The Miami Heat entered Friday’s second day of NBA free agency lacking a true starting-caliber power forward on their roster and with plenty of work ahead in rebuilding their rotation.
With starting power forward P.J. Tucker departing during Thursday’s opening minutes of free agency to the Philadelphia 76ers, and with Caleb Martin and Markieff Morris formally becoming free agents Friday, the Heat are left with plenty of big things – but no definitive power forward.
The Heat as of Friday morning stood with 12 players under team control on their standard roster: Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Dewayne Dedmon, Haywood Highsmith, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Omer Yurtseven and first-round pick Nikola Jovic.
Of the big men in that mix, Adebayo, Dedmon and Yurtseven have played almost exclusively at center over their careers, with Jovic’s frail frame hardly that of a prototypic NBA power forward.
Martin and Morris both played minutes at power forward last season, with neither necessarily a starter of choice at the position.
The Heat typically sort through the ancillary elements of free agency later in the process, when a better sense of the market for supporting players is established.
While the Heat have several means to further exceed the $123.7 million NBA salary cap established for the 2022-23 season, they also have remained mindful of avoiding the $157 million hard cap, which would be triggered by utilizing the full $10.5 non-taxpayer mid-level exception, the $4 million bi-annial exception or by acquiring a free agent in a sign-and trade transaction.
The hesitancy to put the $10.5 million exception into play was among the factors in losing Tucker, with the Heat’s offer limited to $27 million over three seasons, compared to the $33 million over three offered by the 76ers.
The Heat retain the right to bring back Tucker or Morris at 20-percent raises from last season’s minimum-scale contracts or by utilizing all or part of the $6.5 million taxpayer mid-level exception on one or both of those two. That exception also can be extended to an outside free agent.
With their payroll after Thursday’s first day of free agency at $144 million, the Heat effectively are locked in as an above-the-cap team for the coming season.
In addition to Morris and Martin, veteran big man Udonis Haslem, who is mulling returning for a 20th Heat season, is the Heat’s other remaining free agent.
Two other Heat free agents, Oladipo and Dedmon, were retained with agreements on Thursday. Those deals can be finalized starting at Wednesday’s conclusion of the league’s personnel moratorium.
Friday marks the first day the Heat can sign Jovic to his rookie scale contract, one that starts at $2.2 million for 2022-23.
With the NBA’s personnel calendar turning to the league’s new fiscal year on Friday, the Heat now also are eligible to extend a rookie-scale extension to Herro, with that window remaining open until the day before the start of the 2022-23 regular season.
All of the Heat’s moves, and, for that matter, the rest of the NBA’s moves, seemingly are being weighed against the trade request of Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, who reportedly has Miami at the top of his list of preferred destinations.
By rule, the agreed-upon contracts of Dedmon and Oladipo now cannot be put into play in trades until Dec. 15.
Teams can carry up to 20 players on their rosters during the offseason, required to then trim to a maximum of 15 players under standard contract and two under two-way contracts by the regular-season opener.
Javonte Smart and Mychal Mulder, who both are participating in summer league, currently hold the Heat’s two two-way contracts.