Dwyane Wade’s future with the Miami Heat remains up in the air — and, yes, there’s a chance he could end up landing alongside his close friend LeBron James in Cleveland.
Wade, 34, and the Heat remained at an impasse in negotiations Tuesday and the relationship between the 12-time All-Star and the organization he’s won three championships with is as strained as it’s ever been, according to sources on both sides.
Wade has not accepted the two-year, $40 million offer Miami dangled him Monday (it includes a player option that allows Wade to opt out in 2017-18 when the salary cap rises from $94 million to a reported $106 million), he is seeking more in negotiations, the Miami Herald learned.
There are conflicting reports as to what exactly Wade wants. ESPN reported Tuesday Wade’s representatives have told teams he’s seeking around $50 million over two years. The Vertical reported Wade wants a guaranteed third year on his contract and says that’s his priority in the marketplace.
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Both scenarios present problems for the Heat, which already has roughly $70 million in cap space invested in Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and wants to remain flexible in free agency in the years to come to lure other players.
The Heat could come back to Wade and raise its offer to about $25 million per season by trading away forward Josh McRoberts and the $11.8 million still owed to him through the 2017-18 season.
But with only seven players on the roster (forwards Justise Winslow and guards Josh Richardson and Briante Weber are the others) and Bosh’s health still in question after a second consecutive season was cut short by blood clots, trading McRoberts away would present depth concerns in Miami’s frontcourt.
Assuming the Heat uses all its remaining cap space ($20 million) to keep Wade, Miami will still only have a $2.9 million room exception and league minimum contracts to offer free agents to fill out its roster.
Three rotation players from the Heat’s playoff team have already agree to deals with other teams. Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, starters in Game 7 of the Heat’s Eastern Conference semifinal loss at Toronto, are signing with the Lakers and Jazz, respectively. Combo guard Tyler Johnson has agreed to a four-year, $50 million offer sheet with Brooklyn.
THREE SHOWING INTEREST
What’s helping Wade in negotiations with Miami is that other suitors remain interested in him.
Though Wade, who was flying back from Europe on Tuesday, canceled a scheduled meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday in New York, the Bulls, Nuggets and Cavaliers are linked to having interest in Wade.
The Nuggets have $27.5 million in cap space and are interested in both Wade and Heat forward Udonis Haslem, whom Miami appears reluctant to offer more than the minimum to and is seeking the $2.9 million room exception.
ESPN reported Tuesday night that the Nuggets have offered Wade a two-year deal north of $50 million.
Late Tuesday evening, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Wade was scheduled to meet with the Nuggets in New York Wednesday.
Chicago, where Wade was born and raised, will have about $12.7 million in cap space and could create more space with additional trades.
But really, the most interesting challenger for Wade is the Cavaliers, who began following him and his wife, Gabrielle Union, on Twitter on Tuesday.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported Tuesday evening that the Cavs would talk with Wade soon but had little in the way to offer him without overhauling their roster.
WHAT CAVS CAN DO
Though the world champions appear to be out of cap space and can only initially offer Wade the team’s $3.48 million mid-level taxpayer exception, Kevin Durant’s decision to head to Golden State could push the Cavaliers and James to get creative to bring in Wade and form a Big Four with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
For starters, James, who opted out of his Cavs contract and is in line to sign a $27.6 million deal, could decide to accept a much smaller one-year contract to help accommodate Wade.
It would be a huge pay cut for the four-time MVP, but considering how much he makes in endorsements and his friendship with Wade (the two were vacationing off the coast of Spain with their wives and former Olympic teammate Chris Paul last week) it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
As Albert Nahmad, a salary cap enthusiast and blogger with HeatHoops.com noted Tuesday, Cleveland could wipe its five remaining cap holds — that includes guard J.R. Smith — and create $16.5 million of cap space for James, Wade and Smith to split.
Or, Cleveland could decide to trade shooting guard Iman Shumpert ($9.6 million) and forward Channing Frye ($7.8 million) and create an additional $17.4 million for Wade, James and Smith to share.
There’s also a scenario where the Denver Nuggets could use its remaining cap space to sign Wade and Haslem and then trade them to Cleveland for draft picks and players.
Wade, who signed a one-year, $20 million deal to stay with the Heat last year and has sacrificed millions throughout his career to help Miami create cap space for other free agents, has told associates he plans to take his time before reaching a final decision.
Last year, owner Micky Arison stepped in to help negotiate a deal with Wade.
The Heat, which will be hard-pressed to contend with Wade next season anyway, could ultimately decide it’s time to move on and begin a youth movement.
There is a solid young core with Whiteside, Winslow and Richardson and veteran leadership with Dragic, 30, and Bosh, should he be healthy. The Heat could then use its $20 million in cap space to fill out its roster with quality reserves and match the Nets’ offer to Johnson after the league moratorium ends Thursday.