The Miami Heat sorted out most of their undercard in Thursday night’s NBA free agency debut, retaining guard Victor Oladipo and center Dwayne Deadmon, but losing the power to start PJ Tucker for the Philadelphia 76ers.
But all eyes were on what would turn out to be the main event of this off-season, with the Heat being included in the short list of favorite destinations by Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, who issued a trade requisition Thursday.
Tucker’s Sting loss wasn’t unexpected, but the 76ers used their full non-taxpayer mid-tier exception on the 37-year-old power forward in a three-year, $33 million settlement.
The Heat declined to equalize that contract because it would make them play under a hard hat, making a mega-trade even more difficult for a player like Durant.
Tucker started 70 games for the Heat during the regular season, 18 in the playoffs. He signed a two-year, $14 million contract with the Heat last August and then exited the second year of that deal earlier this week.
The Heat’s offer to Tucker was $27 million for three years, starting at $8.4 million the following season. The 76ers’ offer began the following season at $10.5 million, but left Philadelphia under a tough salary limit for the coming season.
Tucker was lobbied for a return by teammates, including Jimmy Butler.
Oladipo, who has spent the past two seasons with the Heat rehabilitating a knee injury, agreed to return on a one-year, $11 million contract.
The Heat used Oladipo’s bird rights to retain the 30-year-old guard, who was allowed to exceed the salary limit due to the guard’s tenure with the team.
Deadmon, who provided quality support behind starting the Bam Adebayo center, agreed to return to a two-year, $9 million contract.
Like Oladipo, the 32-year-old center was maintained using his bird rights.
Agreements with Oladipo and Deadmon and the loss of Tucker left the status of the Heat’s three remaining free agents still undetermined: Caleb Martin, Markif Morris and Udonis Haslem. The Heat sent a team representative to Haslem’s holiday home in Orlando at the start of free agency to encourage him to return for a 20th season with the team.
While free-agent talks began on Thursday, agreements cannot be signed until the conclusion of the NBA offseason signing moratorium until Wednesday.
Earlier, even before the introduction of free agency, the league had been put on notice of an impending seismic turnaround, with NBA sources telling the Sun Sentinel that they expected Durant, 33, to be transferred amid a frenzy of league personnel. Will go
ESPN reported that Miami is on a short list of Durant as well as the Phoenix Suns’ favorite destinations. But with four seasons and $198 million remaining on his contract, Durant isn’t necessarily in control of his destination.
Another factor in Durant’s decision is a possible Nets trade for Domino guard Kyrie Irving.
Over the years the heats have been linked to interest in both Durant and Irving, including one of Durant’s free-agency courtships before joining the Golden State Warriors.
Although avoiding the hard cap makes trading permutations easier for the Heat, there is a pay-cap component that could prove problematic in a bid for Durant.
Under NBA rules, teams cannot have many players on their roster who are under the specified maximum rookie-scale extension and acquired in trades. Ben Simmons currently holds that position with Brooklyn, which means that in order to add Adabio to a potential deal, the Nets will have to trade Simmons.
As far as Irving is concerned, Nets guard Tyler Harrow appears to be favoring a deal, but the Heat have shown no such inclination for any deal for Irving.
As for those previously associated with the Heat interest in free agency, Bradley Beale agreed to a maximum contract to stay with the Washington Wizards, Bobby Portis with the Milwaukee Bucks and Thaddeus Young with the Toronto Raptors.