Biggest Miami Heat Offseason Questions: Cap situation, free agents and team needs

Jun 1, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent (2) controls the ball wdb/ Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) during the fourth quarter in game one of the 2023 NBA Finals at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 1, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent (2) controls the ball wdb/ Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) during the fourth quarter in game one of the 2023 NBA Finals at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Heat have made it to the doorstep of a championship in three of the last four years. What can they do this summer to get themselves over the hump? Here’s a look at the five biggest questions facing the Heat this offseason.

1. What is the Miami Heat’s cap situation?

The Heat have about $173 million committed to nine players under contract, which is already $11 million into the luxury tax and just $6 million away from the second tax apron.

When adding in a minimum of five more players to fill out the roster, the Heat are projected to surpass the second tax apron of $179 million.

Being over this second apron, introduced by the new CBA this year, comes with some restrictions. The Heat will not have the $5 million taxpayer mid-level exception available to them, nor will they be able to sign players bought out of their current contracts (as they did this past season with Kevin Love).

However, next year is when the new rules become even more restrictive. The Heat are projected to be over the second apron again and, if they are, won’t be allowed to aggregate salaries in a trade and will have limits on what future picks they can send in a deal.

For example, the Heat this summer can trade Tyler Herro’s $27 million salary and Duncan Robinson’s $18.1 million salary together to create a package of $45.1 million in outgoing salary for someone like Damian Lillard, who is making $45.6 million. Next summer, the Heat will only be able to trade one player per deal, limiting their salary matching to whatever that player is making.

So unless they make some serious money-saving moves, the Heat have a one-year window to aggregate salary and trade for a star on a maximum contract like Lillard or Bradley Beal ($46.7 million).

2. Will Victor Oladipo pick up his player option?

Victor Oladipo has until June 29 to opt in to his $9.5 million contract for next season. Given that he suffered yet another season-ending knee injury during the first round of the playoffs, he is likely to take the guaranteed money.

If he does, the Heat have the option of waiving and stretching his contract, which would save $6.3 million this season but result in a $3.15 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons.

Will the Heat bring back their own free agents?

The Heat have some big decisions coming up on two starters from this season’s Finals team: Gabe Vincent and Max Strus.

Both are unrestricted free agents this summer, but the Heat have their Bird rights, meaning they can go over the cap and pay them up to the max salary. Vincent and Strus are projected to garner offers in the $10 million per year range. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, re-signing Vincent and Strus to contracts that pay them $10 million each next season would result in $70 million in luxury taxes. That’s a hefty bill for Heat owner Micky Arison.

This decision could come down to what the Heat do with Kyle Lowry and Robinson. Lowry will make $29.6 million next season, and paying  Lowry and Vincent upwards of $40 million combined is a lot of money for what isn’t an elite point guard room.

Ditto for Strus and Robinson, whose skill sets are somewhat redundant. Paying them a combined $30 million isn’t a responsible use of the cap.

Miami’s other free agents are Love (unrestricted), Cody Zeller (unrestricted), Omer Yurtseven (restricted), Jamal Cain (restricted) and Orlando Robinson (restricted).

The Heat can offer Love up to $3.8 million next season. Love would like to remain in Miami, and there’s motivation on both sides to keep the partnership going. That, too, could be based on the Heat’s other offseason moves.

Cain and Robinson could return on two-way deals that do not impact the cap, or fill out the roster on minimum contracts.

What are the Heat’s draft assets?

The Heat have the No. 18 pick in the NBA draft (June 22), plus their own 2024 first-round pick. They owe Oklahoma City a first in 2025 (top 14 protected) or 2026 (unprotected). They can include a maximum of three first-round picks in a trade. They also have two second-round picks.

Besides a star, what are Miami’s team needs?

Obviously, a star scorer such as Lillard or even Beal might be at or near the top of Miami’s wish list. Beyond that, however, the Heat have a desperate need for size and athleticism. This was apparent against a bigger, stronger Denver Nuggets team that beat them in five games in the NBA Finals. The Heat have been searching for a longterm answer at power forward.

Depending on what happens with Vincent and Strus, the Heat may also have to address their backcourt depth. They can bring back any of Zeller, Yurtseven or Orlando Robinson to be Bam Adebayo’s backup, or pursue outside help.

More Miami Heat offseason coverage: