LeBron James' Departure Signals the Beginning of the End for Dwyane Wade

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIJuly 14, 2014

Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, and Dwyane Wade participate in a news conference after Game 5 of the NBA basketball finals against the San Antonio Spurs, on Sunday, June 15, 2014, in San Antonio. The Spurs won the NBA championship 104-87. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are going in two very different directions—and not just geographically.

King James is taking his talents back to Cleveland. Wade is in search of his next contract, and it could come from the Miami Heat or his hometown Chicago Bulls.

Of course, Wade is probably seeking more money than he's worth at this point in his career, prompting this tweet from Jonah Keri:

By leaving the Heat to go home to Cleveland, James altered the entire landscape of the NBA. No longer are the Heat a perennial superpower. Now led by Chris Bosh, Miami is a team that is still aging rapidly. Their window for championships is probably closed, but they could be a competitive team for the next few years.

When one team gets worse another gets better, though, and that's what happened with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are now one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference because of the signing.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

James also altered the course of Wade's career. Now 32, Flash is no longer flashy. His knees aren't what they used to be, resulting in a career-low 32.9 minutes per game last season. He's in a situation where his minutes should continue to decrease for the remainder of his career.

While teamed with James, Wade was asked to do less. He didn't have to carry the load (though he did from time to time), and he didn't have to be the do-it-all guy on offense (though, again, he did from time to time). This allowed Wade to play more minutes despite the bad knees, as his time on the floor wasn't as taxing as it would have been without James.

Without James on the court next to him, Wade is going to have a hard time. While still a skilled player, his knees will inevitably prevent him from being as explosive as he was four years ago when the Big Three was formed.

Because James is no longer his teammate, Wade will be forced into situations where he'll have to create for himself—that's not favorable to his skills at this point in his career.

Bosh would argue otherwise, via ESPN's Michael Wallace:

Wade did perform well in the playoffs, scoring 17.8 points in 34.7 minutes per game. That said, Wade only played in 54 games during the regular season. He missed time because of injury and because of scheduled rest days.

Without the success that James brings wherever he goes, Wade's scheduled rest days will become more apparent and more of a hindrance to his team next season and beyond—especially if he re-signs with Miami. With an aging roster already in place, the Heat probably can't afford to give Wade 20 or so games off.

James, on the other hand, is in an extremely favorable situation in Cleveland. Ben Golliver of SI.com broke down the wealth of young talent around him with the Cavs:

LeBron and the Cavaliers are both getting a second chance at the conventional model of constructing a contender. Cleveland's most important pieces were acquired through the draft: James, the first pick in 2003; point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Tristan Thompson, the first and fourth selections in '11, respectively; shooting guard Dion Waiters, the fourth choice in '12; and the No. 1 picks in the last two drafts, forward Anthony Bennett and rookie swingman Andrew Wiggins. The age gap between the 29-year-old James and the others may be large, but the four-time MVP is uniquely qualified to get the most out of his younger teammates and shape their collective development. And that evolution could prove to be championship-worthy in a few years.

Three years younger than Wade, LeBron still has plenty of great basketball ahead of him. But not just individually. This Cavaliers team is poised to succeed in the near future. While it's unreasonable to say that they are a championship contender this season, the Cavs could very well be in two years.

After four straight appearances in the NBA Finals with the Heat, James can establish another dynasty of sorts in his hometown.

Wade will probably never reach the Finals again with Miami. Chicago gives him a decent chance, but that's a team Wade would have to be a role player on. Chicago's depth makes him a player that would likely play less than 30 minutes per game.

He would have more opportunities to play in Miami, resulting in more scheduled days off because of the wear and tear on his knees. Neither situation is great for Wade, thus signaling the beginning of the end of his career.


Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR