The Miami Heat have a $17 million decision to make in the next week.
That's how much it will cost in luxury tax alone to keep Mike Miller on their roster this coming season. The Heat have until July 16 to decide whether they should release him via the amnesty provision to help weather an enormous tax bill that is coming due.
At the end of the season, Heat president Pat Riley made it clear he wanted to keep the 33-year-old Miller. He said he would waive him only if he got a “mandate” from owner Micky Arison and CEO Nick Arison.
The reason Miller is the leading candidate to be waived is because he’s due $12.8 million over the next two seasons and has a limited role on a team that is deep at his position.
Miller has been valuable in the playoffs the past two seasons. He was the Game 5 hero when the Heat won the title in 2012, and this year his insertion into the starting lineup helped the Heat turn the tide after they’d fallen behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals. It makes sense that Riley wants him on the roster. But at these prices, it is an expensive call for team ownership.
Now that the Heat have re-signed Chris Andersen to a team-friendly deal that will pay him $1.67 million this coming season, their luxury-tax situation has come into focus. The league is instituting an “enhanced” tax starting this season, and the Heat could be hit hard.
With the help of ESPN salary guru Nick Silva, we know the Heat are currently looking at a payroll of more than $88 million and are $16.4 million over the luxury-tax threshold. Last season, that would’ve cost them $16.4 million in tax. In 2013-14, that will cost them nearly $33.6 million in tax.
In the history of the luxury tax, the Arison family has paid a total of $36 million and is facing nearly that amount for one season. Since signing LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Miller in 2010, the Heat have paid a total of $19 million in tax, including $13.3 million this past championship season.
If the Heat use the amnesty on Miller, it will save them nearly $17 million in taxes and knock their projected bill down to roughly $16.9 million.
As you can see, the “enhanced” tax is very real. It's one of the reasons Arison was one of the five owners who voted against the collective bargaining agreement when it included these new taxes in 2011.
Miller would still get the money he's owed from the Heat over the next two seasons even if he’s waived. In taxes, however, the Heat could save about triple that amount by not having him count toward their books for tax purposes.
Miller is popular with fans, popular in the front office, and popular in the locker room. But the Heat are facing a significant business decision regarding his future.