For the first part of The Decision 2.0, go here for background information and an outlook on free agency for Chris Bosh.
Continuing the three part piece on decision-time for the big three the next off season, let’s take a look at the face of the Miami Heat franchise, and all of Miami sports for that matter, for the last decade.
Superstar guard Dwayne Wade has been with the Miami Heat through thick and thin. All of the days when Wade was the man. The whole way through when the Heat were the 16th worst team in NBA history. He and his comrades stuck with it when the Heat suffered a humiliating defeat to the Mavericks in the finals. And of course these incredible last two seasons with two championships, Wade has been right in the middle of it all.
One must wonder what the franchise would be like today if they had not taken the guard out of Marquette with so many questions surrounding his game back in 2003.
So with that, let’s take a look at look at free agency for Miami’s Golden Boy. Dwayne Wade’s three top options for 2014.
A. Miami Heat
Out of the big three, I believe it’s most likely that Wade sticks around with Miami following the 2014 season. Wade’s been here his whole career, and there’s been no indication that he doesn’t like being a player for the Miami Heat. He has twenty million sitting on the table, and it’s unlikely with his deteriorating body that he receives that type of money elsewhere. It would be financially foolish for him to leave forty million over two seasons.
The deal breaker here for Wade is what this team will look like after this season. He loves Miami, but does he want to stay enough to sacrifice a greater opportunity to win. If LeBron and Bosh stay long term, Miami seems like the perfect place for him. He will continue to become less and less productive, but with one of the best players in NBA history in the same lineup, Wade doesn’t need to be that much for the Heat to be top contenders for the title year in and year out. A possibility Pat Riley could explore would be to get Wade to restructure his deal, perhaps for just 2016. This would allow the team to sign more talent with Wade’s value decreasing.
On the other hand, if LeBron and Bosh head elsewhere, it would be a tougher situation. The Heat, in order to stay in contention, would likely have to dig into their pockets to lure someone to play with Wade in Miami during the final years of his career. Perhaps Miami could go with a veteran lineup and sign another aging player like Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, or hey, Kobe Bryant’s a free agent (wouldn’t that be crazy!). Otherwise, the Heat could look to bring in a younger star to stay competitive and look to the future in a player like Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins.
The Heat have the upper-hand by default, but if Wade wants to win the Heat will need to make things happen with LeBron and Bosh or look elsewhere.
B. Chicago Bulls
This scenario ALMOST happened three years ago. But Wade chose to stick with his hometown. Now, four years later, will the window still be open for Wade to go to the place where he grew up and play in front of the same fans Jordan played for? Wade could have four rings by then and playing with the likes of Derrick Rose and Co. could have him breathing down M.J.’s neck by the end of his career.
The Bulls will have to pass on re-signing Luol Deng (an unrestricted free agent next summer) to be able to sign Wade to the crew for cap reasons. That leaves the team with the up and coming Jimmy Butler, low-post machine Carlos Boozer, and man with the worst spin on his jump shot in NBA history… Joakim Noah. Nah I’m just joakim, I noah his shot is really smooth… we’ve all heard that one a couple thousand times.
But a lineup like this would make the Bulls front runners once again in the Eastern Conference regardless of where LeBron ends up. Rose and Wade, two explosive guards, would cause a lot of trouble for defenses. You have terrific defense from Butler and Noah, and a third scoring option in Boozer. What’s not to like? Well, the bench would be thin… and we saw how injuries decimated the supposed “incredible” Lakers last season. And Wade doesn’t exactly have the cleanest track record for medical history.
Can I actually see Wade leaving south beach? It’s hard to say. This scenario would be tough to pass up.
C. Philadelphia 76ers
Well, shoot, call me crazy. But here’s the way I could see this possibly happening. Andrew Wiggins… and the kid is legit. Let’s just say that Wiggins looks like an NBA superstar at Kansas next season. The 76ers have obviously built there team to lose, thus giving them the highest chance to win the number one overall pick assuming they get the worst record. Yes, only four teams with the worst record have ever won the draft lottery (LAC ’88, NJ ’90, CLE ’03, ORL ’04), but let’s say the ball bounces Philly’s way and Wiggins is a 76er.
The perfect situation for the 76ers would be to bring Wade to play alongside Wiggins, show him the ropes, and get him valuable playoff experience by providing a second scoring punch right from the get go. Now, I agree with your likely reaction, this is a long-shot. It’s a big risk heading off to play with an unproven rookie.
Wiggins could be one special talent, and many scouts have called him the best thing since LeBron himself. Does the opportunity to possibly play alongside the NBA’s next superstar and help “create” something in Philadelphia tantalize Wade enough to leave the comforts of Miami or pass up on the opportunity in Chicago?
I’d put my money on options A or B above, but it doesn’t hurt to wonder.
The conclusion of The Decision 2.0 will come in the next few days as I look at where one of the greatest players in the history of the game may take his talents to next… or will they stay put?