $10.5 million mid-level exception as a starting point for a 2022-23 contract.
Even then, the Heat are unlikely to progress past the $6.5 million exemption for middle-level taxpayers, as any starting salary above that number would trigger a hard salary cap. Additionally, extending such a $6.5 million salary for Martin would likely preclude an outside free agent going beyond the minimum.
Martin’s twin brother Cody Martin, who boasted similar stats to Caleb last season, recently signed a four-year, $32 million deal to remain with the Charlotte Hornets.
Markieff Morris: With Tucker losing to the 76ers, Morris could potentially return with another veteran-minimum contract.
But after missing 58 games due to whiplash following his Nov. 8 scuffle with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, the veteran forward, who turns 33 in September, never regained the midfield game he started out with had made the season so effective.
Morris played just three minutes in the Heat’s 18 playoff games.
Udonis Haslem: Haslem, 42, is the other remaining Heat free agent from the 2021-22 roster, who played just 82 minutes in the regular season, none in the playoffs.
The Heat recently sent a team member to Haslem’s Orlando vacation home to invite him over for a 20th season with the team. He has been below the NBA salary scale for each of the past five years.
Mid-level exception: As noted at Martin, the Heat, which operates above the NBA salary cap of $123.7 million for 2022-23 but below the luxury tax limit of $150.3 million, can either get the full mid-level exemption claim of $10.5 million for a free agent (or free agents) or the $6.5 million mid-level taxpayer.
Using just over $6.5 million from the mid-tier triggers a $157 million hard cap.
One of the reasons the Heat Tuckers lost to the 76ers was the decision not to move to a hard-capped position.
Exception every six months: This is a $4.1 million exception that can be used on one or more free agents, but not in consecutive years.
Like the full mid-level exception, using the semi-annual deadline puts a team in a difficult position.
The Heat has the semi-annual available capital, but would likely only use it if they also used the entire median level of $10.5 million and accepted to operate under a hard cap.
Roster Limit: Teams may promote up to 15 players under standard contracts as well as two players under two-way contracts during the regular season, with those two players limited to 50 regular-season appearances.
The Heat currently have 12 players on standard contracts: Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Dedmon, Haywood Highsmith, Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic, Kyle Lowry, Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Omer Yurtseven.
This leaves three additional roster slots in play.
Javonte Smart and Mychal Mulder are currently under a two-way contract from 2022-23 with The Heat.