The Miami Heat took another step toward returning most of the core of last season’s team that went to the Eastern Conference finals by re-signing forward Caleb Martin on Wednesday.
Martin, who emerged from a two-way contract to a rotation role this past season, was signed with the Heat’s $6.5 million taxpayer mid-level exception to a three-year deal worth about $20.5 million, an NBA source confirmed to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
By utilizing the lower of the NBA’s two prime mid-level exceptions, the Heat avoided being hard-capped.
Had the Heat utilized the $10.5 million full mid-level, it would have put them under a hard cap on overall team payroll.
The Heat declined to utilize the larger mid-level exception on starting power forward P.J. Tucker, who instead took such a three-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.
By utilizing the mid-level on Martin, the Heat now are likely reduced to filling out their roster with players at NBA minimum salaries.
In addition to Martin, the Heat also have brought back Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon in free agency.
The Heat’s two other free agents entering the offseason, Markieff Morris and Udonis Haslem remain unsigned.
Martin had been a restricted free agent, with the Heat extending a $2.1 million qualifying offer in advance of free agency. That gave the Heat the ability to match outside offers up to the $10.5 million mid-level exception for the coming season.
Martin stressed ahead of free agency that his end game was to return to the Heat.
“I want to be here. I’ve gotten better here. And I believe I will get better here,” he said last month. “Obviously I just want a great situation, no matter what. But I just think that how close I’ve gotten with the guys and the people here and how much better and more confident I’ve been here, I feel like my team and my staff believes in me and believes that I’m going to get better here.”
He was effusive in how the Heat helped resurrect his career after he was released in August by the Charlotte Hornets.
“I feel this is definitely the place for me, and that’s what it’s felt like since I’ve gotten here,” he said. “And that’s why I feel like I’ve made such a big jump so quickly while I’ve been here and why I think I’ll make even bigger jumps while I’m here. It’s hard to explain to some people if they’re not experiencing that.”
Martin’s twin brother, Cody Martin, who had similar statistics to Caleb this past season, recently signed a four-year, $32 million contract to remain with the Hornets. Unlike the Heat with Caleb, the Hornets had Bird Rights with Cody, allowing them to start his contract above the exception thresholds.
With the agreement with Martin, the Heat will have 13 players under standard contract for 2022-23: Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Dedmon, Haywood Highsmith, Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic, Kyle Lowry, Martin, Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Omer Yurtseven.
Teams can carry up to 15 players under standard contract during the regular season plus two players under two-way contracts. Javonte Smart and Mychal Mulder currently are under 2022-23 two-way contract to the Heat.
Teams are allowed to carry up to 20 players during the offseason, easing the ability to take in multiple players in trades.
This story will be updated.