Is Dwyane Wade Leaving Miami?
MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade will become a free agent Wednesday, and his 12-year stay with the Miami Heat could be ending.
The three-time champion and 11-time All-Star announced his decision Monday through a spokesperson. ESPN was first informed of the decision. Wade could have exercised an option to earn $16.1 million with the Heat next season. Instead he decided to roll the dice and test his worth on the open market.
It wasn’t an unexpected move.
It does, however, carry risks for both Wade and the Heat.
On one hand, Wade — who left a total of around $27 million on the bargaining table in his last two contract negotiations with the Heat — might not find anyone willing to pay as much in the short term as Miami would have this season. On the other, the Heat could lose the face of their franchise, their all-time scoring leader and someone revered in the Miami market.
“We want Dwyane back,” Heat President Pat Riley said last week. “There’s no doubt about that.”
For that to happen, the sides will have to agree on money.
Wade wants some of his sacrificing from past deals in 2010 and 2014 to be rewarded. But he’s turning 34 next season and has missed 25 percent of Miami’s regular-season games over the past four years with an array of injuries, something the Heat will surely take into account.
He averaged 21.5 points this past season, 11th-best in the NBA and third-best in the Eastern Conference. His points-per-48-minutes of 32.4 ranked relatively close to elite scorers like Stephen Curry (34.9), LeBron James (33.6) and Carmelo Anthony (32.5). The Heat wound up missing the playoffs at 37-45, in large part because Chris Bosh missed half the season after a blood clot was found on one of his lungs.
“Obviously, our team went through a lot of bizarre stuff throughout this year but I thought individually, what I was able to do in 30, 31 minutes, I thought I was as efficient as I could be,” Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press when the season ended. “I always think I can do better, but what I was able to accomplish … I thought was pretty good individually.”
He entertained offers from other teams, namely his hometown Chicago Bulls, five years ago before the Heat found a way to keep him while adding James and Bosh. When Wade opted out last summer there wasn’t any real chance of him leaving Miami, with that being largely a procedural move done in part to give the Heat a chance to keep its star trio together.
This time, his future is far more uncertain. The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are both expected to pursue Wade, other teams will certainly inquire and the Heat are certain to make an aggressive attempt to keep him.
Wade told the AP after the season that he wants to stay in Miami, and even was photographed wearing a Heat cap in recent days at his fantasy camp. But it’s also clear that he wants to still be paid like an elite player, and that could force the Heat into making a tough decision.
Bosh received a $118 million, five-year deal last summer. Point guard Goran Dragic is expected to stay with the Heat, but his free-agent deal could be another five-year commitment in the range of $90 million. Center Hassan Whiteside is expected to command big money in the summer of 2016 when megastars Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis could be free agents.
And it’s unclear if Wade — who has never been the highest-paid player on his team — would handle being potentially the fourth-highest-paid player on a Heat roster in two years.
“The one thing that I’ve learned about free agency is that when a player has an opportunity to be a free agent, you give him the space and the time to think about that,” Riley said. “I don’t care how long he’s been with the franchise. We love Dwyane.”