Durant Watch goes on, Heat Roster remains in the works

As the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes continues, the Miami Heat’s roster for next season remained in the works on Day 5 of Free Agency Monday.

The Heat have not moved in free hands since negotiations were allowed to begin on Thursday, when they struck deals to bring back center Dewayne Dedmon and guard Victor Oladipo. Forward PJ Tucker also left Miami to join the Philadelphia 76ers on day one of free agency.

Since then, the heat seems to have been on hold.

Meanwhile, Tucker’s departure leaves a glaring hole in the power forward’s starting spot, and three players from the Heat’s end-of-season roster remain available on the open market: Udonis Haslem and Markieff Morris are unrestricted free agents, and Caleb Martin is a restricted free agent.

The Heat’s roster for next season currently includes 12 players on standard contracts: Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Dedmon, Tyler Herro, Haywood Highsmith, Nikola Jovic, Kyle Lowry, Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Omer Yurtseven. NBA teams are allowed to carry up to 15 players on standard contracts during the regular season and playoffs.

The question is: how long can the Heat wait before rounding out their list?

The good news for the Heat is that Martin can fill the need for power forward and can’t just sign straight to another team. As a restricted free agent, Miami has the right to match outside offers up to the mid-level exception of $10.5 million to re-sign him this offseason.

However, the Heat are not expected to spend more than the $6.5 million taxpayer exception to bring Martin back or sign an outside free agent. That’s because the Heat, which doesn’t have a cap slot, would prefer not to use the $10.5 million mid-level non-taxpayer exemption because that would limit the $157 million hard cap. Dollars would trigger and limit the team’s flexibility in the trading market during the NBA 2022-23 calendar.

Martin’s twin brother Cody Martin has signed a four-year deal worth $32 million to return to the Charlotte Hornets in a free hand on Sunday, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Cody was also a restricted free agent.

The largest deal Heat could offer to keep Martin at mid-level using the $6.5 million taxpayer exemption is a three-year deal worth about $20.5 million.

The limited free hand also buys the Heat more time to wait for Durant while ensuring Martin remains an option.

Even if Martin receives an offer sheet with another team, the Heat’s two-day clock to adjust it doesn’t start until Wednesday. So Miami has until at least Friday to make a final decision on Martin if an outside team submits an offer sheet to him.

As it stands at the moment, the Heat has made Martin a qualifying offer of $2.1 million, which he can accept at any time, to return to Miami for a season. But the expectation is that Martin won’t do that because he’s expected to land a bigger contract in free agency.

The Heat also has until July 13 to unilaterally withdraw their qualifying offer for Martin, which would make him an unrestricted free agent.

After earning approximately $2.9 million in total salaries over his first three NBA seasons, Martin is expected to sign the largest contract of his young career this offseason.

Martin, who turns 27 in September, averaged career best points (9.2) and rebounds (3.8) last season. He also shot a career-best 50.7 percent from the field, increasing his three-point percentage from 24.8 percent last season to 41.3 percent in 60 regular-season games (12 starts) in his debut season with the Heat.

There was a mutual interest between Martin and The Heat in completing a deal that would go free hand. But Durant’s trade demand has seemingly complicated matters.

Haslem and Morris can sign a new contract with any team at any time, and the Heat can’t do anything about it as they are unrestricted free agents. But if Haslem decides to continue his playing career for a 20th NBA season, he’s expected to return to the Heat.

JOVIC’S SUMMER START

The summer league is an opportunity for Jovic to learn and grow after coming over from Serbia and turning 19 just last month.

In the Heat’s first two Summer League games, the rookie forward has nine points overall on 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) shots from the field and 1-of-7 (14.3 percent) shots from the three -Points range, seven rebounds, one assist and two turnovers in 49 minutes of action.

Those are mind-blowing numbers, but Jovic looked a little more comfortable in his second game of the summer. He made an impressive mid-range step-back jump and pushed back a smaller defender for an easy layup during Sunday’s loss to the summer league team the Sacramento Kings.

“He’s starting to get a feel for the switches and the way teams play,” said Malik Allen, Heat’s assistant coach, who serves as Summer League head coach. “It’s a little bit different. … You can see he’s processing the game and trying to slow it down a bit is the biggest thing for him.

Jovic, drafted by The Heat with the 27th overall pick in this year’s draft, has already impressed his summer teammates with his skill and attitude.

“He’s a great guy,” said heat guard Javonte Smart, who is on the summer list and also has one of Miami’s two-way contracts. “I love how he passes the ball. His IQ is incredible. I love how he passes the ball, he sees the ground. He’s a big one who can pass the ball and he listens. He may make mistakes here and there, but you can correct him and he will listen. I like that about him.”

The summer team The Heat, which lost its first two games, was idle Monday before completing its three-game stint at the California Classic against the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center on Tuesday (3 p.m. NBA TV). The Heat then travel to Las Vegas to play five games, a schedule that begins Saturday against the Boston Celtics (5:30 p.m. NBA TV).

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.

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