On their busiest day of the NBA free-agency period, the Miami Heat on Sunday signed Brooklyn Nets guard Wayne Ellington and Toronto Raptors forward James Johnson, while also re-signing franchise-mainstay power forward Udonis Haslem.
The Heat later sent a second-round pick previously acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans back to New Orleans, along with cash, for outside-shooting forward Luke Babbitt.
While none of Sunday’s moves necessarily deliver an impact player similar to recent Heat free-agent losses Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, Sunday’s four moves provide needed depth to a roster that had been ravaged during the opening days of NBA free agency.
In Ellington, the Heat add the type of long-distance threat they not only had lacked on their current roster, but an element Erik Spoelstra’s team also had lacked last season. Ellington agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract, with the Heat holding a team option for the second season, providing flexibility to maximize salary-cap space for 2017 free agency.
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In Johnson, the Heat add an athletic component capable of providing physical play and defense. He signed a one-year, $4 million contract.
In Babbitt, the Heat add another 3-point shooter, who will earn $1.3 million in the final year of his contract next season and become a free agent in 2017.
As for Haslem, he helps maintain continuity as he moves into his franchise-record 14th season with the team, with the ability to provide minutes in reserve in the power rotation, but even more importantly, to serve as a mentor to center Hassan Whiteside. Haslem signed a one-year, $4 million contract.
Shortly after Haslem’s signing, Wade posted on Twitter, “Big Congrts to my ‘Brother' @ThisIsUD way to continue holding it down for your city. Mr305.”
All contract terms were confirmed by the Sun Sentinel through parties involved in the process. The Heat confirmed all the signings.
Sunday’s moves brought the Heat to the $94 million 2016-17 NBA salary cap, providing veteran support to a youthful roster that also includes Whiteside, 2015 draft picks Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, as well as recent untested additions Briante Weber and Rodney McGruder, who are both playing with the Heat summer-league team in Las Vegas.
With Sunday’s additions, the Heat’s roster stands at 13, with Whiteside, Haslem, Chris Bosh, Babbitt and Josh McRoberts in the power rotation; Winslow, James Johnson and recently added New York Knicks free agent forward Derrick Williams in the wing rotation; and Goran Dragic, Richardson, McGruder, Ellington and Weber in the backcourt.
The Heat had until midnight to decide whether to match the Nets’ offer sheet to free-agent guard Tyler Johnson.
Gerald Green, Amar'e Stoudemire and Dorell Wright remain free agents from the Heat’s season-ending roster.
The Heat had $19 million available in salary-cap space with Wednesday’s departure of Wade in free agency to the Chicago Bulls, which came in the wake of Deng leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers and Joe Johnson for the Utah Jazz.
With Ellington, the Heat’s search for shooting has led them to a player who has thrived from distance against them in recent years
Shortly after reaching his agreement, Ellington posted on Instagram, “I’m super excited to be a part of a first class organization! Let’s get to work and make it a great season!!! #heatnation let’s get it!!!”
Ellington, 28, sparked the otherwise struggling Nets to a 111-108 victory over the Heat on Dec. 28 at AmericanAirlines Arena when he scored 23 of his 26 points in 23 second-half minutes, including three fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
Until that performance Ellington’s career high had been the 25 points he scored against the Heat on Nov. 11, 2012 with the Memphis Grizzlies, when he converted seven 3-pointers, which he also did in that Brooklyn victory in December.
Ellington is a seven-year veteran who was the No. 28 overall selection in the 2009 NBA draft. His career path has taken him from the Timberwolves to the Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks and Nets.
He bypassed his player option to return to the Nets in June, becoming a free agent on July 1. This is the fourth consecutive year he has signed with a new team during free agency.
Ellington appeared in 76 games for the Nets this past season, starting 41, shooting .358 on 3-pointers, with 268 of his 561 shots coming from beyond the arc. He averaged 7.7 points this season and has never averaged more than the 10.4 he averaged with the Cavaliers in 2012-13.