Cavs? Spurs? Heat? Top Potential Landing Spots for Dwyane Wade
From the moment the Chicago Bulls telegraphed their rebuilding plans by moving Jimmy Butler on draft night, Dwyane Wade's days with the team were numbered.
A 35-year-old vet with championship experience and just enough left to help a contender doesn't exactly fit on a team gunning for a win total in the teens. Things had been quiet for nearly two months as the Bulls picked through free agency, mostly sitting out the talent-addition phase while doing little to change the perception about their intention to tank.
But with Nick Friedell of ESPN.com reporting "widespread belief within the organization" that a buyout would be completed within the 2017-18 season, Wade's short-timer status hopped back into the news cycle. And now that teams have mostly finished their offseason tweaks, we have a clearer picture of where Wade might end up.
Though the specifics are all speculative, the smart money's on him signing onto a team with title hopes.
Or perhaps...a reunion.
If Wade wants another trip to the Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers may still offer the surest route.
The certainty of another title shot would depend on what Cleveland can get for Kyrie Irving via trade. If the Cavs manage to extract a defensive-minded wing or point guard and a shooter, it's possible they'll actually be better than they were with Irving and his considerable scoring gifts.
And if Cleveland doesn't get a quality return for Irving, Wade can simply go elsewhere. That's the beauty of the buyout; Wade can scan the landscape midway through the season and see what makes the most sense for him. He probably won't have to gamble by signing on immediately.
If the conditions in Cleveland are right, Wade could provide help as a secondary ball-handler who knows how to play with LeBron James as well as anyone. Maybe he could run second units with Kevin Love, who'd space the floor a lot like Chris Bosh once did. For at least a few minutes per game, the Cavs could also count on Wade to operate as a hub from the mid post.
The West is terrifying, littered with teams that will make the postseason gauntlet a brutal slog. Even with the Boston Celtics loading up, the Cavs should still be considered the favorite to reach the Finals in the East. Logic would seem to point a ring-seeking Wade toward James and the Cavaliers, right?
Oh, and there's also some deep conspiratorial diving you can do on James' postgame comments to Wade way back on Dec. 31, 2014. Maybe that (possible) reunion plan wasn't so much canceled as postponed.
Before you start shooting down the idea of Wade joining a Houston Rockets team that already has Chris Paul, James Harden and Eric Gordon in the backcourt, just remember that Trevor Ariza has played almost a third of his minutes at power forward over the last two years.
And that Harden became a point guard last season.
Point being: The Rockets have always found ways to put talent on the floor, and head coach Mike D'Antoni has generally solved positional gluts by saying, "Screw it, I'm going to play all of the guys who are good."
So if Houston is the pick, could we see moments in which Paul, Harden, Wade and Gordon all share the floor?
I mean...why not? Harden is stout enough to guard power forwards—particularly the wings who occupy that spot these days. With him at the 4, there'd be plenty of room for Wade and two other guards. And if D'Antoni gets another playmaking slasher on the floor who could drive and kick in Houston's spaced-out system, of course he'd would eschew size and run with it.
Perhaps with Carmelo Anthony at center, if his buyout ever happens.
Consider, too, the possibility of Wade landing with a team like Houston that could afford to hand-select his playing time. Imagine what he could do in 18 minutes per game against subs. We could be looking at a late-career renaissance not unlike Manu Ginobili's.
Also, CP3, like LeBron was on the legendary banana boat. Just sayin'.
San Antonio Spurs
Well, we already nodded to Wade becoming another Ginobili. So why not just stick him on the team that also has the original?
What's strange (and appealing) about Wade joining the San Antonio Spurs, though, is the possibility that he could fill Tony Parker's role.
Parker will need a chunk of the regular season to recover from quad surgery after getting hurt in last year's playoffs, and the Spurs are currently looking at Dejounte Murray as their starting point guard—assuming they want to preserve Patty Mills as a bench weapon. Which they should.
If you squint, it's actually not hard to see Wade taking on Parker's duties and performing well.
Ball-handling won't be an issue for Wade, who's always been reliable with the rock in his hands. And it'd be difficult to imagine him playing any worse on defense against point guards than Parker in recent years. Also like Parker, Wade would operate in the mid-range area and attack the basket, only occasionally firing away from three when he's wide open. He's trustworthy in the pick-and-roll as well.
If you just go by the numbers of what the Spurs have come to expect from a starting point guard, Wade fits.
Last year, Parker posted a 51.4 true shooting percentage with a 27.8 assist percentage and a 12.5 turnover percentage. Wade was at 50.8 percent, 22.3 and 11.3 respectively. Note, too, that Wade's career assist percentage of 31 percent is right in line with Parker's 32.3 percent.
In terms of production, these guys really aren't so different.
And if anyone can get the most out of a 35-year-old vet, we know it's the Spurs.
Golden State Warriors
So do you really think they haven't given at least a moment's consideration to Wade?
This is a team with unlimited ambition and a recent track record of pulling off impossible transactions. The default assumption these days ought to be: If the Warriors can dream it, they can do it.
That doesn't mean Wade would sign on for scrap minutes at a minimum salary. But if he wants one more ring, the Warriors have to be on his list of teams to consider. He must have been paying attention as title-chasing veterans like David West, Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee all stayed after getting their rings. That has to signal to vets like Wade that the Warriors are doing something right.
Not just as a winning team on the floor—that part's obvious—but as a culture.
Does Wade want to mess with the West? Does he perhaps balk at joining a superteam as a tertiary cog when he can still get big minutes and a major role elsewhere?
But in today's Warriors-dominated NBA landscape, it's never a bad idea to keep the calculus simple. If the Dubs want to make something happen, they almost certainly can. The only question is Wade's level of interest.
A return to the Miami Heat wouldn't be about championships, even if Justise Winslow has been talking titles this summer. Instead, Wade going back to the franchise with which he spent the first 13 years of his career would be more of a sentimental homecoming.
It's unclear how much the Heat need a player like Wade these days. Loaded with guards and wings, Miami isn't in the same position as the first four teams mentioned. It doesn't need someone to play spot minutes in a championship rotation, and it may not benefit much from slotting a veteran ahead of its younger players. Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters and to a lesser extent, Goran Dragic, are bigger parts of the team's future.
That's not to say the Heat wouldn't welcome Wade back.
"It'd be great," Hassan Whiteside told reporters. "It's a three-time NBA champion coming back, coming in and really helping a team out. It would be great."
It's hard not to root for Wade's return to the Heat—even if it wouldn't give him a realistic chance at a ring, and even if the fit isn't perfect.
Wade's exit last summer always felt odd, but Pat Riley is on the record expressing his regret for how the breakup played out. Maybe if both sides can get over the awkwardness of last offseason's failed negotiations, everyone can just pretend Wade took a year-long vacation to Chicago and has now returned home.