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Heat Agree to Trade Guard Tyler Johnson to Phoenix

The Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns are in agreement on a trade to send combo guard Tyler Johnson to Phoenix, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

In the trade, Phoenix will also receive sharpshooter Wayne Ellington, but the assumption league-wide is that Ellington will be bought out of his contract and waived, clearing way for the 31-year-old to join a playoff contending team in free agency. Wojnarowski also reports that Ellington’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, is currently working with the Suns to expedite the buyout process.

Miami will be receiving veteran power forward Ryan Anderson from Phoenix in the trade, which helps the Heat get closer towards being under the NBA’s luxury tax threshold. The Heat’s tax bill now stands at $1.2 million, which is down from $6.3 million, per NBA Salary Cap expert Albert Nahmad.

Nahmad also notes that in total, the Heat have now saved $8 million as a result of a trade. Miami could also potentially save more money if power forward/center Kelly Olynyk does not earn his $1 million bonus for playing 1,700 minutes. So far, Olynyk has played 987 minutes this season, meaning he is currently not on pace to meet the criteria.

With the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Heat are also reportedly still engaged in trade discussions concerning several players on their roster, such as Olynyk, center Hassan Whiteside, and guard Dion Waiters, per Greg L. Sylvander of Miami Heat Beat.

Contract wise, Anderson is currently making $20.4 million this season, but is guaranteed $15.6 million next season instead of $21.6 million after he agreed to reduce the guarantee in his contract to help initate a August trade that sent guard Brandon Knight to the Houston Rockets. If Anderson isn’t waived by the Heat by July 10, the $21.6 million salary becomes fully-guaranteed. Expect Miami to waive the 30-year-old Anderson by utilizing the stretch provision this summer.

The 25-year-old Johnson is currently making $19.2 million this season, and will make that same salary figure again in 2019-2020, assuming he utilizes the player option in his contract to opt-in for next season. Johnson is unlikely to fetch anywhere close to that $19.2 million on the open market, so it’s widely-expected around the league that Johnson opts-in.

Had Johnson remained with the Heat throughout the conclusion of the 2018-2019 season, that would’ve meant Miami would’ve had to wait for three players to make decisions on options in their contracts in Johnson, Whiteside, and Goran Dragic. Whiteside will likely opt-in to his $27 million salary for next season, but Dragic could decide to opt-out of his $19.2 million for next season, and re-sign with the Heat on a multi-year contract with a lower average annual salary. Dragic has expressed a desire to remain with the Heat for the remainder of his career, so the 2017 all-star may be more willing to value a multi-year deal as opposed to financial security.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Milwaukee Bucks are among the teams expected to pursue Ellington once he officially becomes a free agent. After sinking a Heat franchise single-season record 227 three-pointers in 2017-2018 and making the NBA’s Three-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend, Ellington has often found himself out of head coach Erik Spoelstra’s rotation this season, due to the logjam of guards on Miami’s roster. Philadelphia is perhaps the most likely spot for Ellington, who grew up in the Philadelphia area.

As for Johnson and Anderson, Johnson is expected to provide the Suns with ball-handling skills as a combo guard, something that is currently lacking on one of the NBA’s worst teams. It is undetermined what Anderson’s role will be in Miami, but if he does play, he will provide the Heat with floor-spacing in a similar fashion that Olynyk provides it already.

Photo: Rob Foldy/Getty Images
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