The Miami Heat reluctantly paid Dwayne Wade $20 million dollars for the 2015-16 season. Now they have to cut the fat around the edges or pay the repeater tax. On Monday, they traded backup guard Shabazz Napier to the Orlando Magic for a draft pick. It made sense. Napier wasn’t going to get the amount of playing time needed to develop. The Heat than traded Goran Dragic’s brother, Zoran, to the Boston Celtics for, you guessed it, a draft pick.
Mario Chalmers and his one year, five million dollar deal is being shopped around as well. The Heat waived Henry Walker, a rarely used player, who averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds last season. If they can get a taker for Chris Anderson’s contract that would be particularly nice too.
This is the other side of max salaries. There is a price for shelling out huge cash even if it is deserved, or in Wade’s case, when the team was backed into a corner. Pat Riley lost LeBron James last year and he couldn’t lose Wade and save face. He already took one on the chin.
But the max salary consequence- and they litter NBA salary rolls- is you have to either take on players willing to sign for the veteran minimum or you go over the cap and pay a huge tax without guarantees that it is going to be worth it, that the team is going to the Eastern Conference Finals, at the very least.
During the lockout of 2011, an aggressive group of owners pushed hard for the repeater tax. The thinking was it would give the NBA’s fat cats, the Lakers, Bulls and Knicks, something real to think about. If they overspent three years in a row they’d have to dig deep in their pockets. The repeater tax, on the face of it, was a ridiculous penalty not adequately vetted. On the one hand it solved a very real problem of teams not having the fiscal discpline to stay within the cap margins. But on the other hand, the repeater tax never addressed the kind of salary a player deserves for lifetime achievement. There is reprocity for loyalty. When that promissory note comes due, what then?
Players like Dwayne Wade, who stayed loyal through thick and thin, who gave up money, who was a team player, eventually are going to call their chips in. Wade left money on the table in 2014-15 expecting LeBron James to return to Miami. James didn’t and Wade was left undervalued and underpaid. Despite all the talk about what Wade is right now, that he has descended, that he is broken, consider the facts: 21 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists. He made 49% of his two point shots. He was dominant at the rim, 68%, proving his athleticism is still there. He shot 49% from 3-10 feet. Wade can still play and more importantly, he still has the ability to force defenses to adjust to him.
Where people get stuck and frankly a little crazy when they talk about Dwayne Wade is debating how much he is worth. It’s more about what the Heat owed him for being the good son. Perhaps $20 million was a little excessive and it has penalties that the Heat now have to pay but it keeps the Heat in the conversation about teams who can make the Eastern Conference Finals.
So, the cuts begin and the trades for draft picks are here and the Heat hope who they have left can somehow make it through the season with as few injuries as possible. The bottom line is they saved money today.
photo via Wikimedia.org