As unfathomable as the thought of Dwyane Wade playing in something other than a Miami Heat uniform might still seem to some, it has become clear the 12-time All-Star isn’t going to sit on the sidelines and wait for Pat Riley to reward him a with hefty contract offer as others around the league are.
And now more troubling news for the Heat is unfurling.
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday evening that Wade, who turns 35 in January, has begun being heavily pursued by four teams — the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks – with offers of two and three years in length and upward of $20 million per season.
The report said the Nuggets and Bulls have been the most aggressive pursuers of Wade, who grew up in Chicago and played at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Wade’s initial offer from the Heat, according to Wojnarowski, was $10 million, which would have been a 50 percent pay cut from his $20 million salary in 2015-16. It deeply angered Wade, the report said.
Even though the Heat is planning to meet with Wade after sitting down with Kevin Durant on Sunday in New York, Wade has told associates he wants to explore the market and meet with other teams once he returns from an overseas vacation off the coast of Spain.
ESPN reported Friday evening that Wade was is in contract talks with the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks and could schedule meetings next week. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday Wade, who played at nearby Marquette University, already has a meeting scheduled with the Bucks for next week.
The Heat has roughly $20 million in cap space left after agreeing to a max contract worth $98 million Friday with center Hassan Whiteside.
If Miami somehow wins the Durant sweepstakes and signs him for a max contract worth north of $26 million, it would only leave about $14 to $15 million for the Heat to offer Wade. And, that’s assuming the team would trade point guard Goran Dragic ($15.8M) and Josh McRoberts ($5.7M) to create about $22 million in additional cap space. Riley’s plan all along has not been to replace Wade with Durant, but to have them play together.
Wade could end up being offered most if not all of the $20 million left in Heat cap space if Durant decides to sign elsewhere. The Heat could sweeten Wade’s offer by making it a multiyear deal.
The Knicks and Bucks have less cap space than Miami’s $20 million. Milwaukee has $15 million in space and can add a bit more if they rescind a qualifying offer to Miles Plumlee. The Knicks could clear out $16 million or a bit more, but have made their first offer in their quest for a shooting guard to the Hornets’ Courtney Lee.
On Friday, two of the league’s best available free agent shooting guards agreed to stay with their respective teams. DeMar DeRozan, 26, agreed to a five-year, $145 million contract with the Toronto Raptors and Bradley Beal, 23, reached a five-year, $128 million agreement with the Washington Wizards. Evan Fournier, 23, agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal to stay with the Orlando Magic.
Still, even amid worrisome reports from ESPN and Wojnarowski, the Heat remains at least cautiously optimistic about getting a deal done with Wade, who has consistently said in the past year that he wants to finish his career here.
“He wants to win I think as much as he wants to do anything,” Riley said of Wade back in May. “Compensation to a player is not just a way to get paid and live your life. Compensation to a player is about recognition and respect and a place. And so, we know where he belongs. He’s a lifer. What he’s done in this city over the last 13 years is irreplaceable. So, we want to do the right thing. There’s no doubt.”