BOCA RATON — Dwyane Wade’s NBA journey has taken him from Miami to Chicago, and now to Cleveland. But what if Wade would have stayed with the Heat in the summer of 2016?
That’s a question some are asking themselves this week after Wade and the Bulls reached an agreement on a buyout Sunday. Now, the guy who almost everybody considers to be the best player in Heat history has signed a one-year, $2.3 million veteran’s minimum contract to join close friend LeBron James in Cleveland.
“There’s no better place to be right now to continue to play and compete at the highest level,” Wade said in a letter posted to Twitter on Wednesday to announce his decision to sign with the Cavaliers. “Cleveland believes in my talents and what I can bring to a championship contender both as a player and leader. I look forward to reuniting and playing alongside my brother LeBron. We’ve already won two championships together and I hope we win a third.”
Wade signed the deal just after 5 p.m. Wednesday once he cleared waivers. He picked the Cavaliers over the Thunder and Heat.
“I’m happy that we were able to keep him away from everybody else,” James said to reporters after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a guy, come on, man, this is like one of my best friends. It’s kind of like when you start school and you walk into the classroom and you’re not quite sure who your classmates are and when you walk in there and one of your best friends is in there, you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun. It’s going to be a good class.’ That’s the type of feeling I got.”
James is obviously thrilled to have Wade as his teammate again. The 35-year-old shooting guard will have a chance to start in Cleveland over J.R. Smith.
“He adds another championship DNA, another guy with high basketball IQ, another playmaker that can make plays and also make shots,” James said of Wade. “That adds to our depth and we were already pretty deep. It adds even more depth and even more playmaking to our team, which obviously you guys saw last year he can still do.”
But what if Wade had accepted the Heat’s contract offer that was worth around $41 million over two seasons last summer? Well, he would have made about the same amount of money in this scenario that he’s going to get from Chicago and Cleveland in his present situation.
Instead of taking $41 million spread out over two seasons to return to Miami, he opted for $47 million from the Bulls. But with the buyout, Wade ended up sacrificing about $8 million to end his contract with Chicago and become a free agent.
So now, Wade will get about $39 million from the Bulls and $2.3 million from the Cavaliers for a combined $41.3 million over the two seasons. That’s obviously barely more than the $41 million he would have made with the Heat.
Throw in the fact that Illinois and Ohio have state income tax and Florida doesn’t, and Wade is actually going to make less money than he would have if he stayed with the Heat over the two-year window.
And long term, Wade’s decision to leave Miami could cost him even more money.
Miami owned Wade’s Bird Rights because he played three or more consecutive seasons for the Heat without being waived or changing teams as a free agent. With Wade’s Bird Rights, the Heat could have exceeded the salary cap to re-sign him.
But once Wade left the Heat, that privilege disappeared and now no team has the 12-time All Star’s Bird Rights. So when Wade becomes a free agent next summer, he will have to fit under a team’s salary cap as opposed to the Heat surpassing their cap to give him a big contract.
Maybe what unfolded worked out for both sides, though.
Wade is now on a title contender and playing with James in Cleveland. And with Wade’s departure, the Heat were able to have the cap space to sign Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson last offseason to remain competitive in an underwhelming Eastern Conference.
In the future, Wade could still return to end his career with the Heat. The timing just wasn’t right this season … for either side.