Miami Heat mailbag: What is Blake Griffin worth?


Should the Miami Heat even offer Blake Griffin a max contract? Does the team have too many guards, and should they trade one? And who might be available for Miami’s cap exception?  Let’s open the mailbag.

Dec 16, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) looks over at Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (35) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Clippers won 102-98. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 16, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) looks over at Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (35) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. The Clippers won 102-98. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

You can send future Miami Heat mailbag questions to Thanks to those of you who have sent questions. In addition to answering them on the podcast with my co-host David Ramil, I’ll answer them in this weekly column. Let’s do it.

I would not offer Blake Griffin a max deal, nor would I offer a five-year deal. What do you think his price range is? – Taylor Monk

Blake Griffin is going to get the five-year max if he opts out. There just aren’t enough available free agents who are better (assuming Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are off the table, I would say Gordon Hayward is the only likely free agent clearly better than Griffin).

But let me pose this question: What if he doesn’t opt out?

As a free agent, Griffin would only be able to sign with teams with enough cap space. But if he opts in to his $21.3 million salary with the agreement that the Clippers will trade him, it could be a win-win. The Clippers don’t let Griffin walk away for nothing, and Griffin has an opportunity to [sort of] join a team of his choosing.

If that’s the case, it’s much easier to swallow $21.3 million than it is $30 million-plus for an injury-prone big man. It also gives a team a year to get Griffin in their building and work with their doctors before offering him a long-term deal. The only reason Griffin doesn’t do it is because this might be his last chance to sign a long-term max contract. One more injury, and any chance of that could go kaput.

To answer your question, Taylor, I would not pay Griffin this summer if I’m the Heat. With Tyler Johnson’s contract ballooning after the 2017-18 season, this could be Miami’s last chance to land a whale. Griffin is too risky at a max price, and being locked into him and his various injuries could wipe away any flexibility that they have.

Is it a good idea to be paying Dion, T.J. and, eventually, Josh Richardson a ton of money when they all play the same position and none are star players? Would it be more prudent to look to move either T.J. or Josh Richardson during the draft, or possibly choose not to re-sign Dion? – Bryan Young

If the Heat re-sign Dion (and they should, because he provides the type of drive-and-kick game and defense that neither Johnson or Richardson do) then this will definitely be a problem at some point.

Let’s say the Heat sign Dion to a three-year, $33 million deal that goes through the 2019-20 season. Tyler’s contract increases to $18.8 million in 2018-19 and $19.6 million in 2019-20. Richardson will be a restricted free agent after the 2017-18 season. If the Heat are going to keep him, they’ll have to pay him that summer.

That could mean having around $40 million tied up in three guards during the 2018-19 season, and that doesn’t include the $18 million Goran Dragic will be making. That’s $58 million invested in your backcourt! The cap is projected at just $103 million for that season, so those four players would account for more than 50 percent of the entire salary cap.

Then consider that Hassan Whiteside will be making $25.4 million, James Johnson could also be locked into a long-term deal paying him upwards of $12 million and Justise Winslow will also be due for an extension. Miami will be rubbing up against the cap with just those seven players.

Miami can’t put all that money into one position, which is why one of those dudes gotta go. I’d throw Dragic into that mix, too. Eventually, Miami is going to have to make a decision. But that time isn’t now. The Heat have a 41 game sample of being bad, and a 41 game sample of being good with this current group. Figure out which parts work before spinning them off. They can always trade one at the trade deadline or after the season.

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NO NO NO to anything regarding parting with our no. 1 pick. We need young talent and hope for the future. – DW Cromartie

On one hand, I agree with you. This might be the last time the Heat are picking this high for quite some time (they still owe two picks to Phoenix because of the Dragic trade). Not only do they need to keep their pick, but they also need to hit on it. We talked about Miami’s upcoming cap crunch in the last question, and finding a contributor on a rookie-scale contract that will take them through the 2020-21 season would be a way to offset some of the higher contracts on the books.

On the other hand, you can’t just hang up the phone as soon as the no. 14 pick comes into play. The Heat can only trade their pick after using it, meaning they would be picking for the team they are trading with. Would you rule out such an arrangement if it meant getting Jimmy Butler, Paul George or CJ McCollum? I wouldn’t.

Miami will only have the space user’s mid-level this year, What free agent (excluding Willie Reed) do you think might be attractive and available in that range? – Jeff Nichols

As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman reported, the Heat are expected to have the $4 million room exception available. It’s one of the smaller cap exceptions, but it’s still nearly double what the league’s minimum contract will be, so it could still be used to find a nice player.

So I looked at all the pending unrestricted free agents, and here is who I know will be available:

  • Point guards: Shelvin Mack, Aaron Brooks
  • Wings: Brandon Rush, Anthony Morrow, Jodie Meeks, Thabo Sefelosha
  • Forwards: Luke Babbitt, Omri Casspi, Mike Muscala, Dante Cunningham, Jonas Jarebko, Pattrick Patterson
  • Centers: Nene, Tiago Splitter, Roy Hibbert

I like Brandon Rush as a swingman, but with Winslow and Rodney McGruder, I don’t know if you want him hogging those minutes. Anthony Morrow could provide some relief if the Heat need to waive Ellington for cap space. Omri Casspi, if healthy, could outplay a $4 million contract. So could Dante Cunningham, and both are more versatile than Luke Babbitt, who Miami could opt to retain with this exception (don’t rule this out).

Next: Bringing Dwyane Wade back doesn't make sense

Nene and Tiago Splitter are interesting options to replace Willie Reed. I wouldn’t touch Roy Hibbert with a 10-foot pole covered in tinfoil, but I felt I should at least list him here. I’d wager that Miami’s exception goes toward replacing Reed.