Miami Heat executives have until July 16 to decide whether to take advantage of the one-time amnesty provision, available for teams to release a player and remove him from their team salary and luxury tax payrolls. As ESPN's Brian Windhorst said, amnestying Mike Miller would save the Heat $17 million in tax payments for the 2013-14 season alone. Miller has two years left on his contract.
Miami currently has a payroll of $87.3 million to 13 players -- everyone from last season's roster but Jarvis Varnado and Juwan Howard. That puts the Heat approximately $15.6 million over the luxury tax threshold, and the tax becomes more punitive beginning with this season. Teams will now pay an incremental tax rate based on their team salary. For instance, a team whose payroll lands between $0 and $4,999,999 above the threshold will pay $1.50 for every dollar over the threshold. A team with a payroll between $5 million and $9,999,999 above the rate would pay $1.75 for every dollar. As currently constructed, Miami is in the fourth income bracket, set to pay $3.25 for every dollar over the tax threshold.
Although Micky Arison has paid the tax for the past two seasons, he voted against the collective bargaining agreement during the 2011 lockout because it created a "tough financial deal" for a mid-market team like Miami. With such a high payroll, Arison may decide to amnesty a player for some savings. For his part, Pat Riley said that he wanted to keep Miller and that he would only amnesty the sharpshooter from South Dakota if he received a "mandate" from Arison. Although Miller has battled a myriad of injuries since signing with Miami, he has managed to return to the rotation during every Finals trip Miami made for the past three seasons. His insertion in the starting lineup during this year's Finals was particularly surprising, considering he spent most of the season on the bench. Miller stood behind Ray Allen and Shane Battier in the rotation, and only received playing time during the Eastern Conference Finals because Battier was mired in a slump. When Battier hit six 3-pointers in Game 7 of the Finals, it allowed his minutes to increase and for Miami to become a better defensive team, something Miller doesn't offer.
Joel Anthony stands as the other amnesty candidate for Miami. Releasing him would save Miami $9.5 million, much less than the $17 million waiving Miller would save. But unlike Miller, Anthony hasn't built up the muster to become a vital part of Miami's rotation in June. Chris Andersen's return relegates Anthony to a permanent third-string center status, though Andersen's foul issues could end up helping Anthony's chances of staying on the roster. Still, Miami has played Udonis Haslem at the five before, and the 6-foot-9 Varnado is currently on the team's summer league roster. Perhaps Riley is tailoring Varnado to serve as a less-expensive replacement for Anthony beginning next season.
One could make the same argument with Miller, however. Although he doesn't offer Miller's rebounding or toughness, James Jones is a great shooter who could certainly step into a role if he's called upon. Miller and Anthony both have players ahead of them in the rotation and replacements already on the roster. If the primary concern is savings, amnestying Miller stands as the logical choice.