Miami Heat: The pros and cons of Dragic and Whiteside’s option decision

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 3: Hassan Whiteside
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 3: Hassan Whiteside /

A huge day looms for Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat. Their decisions regarding their player options will determine their respective offseasons.

The biggest day in free agency for the Miami Heat will occur before July 1st, the official beginning of the NBA’s free agency period. On June 29th (or before), both Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside will have to decide on their player options.

Dragic has a $19 million player option for 2019-20, while Whiteside has a massive $27 million option. If they both opt into their contracts for the final season, the Heat will have about $140 million on the books. With a salary cap expected to total around $109 million for 2019-20, either one opting out will provide the Heat no cap space and only luxury tax relief (the luxury tax line is set at $132 million for the coming season).

From a competitive perspective, Heat fans should hope that either both opt in, or both opt out. In fact, nobody but perhaps team owner Micky Arison should hope that only one opts out, and Arison’s frantic machinations to avoid the luxury tax in the past is a good indicator that he might prefer that.

Where things get interesting for the Miami Heat is if they both opt out. That would drop them from this massive $140 million salary total to just around $94 million, which by itself provides them about $15 million in space. Should this happen, the Heat could stretch Ryan Anderson‘s contract to provide around $16 million more in savings against the cap, which is almost enough to offer a max contract.

Of course, we exist in the real world and for this to happen Dragic and Whiteside would need very good reasons indeed to give up what would amount to guaranteed game checks of $234,364 in Dragic’s case and $330,402 in Whiteside’s case.

For Dragic, there’s always the possibility that he might be offered guaranteed starter’s minutes elsewhere, and considering the emergence of Justise Winslow as starting point guard for much of last season, that could be in doubt if he stayed with the Heat. There’s no way he could immediately recoup that $19.2 million next season on the open market, but it’s possible he would be on the lookout for less annual money over more years along with a solid starting role.

As for Whiteside, it’s possible that entering his age 30 season, considering how the value of old-school centers has plummeted, he may be hard-pressed to ever recoup his $27.1 million contract if he was to opt out. He could start on a number of teams, and is almost certain to be a reserve for the Miami Heat behind Bam Adebayo, but the financial hit for opting out would be astronomical.

At this point, there’s perhaps some small chance Dragic opts out and either comes back for more money over several years, but a smaller 2019-20 salary, or departs for a similar situation elsewhere, but he has to be considered a huge favorite to opt in and return.

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There’s almost no chance Whiteside opts out and foregoes what is certain to be his final massive salary year, so the likely hope for Heat fans is that both simply return.