Storyline: Tyler Johnson Trade?

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The expectation is that the Heat will explore moving the final two years of Tyler Johnson’s contract as early as this summer, but the backloaded nature of his deal isn’t the only reason that it will be difficult to achieve. In addition to making $19.2 million both next season and in 2019-20 (the final two years of his contract), Johnson confirmed he also has a 15 percent salary bonus if he’s traded. The Heat must pay that trade kicker, which would be worth $3.2 million if he’s traded this summer.

But the team trading for Johnson would need to add $1.6 million to his cap hit the next two seasons, putting that annual cap hit at more than $20 million for the team trading for him. He said his agent, Austin Brown, smartly inserted that trade kicker to make it more difficult for a trade to be completed, because Johnson is happy with the Heat. Any attempt to trade Johnson would be driven by two financial motivators: 1. The desire to avoid paying a luxury tax if the Heat re-signs Wayne Ellington, re-signs Dwyane Wade or uses a midlevel exception. 2. To increase the chance of Miami having meaningful salary cap room in 2018 or 2019. Even if Johnson is dealt for an expiring contract, the Heat wouldn’t have much cap room in 2018 unless more salary is purged.

The NBA trade deadline, Heat guard Tyler Johnson admits, has always made him “kind of” nervous. “I think my first couple years I was always on edge,” Johnson said Tuesday after practice. This year’s deadline – Thursday at 3 p.m. – was one he always thought “might present a problem down the road” after he signed a four-year, $50 million offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets two summers ago the Heat matched to keep him. The way Johnson’s deal was structured by the Nets – to try make the Heat avoid matching it – paid Johnson $5.8 million this second season before jumping to $19.2 million each of the next two seasons. So naturally there’s always been a fear, Johnson said, this would be the time the Heat looked to move him off their books.

So it’s not likely, without including a draft choice — and Miami can’t trade a first-rounder before the 2024 draft — that Miami can just dump cap space (in the form of, say, Chris Andersen’s contract) on Sacramento. It may need to include a player of some value, and sources say Sacramento has expressed interest in Tyler Johnson, even though Johnson may miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
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