Crowder and Jones out, Bradley and Harkless in as Heat reset roster in NBA free agency

The Miami Heat maneuvered through the first 24 hours of NBA free agency with a sense of immediacy, but also with an eye toward the future.

The approach left the Heat with the additions of veterans Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless, but also with the losses of rotation players Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr.

Along the way, the Heat retained Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard and Udonis Haslem.

Each of the free-agency agreements reached by the Heat are limited to a single guaranteed season, most with a second-year team option added.

Crowder, by contrast, left for a three-year guaranteed contract with the Phoenix Suns, with Jones receiving a two-year guaranteed contract with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The approach by Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg and the rest of the front office allows the Heat to retain most of the core that helped push the Heat to last season’s NBA Finals, while also affording sufficient salary-cap flexibility for the 2021 offseasons, when the free-agency class could include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jrue Holiday, Victor Oladipo, Kyle Lowry and LeBron James.

With their machinations at the start of free agency, the Heat stand at the NBA regular-season roster limit of 15-players. That number is allowed to reach 20 prior to the start of the season.

Counting the free-agency agreements in place, which can be finalized as soon as Sunday’s start of the NBA signing period, the Heat roster includes Bradley, Harkless, Dragic, Leonard, Haslem, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk, KZ Okpala, Chris Silva and first-round pick Precious Achiuwa.

In addition, the Heat have signed guard Gabe Vincent to a two-way contract, which does not count against the 15-player roster limit. The Heat are allowed one additional such signing, which such players limited to 50 appearances in the upcoming 72-game schedule truncated by the league’s delayed start due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Heat reached their limit of salary-cap space with the signings of Dragic and Leonard. The agreements with Bradley and Harkless were reached by splitting the $9.3 million mid-level exception. Because of that, the Heat will be hard-capped this season, limited to a payroll of no more than $138.9 million. The Heat played under a hard cap last season due to a sign-and-trade agreement with Butler.

The Heat’s current payroll is $8 million below the 2020-21 luxury-tax threshold, allowing for the possibility of taking on salary in a trade or even adding an additional player with the release of a player currently under contract.

While Jones and Crowder both received raises from the 2019-20 Heat salaries, both would have been welcomed back at their 2020-21 salaries with their new teams, had it not been for the length of those deals.

As it is, the structure of the contracts of Dragic, Leonard, Bradley and Harkless provide the Heat flexibility for trades both this season, as well as possibly next offseason.

In Bradley, 29, the Heat added an elite on-ball defender at point guard, who also possesses a quality 3-point strike. In Harkless, 27, the Heat again have 3-point shooting at power forward, as well as a respected frontline defender. The addition of the two offset much of what was lost with the departures of Crowder and Jones.

Bradley, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers but bypassed the NBA restart in the Disney World quarantine bubble, signed a two-year, $11.6 million contract, with a Heat option for the second season.

Harkless, who finished last season with the New York Knicks, signed a one-year, $3.6 million contract. He briefly was acquired by the Heat in July 2019 as part of the salary-cap machinations for Butler, before being moved on to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Crowder departed for a three-year, $30 million deal with the Suns, with Jones leaving for a two-year, $20 million contract with the Trail Blazers.

Crowder had emerged as a key component of the Heat run within two games of an NBA championship, replacing Leonard in the starting lineup in the playoffs. Jones, by contrast, lost his regular-season rotation role during the playoffs, losing playing time after the midseason acquisitions of Crowder and Iguodala.

The Heat open camp the first week of December, with the NBA regular season opening Dec. 22.

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©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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