As the NBA trade deadline approaches on February 21, there will surely be a flurry of moves from teams across the league.
A team with the caliber of the Miami Heat aren't likely to make a huge change, however a potential move could be showing Mike Miller the door. He is a solid contributor in a limited role, yet it may be in the Heat's best interest moving forward.
In his third season with Miami, the 6'8" swingman is averaging 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in 13.9 minutes per game. He is shooting 39.1 percent, with a 37.8 clip from deep. Miller's role is defined as a spot-up shooter but is also an efficient rebounder at his position.
However, Miller's niche within the rotation has been diminished thus far.
His minutes are down from last season's 19.3 per, and he has participated in just three of the Heat's last 10 games. The signing of Shane Battier last season no doubt affected how often Erik Spoelstra runs Miller, as the former Duke Blue Devil has a blend of offense and defense that is perfect for Miami's style of play.
That isn't to say Miller can no longer contribute, yet the capacity to give him minutes is wearing thin. The new additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are also factors in Miller's lessened role. Combined with the recent signing of Chris Andersen, someone on the Heat roster had to receive the short straw in the rotation.
Keeping Miller on the roster is ultimately preferred by the organization and most definitely by Heat fans as well.
His 7-of-8 shooting from three-point range in Game 5 of the NBA Finals was memorable and fueled the team with much energy and effort in closing out Oklahoma City, securing Miami's second title. In addition to this, Miller's ability to play at such a high level despite a painful and quite obvious back injury made for an inspirational finish to the season.
However, Miller is Miami's fourth-highest paid player at $5.8 million this season. He is owed $6.2 million and $6.6 million over the next two years, with the latter being a player option. If Miller was performing at the level of Battier, as a valuable and consistent contributor, questioning his salary would be for naught.
Yet as aforementioned, Miller is no longer a regular sight on the court. It is unfortunate, as he has proved to be a lights-out shooter with his career 40.5 percent average from deep. Nevertheless, due to the play of Battier and Allen, it has made Miller expendable.
The Heat currently own the second-highest payroll in the league at $84.1 million, according to HoopsWorld. The luxury tax threshold is listed at $70.3 million for this season, which puts Miami $13.8 million over the limit. This acts as a way of penalizing teams who overspend or stockpile star players, and thus the amount over the limit must be paid as a fine.
Starting in 2013-14, an incremental system will be put in place to further apprehend teams with bloated payrolls. The fines work quite easily but carry exponential growth that is determinant on the respective payroll. For example, the Heat would need to shell out an extra $1.50 per dollar through the first $5 million, $1.75 per dollar through the next $5 million and $2.50 per dollar through the last $5 million.
To put it simply, the Heat would end up owing an extra $11.8 million in luxury tax fines in addition to the original $13.8 million overspend, balancing out at a total of $25.6 million. While having a star-studded team like the Heat will undoubtedly have luxury tax penalties, moving Miller is the only move Miami can realistically make to lessen the tax burden.
Keeping Miller could mean as little as $2.9 million in tax, or as much as $8.7 million depending on the organization's approach. As appreciated and respected as the shooter is, Miller has unfortunately become superfluous. His salary is no longer synonymous with his play, nor has it ever since joining the team.
Injuries and the sort have played a role in Miller's struggles early on, yet the team no longer has a set role for him in the rotation. There are a plethora of players who are capable of filling his shoes, yet at a fifth of the cost. It is an absolutely unfavorable situation for the Heat and for Miller himself. However, as adverse the scenario is, it's necessary for the organization moving forward.