After busy start to free agency, how can Heat fill out rest of roster? And Nunn joins Lakers

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Most of the Miami Heat’s big moves this offseason very likely came on the first day of free agency, but Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg, Adam Simon and the front office’s work is far from over.

Just six hours after free agent negotiations were allowed to begin on Monday at 6 p.m., the Heat had already received commitments from six free agents.

Dragic says goodbye and Achiuwa expresses gratitude after Heat’s sign-and-trade for Lowry

The night began with the Heat striking a deal to bring guard Kyle Lowry to Miami through a sign-and-trade transaction with the Toronto Raptors. The machinations of the sign-and-trade are still being worked out, with Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa believed to be the only two Heat players being sent out in the deal. Lowry will sign a three-year deal worth about $90 million to join the Heat, according to a league source. All three years are fully guaranteed on the contract that will end when he’s 38.

The Heat also crossed another big item off its to-do list early in free agency, agreeing to a deal to re-sign restricted free agent sharpshoter Duncan Robinson within the first hour that negotiations were allowed. Robinson’s new contract is worth $90 million over five years, a league source confirmed.

The Heat then addressed a need at power forward by agreeing to terms with veteran P.J. Tucker on a two-year deal worth $15 million. Tucker won an NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks last season.

But the Heat wasn’t done, as veteran center Dewayne Dedmon agreed to a one-year minimum deal worth $2.4 million later that night to return to Miami, according to a league source.

The Heat closed the first day of free agency by reaching agreements with guard Gabe Vincent and wing Max Strus — Miami’s two two-way contract players from last season — to sign both to a two-year minimum contract worth $3.5 million, according to league sources. The deals include fully guaranteed salaries for the first season.

With Robinson, Dedmon, Strus and Vincent returning to the Heat, there are four players from Miami’s season-ending roster who remain free agents: Udonis Haslem, Andre Iguodala, Victor Oladipo, and Omer Yurtseven. Veteran forward Trevor Ariza agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday and veteran forward Nemanja Bjelica agreed to a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, according to reports.

In addition, guard Kendrick Nunn agreed to sign a two-year, $10 million deal on Tuesday to join the championship-contending Lakers, according to his agent. Earlier in the day, the Heat pulled Nunn’s $4.7 million qualifying offer to make him an unrestricted free agent and lost the the right to match outside offers he received.

Nunn, who turned 26 on Tuesday, was originally signed by the Heat on the final day of the 2018-19 regular season. He finished second in the voting for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year honor and was named to the All-Rookie first team in 2019-20.

But Nunn’s role fluctuated last season, as he fell out of the rotation before injuries to other players pushed into a starting spot. He finished with 44 starts last regular season, averaging 14.6 points while shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 38.1 percent on threes, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

This flurry of activity leaves the Heat’s roster for next season at 10 players on standard NBA contracts (these are salary estimates): Jimmy Butler ($36 million), Lowry ($28.5 million), Bam Adebayo ($28.1 million), Robinson ($15.5 million), Tucker ($7.3 million), Tyler Herro ($4 million), KZ Okpala ($1.8 million), Dedmon (minimum counts as $1.7 million toward salary cap), Strus ($1.7 million) and Vincent ($1.7 million).

Those 10 contracts combine to total $126.3 million, and that number grows to $131.5 million when including Ryan Anderson’s $5.2 million waive-and-stretch cap hit.

The 2021-22 NBA salary cap is set at $112.4 million and the luxury-tax threshold is at about $136.6 million. But because the Heat is acquiring Lowry through a sign-and-trade transaction, Miami faces a $143 million hard cap.

This leaves the Heat, which is roughly $5.1 million away from the tax line, with about $11.5 million to fill out the roster before reaching hard-cap threshold unless other trades are completed to create additional room.

The Heat has four roster spots to fill to get to 14 players, which is one shy of the NBA regular-season maximum of 15 players but still acceptable under NBA roster rules. Miami has gone with 14 players in previous seasons when up against the luxury tax or hard cap.

While $11.5 million is not much to sign four or five players to complete the roster, it could still be enough to add a rotational piece.

The Heat obviously does not have space to sign an outside free agent. But by operating as an over-the-cap team and forgoing cap space, Miami has two exceptions available to use: the non-taxpayer midlevel exception for $9.5 million and the bi-annual exception for $3.7 million.

With about $7.3 million of the $9.5 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception going to Tucker, the Heat has roughly $2.2 million remaining of that exception to sign another player. And Miami still has the full $3.7 million bi-annual exception available to use.

In addition to those two exceptions, the Heat can also sign outside free agents using minimum contracts that count as $1.7 million toward the luxury tax and hard cap. Miami could lower that cap hit to just under $1 million if the free agent it signs is an undrafted player.

Despite adding Lowry and bringing back Vincent, the Heat could still use another guard to play off the bench. Among the guards still available in free agency who could sign for the money Miami has to spend are Danny Green, J.J. Redick, Lou Williams and Elfrid Payton.

The Heat also has a need for another frontcourt player, even after bringing back Dedmon and adding Tucker. Among the power forward options still available in free agency are Paul Millsap, Kelly Oubre Jr., Lauri Markkanen (restricted), Markieff Morris, DeMarcus Cousins, Enes Kanter and Georges Niang.

Forward DeMar DeRozan, who was Lowry’s running mate in Toronto, was rumored to be a sign-and-trade possibility for the Heat. But any chance of that happening was erased Tuesday, as The Athletic reported that DeRozan is heading to the Chicago Bulls via sign-and-trade on a three-year, $85 million deal.

With at least four roster spots to fill and about $11.5 million to spend before reaching the hard cap, the Heat does have enough to offer an outside free agent the $3.7 million bi-annual exception and fill out the remaining four spots with minimum deals to get to the NBA regular-season maximum of 15 players. That scenario would leave Miami about $1 million under the hard cap.

Some of the Heat’s own free agents could also help address its needs. Oladipo would fit as another guard option, and Iguodala would serve as another versatile forward to split time with Tucker in the small-ball four role.

The Heat holds Bird rights on Oladipo and Iguodala, which allows teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign a player up to his maximum salary. This would give Miami the ability to re-sign these players just above the minimum as long as it manages to remain below the hard cap.

Of course, the Heat’s front office could also get creative and pull off double sign-and-trades or expand the Lowry sign-and-trade deal to find more money to offer outside free agents. There are still plenty of possibilities and decisions in front of the Heat.

Negotiations began Monday evening, but free agents can’t formally sign their new contracts until Friday at 12:01 p.m.

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