The Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington eras have come to an end for the Miami Heat, with the guards dealt Wednesday to the Phoenix Suns for forward Ryan Anderson, in a deal that will save the team money against the salary cap and luxury tax.
With Johnson holding an oversized contract that pays in excess of $19 million this season, with that amount also due for a player-option season in 2019-20, the Heat moved on from both seasons on that deal in advance of Thursday's 3 p.m. Eastern NBA trading deadline.
As for Ellington, the 3-point specialist had fallen out of the team's rotation, ultimately sacrificed for luxury-tax relief. Ellington is expected to be waived by the Suns, then eligible to sign with the team of his choice.
Anderson's contract is more palatable from a cap standpoint, due just about the same amount as Johnson this season but less than Johnson in 2019-20, at $15.6 million if waived by July 10, as is expected. The Heat then would be able to "stretch" that $15 million over three seasons on their salary cap and luxury tax, unless 2020 remains targeted as a free-agency offseason for the team.
The trade, formally announced by the Heat on Wednesday night, reduces the Heat's luxury tax for this season from $9.7 million to $1.7 million, with a further reduction still possible. The Heat also gained a $6 million trade exception that can be utilized in a trade for a calendar year.
No draft picks were involved in the trade, with the Heat previously having sent two first-round picks to the Suns in 2015 for guard Goran Dragic.
Johnson, 26, joined the Heat as an undrafted free agent during the 2014-15 season, playing well enough to earn a four-year, $50 million offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets during the 2016 offseason as a restricted free agent.
The complex structure of that deal eventually hamstrung the Heat from salary-cap and luxury-tax standpoints, with the bulk of the salary coming in the final two years of the deal. Johnson had been positioned to take a more Heat-friendly version of his contract, a factor that had not sat well with the Heat moving forward.
Johnson recently had moved into the Heat starting lineup in place of Rodney McGruder. He is best known for his hustle that often left him with missing teeth and other aggression-related injuries.
Ellington, 31, who was on a one-year, $6.2 million contract, had to give permission for a trade, which agent Mark Bartelstein confirmed to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the tradeoff for gaining his freedom to now sign with a contender. He played as an essential component of the Heat rotation last season, when he set a Heat franchise record for 3-pointers and NBA record for 3-pointers by a reserve.
The Suns personnel department is headed by former Heat forward James Jones.
Anderson, 30, has barely played in recent seasons, part of the salary-cap trade from the Houston Rockets to the Suns this season. He potentially could find playing time with the Heat, with Johnson and Ellington both dealt and Derrick Jones Jr. sidelined at least another month with a knee injury.
Known for his 3-point shooting, Anderson had a breakout season with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013-14, when he averaged 19.8 points. He followed up by averaging 17 points for the Pelicans in 2014-15, before finding a reduced role with the Rockets the following season due to coaching concerns about his defense.
Anderson started his career as a 2008 first-round pick of the Nets, the No. 21 selection out of Cal. After that lone season in New Jersey, he played three seasons for the Orlando Magic.
With the Heat having operated with a 14-player roster, one below the league maximum, and with the two-for-one trade, the Heat now must add an additional player to reach the league minimum of 14. Teams are allowed to go up to two weeks at a time with 13 players, which could factor into the Heat approach with the luxury tax if a follow-up move is not made.
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