We all knew going into training camp and preseason what was at stake. Sure, the Miami Heat are getting on the same page, learning each other and coming together as a team. Every team is doing that at this point in the season.
But really, we are all wondering who is #15 on the end of the Heat roster. Meaning, Miami has 14 guaranteed contracts, and then six others who are competing for the last roster spot. One of which is James Ennis.
Ennis spent last year with the Heat as a rookie and had his ups and downs. But after a terrible Summer League showing, Ennis renegotiated the terms of his contract to give himself another shot to show the Heat that he was a good fit for the roster. Without those terms being made new, Ennis likely would have been cut in August.
But he bet on himself, and now Ennis has until opening night (under two weeks) to make the team and make his contract guaranteed.
He's fighting against, mostly, Greg Whittington and Keith Benson. We can talk about all 6 players, but really it's coming down to these guys and what the Miami Heat want to do.
Ennis is coming off a 19 point performance against the Atlanta Hawks. His second double figure scoring game in 3 times. He's having some success. But Keith Benson is making a push as well in the limited time that he is given.
So, is James Ennis the right man to complete the roster?
From the outside, it seems as though he is the right fit. He completes the Heat's depth on the wing, giving Miami 3 players depth at every position. He is showing poise and promise as a young player, and he is familiar with the system having one year under his belt.
But, we know that this isn't all the Heat care about. Greg Whittington cam provide the depth, and this person is likely going to be in a suit most nights anyways. We have to remember one thing when it comes to this situation...and that's money.
If Ennis is under contract on opening night, his contract becomes fully guaranteed for the season at over $800k. That means the Heat a strapped at movement without it costing them significantly. However, if the Heat decide to go with any of the other available options to be their 15th spot, then that person would have a non-guaranteed deal. That means that player's salary could be shed proportionally at any point in the near future to allow the Heat flexibility.
We know Pat Riley likes this. Over the past few years we have seen him make small moves with high reward possibility for the team. It's a business. And even if the Heat really like Ennis, is he good enough to player-strap them into not making any moves on their own free will?
Ennis has proven that he is better than what he was in the Summer League, absolutely. But I don't know that he has proven that he should be the last piece to the puzzle. You never know who will be cut, bought out, etc. and if Riley has no room to work, other than trades, than he won't be very happy.
From my perspective, James Ennis still has a lot to prove over the completion of the preseason for him to warrant a roster spot. Maybe he has done this behind closed doors with practice and coaches, but we can only judge on what we see.
Corey Hawkins, Tre' Kelley, Greg Whittington, Keith Benson, and John Lucas III may not be better than James Ennis, but one of them may end up on the roster merely because of the terms of their contract.
We will know soon enough.