Goran Dragic opts into $19.2 million final season on Heat contract

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

MIAMI -- Goran Dragic is back in play for the Miami Heat, with the Sun Sentinel confirming Thursday through an NBA source that the veteran point guard has picked up the $19.2 million 2019-20 option on his contract.

Dragic had until June 29 to inform the Heat of his opt-in decision. By rule, he was ineligible to be traded until such a decision was made. He otherwise would have become a free agent on July 1.

The Heat continue to wait on a decision from center Hassan Whiteside, who holds a $27.1 million option for next season. A party close to Whiteside told the Sun Sentinel on Thursday that the center's decision is not expected to come until after next Thursday's NBA draft.

Dragic went into the offseason hopeful of extending his run in South Florida, but said he also needed time to weigh the factors involved.

"It's a lot of factors: my family, where they feel comfortable; me, where I'm going to feel comfortable; and winning, everything -- where I feel that they want me," he said. "It's a lot of stuff. But, like I said, I'm happy here in Miami. I told that to Pat (Riley), to everybody."

The Dragic decision was one of several offseason bookkeeping issues for the Heat. In addition to continue waiting on Whiteside, the Heat have until July 10 to decide whether to guarantee the full $21.3 million on the final year of Ryan Anderson's contract, with that obligation otherwise limited to $15.6 million for 2019-20 if the 3-point shooting forward is waived by that deadline.

There also remains the matter of whether forward Udonis Haslem, an impending free agent, decides whether to return for a 17th NBA season. Guard Dwyane Wade, also an impending free agent, has announced his retirement.

Even in the void of a Whiteside decision, the Heat already will be over the 2019-20 salary cap with Dragic's salary again on the books.

Dragic, 33, was acquired by the Heat at the February 2015 NBA trading deadline in a deal that sent two future first-round picks to the Phoenix Suns. The final element of that trade, an unprotected 2021 first-round pick, is now held by the Los Angeles Clippers.

The 2017 All-Star was limited to 36 games last season due to a chronic knee condition that led to midseason knee surgery, with additional time missed in March due to a calf strain upon his return. He was replaced in the interim as the Heat's starting point guard by Justise Winslow, returning to the lineup only when Winslow missed time late in the season with a bruised right thigh.

While Thursday's decision clears some of the conjecture about Dragic's short-term status, the Heat still are expected to attempt to maximize salary-cap space for the 2020 or 2021 offseasons.

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That likely will have Dragic back in free agency during the 2020 offseason for the first time since he re-signed with the Heat in 2015.

"I'm just focused on the year coming," Dragic said shortly after the Heat failed to make the playoffs. "So if I'm thinking what's going to happen in three, four, five years, that's never going to be good. So my only focus is on the present and try to get my body right and have a good season. And then after, we're going to see what going to happen."

Despite his limited action this past season, Dragic led the Heat in scoring 10 times and in assists 13 times. The highlight of his 2018-19 season came on March 28 against the Dallas Mavericks and fellow Slovenian national-team member Luka Doncic, when he became the second Heat point guard to record a triple-double, joining Rory Sparrow.

He stressed at season's end that he does not see the knee as an issue going forward.

"The knee's fine," he said. "Everything after the surgery, everything looked fine. The only thing I have to do is try to make it stronger. And that's on me. The doctor checked me and everything was fine. And I've got all my work on what I need to do to completely be back 100 percent."

Unlike previous years when he returned to Slovenia to work with the national team, Dragic has retired from international competition, with Slovenia having failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup.

(c)2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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