Dwyane Wade's Future with Heat Should Be More in Question Than Health

David WeissCorrespondent IIIMay 30, 2013

The missing link in the Miami Heat's series against the Indiana Pacers has been Dwyane Wade.

Slowed by injury in the playoffs for a second consecutive year, it's become harder and harder to ignore the murmurs that Wade simply isn't among the league's elite anymore. 

Another one: Andrew Goudelock has scored 20+ as many times this postseason as Dwyane Wade. Once.

— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) May 29, 2013


In the interim, Miami may be able to overcome the less-than-his-usual-standard string of performances by Wade, considering that LeBron James is playing at the peak of his prime and the Heat themselves often look like they have more weapons than they know what to do with. 

But doomsday will be knocking on South Florida's door soon enough, when the summer of 2014 finally arrives and, presumably, each member of Miami's Big Three will exercise their player options to become a free agent.

Doomsday is the operative word here because, while all NBA-related matters will take a backseat to where LeBron will go, it will be just as much of a pressing issue for the Heat to decide at what price they are willing to let Wade stay. 

For two years now, everyone from the organization's brain-trust to its fans have come to Wade's defense, arguing that his declining play has been a byproduct of bad luck and good intention. Injuries have hampered his production, while his willingness to take a backseat to LeBron James was done for the greater good of the team.

And such is the narrative you'd expect to hear when the element of team morale is at stake during as sensitive a point in the NBA season as the playoffs.  

But when it's time for the Heat to start talking with their pocketbooks, how will it feel to know that Wade's representatives will demand top dollar for these exact reasons?

In normal fiscal circumstances this wouldn't be so much of a big deal. Billionaire team owner Micky Arison has always been generous in that end, having acknowledged his investment with the Heat is more of a passion project than a financial one.

Or, at least according to CNBC's Darren Rovell, that's the rationale that he offered after it was learned that he actually lost more money in last year's championship season than he made. 

Yet, even in his exceeding generosity, the NBA took it upon itself during last year's collective bargaining agreement to even out the playing field on the free-agency end between big- and small-market organizations, instituting a steep tax (known as the repeater tax), that will ultimately enforce financial prudence. 

In other words, signing Wade to another maximum contract, even after he turns 32 next year, would be the economic equivalent of first-degree murder to a salary cap.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while the Heat's ability to win championships, both this season and next, will impact LeBron's decision-making, so, too, will their ability to win in the future.

From this regard, he might have more elite help around him if he returned to Cleveland, partnering with the youthful core of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and whoever they bring in with the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft, than any package the Heat have to offer if it centered around an aging and overpriced Wade.

Now, considering all that Wade has done for the organization—from leading it to its first championship to recruiting James and Chris Bosh to Miami—I can appreciate the blasphemous undertones of even entertaining a future without No. 3, much less building a body of evidence on why that scenario might not be such a bad thing.

But just keep in mind that the day may soon come when Heat fans wonder if coming to Wade's defense during these year-by-year playoff struggles will come back to haunt them in free agency. 

Instead, maybe the truth about where Wade is at this point in his career should just be allowed to have its day. 

And the truth is that he is no longer a superstar.