The most accomplished player in Miami Heat history is leaving South Beach to return to the city of his roots in a shocking turn of events. The last domino to fall in free agency was the most surprising and it was Dwyane Wade actually leaving the Miami Heat and signing with the Chicago Bulls. The deal that D-Wade took from Chicago and the deal he was “insulted” by from the Miami Heat resulted in a net difference of $3 million. The final deal that lured Wade from Miami was $47 million over 2 years. Roughly the same amount of money the Heat eventually committed to Tyler Johnson matching his restricted offer sheet.
The tension and eroding relationship between Wade and the Heat really took a turn for the worse this off-season. The Heat made Hassan Whiteside their #1 free agency priority and time and time again Pat Riley and company tried to leverage Wade’s loyalty for their benefit. They hoped, as he did in the past, Wade would continue to take less money so that he could end his career in Miami. Wade on the other hand felt like he was due for a big payday because he did take less than the max on multiple occasions (Pre and Post Big 3) so the Heat could acquire players like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic, who by the way was underwhelming in his first season in Miami. At the end of the day Pat Riley did not want to pay Wade a Kobe Bryant like contract that could cripple their franchise into his late 30’s; what Bill Belichick has been doing for a decade. Neither side felt like they really needed to give the other the benefit of the doubt when it came to loyalty.
So was this a good basketball decision? Could be, we don’t know. And I hate to tee up a question like that without an answer but it’s true. Wade has a tendency to rack-up injuries having only played in 70+ games for the first time this year since 2010/2011. His points per game numbers have fluctuated from 21-19-21-19 in the past four years. While his scoring isn’t down, his efficiency and shooting percentages are. In 2013 he shot 54.5% from the floor which then plummeted to 47.0% and then dipped to 45.6% last season. His three point shot is now virtually non-existent having only attempted 44 threes the entire season and making 7 (15.9%). With all of that said, Wade did have a resurgence in the NBA Playoffs this year and he was within one game of taking the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals. Wade averaged 21-6-4 on 47% shooting and 52% from three.
As reports surfaced that Wade was unhappy with the Heat and as he set up initial meetings with teams to discuss his options, the reality really began to sink in that Wade could leave Miami. The tweet that signaled shots were fire was from Wade with the brief message: “Relationships are important, people”. It’s worth noting that Wade and Riley did not talk face to face or over the phone once in this entire process.
But we all didn’t believe it, he is the Miami Heat, he can’t go anywhere. It all seemed like a ploy on Wade’s part to put the pressure back on the Heat to come back with an offer that he’d accept and that would be that. No one believed Wade would entertain playing for the Nuggets or Bucks no matter what they offered. Wade would end his career with Miami, his jersey would hang from the rafters and happily ever after. But that’s not the case.
Apparently Wade took a private flight from Miami to the Midwest with LeBron James and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Everyone immediately began to think Wade to the Cavs was happening. I even pulled a gallery of images from NBA2K16 featuring Wade in every single Cavaliers jersey combination featured at the very bottom of this article. However if we stopped, used our brains and actually thought about this it would’ve required Wade to take significantly less money, and thus only signing with Cleveland to spite Miami and still not getting his money and it also would require James to not take a max deal. Neither happened but the Bulls quickly entered into the conversation, a Calderon/Dunleavy trade later and they had cap space. The rest is history. Wade will team up with Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo on a new look Bulls squad that has plenty of basketball question marks.