Miami Heat Facing ‘Bizarre Pickle’ with Key Starters: Report

Kendrick Nunn

Getty Miami Heat second-year guard Kendrick Nunn is a restricted free agent after the season.

The Miami Heat are one loss away from being swept in the first round. So it’s only natural to start imagining next year’s roster and how they might construct it in free agency.

One major question mark hangs in the starting five: Kendrick Nunn. The 25-year-old guard is a restricted free agent so the Heat can match any qualifying offer, but how much are they willing to spend on him? President Pat Riley has talked about hunting for a “giant whale” this offseason, leading to rampant speculation about him trying to lure Kawhi Leonard to South Beach. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are two other names to watch.

But Nunn has been a key starter down the stretch for the Heat in 2021, not to mention his willingness to take a seat on the bench without complaining during several lineup tweaks. Remember, head coach Erik Spoelstra started Goran Dragic over Nunn in Game 3.

There have been multiple reports that Nunn is going to be a hot commodity in free agency. Several teams, like the Toronto Raptors, could be banging down his door. According to The Athletic’s John Hollinger, Nunn could be looking at a payday of up to $15 million per year on the open market. Miami will surely make a serious run at keeping him. However, that domino could depend on what happens with another restricted free agent: Duncan Robinson.

Robinson could command as much as $20 million per year next year. The 27-year-old sharpshooter has only helped himself with a record-setting pace from three-point range. Yikes. Hollinger called the Robinson-Nunn situation a “bizarre pickle” for the Heat. Let’s make a dill? Sorry. Hollinger wrote:

The Heat are also in a bizarre pickle with Robinson and Nunn, both of whom are restricted free agents with unusually low cap holds because of their minimum salaries. On one hand, that’s a good thing — their $4.4 million cap holds mean the Heat can generate about $20 million in cap room just by declining the options on Goran Dragic, Andre Iguodala and Omer Yurtseven.

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Don’t Rule Out Return of Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo crashed and burned hard in his test run for the Miami Heat. He suited up in only four games before undergoing surgery on his right quadriceps tendon on May 12. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise, though.

The injury-prone, two-time All-Star guard had been seeking a max contract in free agency, but that is likely out of the question from any team. Oladipo pushed hard for a trade to Miami — it was his preferred destination, a place where he owns a gym and trains in the offseason — and may be willing to come back on a prove-it type of deal. Hollinger described a “sneaky avenue” down which the Heat could travel to get something done.

One sneaky avenue for the Heat, however, is that they can sign Oladipo to a one-year deal using exception money while he recovers from another serious injury to his quadriceps. That would allow Miami to keep his Bird rights and pay him more in line with his standing a year from now once he’s recovered. Miami also can decline Dragic’s option and re-sign him at a lower number than his $18.4 million, perhaps in exchange for multiple seasons.

Spoelstra Praises Team’s Energy After Game 3

The Heat dropped Game 3 by 29 points on Thursday night to the Milwaukee Bucks. They only held one lead in the contest, early in the first quarter when Bam Adebayo’s jumper made it 2-0. They were down 49-36 at halftime and never got into any rhythm on the offensive end. Yet Spoelstra thought the team’s energy level was good in the first half despite their struggles shooting the basketball.

“I thought our energy was really good, particularly in the first half. We were really competing,” Spoelstra said after Game 3. “Our guys laid it out there in many ways, just the way I thought the game was being played and how hard our guys were competing in that first half. I thought it was more in our wheelhouse than their wheelhouse but we were really struggling to put some points on the board. And we were probably fortunate that it was only 13 at halftime.”


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