Hamilton, an outside-shooting 7-footer who finished last season with the Heat, has an $816,000 contract for 2014-15 that becomes 50-percent guaranteed if not waived on or before Aug. 1, and 75-percent guarantee if he is on the roster on Dec. 1. All NBA contracts become guaranteed for the season the second week of January.
"I think we're probably going to move forward," Heat President Pat Riley said. "We like Justin and what he's done in the summer league, from that standpoint. There have obviously been discussions with Justin and his agent. So he wants to be here and we want him to be here."
Because of his Croatian lineage, Hamilton has drawn interest from European teams. He spent part of the 2012-13 season in Latvia, after he was acquired by the Heat in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft out of LSU, and then split this past season between the Heat's NBA Development League franchise, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, and the Charlotte Bobcats and Heat.
Hamilton was among the Heat's most productive players this summer. He averaged 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in starting in all five of his appearances in the Orlando Pro Summer League, and then a team-leading 18 points on .629 shooting, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in three appearances at the NBA's Las Vegas summer league.
Hamilton also holds value for the Heat as a potential trade chip. Because of the Heat's surfeit of recently signed free agents who cannot be dealt until Dec. 15, Hamilton, point guard Norris Cole and first-round pick Shabazz Napier stand as the only players on the roster who can be dealt before that.
In addition to the anticipated move with Hamilton, under guaranteed contract to the Heat are Cole, Napier, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and James Ennis.
The Ennis factor
While Ennis was among the Heat's top performers during summer league, particularly in the Orlando summer league, when he averaged a team-best 17 points on .524 shooting, Riley cautioned to temper expectations with the second-round acquisition in the 2013 draft.
"We see upside, that's what we see," Riley said of the swingman out of Long Beach State, who played this past season in Australia and Puerto Rico. "We see upside, we see athleticism, 3-point shooting. He can stuff up the stat sheet, with nine rebounds and six assists and three steals. He can make six threes. He can get to the line 10 times.
"I mean he's a very-athletic, high-motor player. He needs a lot of work. He's still really raw. And I think for him to go to Australia was the best thing, was absolutely the best thing for him, to sort of get to a league, which is a very good professional league, very competitive professional league, lead the league in scoring, almost became the MVP, win the league championship, and feel good about himself. And so, as we tracked him all year long, we just felt that this was going to be a very good prospect for us. So, yes, he has improved remarkably from last year's summer league."
Ennis sat out the close of the Las Vegas summer league with a strained left groin. His $507,000 contract for this coming season has been guaranteed for $200,000 already and would become fully guaranteed if he is on the opening-night roster.
"I think right now he's just sort of exhausted," Riley said, "and it's good for him to have a month off and then we'll get back to work with him in the middle of August."
Among the Heat's most intriguing offseason moves was utilizing what initially stood as the team's second-largest salary-cap exception (since turned into cap space) on Granger.
Riley said it was a gamble worth taking on the former Indiana Pacers All-Star forward, even after Granger was limited to only five games in 2012-13 by a knee issue and missed half of this past season due to injuries.
"I've been through this before with players that have had injuries that have come back and have setbacks, and it takes some time," Riley said. "I thought he got caught up in a very awkward situation of coming back to a team where he was, he really was the star three or four years ago, when you think about the playoff series we had, with Danny out there just trying to take on the whole team. So, going through what he went through and then coming back and having Paul George and Lance Stephenson sort of being where they were and then getting traded to Philly, that he'd sort of been through the grinder, in a way, and was not indicative of what I think he could have done, even the time he played with the Clippers.
"And so, I like him. I've always liked him as a player. He's a swing player. He can play the four spot. He can shoot the ball from an outside. He's a good defensive rebounder and a good defender. So I felt it was low risk, high reward with him, and he wanted to be here regardless of what the situation was."
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