Dwyane Wade Opts Out, Heat in Limbo
A year ago LeBron James decided to leave the Miami Heat and the team proceeded to miss the playoffs. This summer, it’s possible Dwyane Wade could be on his way out of town. What happens to the Heat from there, few Heat fans would be willing to find out.
It’s an ugly scene the Heat may have to deal with, however, as Dwyane Wade officially opted out of his deal on Monday afternoon. The move immediately makes Wade a free agent and if he desires to, he’ll be able to sign with any other NBA team once free agency starts on July 1st.
The mother of all questions, of course, is will Wade actually leave?
It’s not inconceivable. James bolted to go play with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers last year and Wade has had loose ties to various teams. The biggest reason why has been because Wade may feel slighted by Miami’s front office and if they’re not willing to pay him what he feels he’s owed now, he could decide to go play for a different team for the first time in his NBA career.
It’s a risky propostion for a 33-year old star with balky knees, but Wade showed in spurts last year that he’s still a star player that can help a team get to the playoffs. Except, Wade didn’t get the Heat to the playoffs and he did miss 20 games during the 2014-15 season.
So, if the Heat aren’t willing to pay up or Wade is just done, is he valuable enough for another team to pay him the money he wants? That’s tough to gauge, but it’s clear there is interest for Wade despite the negatives that come along with him, and it’s also possible Wade may be receptive to taking less money to play with a team better built to make one last serious playoff run.
That opportunity isn’t a guarantee with the Heat. Hassan Whiteside is a high upside player but isn’t a consistent defensive force and is a bit of a loose cannon. Chris Bosh is tough to trust after a blood clot issue in his lungs cut his 2014-15 season short. Luol Deng opted back into his contract but was an arguable disappointment and the team wants to retain point guard Goran Dragic but doing so isn’t a total lock, nor is his presence quite as tantalizin as it sounded when the Heat first got him before the trade deadline last year.
The point? Miami missed the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference last season and they’re no lock to be any better a year later. A 33-year old Wade may see the writing on the wall for this team and his career and if he wants to win, jumping ship may be his best move. There certainly has to be a strong allure associated with playing in one city for an entire career while finding a way to get paid and win, but it may not be the perfect marriage any longer that it clearly once was.
Miami also drafted Justise Winslow in the 2015 NBA Draft, which could easily persuade Wade into buying in, or he could see it as the franchise landing his long-term replacement.
So, if Wade buys all of that (or just some of it) and decides to jet, where is he likely to go?
The highest bidder doesn’t seem to be his style, so it’s probably safe to assume the highest bidder that also can produce a winner is going to be at the top of his list. That could have teams like the Lakers and Knicks being in the mix, since they both have star players in place and despite being in full-blown rebuilding mode they could quickly build back into a contender. Wade could be a big part of that and could work toward a title in the next 2-3 years.
Wade could just join a team much closer to winning right now, as well. The Bulls and Cavaliers top that list, with Chicago being quite attractive due to it being Wade’s hometown and the Cavs being a fun idea because Wade would be back with his old bandmate, LeBron James.
Ultimately, this is Wade testing the Heat. They are either going to pay up and continue to treat him like the franchise player he thinks he still is, or they’re going to build a team that doesn’t include him. There’s also a slight chance he’s opting out to let Pat Riley go to work, and then he’ll get what’s left over to join back up with the Heat.
Whatever the case, Wade isn’t a member of the Heat right now and it’s quite possible he might not be next season. If that’s the case, an already sinking ship would be at even worse odds to get back into the playoff mix.
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