PJ Tucker, Omer Yurtseven, Caleb Martin set Miami Heat buzz

MIAMI — As the Miami Heat prepare for Thursday’s NBA draft and then next week’s start of free agency, there also could be an eye on the next big thing.

In the wake of word that starting power forward PJ Tucker planned to opt out of the final year of the two-year free agent agreement he signed last August, the Heat made known that center Omer Yurtseven would play with the team at the Las Vegas Summer League in mid-July.

While Yurtseven flourished last summer in his initial tryout, he rarely was paired with another true big man in those summer-league games or during his rookie year this past season.

Now, amid the uncertainty of Tucker’s fate, the games on the Nevada-Las Vegas campus could be the perfect laboratory for perhaps eventually pairing Yurtseven more often next season with Bam Adebayo.

Yurtseven played a total of 18 minutes during the 2021-22 regular season alongside Adebayo, the Heat with a minus-30.9 next rating in those three common stints, particularly woeful on the defensive end. Yurtseven and Adebayo were not on the court together during the Heat’s playoff run.

Yurtseven was listed as playing alongside one game with Heat backup center Dewayne Dedmon this past season, but without a measurable minute.

While Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has downplayed the Yurtseven-Adebayo pairing, Heat President Pat Riley addressed it earlier this month during his postseason wrap-up.

“Probably they could,” Riley said, when asked whether Yurtseven and Adebayo could work side-by-side in today’s smaller-ball, perimeter-oriented NBA.

“It depends on who the other three guys are around,” Riley said. “So that’s a decision that Erik will make, based on what kind of fit is it.”

Yurtseven should benefit with additional tutelage from Heat big-man assistant Malik Allen, who again will coach the Heat during summer league.

Yurtseven’s $1.8 million salary for next season has a guaranteed deadline of June 29. But the Heat’s announcement of his summer-league participation effectively confirmed that the contract has been guaranteed.

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As for Tucker, the decision to opt out is a practical move based on securing at least a nominal increase, despite the Heat lacking his Bird Rights.

Tucker had the option to pick up his $7.35 million option for next season, or utilize his non-Bird rights to earn $8.4 million for 2022-23 by opting out and then returning.

At 37, the Heat would be limited to a three-year contract by the NBA’s Over-38 rule to Tucker without otherwise incurring higher annual cap hits.

That makes Tucker eligible to return to the Heat for the aforementioned $8.4 million for next season, $17.2 million on a two-year deal, or $26.5 million on a three-year deal.

The Heat confirmed Tuesday they have extended a $2.1 million qualifying offer for 2022-23 to swingman Caleb Martin, which makes him a restricted free agent.

Because of their position against the salary cap, and with Martin lacking Bird Rights, the Heat, should they choose, can match outside offers to Martin up to the $10.3 million full mid-level exception.

They would be unable to match a higher first-year salary to Martin unless significant moves were made to move below the salary cap.

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