Storyline: Tyler Johnson Trade?

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The Heat has told teams this offseason that Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters are available, according to two opposing front office executives who have spoken to the Heat. But the Heat knows a different combination of more attractive players will be needed to pry away Butler, who averaged 22.2 points per game for Minnesota last season.

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And unless something significant changes, it’s increasingly likely the Heat will need to wait until the summer of 2020, not 2019, to again be in position to make a franchise-altering free agent signing. That wasn’t necessarily the plan. The Heat has tried to move Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson this offseason but has not found a trade market, according to three people in contact with the team. Dion Waiters’ name also has been raised, one of these people said.

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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October 16, 2018 | 3:39 pm EDT Update
In China, he was unable to communicate, and therefore out of his element. A player from another team taught Whiteside how to greet: “Wǒ shì nǐ bàba”—hi, nice to meet you. He said it to everyone at home, on the road, in the gym. There were never any “you, too’s” in return, only blank stares. Well into the season, Whiteside found out from his team’s general manager that he was actually saying “I’m your daddy.” Whiteside immediately recognized the player in the layup line a year later, after he had left for Lebanon again, then returned back to China. He wishes he had dunked on him. Wǒ shì nǐ bàba.
That progress stalled in the 2017-18 season. And it felt impossible to get in gear from the sidelines. “Especially,” Whiteside says, “when you can see a game and you know you can help.” We’re settled inside now, sitting in leather chairs made for 7-footers. Last season’s body language experts would be picking him apart: slumped shoulders, looking in the distance as he’s talking. “Maybe our record would have been different. We would have been a whole different seed in the playoffs.” He knows he was sluggish after missing so much time—28 games total, nine in March. Less agile, slower, and trying to catch up on Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra’s schemes. I ask if he feared being forgotten again. “I can avoid that,” he says. Avoid what? “Falling back to people not knowing.”