Is Butler to Miami possible? Latest MHB with Albert Nahmad

Is there a way the Heat can somehow sway Jimmy Butler to Miami even though it’s currently drowning with no cap room? Special guest and NBA Salary Cap enthusiast Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) joined the show to discuss exactly how a Butler-to-Miami move would work. 

Signing Butler straight up? No.

Jimmy Butler has a $19.8 million option to opt-in. He won’t be opting in. Butler would leave almost $13 million on the table being eligible to sign for $32.7 million in the open market. Because of this, a deal for Butler would most likely require a sign-and-trade if he decides to leave Philadelphia for the beaches of Miami. The Heat enter the summer approximately $35 million over the cap, owing 14 players a combined $144 million. Therefore, Nahmad concluded that it isn’t realistic for Miami to sign Butler straight-up, needing to clear more than $60 million in cap space to free up a max slot. 

A sign-and-trade scenario? Possibly.

The sign-and-trade is trickier than fans make it out to seem. First off, Butler needs to choose Miami over the 76ers. Butler is eligible to sign a five-year, $190 million deal with Philadelphia, while the most Miami can offer is a four-year, $141 million deal. Secondly, the 76ers would need to agree to whatever sign-and-trade package Miami would offer, which would call for the 76ers to sacrifice roughly $35 million in cap in exchange for whichever Heat players are dealt. 

Additionally, Miami must trade-match with Philadelphia because the Heat are over the cap. Therefore, they must send back at least $26 million of salaries in the sign-and-trade deal, along with complying with the hard cap at $138.3 million in the near future. 

Assuming Miami waives Ryan Anderson to save approximately $6 million, the Heat are still projected $3 million over the hard cap. In order to make the sign-and-trade for Butler, Miami would need to shed even more salary. How could Miami find a plausible path to doing this? Here’s Nahmad’s step-by-step breakdown. 

Reducing the Hard Cap for Butler (two-team scenario)

Miami’s hard cap currently sits at $146.3 million (Heat’s salaries, accounting for all bonuses that players are eligible for).

Step 1: Waive Ryan Anderson and add a replacement to maintain a 14 man roster

Step 2: Stretch Anderson’s $15.6 million to $5.2 million over three years. Hard cap becomes $131.1 million

Step 3: The sign-and-trade proposal of Josh Richardson ($10.1 million) and Kelly Olynyk ($13.1 million) would send the pair to Philadelphia and would save Miami of their combined $22.8 million. The Heat’s roster would drop to 12 players, requiring the Heat to add another player to fill its squad at 13. Assuming the one additional player is a minimum salary, Miami’s hard cap drops to $109.6 million, excluding Butler. 

Step 4: Offer Jimmy Butler $28.7 million, fulfilling all hard cap and trade matching requirements and leaving the hard cap at its apron of $138.3 million. In this scenario, Butler would need to agree to a $4 million discount of the eligible $32.7 million max. If the Heat are unable to persuade him and must offer him the max, Miami would need to shed even more salary in another way (e.g. three-team trade).

Is Butler even worth the max?

As the salary cap talk of getting Butler to Miami diminished, the debate of whether or not the Heat should go after him in the first place ensued. Butler’s age and heavy usage are strong factors to worry about if he can play to the standards of a max salary player. Nahmad suggests he would overplay his contract in the early years and underplay his contract in the latter years. Will this play from Butler in the next two-three years elevate the Heat’s young core and make Miami a contender? That’s the $32.7 million question Pat Riley and the Heat will need to answer. 

Nahmad also broke into J.R. Smith’s sought-after $15.6 million contract and how the loophole from the previous CBA would allow the Heat to save roughly $12 million. The Heat would trade-match Smith with someone on Miami who makes around that same salary (e.g. James Johnson) and subsequently waive Smith to only pay his $3.9 million guarantee. In doing this, Miami avoids paying Johnson’s $15 million and pays Smith’s smaller guarantee instead. This deal is very unlikely, however, because Cleveland would go over the luxury cap as a result of taking in more salary. 

What would Albert Nahmad do as GM of the Heat?

Build for the future; and more specifically, 2021. 

Because Miami is $9 million over the luxury tax, this season is relatively gone in a cap space perspective. The Heat then must decide whether they want to be a 2020 cap space team, where it would look at roughly $36 million in cap space, or a 2021 cap space team, where Miami could potentially have over $100 million in cap space. Nahmad thinks that summer of 2021 could give the Heat the flexibility to entertain the likes of Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo and others with its triple-digit cap space. Additionally, the Heat could use its 2020 cap space of $36 million to improve its options in 2021 by taking in bad contracts in exchange for assets or taking in players on short-term deals that would help the team now. 

To listen to this week’s episode where we dove into further topics such as what exactly happened to the Heat in the summer of 2017 and if there was a way Miami could’ve avoided letting go of Dwyane Wade in 2016, check out the link below.

Sidenote: When Dwyane Wade took a discount at $14.2 million in 2010 to allow the Heat to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh for $14.5 million, he didn’t need to take less. Miami never used up all their cap space that year.

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