The Miami Heat are in a salary cap stranglehold for the 2019 season

Pat Riley onstage(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for American Express)
Pat Riley onstage(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for American Express) /

The Miami Heat have a series of weighty contract decisions to make this off-season.

Behind the incandescent sunsets and radiant neon of South Beach awaits a summertime eyesore.

The Miami Heat have a contractually gargantuan off-season ahead of them.

Gone are the days when Miami had the luxury of throwing money at players, hoping they’d blossom in years to come. Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson are at the forefront of Heat salary and trade talks, but a bundle of Heat players are coming off the books.

For starters, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem have their futures hanging in the balance. Neither has made clear their intentions for the upcoming season, likely awaiting direction from Miami’s front office.

Wayne Ellington, Luke Babbitt and Jordan Mickey are the three biggest names relinquishing their hold on Miami’s salary cap come July. Unfortunately, Miami’s decision making is clouded by past choices.

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The combination of contract extensions and max deals make re-signing three of Miami’s role players an imprecise science. Whiteside enters the $24 million, third year of his max contract while Johnson’s salary nearly quadruples to $19 million next season.

If matters weren’t bad enough, Josh Richardson’s deal is set to burst as well. His four-year, $42 million extension activates in the forth-coming season, saddling the Heat with a $9 million charge.

For a team that fizzled out in the first round of the playoffs, the outlook is less than rosy.

To make bad matters worse, the 2018-19 NBA salary cap is projected to hit $108 million with a luxury tax line of $130 per USA Today. Luck would have it that even with expiring deals, Miami is already breathing down the luxury tax’s back.

Ideally, keeping the entirety of Miami’s gaggle of 20-somethings together would be the fairytale ending. Regardless of talent, Miami’s core, with their unique characters, have endeared themselves to Heat Nation.

Johnson’s toothless grin symbolizes the blood, sweat and tears left on the AmericanAirlines Arena hardwood every night. Whiteside stands as a beacon of hope to every kid playing in their local gym, trying to beat the odds.

Ellington is the journeyman who found a place to lie his head and make history. Babbitt personifies the fleeting hope that second chances can happen.

Realistically of course, the win column is all that matters to a fan base caught daydreaming of its glory days. The level of friendship that made the 2010-2014 Big 3 possible is a rarity, and Miami’s current roster doesn’t foretell another miracle.

Even Miami’s own are ready for a remix.

"“It’s leaving the same taste in my mouth I had last year,” James Johnson said of the Heat’s early playoff exit."

With trade values plummeting and no clear out in sight, long nights of trade machine shenanigans lay ahead for Miami.

Next: Miami Heat: A look into head coach Erik Spoelstra's thoughts on the year

Only a couple more months now, Heat Nation. Free agency begins July 1.