Miami Heat forward PJ Tucker will waive his $7.4 million player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent. Shams Charania. Tucker, 37, is wrapping up a stellar season in Miami in which he helped lead one of the NBA’s top defensemen and shot 41.5 percent from behind the arc. It is reported that he will be in great demand by the teams participating in the championship.
From a purely financial point of view, this is the right decision on Tucker’s part. If he had used the player option, he would have received a raise of only $350,000 next season. However, because he is not a free agent, he is eligible for a raise of up to 20 percent of his $7 million salary from last season. This means the Heat can pay him up to $8.4 million without any exceptions to the caps. He’s definitely earned that much, so even if he doesn’t get extra years added to his contract, he’s likely earned himself a raise.
Of course, he will almost certainly get additional years. A number of rival teams will likely offer Tucker an exemption from the non-taxpayer middle rank for several seasons as one of the NBA’s top smallball centers and a reliable power forward in any roster formation. The mid-tier non-taxpayer exemption is expected to net about $10.3 million in the first season of the new deal this off-season.
Currently, the Heat are about $23 million below the tax line and nearly $30 million short of the hard cap that signing Tucker for exemption from the mid-tier non-taxpayer could create, so they could theoretically pay him that much. However, this would make it impossible for them to use the mid-level exception for another outside player, and creating a hard cap would make it harder to complete their roster and re-sign Victor Oladipo.
Tucker’s skill set is so unique that if Miami needs to use mid-range elimination to keep him, then it probably should. The competition for his services will be fierce after the season he just played. If Heat doesn’t want to pay Tucker, someone else will definitely do it.