The NBA trade deadline is less than 24 hours away and the Miami Heat are now making moves to address some roster issues.
Earlier today ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Heat traded guard Tyler Johnson to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for forward Ryan Anderson. Miami also included guard Wayne Ellington as part of the trade. The Suns are expected to waive Ellington who will then be eligible to sign with a contending team.
When the complete trade was finalized it gave the Heat two possible solutions for issues that has plagued the team all season on and off the court.
On the court the trade frees up two spots in a logjammed backcourt rotation. Before today the Miami backcourt consisted of Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, Derrick Jones Jr, Johnson, and Ellington. At the season’s start Waiters and Ellington were sidelined with injury giving players like Jones and McGruder a chance to play meaningful minutes. Forward Justise Winslow being named as the Heat’s starting point guard while Dragic recovers from knee surgery further added to the crowd.
Ellington was the most affected by the logjam. Last season he was one of Miami’s most important rotation players and most effective perimeter threat. This season through no fault of his own and due to the emergence of Jones, Ellington played only sparse minutes. The trade now frees him to become a factor for a team looking to challenge the Golden State Warriors. It also allows Miami to have a $6.3 million trade exception to use in the summer.
As for Johnson, he had played well throughout the season but the albatross around his neck was the contract he signed in 2016. At the time it was a necessary evil for the Heat to match the four-year $50 million restricted offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets gave to Johnson in the light of Wade’s bitter departure to the Chicago Bulls. That offer sheet had a poison pill written into it that nearly quadrupled his salary this season from $5 million to $19.3 million.
That jump in salary pushed Miami over the luxury tax line. While trading for Anderson at first glance looks like the Heat go further into the luxury tax with his salary this season being $20.4 million the money the team saves comes in other ways.
Johnson’s contract had a player option this summer which he is likely to pick up. Anderson on the other hand negotiated to lower his guaranteed salary for the 2019-20 season to $15.6 million last September to help his team at the time, the Houston Rockets, facilitate him being traded to the Suns. That salary will go back up to its original amount of $21.3 million should he not be waived by Miami before July 10, a move the team will likely not do.
Ellington being part of the trade helps lower the Heat’s current luxury tax bill by $8 million.
In the post ‘Big 3’ era Miami has been very keen in trying to stay under the luxury tax line and this trade helps in achieving that. It will be tricky to get under with the need to fill roster spots, but Heat general manager Andy Elisburg is one of the best executives in the NBA when it comes to understanding the salary cap. He also has time to work as the luxury tax applies to a team’s payroll at the end of the season.