Crowded court

Wayne Elling­ton’s re­turn gives Heat a glut at guard.

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By Ira Win­der­man Staff writer

LAS VE­GAS — For the Mi­ami Heat, this wouldn’t be an is­sue if it merely were a three-wing cir­cus.

In­stead, the math is start­ing to get a bit fuzzy in the wake of the team bring­ing back Wayne Elling­ton on a one-year free-agent con­tract, with Dwyane Wade now po­ten­tially wait­ing on deck.

While the Heat agree­ment on a one-year deal with Elling­ton was a mat­ter of show­ing loy­alty to a con­trib­u­tor caught in a dreary free-agent mar­ket, it also fur­ther mud­dled an al­ready crowded wing ro­ta­tion for coach Erik Spoel­stra.

Re­call, in the wake of the Heat clos­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son at 44-38 and then be­ing elim­i­nated 4-1in the first round of the play­offs by the Philadel­phia 76ers, Heat Pres­i­dent Pat Ri­ley said, “We have too many good to great play­ers. We have too many.”

He was talk­ing about the en­tire ros­ter, but he might as well have been talk­ing about the perime­ter ro­ta­tion.

Be­yond Go­ran Dragic as the only true point guard on the ros­ter, and be­yond Has­san White­side, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Ade­bayo in the power ro­ta­tion, the Heat es­sen­tially are left with James John­son, Jus­tise Winslow, Josh Richard­son, Dion Wait­ers, Rod­ney McGruder, Tyler John­son, Der­rick Jones Jr. and Elling­ton as mix-and-match pieces on the wing.

And that’s not even get­ting to Wade’s de­ci­sion about whether to re­turn, or about the spec­u­la­tion re­gard­ing Carmelo An­thony mak­ing South Florida his land­ing spot af­ter an an­tic­i­pated buy­out from the Ok­la­homa City Thunder.

But it is at shoot­ing guard where a thin­ning out would seem in or­der.

Wayne Elling­ton: The Heat did right by Elling­ton af­ter the free-agent mar­ket did not.

Thurs­day’s one-year, $6.3 mil­lion agree­ment with the player who this past sea­son set the fran­chise record for 3-point­ers in a

sea­son likely will be fol­lowed up by a more sub­stan­tive deal in a year, when Elling­ton will have full Bird Rights.

The Heat did not go into the luxury tax (at least for the mo­ment) with­out in­ten­tions to play the 30-year-old as a ro­ta­tion player. There may not be full ro­ta­tion min­utes, but there will be min­utes.

Dion Wait­ers: The Heat need to pro­vide con­sis­tent min­utes whether to jus­tify the four-year, $60 mil­lion in­vest­ment a year ago or to show­case that Wait­ers is all the way back from last sea­son’s an­kle surgery.

The time has come for the Heat to de­ter­mine whether Wait­ers is the closer go­ing for­ward, or whether there will be a need to con­tinue to bring back the likes of Wade or make plays for the likes of An­thony. Josh Richard­son: Re­mem­ber, it was no less than Ri­ley who mused at sea­son’s end, “Is Josh a small for­ward? Is he a two? I think he’s prob­a­bly more of a two.”

If that is the case, then with the 2015 sec­ond-round pick out of Ten­nessee en­ter­ing the first year of a fouryear, $42 mil­lion con­tract ex­ten­sion, it could be time to get him to the po­si­tion that the fran­chise pa­tri­arch be­lieves is the best fit for his skill set.

As it is, the Heat spent sum­mer league at­tempt­ing to de­velop Bam Ade­bayo into more of a power for­ward, which ul­ti­mately could leave James John­son and Winslow at small for­ward more of­ten go­ing for­ward.

Tyler John­son: This is, of course, no less than the $19.3 mil­lion ques­tion, which is John­son’s salary these next two sea­sons as the fi­nal two years on his oddly struc­tured four-year, $50 mil­lion con­tract.

It would make sense on so many lev­els for this to be the fol­low-up move to the Elling­ton sign­ing, uti­liz­ing John­son’s deal in a trade to al­le­vi­ate the Heat’s lux­u­ry­tax con­cerns. With salarycap space al­most gone around the league in the wake of the lat­est machi­na­tions by the Brook­lyn Nets and At­lanta Hawks, fail­ing a deal with the Sacra­mento Kings, it could be a mat­ter of the Heat trad­ing John­son for a less puni­tive salary.

John­son has the abil­ity to make the Heat bet­ter, but he hardly is es­sen­tial.

Rod­ney McGruder: The Heat’s start­ing for­ward two sea­sons ago, McGruder’s 6-foot-5, 200-pound build is far more in line with that of a shoot­ing guard.

And in many ways McGruder is what the Heat need at the back of the ro­ta­tion at shoot­ing guard, a three-and-D player with a cost-ef­fec­tive $1.5 mil­lion salary.

The prob­lem is that while he sets up as a per­fect third shoot­ing guard, he could fall as far as sixth at the po­si­tion on the depth chart.

Der­rick Jones Jr.: While more of a small for­ward, Jones does many of the things you would covet from a shoot­ing guard. And in many ways, he ar­guably would stand as the Heat’s most ath­letic shoot­ing guard.

The prob­lem with so much clut­ter at shoot­ing guard is the lack of min­utes for a devel­op­men­tal project such as Jones.

Dwyane Wade: Yes, he likely would again step in as a Heat closer if he de­cides for a re­union en­core at 36. But the min­utes would come in place of whom?


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