Where Should Dwyane Wade Sign in Free Agency?
It was an eventful 4th of July weekend for the NBA. When free agency officially began at midnight Friday, a frenzy of negotiations, rumors and signings broke out all across the NBA.
Hassan Whiteside, Mike Conley, Dwight Howard and Al Horford were among the dozens of players to sign lucrative deals in the NBA's new $94 million cap market. But, all the while, everyone was waiting on one man and his decision.
So, early Monday, when Kevin Durant announced that he would be heading to Golden State on a two-year deal, NBA free agency was all but wrapped up in a lot of people's eyes. Especially when you consider the impact the move had on the entire NBA landscape.
While that's mostly true, (after Pau Gasol signed with the Spurs) one big fish was and is still left in the sea. That fish's name isn't Dory, either.
I'm talking about the forgotten star in all of this, Mr. Dwyane Wade.
It wasn't too long ago that Wade took a hit in salary to make the Big Three work out in Miami. His sacrifice paid off in rings. But, now, at the age 34, Wade is looking to get what he's due from the Miami Heat.
As an NBA champion, franchise player and Heat lifer, Wade is looking to be rewarded for his loyalty, but he quickly learned that the Heat felt a little differently. In reaction to the Heat's reported initial offer, Wade turned his back and walked away into the market, fielding pitches and offers from multiple teams.
Yesterday, the Heat reportedly offered the 13-year veteran a two-year deal worth $40 million with a player option for the second year. However, Wade is looking for more. With that being said, where could he end up and what would be the best situation for him at this point in his career?
Wade and the incumbent Heat brass are already deep into negotiations. As of right now, their current offer stands at $40 million over two years, with a player option allowing Wade to opt out after year one and pursue even more money when the cap is projected to rise yet again in 2017-18.
That's nice and all, but it appears Wade is unsatisfied with just two years. It's evident that he wants more "long-term" security, and why wouldn't he? Prior to a comeback year (if you will) in 2015-16, Wade missed at least 20 regular season games in back-to-back seasons. When he wasn't hurt, he was hurting and put on the shelf for periods of time to recuperate his troublesome knees.
If the Heat can up their proposal to include another year at about the same price, Wade's probably going to take it. He's known nothing but Miami his entire career, and he'll be on a solid team at that.
As alluded to earlier, the Heat re-signed Whiteside to a massive four-year, $98 million deal in the first 24 hours of free agency. And while they lost Luol Deng to Los Angeles, they still have Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, and they might just get Chris Bosh back if he's cleared to play once again.
Even with Whiteside on board, the Heat aren't likely to compete for an NBA title. They look very mediocre in comparison to the Warriors' super team and couldn't make it out of the second round in the East a year ago.
What it boils down to is whether or not Wade gets the contract he wants. He's likely to stay if he gets the money, but if he doesn't, why stay? He won't have a real chance at a title, and he won't have the money, security or respect he wanted to boot.
If not Miami, then where?
At first glance, there isn't much appealing about Wade trekking out West to join the Nuggets.
Their best two players last year were big man Nikola Jokic, who earned a nERD (our in-house metric that measures a player's performance, based on efficiency) of 6.2, and Danilo Gallinari, with a nERD of 5.7 in his own right. While their nERD scores are more than five points above league average (0) -- meaning they would add 6.2 and 5.7 wins, respectively, to a league-average NBA team -- both players had their asterisks a year ago.
For Jokic, it was experience and playing time. The 21-year-old was in the process of learning the NBA game as he also tried to fit into Mike Malone's jam-packed frontline rotation, in which Jokic was featured in a mere 21.7 minutes per night despite marks of 10 points and 7 rebounds a game in his limited time.
For Gallinari, it was all about availability, as he failed to play in 29 games in the 2015-16 season. He produced 19.5 points in 34.7 minutes per game -- so, it's clear that Gallinari is a leader offensively in Denver.
Outside of Kenneth Faried's so far up-and-down career, that's all that the Nuggets have to offer in terms of proven players. Emmanuel Mudiay had an understandably tough rookie season, and Jusuf Nurkic struggled to get healthy and get minutes when healthy.
So, in terms of the roster, I'm not sure anyone knows what to expect from Denver. One thing is certain though: they can offer Wade the money he's looking for.
The Nuggets have under $62 million in guaranteed salaries at this point in time, meaning that they can offer Wade the roughly $25 million a year he's looking for -- or even more. With all the rookies and second-year players on their roster, even with Wade at $25 million, they'd be a mere $2 million above the minimum salary floor.
Financially, it works for both parties. But, with the lack of experience on the books, the Nuggets are currently at 300-1 to win the NBA title, according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
If Wade is willing to sacrifice the shot at another ring for more money, that's the only way Denver works. Otherwise, the best possible outcome is a late-season trade or buyout, allowing Wade to join a contender as the Nuggets clear cap space or acquire more youthful assets.
It's weird, but Denver might make the most sense at this point.
According to sources and ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Bulls are still in the bidding for Wade's services. But, it seems unlikely that the Chicago-born Wade will return to the Windy City.
While they have much more established talent -- Jimmy Butler, Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson -- than the aforementioned Nuggets, the Bulls' front office has priced themselves out of the running. With the signing of Rajon Rondo, at a nearly $14 million cap hit for 2016-17, the Bulls have under $7 million in cap space to maneuver. If they really want to bring Wade back home, it seems like a trade or two would be necessary.
Even at that, Wade would effectively switch between Eastern Conference teams absent the ability to compete with the Cavaliers and Warriors of today's NBA. If the opportunity isn't there, and the money is no longer there, it's a fair bet that Wade has all but ruled out the Bulls, who finished 18th in our power rankings last year.
If you haven't picked up on it yet, the order of the rest (teams left competing with Pat Riley and the Heat) is going from most likely to land Wade to least likely. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, they're down even further in the pecking order.
Less than 24 hours ago, the Bucks were set to meet with Wade on Wednesday, and things looked a little interesting. After all, Wade went to college at Marquette -- located in Milwaukee -- and the Bucks have a respectable coach in Jason Kidd.
The Bucks even have an appealing roster. With promising young studs like Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Jabari Parker, the Bucks have the opportunity to compete in coming years, if not now. They even showed a year ago that their youth and length could cause problems for the Warriors, taking one of two games and having been outscored by just two points combined.
Everything looks -- or at least looked -- ripe for a veteran to come in and lead the team to the playoffs.
Financially, the Bucks have just under $8 million in cap room, but they seemed willing to conduct a trade that would send Greg Monroe and his $17 million salary elsewhere in order to free up the necessary space.
Having said all that, it's unfortunate that the Bucks are unofficially out of the race for Wade.
It's also unfortunate that Cleveland doesn't have much of a chance to add Wade to LeBron James and his reign in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Cavaliers started following Dwyane Wade & Gabrielle Union on Twitter...👀🤔 pic.twitter.com/mafURyi1UI
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) July 5, 2016
While it's great to know that the Cavaliers are now following the Mr. and Mrs., it doesn't bring more money to their available cap space. If Wade is serious about his money, he won't be considering Cleveland, as the reigning champions only offer right now is a taxpayer mid-level exception worth $3.5 million. That would be a $16.5 cut from Miami's standing offer at this time.
So, while it would be awesome to see how a star-studded lineup of Kyrie Irving, Wade, LeBron, Kevin Love and whoever would stack up against the Warriors' new mega-lineup, it doesn't make sense, cents, or, in this case, millions.
Sorry, NBA fans.