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Will the Miami Heat match on Tyler Johnson?

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

This will get complicated.  Put on your thinking caps. Take out your calculators. Wish that you had scored 800 on you Math SAT like Jeremy Lin (yeah, he did that).

On Thursday, when teams can officially sign players, the Nets will sign Tyler Johnson to a four-year $50 million contract.  The contract will pay him $5.6 million in year one, $5.9 million in year two, then $18.9 million in year three and finally $19.6 million in the final year. The deal also includes a player option for the fourth year.  The Nets will then inform the Heat that Johnson, a restricted free agent, has signed and the Heat will have three days, until next Saturday to match.

The deal is what is known in the NBA as a "poison pill" contract. It's only been used twice, by the Rockets in 2012 to sign restricted free agents Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.  It benefits second rounders or undrafted players (like Johnson) who signed a two-year rookie deal (like Johnson) and are restricted free agents (like Johnson).

It's called the Arenas rule and it was put into place after the Warriors lost Gilbert Arenas to the Wizards because they couldn't match or exceed Washington's offer.

The cap situations are different for the two teams.

For the Nets, if the Heat fail to match, Johnson would cost them $12.5 million in each of the four years, $50 million divided by four.  For the Heat, it gets more complicated.  Johnson’s salary cap hit next season for the Heat would only be equal to the team’s $1.2 million qualifying offer they tendered him earlier this off-season (even though Johnson would actually get paid $5.6 million his first year).Then, in years two through four, the cap hit would be what Johnson is being paid. That's a good deal in the first two years, but then, the math gets difficult for the Heat.

Miami is already locked into deals worth $70.3 million for the 2018-19 season, Johnson's third year when he will make $18.9 million. Chris Bosh is on the books for $26.8 million, the newly signed Hassan Whiteside for $25.4 million; and Goran Dragic for $18.1 million. Bosh is off the books in 2019-20, when Johnson will earn $19.6 million, but Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson will be off their rookie deals and no doubt be looking for big money.  Mickey Arison doesn't like to pay luxury taxes.

Further complicating the issue is this year's salary cap situation. Dwyane Wade, the face of the franchise who had a good season,  believes he's being low-balled in free agency after years of accepting less than max money.  The Heat can't afford to lose Wade. They re-signed Whiteside, but lost Luol Deng and Joe Johnson.

So writers for both the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel think he's probably gone, that the Heat will not match.  Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel thinks Pat Riley. will look at it this way:

"You only match the offer sheet if you believe Johnson will emerge as an All-Star-level guard in those final two years of the contract. While I marvel at the growth Tyler already has made from undrafted, D-League rise, I'm not sure I'd be willing to bet on an All-Star-level future."


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/nba/miami-heat/article87527497.html#storylink=cpy

Charles Trainor of the Herald quotes a source saying

The Nets are expecting to sign Johnson because the way the contract is structured is not conducive to the Heat to match.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/nba/miami-heat/article87527497.html#storylink=cpy

Not everyone agrees. Kevin Pelton ESPN thinks the Heat might match because they need to...

Because Miami must use cap space to re-sign Whiteside, the team's options for replacing departed starters Luol Deng and Joe Johnson are any remaining space after re-signing Wade, the $2.9 million room exception and players signed for the minimum salary.

It will be hard to find an equivalent talent to Johnson among those options, and after losing Deng and Joe Johnson, it's not clear the Heat can afford to let another rotation player walk away this summer.

That's not a math argument, but it's one that has to be considered. If Miami doesn't work --and most pundits, including Woj-- think the way Sean Marks put the deal together will prevent the Heat from matching.

Putting aside the math and punditry, there are two other reasons to think that Johnson will become a Net, two tweets Johnson retweeted Sunday...

So bottom line, You can challenge the amount of money the Nets will pay Johnson but have to admire the cleverness in the way they're doing it ... and the ballisiness of going up against Pat Riley.

So now we wait.