Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat cornerstone and one of the NBA’s best wings ever, could be taking his talents elsewhere this summer, if an ESPN report of him “being open to outside offers” is more than just an attempt at leverage, as we saw with Wade last summer.
Pat Riley and Heat brass need to take a harder stand now than they did a year ago when they gave Wade a one-year maximum salary of $20 million.
Wade is eligible to earn a maximum of $30 million in starting salary when he becomes a free agent on July 1 but Riley shouldn’t concede more than a deal in the $12-15 million range. Call Wade’s bluff and if he leaves so be it.
Sure, Wade had a solid season and postseason for a 34-year-old from a raw statistical standpoint, averaging 21.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in the playoffs while connecting on 47 percent from the field and an unbelievable 52 percent from the three-point line. Yet he’s nowhere near as impactful as he was, and this was especially the case on the defensive end where Wade has become a liability.
Despite the glowing postseason highlight reel, the Heat was actually 4.2 points per 100 possessions better in the playoffs with Wade off the court, per NBA.com. Defensively was where the big dent was, as Miami allowed a whopping 7.8 points per 100 possessions less with Wade off the court. During the season, no player’s absence made Miami better defensively than Wade, with the Heat allowing just 98.4 points per 100 possessions when he was hitting pine.
Miami’s best player in the postseason according to these same metrics was fellow impending free agent Hassan Whiteside, who helped the Heat outscore teams by 10.4 points per 100 possessions. (It was obvious things started to click with Hassan from a mental standpoint before his injury derailed his team’s postseason.)
Serious title contenders aren’t likely to pursue an aging ball-dominant wing who can’t shoot threes — I’m not buying his 12-for-23 postseason as anything more than anomaly — at a high salary because those teams already have better ball-dominant wings. Maybe a desperate team in a major market like the Knicks or the Lakers would be willing to give wade $25 million when they strike out on their top targets but is Wade going to chase extra millions with a slapstick team at the cost of contending? This is the final stage of his Hall-of-Fame career. If he wants to go out like Kobe that is certainly his prerogative.
Kobe Bryant shot 11% in the 1st Half, and then started off the 2nd Half with this AIR BALL https://t.co/IIKYGqntYo
— GM Hoops (@GM_Hoops) November 25, 2015
Making matters worse for Wade and the Heat is Chris Bosh’s unknown status. You can’t have $40 million tied up in old man Wade and a potentially retired Bosh next season. Not if you hope to put a formidable roster on the court with the hope of contending, which can be safely assumed is in line with Riley’s thinking.
Now we don’t have enough information at this point to know whether Wade is or is not willing to play ball and allow the Heat to retain Whiteside (or sign Al Horford) in addition to pursuing free-agent whale Kevin Durant but if the cost of paying Wade what he thinks he’s worth is losing out on other better and younger players, the decision is simple (and painful) — goodbye, Dwyane, it’s been a pleasure
but you’re batshit crazy if you think you’re getting $20 million or more.
While some think Riley and the Heat would look bad if Wade left, I think it’s the opposite. The Heat maxed Wade last summer for the very purpose of getting him to buy in this summer. His season was good considering his age but he’s not really making all that big of a positive impact on the team’s success. It’s also a certainty Goran Dragic and the Heat offense would thrive with another player who can hit the three consistently. Unless Dwyane magically sets a precedent in that regard, sustaining his postseason abnormality while shedding the label as one of the worst three-point shooters ever, it’s not coming from No. 3.
Throwing a big chunk of your cap space at Dwyane Wade at this stage of his career would be a futile move by a historically savvy franchise. It’s a move that some might deem necessary for past service but one that could also paralyze the franchise in the present.
Flash is a living legend and will always be remembered as the best player in franchise history. He did so much for this organization — both on the court and off — for which all fans should be eternally grateful. But if he’s going to chase dollars over rings at this stage of his career, it’s time for Riley to say, “take it or leave it.”
Call Dwyane Wade’s bluff.