However, the question facing the Heat at the end of next season is: Does Dwyane Wade still have enough left in the tank to warrant paying him a max-level contract?
Let me answer that question by considering a few important factors.
To say he's a fan favorite in Miami would be a colossal understatement, especially with all the success he's brought to the team. Since his rookie season, Dwyane Wade has lead his team to the playoffs every year but one (2007-2008 season) and has helped to raise two championship banners.
Individually, Wade has dazzled the crowds with great scoring numbers (24.8 PPG for his career) as well as late-game heroics.
Even when the Big Three was formed with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Wade remained a leader of the team and cornerstone in the offense.
Part of the Big Three formation meant that Wade even had to take a pay cut to accommodate the max-level contracts of Bosh and James, proving his loyalty to the team and dedication to winning a championship.
Even after sharing touches with Bosh and James, Wade is still posting great numbers (21.5 PPG, 5 APG, 5 RPG, 1.8 SPG and a career high 51.9 field-goal percentage).
So, after considering the fact that Wade is beloved in Miami, is performing well with his star teammates and—most importantly—is contributing to winning a lot of games for the team, there should be no question to keep him in a Heat jersey for the foreseeable future
Well, it's not quite that simple. Wade's contract is technically up after the 2014-15 season, but he has an early termination option after next season and a player option in the last year of his deal. Additionally, his base salary exceeds $20 million in both of the final years of his contract ($20.1 million due next year and $21.6 due in the year after that).
That's a hefty chunk of change for any player, especially one who will be going into his 11th season next year. Even if the team as a whole continues to be successful, we may see a decline in Wade's individual performance in the next two seasons.
Wade has struggled with injuries from season to season, never having played a full 82-game slate during his whole career. What makes him such a liability to get hurt is his style of play that involves a lot more attacking the rim rather than perimeter jump shooting.
Therefore, I don't think it's worth the risk for the Heat to keep Wade beyond next season, especially considering the financial burden his contract carries. It's not a popular opinion among Miami fans, I'm sure, but if the team really wants to keep the success rolling with LeBron James still very much in his prime, then they might have to make a more logical decision over a sentimental one.
It may be a harsh reality to think this too, but the Heat may also benefit from having more cap-conscious talent to surround LeBron with in the future rather than one solid shooting guard in Wade. After seeing how dominant of a force James has been this season and will continue to be, it just makes so much more sense to spend the money on a stronger starting five and deeper bench rather than just three star players.
There's also the other side of this argument, where Wade could continue to play at a high level through the rest of his contract and maybe even sign another multi-year deal to play until retirement as a member of the Heat. I'm not saying that that's not a plausible scenario, I'm just saying that it seems unlikely for a guy who's already seeing decreases in his numbers compared to his career averages.
While it's the last thing in the mind of any Heat fan or team executive at this point of this season, the idea of trading Dwyane Wade may become a more tempting reality going into these next two seasons.
Wade's value remains high right now, as he's been playing very well lately and has a long track record of being able to be a team's No. 1 guy. Considering all of that, Miami could get a lot of value out of him in a possible trade. The Heat could probably swing some solid, proven talent along with some young prospects in a Wade deal, which would pain the team and the city but really help the cap room and potential for winning.
This whole concept of whether Wade is worth keeping these next two seasons is coming from a strictly financial and helpfulness-to-the-team standpoint. I know that I don't have the same emotional connection to Wade and what he's done for this team and this city. However, I do know that basketball has set many precedents for aging players, especially of Wade's caliber, and that precedent doesn't bode well for the productivity of said players.
Therefore, it's just not in the best interest of the team's success or financial situation to pay such a high amount of money to retain a player who will almost surely begin to see a steep decline in stats and health in the coming years.
Call me cold, but basketball is a business sometimes. And when running a business, tough decisions must be made within an organization to preserve success, and that decision now faces the Miami Heat and one of the best players to ever come through their franchise.