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Heat trade makes basketball, financial sense

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Miami had a logjam in the backcourt.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat’s Twitter account made it official earlier Wednesday — the Heat traded Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington to the Phoenix Suns for Ryan Anderson.

Although some Heat fans did not approve of the trade, allow me to make my case that Heat executives Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg made a smart move earlier today, one that makes sense from basketball and financial perspectives.

Let’s start with basketball. After the Heat’s first-round playoff exit to the Philadelphia 76ers last year, Riley said that the Heat had a “logjam” with “too many good-to-great players.” Nowhere is that more glaring than in the backcourt. Erik Spoelstra has had to juggle minutes among Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Rodney McGruder, Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington this season.

The result? Ellington, who was a key cog in the Heat’s offense just a year ago, only managed to get playing time when someone else was hurt. McGruder goes from a starter for much of the year to the end of the bench. Spoelstra finds minutes for Waiters after a year-long absence due to injury when Dragic is battling an injury of his own, but questions remain as to how Spoelstra balances his rotation.

Besides, the Heat only matched a four-year, $50 million offer sheet that Tyler Johnson signed with the Brooklyn Nets back in 2016 after Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls. Miami also initially signed Waiters to a one-year deal after the Heat’s franchise player left. Wade’s return to Miami about a year ago made the Heat moves to sign Johnson and Dion Waiters seem superfluous. But with Wade now in his final NBA season, it wouldn’t have made sense to trade both Johnson and Waiters.

Now, the Heat are giving up two capable 3-point shooters (including Ellington, their only great shooter from long distance). But looking at Miami’s other backcourt players —including Justise Winslow, who is attempting nearly four 3s per game this year and making them at a 38% clip — the Heat should have enough.

Now let’s look at this trade from a financial perspective. With the increasing resurgence of fourth-year guards Winslow and Richardson, Miami’s long-term contracts to James Johnson and Waiters given in 2017 look misguided. Add in overpaid players like Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson, and this middling Heat team was well over the punitive luxury tax threshold.

And in just one trade, the Heat saved a lot of money. See these tweets below from NBA salary cap guru Albert Nahmad.

Now, the Heat still have several hours left to get under the tax, and Elisburg is a skilled tactician of working the NBA’s salary cap rules. The Heat could execute a small, cost-cutting trade, like trading McGruder, or attempt a bigger trade involving Whiteside or Dragic. But Miami looks to be in much better financial shape than they were just 24 hours ago. That’s a win.