The turn of the calendar means the NBA calendar can come at you quickly.
Yet while the league finds itself on the clock during a current wave of deadlines and windows, the Miami Heat, even while operating shorthanded, find themselves limited – practically handcuffed – in their ability to utilize any of the doors either opening or closing.
Thursday’s start of 10-day contacts?
Out of the Heat’s price range in regard to the luxury tax.
Saturday’s 5 p.m. deadline for all NBA contracts becoming guaranteed for the season?
The only relief would be to bypass such a move with Haywood Highsmith – except with the Heat so shorthanded, they at times have shown a genuine need for Highsmith.
The Jan. 20 deadline for guaranteeing two-way contracts?
Do the Heat have any other choice when it comes to the promise of Jamal Cain and the usefulness of Orlando Robinson?
Eventually there will be other deadlines, other doors that could open or close, such as the Feb. 9 NBA trading deadline or March 1 buyout deadline.
But, for now, as the Heat complete their five-game trip with Friday night’s meeting with the Phoenix Suns, numerous factors seemingly are working toward a status quo this month, not the least of which has been this run of eight victories in the last 12 games, Wednesday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers notwithstanding.
10-day contacts: In theory, this would seem the perfect escape hatch, simply to add fill-in pieces, already with an available roster spot, to compensate for the extended absences of Duncan Robinson, Nikola Jovic and Omer Yurtseven.
The Heat are operating with about $200,000 of remaining salary-cap space below the punitive NBA luxury tax, space that is available by carrying only 14 players under standard contract instead of the maximum 15.
Going into the tax not only would mean making a payment to the league, but also missing out on what could be an eighth-figure rebate from the NBA. But that’s primarily an ownership concern.
The front-office concern is that such a move could eventually trigger the onerous repeater-tax, which could limit future transactions.
Based on the NBA’s current daily rate of $10,000, each 10-day contract would require a $100,000 payment. That not only would leave the Heat without the ability to sign players to multiple such deals, but also would leave no room below the tax for adding players prior to the playoffs.
The Heat over the past decades have spent 10-day contracts on the likes of Chris Andersen, Tyler Johnson, Michael Beasley, Okaro White and Chris Silva.
Guarantee deadline: The actual NBA contract guarantee deadline is Jan. 10. But players with deals that are not fully guaranteed first must clear the 48-hour waiver period in order to have the balance of their deals removed from the books by Monday.
The lone player on the Heat’s standard roster whose contract is not yet fully guaranteed is Highsmith.
But with about $800,000 of Highsmith’s $1.8 million deal previously having been guaranteed, the residual would not be enough to compensate for a replacement for his roster spot.
Plus, the Heat also have Highsmith under contract for a non-guaranteed $1.9 million for next season, potentially offering a cost-efficient piece when the Heat will be paying significant salaries to Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson, among others, unless some of that salary is dealt.
Jan. 20 two-way deadline: There is little downside for the Heat guaranteeing the two-way contracts of Cain and Orlando Robinson at this deadline, with two-way contracts not counting against the NBA salary cap.
In addition, even by making such guarantees, the Heat still would be able to sign replacement players to such deals, with teams allowed to carry up to two at a time.
Such replacement two-way contracts would come at prorated salaries and amount of days of available NBA service.
Feb. 9 NBA trading deadline: This timing actually could be a significant factor, based on recent Heat timelines.
For example, Duncan Robinson’s one-month timetable for recovering from Wednesday’s finger surgery could have him back available in that timeframe.
Similarly, the Heat by Feb. 9 might have a better read on the injury availability of Nikola Jovic (back) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle).
While those three might not necessarily be physically up to contributing to the Heat (or another team) by that stage, the timing could leave the Heat in a better position to know if they need more or if they would be positioned to perhaps deal others at those positions.