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Miami Heat free agency: Who stays? Who goes?

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Predicting who the Heat bring back and who they let go.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Miami Heat Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA free agency period is just under a month away!

The Miami Heat will have plenty of questions to ask, then answer. In regards to their roster, they currently have just five players under contract for the 2021-22 season: Jimmy Butler ($36.0M), Bam Adebayo ($28.1M), Tyler Herro ($4.0M), Precious Achiuwa ($2.7M) and KZ Okpala ($1.8M).

There are three different types of free agents that Miami has this offseason — restricted and unrestricted free agents, in addition to its team option casualties that were previously constructed in hopes of landing Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. That fantasy crashed and burned when the 26-year-old signed his supermax extension last December, but Miami still has to contemplate whether it wants to operate above or below the cap. The Heat do not have anyone on the roster with a player option.

Below, I summarize Miami’s impending free agent situation player-by-player, then putting on my (very amateur) general manager cap and best predicting who stays and who goes. I’m almost certainly going to be wrong on some, if not all of these, so beware!

Though each Heat free agent is eligible for a sign-and-trade, I am operating under the impression that there won’t be any. There is, however, a very real possibility at least one of the 29 franchises completes one with a Heat player.

Without further ado, let’s jump into it!

Team options:

For Heat free agents with impending team options, my verdict will be determining whether the team accepts the contract or not. If it accepts, then the player will receive that dollar amount for the 2021-22 season or can subsequently be traded during the offseason. If the team declines, then the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. The deadline to accept or decline team options is Aug. 1.

Goran Dragic

Option amount: $19.4 million

Skinny: Dragic, acquired in 2015 from the Phoenix Suns in a 3-team deal that also involved the New Orleans Pelicans, was Miami’s third-best player in the NBA Bubble but was notably affected by the shortened offseason. Miami will have to choose if it will operate as an under-the-cap or over-the-cap team; the latter rewards it the biannual exception and the non-taxpayer mid level exception. If accepted, Dragic and Iguodala’s (see below) contracts would put Miami over the salary cap threshold. They’re the only contracts between $15 and $20 million, which theoretically could be used to match dollar-for-dollar in any necessary trade for a bigger star.

Verdict: Accept

Andre Iguodala:

Option amount: $15.0 million

Skinny: The 37-year-old had the least productive year of his career. Like Dragic, Iguodala’s salary can be used to match any incoming salary in trades. Though he might not be the coveted two-way player he once was, Iguodala could still boost any locker room with veteran leadership plus adept defense and playmaking for 15-to-20 minutes a night. Another route, if Miami wants to operate over-the-cap, would be to decline Iguodala’s team option and re-sign him on a smaller deal, while also committing to its other bird-right eligible free agents. That avenue is available for Dragic, too.

Verdict: Accept

Unrestricted free agents:

Unrestricted free agents can sign with any team once the free agent moratorium launches at 6:00 p.m. ET on Aug. 2. My verdict for its unrestricted free agents will be whether they re-sign or Miami lets them walk.

Victor Oladipo

Skinny: Oladipo’s free agency is a tricky one. He received season-ending right quadriceps surgery from Dr. Jonathan Glashow, and should be cleared for full contact drills by mid-November, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Wojnarowski also reported that Heat trainers will work with Glashow in concert for Oladipo’s rehab. Per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, if Miami were to retain Oladipo, who they own bird rights on, it would be on a “low-money deal.” It would make sense for both sides if that were the case, as Oladipo could theoretically boost his future value once healthy.

Verdict: Re-sign

Dewayne Dedmon:

Skinny: Dedmon was Miami’s most impactful backup center last year, averaging 19.4 points and 14.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, albeit a small sample. The center market is rather thin, so the Heat could re-sign Dedmon to a cheap deal if it doesn’t find a suitable replacement.

Verdict: Re-sign

Udonis Haslem:

Skinny: Haslem’s future remains uncertain, but my guess is that he’ll likely have a role within the organization in some capacity or the other. Next.

Verdict: Re-sign on minimum, if he doesn’t retire

Nemanja Bjelica:

Skinny: After getting dealt at the trade deadline from the Sacramento Kings, Bjelica’s rotation stay was short-lived. He did, however, get MVP chants in Game 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks! Miami could retain Bjelica, a stretch-forward, on a smaller contract, but it will likely be determined on how the remainder of the market — and roster — shake up.

Verdict: Let Walk

Trevor Ariza:

Skinny: This depends on how Miami attacks the power forward market. The Heat could re-sign him as their starting 4 if they don’t find the market to be appealing; they could also retain him as a backup 4 off the bench. Assuming Miami re-signs him, the latter would be the more ideal option. Ariza unlocked Miami’s switch-ability in the second half of the season and spaced the floor with quality catch-and-shoot ability. Though he couldn’t hold up against Antetokounmpo in the playoffs — which isn’t a knock, because very few can — the Heat probably wouldn’t mind bringing back Ariza, 36, on a cheap deal.

Verdict: Let walk

Restricted free agents:

Unlike unrestricted free agency, restricted free agency allows Miami to match any offer sheet from another team towards its restricted free agents within 48 hours. If it matches, then it retains the player on the offered contract. My verdict will be a yes or no question: Will Miami match an offer sheet from another team?

Kendrick Nunn:

Skinny: This is where it gets tricky. Nearly three years after the Heat acquired Nunn on the last day of the 2018-19 regular season from the Golden State Warriors, he enters restricted free agency for the first time of his career. The 27-year-old averaged 14.6 points and 2.6 assists last season. Pat Riley will likely have to choose between Nunn and Robinson, who are both in line for considerable pay raises. It’s a hairy situation that’s difficult to predict.

Verdict: No

Duncan Robinson:

Skinny: In the end, Robinson’s essential to Miami’s free-flowing offense. His off-ball creativity, gravity along with his slicing-and-dicing clears space for everyone else to operate. Robinson’s going to command the bag — upwards of $20 million — but his array of 3-point shooting as well as his ongoing development in his playmaking and defense makes it worth matching a potential offer sheet.

Verdict: Yes

Gabe Vincent and Max Strus:

Skinny: Since both Strus and Vincent are coming off two-way deals, the Heat could tender qualifying offers to both, thus making them restricted free agents. They were heavily relied upon throughout the year, especially when the crew was depleted due to COVID-19 absences or injuries. Strus showed promise as a 3-point threat and cutter while Vincent was one of Miami’s top point-of-attack defenders.

Verdict: Both tendered, both return