The next step in what's sure to become a busy offseason for the Miami Heat is complete, as Dwyane Wade chose to decline his player option for the 2014-15 season. The team announced Wade's decision on Saturday:
Today we were notified of Dwyane’s intention to opt-out of his contract and Udonis’ intention to not opt into his contract, making both players free agents. Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade, and we hope he remains a part of the HEAT family for life.
Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press first passed along word of Wade's decision:
Wade has spent his entire career with the Heat after getting selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft. His presence was a major reason Miami was able to lure LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach four years ago.
The results after the creation of the "Big Three" were outstanding. The Heat have made four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and won two championships during that time.
Questions began to arise as they got dismantled by the San Antonio Spurs in this year's title series, though. Wade rarely looked like himself as he was unable to create good looks offensively, and Chris Bosh struggled to find a rhythm as well.
Once the series ended, Wade didn't seem sure about what the future would hold. Michael Wallace of ESPN provided comments from the 32-year-old guard about the partnership between himself, James and Bosh:
We didn't know what to expect when we decided to come together four years ago. We felt as individuals we could do it, that we could put our egos to the side and not care about the individual part of the game and become a great team. It's been a hell of a ride in these four years. We didn't say, 'OK, let's try for four years.' We said, 'Let's just play together, and let's see what happens.'
There was plenty of talk, especially once the Finals started to get out of hand, about what was going to happen next. All three stars had player options in their contracts, which left a wide range of possibilities on the table.
Two of the most commonly discussed were either accepting them all and giving it another run, or all three opting out before re-signing to create some freedom under the salary cap. Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated laid out the details:
If they decline their ETOs to remain with the Heat, the trio would be set to make more than $20 million apiece next season. The first-year salary of a new deal, by comparison, could be as low as they’re willing to take, with every dollar conceded going toward another potential roster move.
Based on the way the Heat played in the Finals, it definitely seemed like reinforcements were necessary to keep the team moving in the right direction. It was unclear whether the big names were willing to take less in the short term to provide some flexibility.
Wade's decision sheds at least some light on the situation.
By opting out, Wade is seemingly trying to start the process of getting the trio to re-sign with Miami at a lesser short-term rate to give the front office some options. All three players have decided to opt out, giving the front office some work in the coming days.
If Miami is able to keep the foundation of Wade, James and Bosh in place and find a way to add another key piece through free agency or the draft, they should be ready to make another run. There are still some things to get worked out if that's the direction they are going, though.
Of course, by opting out Wade could be looking to make a move elsewhere, but that would be a surprise given his status with the franchise.
There are still flashes of the old Wade, who was one of the most dynamic scorers in the league during his prime. Whether he will ever again be able to play at that level on a regular basis is a mystery. But he's always seemed more concerned with team success over individual accolades anyway.
For now, the focus shifts to the Heat to see how this offseason drama is going to play out.