The Miami Heat are expected to let free agent forwards/wings Luol Deng and Joe Johnson walk this offseason, according to several sources close to the organization.
While the Heat would ideally prefer to re-sign both veterans, they are strapped with cap space issues since retaining Hassan Whiteside and Dwayne Wade take precedence. Since the Heat don’t own Whiteside’s Bird Rights, they can’t go over the cap to sign the rim protector to a maximum contract. Therefore, Heat boss Pat Riley could be forced to let a few of his integral role players walk.
Luol Deng would be a big loss…
Riley called Deng “one of our core people” after the Heat lost Game 7 of the eastern conference semifinals against the Toronto Raptors last month. Deng has spoken about his desire to return. “A lot of teams out there can offer you a lot of money, but the feel might not be the same,” said Deng, who took a massive paycut (2-year, $20 million) to sign with Miami before the 2014-15 season.
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Deng admitted that he would consider more lucrative offers. “And there could be teams in a situation where they can’t actually give you what the other team can, but they’ve got a lot of other things they can support you with,” added the former two-time All-Star.
Deng, who averaged 12.3 points and 6 rebounds this past season, was the primary reason for the Heat finishing the regular season as the fifth best defensive unit. And Deng realizes that his contributions don’t always reflect on the box score. “It never really mattered to me what my numbers looked like. What’s always mattered to me is just being able to do what I do out there and play as hard as I can, and I feel like people noticed that here.”
Joe Johnson not ready to take paycut
Meanwhile, Joe Johnson is opposed to the idea of taking a paycut, according to a report on Miami Herald. Earlier this year, Brooklyn Nets waived Johnson after agreeing upon a buyout. Johnson, 34, would be seeking the last lucrative contract of his career but is unlikely to find that in Miami.
Johnson sacrificed $3 million from the final year of contract with the Nets, just to play for a contender. According to Miami Herald, Heat would try to sign him with their $2.9 million room exception. But that won’t be enough. “An associate said unlike when he signed here, he isn’t sure Johnson would necessarily be inclined to take less money to stay,” writes Heat reporter Barry Jackson.
NBA Free Agency opens on July 1. Luol Deng, 33, is expected to attract plenty of suitors.