(Update: Added comments from The Oklahoman about Sam Presti rumor, salary cap, and roster adjustments)
Mike Miller, the sharpshooting small forward who played an integral role in helping the Miami Heat win two championships in a row, has been amnestied by the Heat and has just cleared waivers, making him available to other teams.
According to Woj:
Mike Miller has cleared amnesty waivers and become a free agent, league source tells Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 18, 2013
Woj reported that Miller became a free agent when, after being amnestied, no team under the salary cap put a bid on him:
Miller became a free agent after no team placed a bid on him during the amnesty waiver process.
Miller was waived by the Heat earlier this week using the team's amnesty clause. No team under the salary cap placed a bid on him in the NBA's amnesty waiver process, making him a free agent.
The deadline for playing a bid on Miller was 5 p.m. ET Thursday.
Miller, 33, has considered having fusion surgery to repair bulging disks in his back. Back problems caused him to miss games during the 2011-12 season. He also considered surgery in the summer of 2012.
Miami used the amnesty provision to free itself of the $12.8 million left on Miller's contract over the next two seasons. The decision will save the Heat significant money in luxury-tax payments, but the organization is still responsible for paying the balance of Miller's contract.
Who is in the front-running for Miller's services? The Thunder appear to be in the lead:
Oklahoma City has emerged as a frontrunner to sign free agent Mike Miller, league sources tell Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 18, 2013
Miller is currently 33 years old after 12 years in the league, and served as a critical 3-point specialist in the Heat's past two title runs. No doubt Thunder fans have tattooed in their brains a hobbled Miller sinking 7 3-pointers in the close-out Finals game in 2012, and he shot 11-18 (61%) from behind the arc in the Heat's championship win over the Spurs. Despite playing in only 59 games during the regular season, Miller was one of the best 3-point shooters in the league:
Clearly he has value to a team that knows how to use him, and he knows how to play along side superstars, but what about his lingering back injuries?
Daily Thunder/CBS reporter Royce Young writes:
A few teams were interested in putting an amnesty bid in on Miller, though after word leaked he was considering back surgery, he cleared waivers on Thursday. Miller wants to sign with a contender, which the Thunder obviously are. The back surgery thing appears to have been a bit of a smokescreen to make sure he had his pick of teams. Because as for his health, Miller told the Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday:
"I'm excited about the next spot. I'm re-energized. I really am. I'm just feeling healthy. I'm ready to play. I started to get back in there again last week and I can't wait to play again next year."
With the Thunder apparently in the lead and looking to bolster their outside shooting now that Kevin Martin is gone, Miller appears to be a possible fit. The Thunder can only offer the league minimum since they are over the salary cap, and that number, according to Hoopsworld, is about $1.4 million heading into this season. Is that a sum insulting to a player of Miller's caliber? It might be, especially since other teams can offer him more. However, the Thunder have the advantage of being a contending team, which Miller likes, and Miller is also still scheduled to receive the remaining $12.8 million from his Heat contract over the next two seasons. In other words, even at the league minimum, Miller still stands to make about $7 million per year, which is similar to what Kevin Martin is making for his new team in Minnesota.
On my own personal note, I happened to live in D.C. when Miller played for the Wizards, and there was one thing that stuck out to me about him - he's a very sensible dude not prone to living the high life. He has a good understanding of the money he makes and how to save it, so the likelihood of him chasing some extra cash in what will likely be his final NBA stopping place is lower than some other players in the league. Of course this is no guarantee that he'd be willing to take the veterans' minimum to play in OKC, only that if he does, it would fit within his character. As if to bolster this notion, the Heat, who just let him go, did this:
image via South Florida Sun-Sentinel
WTLC will monitor this story as it evolves.
Darnell Mayberry at The Oklahoman writes that Sam Presti is scheduled to make a trip to Miami:
A person with knowledge of the situation said Thunder general manager Sam Presti is scheduled to fly to Miami to meet with Miller this week.
If OKC does pursue Miller, there are a couple different scenarios that could play out, which would help the Thunder's salary cap situation:
Because the Thunder's payroll is pushing up against the $71.7 million tax threshold, Oklahoma City would be able to offer Miller only a minimum contract for roughly $1.4 million. Under normal circumstances, that number might be enough to send the Thunder into tax territory.
But a provision in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement could come into play and save the Thunder some precious cash.
If OKC signed Miller to a one-year contract, the league would reimburse the Thunder approximately $515,000. On a minimum contract, only $884,293 of Miller's deal would then be included in the Thunder's team salary.
That's the same amount guard DeAndre Liggins is owed and could suggest that Liggins, who is not guaranteed his salary if he doesn't make the regular season roster, would be replaced by the veteran Miller.
Center Daniel Orton, who also is on a non-guaranteed contract, could be released as well. Orton is set to earn roughly $916,000 next season.