A rewarding and profitable opening night for Heat’s Haywood Highsmith after going undrafted from Wheeling University – The Denver Post


While the anticipation of opening night can provide its own reward, the stakes have been higher for Miami Heat forward Haywood Highsmith.

Unlike the rest of his teammates, it also meant the opportunity to cash in.

Of the 14 players under standard contract to the Heat, only one entered the preseason without a fully guaranteed deal.

Now, the 25-year-old developmental forward has taken another step toward cashing in on his first full season of NBA salary.

As part of the three-year deal Highsmith signed in March, after initially being called up on a COVID emergency deal and then retained on 10-day contracts, four target dates were put in place on his $1.75 million salary this season.

The first was a $50,000 guarantee on July 1 that assured his appearance at summer league, where he thrived. Now that guarantee is up to $400,000 by being on the opening-night roster for the Heat’s Wednesday night matchup against the Chicago Bulls at FTX Arena. Next, the guarantee goes up to $700,000 if he is on the roster on Dec. 1. Then, as with all NBA contracts, his salary for 2022-23 becomes fully guaranteed if not released before Jan. 10.

“I mean, I really don’t think about it too, too much,” Highsmith told the Sun Sentinel. “But it is nice to know that once you get past a certain date, I’m getting a little more guaranteed money.

“It just shows that I’m putting in the right steps, doing the right thing to stay on the team and trying to prove myself and establish myself in the NBA.”

Each of Highsmith’s three 10-day contracts last season paid $86,000, with a prorated portion of the league minimum following when he was signed for the balance of the season.

Of course, as a matter of perspective when it comes to Highsmith’s guarantee, also consider that in earning $37.653,300 this season, Jimmy Butler earns $459,000 per game. So it also all is relative.

Until the Heat finalized their regular-season roster, Highsmith stood with the lone contract that could have been offloaded in favor of a replacement without putting the Heat into the luxury tax.

So the steps not only have come in terms of salary, but also in terms of confidence from the front office and coaching staff. As part of the deal signed last season, Highsmith also is under contract for 2023-24, provided he is guaranteed by July 15.

“Coming from where I came from, small school,” said the undrafted product out of Division II Wheeling University, “sometimes I couldn’t imagine being in the NBA, that it would be a tough road for me. But I’ve taken the steps. It’s been a journey. But I’m proud of myself and I’ll just keep going, keep pushing, and pushing to my goals to be a full-time NBA player.

“It was a two-way contract before, so trying to become a full-time NBA player. So I’m just putting in the work and just letting everything flow.”

Working in Highsmith’s favor is the apparent preference by coach Erik Spoelstra to play small at times at power forward, similar to the approach taken last season with P.J. Tucker, who departed in the offseason to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“A smaller four next to Bam [Adebayo] is definitely a lot of speed in the lineup. So that definitely could work,” Highsmith said. “I’m just going to create my own path to get minutes and keep working that way.”

To a degree, Highsmith finds himself following in the footsteps of teammate Caleb Martin, who went from two-way contract to Heat rotation playing role to $20 million free-agent contract this offseason.

“Caleb was undrafted, worked his way up with the Hornets, had a great couple seasons there, now he’s here, went from a two-way to a great contract,” Highsmith said. “So he’s motivation. I definitely look up to him a lot.”

With respect already earned from Martin.

“I could see how they would look at that, where Haywood would kind of simulate me in terms of just being a small-ball four,” Martin said. “He’s made a name for himself. He’s going to create his own narrative.

“But I can see in terms of the similarities, in terms of the journey coming here, and the way he’s sticking.”



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