Heat and Richardson Face Major Looming Decision; Heat Personnel Notes

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Saturday night:

• Thursday is meaningful for Heat third-year guard Josh Richardson, because it’s the first day that Miami can offer a contract extension

Beginning Thursday, the Heat can offer Richardson a contract up to four years in length and for as much as $43 million in total value, with Richardson having the option of accepting it by the NBA-imposed deadline of the start of the regular season or opting instead, if he chooses, to become a restricted free agent next summer, with Miami having the right the exceed the cap to keep him.

The Heat is expected to discuss an extension with him, and my impression is that Richardson will at least consider it, though a strong case could be made for gambling on himself and waiting for restricted free agency next summer.

Teams have the right to match offers for restricted free agents, with the Heat having no limitations in that regard because Richardson will have Bird Rights. And it’s unlikely Richardson’s deal, if he signs one next summer, would put the Heat over the projected $125 million luxury tax threshold for 2018-19.

Richardson will earn $1.5 million this upcoming season regardless of whether he accepts the extension (which would kick in beginning in 2018-19) and here’s one thing he likely will consider: The mother lode of salary cap space available in the NBA the past two summers will be considerably less prevalant next year.

So most teams might not be able to afford the type of offers that Brooklyn extended last summer to Heat-then free agent Tyler Johnson (four years, $50 million) and Portland-then free agent Allen Crabbe (four years, $75 million).

Miami and Portland matched those offers, but the Blazers traded Crabbe to Brooklyn this past week in a move that significantly reduced Portland’s luxury tax bill.

The version of Richardson who defends with verve and led the NBA in three point shooting in the second half of his rookie season – and the one who finished very strong in the final days of last season – could next summer command something in excess of the four-year, $43 million deal he’s eligible to receive beginning Thursday.

Remember, with Dion Waiters injured, Richardson averaged 15 points per game and had 14 steals and eight blocks over Miami’s pressure-packed final six games.

Among all NBA guards who defended at least 300 shots last season, Richardson was ninth-best, allowing the player he was guarding to shoot 41 percent (215 for 524). Those players shot 43.9 overall.

The sense here is that Miami’s best chance of getting a commitment might be with a three-year deal topping $30 million, with a third-year player option.

If Richardson bypasses an extension, the Heat has another year to evaluate an asset that could be packaged in a trade or ultimately kept with Miami matching an offer next summer.

And remember, Pat Riley has mentioned Richardson as someone who will contend for minutes at small forward, not merely at guard.

• There are several remaining free agents whose skills are appreciated by the Heat, including Warriors guard Ian Clark, the former Heat Summer Leaguer.

But even though Clark reportedly wants $8 million, nobody left on the free agent market seemingly would command Miami’s $4.3 million mid-level exception, which can be saved for the buyout market in January and February.

Plus, the Heat’s backcourt is already deep.

• The Heat liked Derrick Rose – make no mistake about that – but the commitment to Goran Dragic and the lack of available playing time dissuaded Miami from pursuing him with its exception.

Rose took a one-year deal at $2.1 million from the Cavaliers, even though Cavs GM Koby Altman made clear last week that he will be a backup in Cleveland – a situation that could always change, of course, if Kyrie Irving is traded.

• Free agent Luke Babbitt has been exploring other options…. The two Heat pickups last week, Matt Williams and Derrick Walton, are both juniors – as in Matt Williams Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr., by the way. Just so you know.

• Justise Winslow’s availability at Heat camp conflicted with the first day of Dolphins training camp and Stephen Ross’ presser on Thursday, so I couldn’t make it out for Winslow. (And my colleague, Manny Navarro, is away.)

But when asked if too much has been made of his shooting issues, Winslow told Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post: “I’m not making any excuses, but I was dealing with a lot of things [last season]. I feel like in the preseason, I was shooting the ball well and shooting how I wanted to shoot it. I hit some bumps in the road in the regular season. But honestly, I don’t pay attention to much of that. My teammates tell me to shoot the ball. They have confidence in me and that’s all I can ask for. Everyone is just telling me to go out there and play my game. But I’m excited. I’m excited for this next chapter. I honestly feel like this is Year 2 for me and not Year 3, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Winslow, limited to 18 games last season because of injury, has shot 40 percent from the field and 25.8 percent from three-point distance in 96 career games.

Winslow told Chiang that his shoulder will be 100 percent by the start of training camp and “I’m still trying to be that versatile guy and do everything. I’m trying to make my weaknesses better and also focusing and sticking to my strengths. For me, it’s about being able to knock down that corner three, being able to be a force of nature in transition, being able to post up. Just trying to be the most in shape person on the floor so I can make the most plays and make those winning plays that coach preaches about a lot.”

• Willie Reed, who probably would not have opted out of his Heat deal if he had any idea he would get the same money elsewhere ($1.5 million with the Clippers), said his new coach, Doc Rivers, “specifically told me that he just really loves the energy that I bring and then what I bring on the defensive end. It was kind of similar to the Heat and what Coach [Erik] Spoelstra wanted. He was telling me that he wanted to be able to have 48 minutes of a DeAndre [Jordan]-type of player out there, which was kind of what Coach Spoelstra wanted for 48 minutes of Hassan [Whiteside] out there. I felt like it was a comfortable position and it was kind of similar to the role that I played in Miami, so it wouldn’t be difficult for me to adjust.”

This is my fourth Saturday post. Please click here for some bold comments from DeVante Parker and more Dolphins personnel notes… Please click here for the admirable measures Jakeem Grant has taken to improve… Please click here for Marlins trade news, some developments in Derek Jeter’s pursuit of the Marlins, and chatter on prospects the Marlins received from the Mets for A.J. Ramos… And please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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