The Miami Heat Should Not, and Are Not, Overlooking Final Roster Spots


People don’t think the last few spots on an NBA roster matter much. That they won’t determine a team’s ultimate success on the court and that talking about it is just a fanboy obsessive compulsion.

Maybe those people are right.

Or maybe those people don’t know about Cory Joseph, the 29th pick in the 2011 draft who sat at the end of the San Antonio Spurs bench his rookie year after making the team.

Joseph ended up sticking with the Spurs, played a modestly impactful role off the bench for the 2013-14 championship team, started 33 games over the past two seasons for The Model franchise in sports, just signed a multi-year with the Toronto Raptors and got a shout out on Drake’s Meek Mill diss track.

So when Pat Riley and the Miami Heat are taking careful consideration over the last few spots of the roster, they are not only dong their job, they could be deciding who will be the next Joseph, or the next Malcolm Thomas.

Apr 15, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) passes the ball around Philadelphia 76ers guard Glenn Robinson III (1) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Heat won 105-101. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat’s roster has started to take shape after a few moves to save them nearly $12 million in salary and luxury taxes. In the last couple of days, the Heat have traded Shabazz Napier to the Magic and Zoran Dragic to the Celtics, and have waived Henry Walker.

If you include impressive rookie Josh Richardson, who is bound to make the team, the Heat have 15 players and some options.

Among the moves to trim the roster, the Heat and James Ennis also agreed to extend the deadline for when Ennis’ deal becomes partially guaranteed from August 1 to the beginning of the season (at which time his contract will become full guaranteed).

That means Ennis could be on the team for the length of training camp, as he seeks to re-prove himself after a disappointing summer league. Ennis must have been under the impression that the Heat would cut him rather than pay 50 percent of his contract at the beginning of August, so Ennis agreed to postpone the deadline in hopes of earning the full $845,059 he’s set to make.

That puts the Heat in the driver’s seat.

The Heat could do nothing and keep Ennis as the 15th man or cut him before opening night without penalty and save $3.2 million in salary and luxury taxes.

Mar 13, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) during their game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Heat 102-92. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

But before that happens, the Heat may still trade Mario Chalmers and/or Chris Andersen as they seek to get under the luxury-tax line (they are still about $7 million over before a Richardson deal). The Heat are still looking for takers on Chalmers’ $4.3 million deal for–like Napier and Dragic–basically nothing.

They would have to trade both Chalmers and Andersen to get under the tax. If that were to happen, the Heat would have two-to-three open roster spots (three if they waive Ennis before the start of the season) and enough room to add a veteran free agent such as Mike Miller (meh), Jason Richardson (meher), Carlos Boozer (ugh), Ish Smith (hm) or Dorell Wright (ding ding ding!).

(Or J.R. Smith, if Pat Riley can convince him to sign for less than $3 million.)

It’s worth noting that the Heat can keep a minimum of 13 players on the roster, so they can opt not to keep a 15th player if it means not going over the tax.

Then, of course, there is the Do Nothing Approach. The Heat could sign Richardson, pay the year of the repeater tax (about $20 million), and go into the season with him, Chalmers, Andersen, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, Gerald Green, Justise Winslow, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyler Johnson and Ennis coming off the bench.

We’ll see what Riley ends up doing, but indications are that he’s not done making moves just yet. And why not? If he can save his boss $20 million while finding the next Cory Joseph (Tyler Johnson?) or Chandler Parsons/Draymond Green Golden Ticket (Josh Richardson?), he should exhaust all his options.

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