Heat eyeing ways to fill out roster, improve

Pat Riley of the Heat, in a statement, denied using a vulgarity to Tom Thibodeau of the Timberwolves.

The Miami Heat have two roster spots to fill and five free agents from last season’s team that remain unsigned, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel pointed out in a recent column.

Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Luke Babbitt, Jordan Mickey and Derrick Walton Jr. are all unsigned from last season’s Heat squad.

Team president Pat Riley and the Heat reportedly would love for Wade and/or Haslem to return. While neither is the player he used to be (Haslem hasn’t contributed on the court in years), both mean plenty in the locker room and have lots of winning experience.

But both could retire. And the Heat aren’t expected to re-sign Babbitt, Mickey or Walton Jr. So the two roster spots very well could be filled by players who weren’t on last year’s team.

As an aside, the Heat supposedly have an interest in Carmelo Anthony, who will be parting ways with the Oklahoma City Thunder sometime this summer. An Anthony acquisition would almost ensure a Wade return.

But that seems like a long shot, given that Anthony is said to prefer the Houston Rockets.

As Winderman pointed out, the Heat have a $5.3 million mid-level exception and $3.4 million bi-level exception at their disposal. They also have a $1.3 million trade exception, but as Winderman noted, “the minimum value makes it unlikely it will be put into play.”

Plus, as it stands, the Heat aren’t in a great position salary cap-wise.

“At the moment, in the wake of the $6.3 million agreement with (Wayne) Ellington for 2018-19, the Heat payroll is at $127 million, with a 1.5 dollar-for-dollar tax kicking in for the first $5 million a team spends in payroll above the $123.7 million 2018-19 NBA tax line,” Winderman wrote.

“The penalty increases to 1.75 dollar-for-dollar penalty for exceeding $128.7 million, which, at the moment, appears almost assured.”

After a 44-38 finish and playoff berth last season, the Heat are said to be looking to take it to another level in 2018-19. They seemingly have no desire to fall back and play the lottery.

How they fare in the remaining offseason marketplace will likely determine just how far they can go.