Depending on the day, Dwyane Wade will pick up his option and remain with the Chicago Bulls next season regardless of the Jimmy Butler rumors or he’s ready to leave a boatload of money on the table if the Bulls deal Butler.
Wade’s deadline to exercise that $23.8 million option is one week from today. If he picks it up, he is guaranteed that money by the Bulls, the team he bolted Miami for last summer. If he declines, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
The problem is Wade may have to read the tea leaves if he is basing his decision on Butler’s future in Chicago.
Several reports over the months since the season ended have Wade leaning toward picking up that option, including one today from ESPN. But following the season Wade reportedly told Bulls management he had no interest in being a part of a team that is rebuilding, which probably gave the Bulls more incentive to move Butler considering they would love for Wade to end his brief, controversial-filled relationship with his hometown team along with freeing up nearly $24 million of cap space.
A win-win for Chicago.
Butler, who became Wade’s biggest (only?) ally in Chicago last season, has been linked to trade rumors for the last year. When the Celtics, one of those teams kicking the tires on a Butler deal during the February trade deadline, acquired yet another draft pick this week giving them potentially eight first-round picks in the next three years, the Butler talk heated up as many speculated Danny Ainge’s end game could be acquiring the all-star small forward.
But that was early Monday. By the end of the day reports of a Butler deal were red hot, but one involving the Cavaliers, not the Celtics. The Bulls and Cavs have been in discussions of a trade that would necessitate bringing in a third team – possibly Phoenix or the Lakers – for the Bulls to receive the high pick they desire to start a full-blown rebuild. And Butler reportedly is pushing the Bulls to get the deal done.
And according to that report, Wade told the Bulls he will not return if Butler is dealt, which would answer the prayers of every member of the Bulls front office, and probably their fans after Wade’s homecoming did not quite turn out as most envisioned.
Wade, 35, has seen his numbers decline the last two seasons, averaging 18.3 points in 2016-17 (his lowest since his rookie year) and shooting a career-low 43.4 percent from the field. Wade followed that up with the worst post-season of his career as the Bulls lost four straight games to the Celtics in the first round after winning the first two.
If that happens the Wade-returning-to-Miami chatter will ramp up. The Heat should have a minimum of $38 million available in free agency and likely are looking at some kind of combination of re-signing James Johnson and Dion Waiters along with pursing Gordon Hayward and possibly Blake Griffin.
One thing is certain: If Wade does return to Miami after spending his first 13 seasons in a Heat uniform it will have to be for a substantial pay cut. Pat Riley will be looking to sign a much more significant player, or two, before he decides if he is willing to bring back Wade.