MIAMI -- During the past three offseasons, the Miami Heat overhauled, augmented and refined.
Because of that, the workload figured to be limited at Monday’s start of the NBA’s annual free-agency free-for-all.
Because of the ongoing success, as well as the 2013-14 contract options of Allen, Lewis, James Jones and Mario Chalmers all leading them back for another season, there doesn’t figure to be much heavy lifting this time around.
While the free-agency negotiating period began Monday (actually 11:01 p.m. CT Sunday), signings (other than rookie-scale deals) and trades cannot be consummated until July 10, allowing the league time to compute revenues and finalize the salary cap and luxury-tax thresholds for 2013-14.
But July 1 was when the negotiating could begin.
For the Heat, still basking in a second-consecutive championship, the concerns are limited, with 12 players already under guaranteed contract for next season: Allen, James, Wade, Bosh, Lewis, Battier, Jones, Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Mitchell native Mike Miller, Joel Anthony and Norris Cole. In addition, neophyte center Jarvis Varnado has a non-guaranteed contract in place that starts to become guaranteed if he is on the opening-night roster.
That’s 13 of a maximum 15 regular-season rosters spots potentially filled (teams can have as many as 20 players under contract in the offseason, in addition to players involved in summer-camp and summer-league tryouts).
That doesn’t mean there still isn’t work ahead.
Chris Andersen’s free agency
The prime internal free-agency concern is backup center Chris Andersen, whose "Birdman" infectiousness helped energize the Heat during their franchise-record 27-game winning streak and throughout the playoffs.
Because Andersen did not join the Heat until midseason, the Heat are limited to a 20-percent raise above last season’s veteran-minimum salary, an avenue that would pay Andersen $1.7 million next season. Andersen also is eligible for the Heat’s single-use taxpayer mid-level exception that would pay him $3.2 million next season. Outside teams not limited by the luxury tax and salary cap can offer considerably more.
Andersen has spoken of wanting to return, and teammates have urged him to do so. But he also turns 35 in August, making this potentially his final chance for another lucrative, multiyear contract. Working in the Heat’s favor is Andersen receiving $4.8 million next season from the Denver Nuggets as part of last summer’s amnesty release.
Amnesty and luxury tax: During a one-week period, from July 11 to July 17, teams that have not done so already may exercise a one-time use of the NBA’s amnesty provision, which allows them waive a player who was on the roster prior to December 2011 and not have the waived salary count against their luxury tax.
For the Heat, Anthony, Miller, Haslem, Bosh, Wade and James fall under that umbrella. Considering amnesty means the player is waived, the Big Three aren’t going anywhere. But shaving the $6.2 million salary of Miller, the fourth-highest-paid player on the 2013-14 roster, could save the Heat upwards of $14 million in luxury-tax payments to the league over the next two years. Based on value to the team, using amnesty on Anthony and his $3.8 million salary also makes some sense.
While the Heat do not figure to be buyers on the trade market, by offloading one of their non-essential salaries (Miller, Anthony) it could afford the Heat the ability to amnesty another (Miller, Anthony) and realize a double tax savings.
The capped-out Heat are limited to offers to outside free agents of the veteran minimum, which maxes out at $1.4 million for a 10-year veteran or the single-use $3.2 million taxpayer midlevel. While the Heat have realized value with both, their precarious position against the tax could preclude the spending of anything beyond minimum salaries.
Andersen’s decision could impact where the Heat wind up looking on the market, if they shop at all. Among low-cost free-agent centers who could be available in the Heat’s price range are Samuel Dalembert, Greg Oden, Jason Collins, Chris Wilcox, DeJuan Blair, Andray Blatche, Nazr Mohammed, Ronny Turiaf, Josh Harrellson and, possibly, Chris Kaman.