In wake of Dwyane Wade’s departure, Pat Riley and the Miami Heat have a trying decision to make with a hard deadline in regards to restricted free agent Tyler Johnson.
With the Brooklyn Nets signing the 24-year-old Johnson to a heavily backloaded four-year offer sheet worth $50 million on Thursday morning, the Heat must decide whether to match by Sunday morning.
Before getting into whether the Heat should match, the contract structure, with many referring to the final two years as a “poison pill,” is outlined below:
Despite the whopping $37 million owed in the final two years I think matching the deal is a no-brainer for several reasons.
They have a total of seven players under contract and that’s including Chris Bosh, whose career is in serious doubt, and Briante Weber, an undrafted 23-year-old who played well in the D-League last season but is by no means a lock for a 15-man roster spot next season, carrying partial guarantees on his three-year contract.
2. Johnson’s skillset fills a need
The 6-foot-4 combo guard is a dynamite shooter (38% career 3FG) and promising defender, showing excellent lateral quickness and athleticism. In today’s NBA, outside of the elite ball-dominant creators in the mold of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James, no player is more coveted than the 3-and-D wing.
Johnson is also not just a mere catch-and-shoot option, as he shows strong awareness and nice touch as a passer. Watch him play and it’s obvious he has a high hoops IQ. You also have to like his finishing ability, converting 63 percent at the rim last season.
3. The contract is tradable
If Bosh tries to play next year and his large cap hit carries over into the following season, Miami might need to create more cap space for a shot at a superstar (or two) in Free Agency next summer like Russell Westbrook. With the salary cap continuing to rise and three years and about $44 million remaining on his deal, a 3-and-D wing like Johnson is still tradable so long as he doesn’t suffer some sort of career-altering injury.
4. The potential for growth
Johnson has just seven starts through his first two seasons and just turned 24. He’s a grinder who busted his ass to get here and doesn’t come off as the type to ink a deal and chill.
While Johnson most likely will never become a star in this league that can carry a team, he’s versatile in that he can play on and off the ball while also being capable of meshing into any lineup because of his shooting.
He shows no glaring weakness, has shown immense improvement despite some unfortunate injuries, and could feasibly develop into a quality starter.
5. The floor is high
At worst, Johnson is a shooter/defender and a team can do so much worse than overpay that type of player — helloooooo, Timofey Mozgov. One could argue that at this stage of Wade’s career (and his defensive decline), Johnson is an upgrade in a supporting role.
He doesn’t need to dominate the ball to be effective and thrives in two areas where Wade suffers — shooting and perimeter defense. This will aid Goran Dragic’s attacking mentality and optimize the Heat’s offense.
Between Dragic, Johnson, Justise Winslow, and Josh Richardson, the Heat would have four solid creators from the outside.
For many, the $18 million and $19 million Johnson will get in 2019 and 2020, respectively, is difficult to stomach, but it’s also important to remember the figures are relative.
The salary cap is projected at $105 million for the 2018-19 season when Johnson will be guaranteed $18 million. That number would absolutely be appalling in the salary cap world of yesteryear. However if you measure it as percentage of the cap, it would equate to $12 million last season, a solid chunk sure but by no means the poison pill some are making it out to be.
Also you have to factor in that the $13 million Johnson gets in the first two years is immense value, balancing out the final two more lucrative years. Courtney Lee, age 30, just signed a four-year deal worth $50 million with the Knicks. I’d rather have Johnson, who’s six years younger.
Tyler Johnson is on the rise, already can positively impact the game on both ends, and by all indication is a solid young man. The Miami Heat would be foolish to let him go.