Free Agency: Wade's World


Heat Wade dunks against Wizards in Washington

Wade's coming in for a landing. A free agent landing. (source: Yardbarker.com)

After ESPN’s focus on LeBron James’ free agency last week, this week they turn to Wade:

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Wade has complained openly about wanting to play with better teammates. The Heat have schemed blatantly to get major cap room. They are required to sign about a dozen more players. And there are tons of free agents on the market. It’s a lock the Heat will add lots of new talent. It’s not at all a lock, however, that one of those new players will be LeBron James or Chris Bosh. James, I think, will be in Cleveland, and deep-pocketed front offices in Chicago and New York will be pushing hard to add top-shelf talent. Most likely is that the Heat convince Wade to stay with a revamped roster in which he’s the only superstar … unless New York or Chicago can talk Wade into leaving.

First, let’s make it clear it’s less that Wade’s complained and more that he’s made it clear he wants to win.  “Complaining” makes it sound like he’s some spoiled kid, but he’s said what any star should say: he wants a chance to play for the title during his prime.  While his buddy LeBron has been rather nebulous in his desires, Wade’s been pretty clear and forthright: he wants to stay in Miami as long as they’re competitive.  So while I think it’s extremely unlikely Wade will leave Miami, I gotta disagree with Abbott on his conclusion that Wade will remain there even if he’s the only star.

I guess it’s possible that Abbott purposefully wrote “superstar” rather than “star” and thus he means simply that neither LeBron or Bosh will join Wade (though whether Bosh deserves a “super” is another question).  However, when asked elsewhere which stars (not superstars) would join Wade, Abbott answered no one (while his fellow pundits listed players like Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer).  I think the only way Wade leaves is if in fact the Heat can’t land anyone.  But I think that’s pretty unlikely.

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Wade will weigh the chance to play with his buddy LeBron James in New York, or return to his hometown of Chicago. But would the Knicks be able to surround them with enough other good players? Isn’t his game too similar to that of Derrick Rose, the star he’d be joining in Chicago? Ultimately it will come down to the one thing that rules all: He can make the most money staying in Miami.

Does Adande really think Wade’s that materialistic?  First, as Salary Cap God Larry Coon has explained in various articles, the financial difference between staying and going ain’t quite as big as people like to point out.  Usually lame reporters try to point out the huge difference in salary by saying like Player X could make $100 million over 5 years versus $130 over 6 years, so how can you give up $30 million?  The very premise is flawed since you’re comparing contracts of inequal length.  Player X if going for the 5 year option will then sign a new contract for year 6 and might get say $25 million.  Yes, it’s still less money ($125 versus $130) but suddenly it’s not such an outrageous difference.

Now of course if your game is gonna fall off a cliff (see: TMac or Jermaine O’Neal), then yeah, get all you can now.  However, if you’re gonna take care of your body and keep pushing yourself to be a top player, then you should be able to sign for another big contract or extension after this one’s up (see: Bryant, Kobe).

That said, Wade does actually stand to lose more money by leaving Miami not due to Bird Rights but because Florida doesn’t have a state tax.  It only applies to the part of his salary for the 41 games he plays at home, but that’s still a ton of bank.

The thing is either way he’s gonna make a ton of money, so unlike Latrell Sprewell he doesn’t need to worry about making enough to feed his family.  And Wade’s been at the top of the heap when he won the championship a few years ago, and he’s been at the bottom when two years later the team didn’t even make it to the playoffs.  And while the team got better last season, being in the Limbo of First-Round-And-Done is just as depressing.  Wade knows he needs a sidekick to win, and I firmly believe that matters more than anything else to him.

ESPN The Magazines Chicken N Waffles III

Wade's stayed classy while dealing with free agency, being clear about what he wants (to stay in Miami but with another star by his side). (source: Yardbarker.com)

Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine: I think Dwyane Wade is the most likely superstar to stay put. There’s no reason for him to leave Miami, since it’s a great city, with a great front office and the cap room to sign another max free agent. I think Miami will sign Amare Stoudemire to play next to Wade, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Bosh instead. Wade will likely visit Chicago and New York, just for fun, but I think he’s definitely with the Heat next season.

John Hollinger, ESPN.com: I see Wade checking out his options until he’s confident the Heat can lure in another star, and then joining the recruiting pitch and both players announcing they’ve agreed to terms in unison. That player will almost certainly be a 4; we just don’t know if it’s Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or David Lee.

Ahh, finally some intelligent commentary from both Broussard and Hollinger.  My only slight quibble is Professor Hollinger’s comment about the additional player being a 4.  The Heat are gonna go after LeBron hard.  If LeBron wins a ring this year, particularly if it’s darn hard, he might realize that the only way he’s gonna catch up to Jordan in the History & Acclaim Books is if he gets a Pippen.  And Wade would be a far better Pippen than Pippen himself was.

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: In talking to him about free agency back in training camp, Dwyane came across as very comfortable with the concept of playing a long, long time in Miami, but he also wants them to hit the jackpot to a certain degree in free agency this summer. But I also think he and Riley are on the same page more than people realize regarding the franchise’s plans for the future, and I honestly cannot envision him leaving a place where he is so comfortable — especially with what Miami has to offer to those living the bachelor lifestyle that D-Wade is now living.

I expect Wade and Riley to try to recruit LeBron James to come to Miami on a four-year deal with a third-year opt-out, making the argument that they can team up for a three-year stint in the sunshine together, then opt out and do their long-term max deals in 2013 if they so choose. Also, depending on where the cap comes in, Miami can also add another nice free agent (perhaps Carlos Boozer) if it can clear Daequan Cook’s salary off its cap before July 1. If LBJ is not in the cards, I think Boozer will be the Heat’s top target.

Sheridan also seems to be on target.  Also of interest is that he mentions the possibility of a four/three year deal, which goes back to my earlier point about contract lengths.  LeBron and Wade might not even sign for a full five years (or six if they stick with their current teams), which eliminates one of the big ways in which the home-town team seems to have a financial edge.

Golden State Warriors vs Miami Heat

It's tough playing 2-on-1. Wade just wants some help -- is that so wrong? (source: Yardbarker.com)

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: D-Wade doesn’t want to leave Miami, but he doesn’t want to be first-round fodder anymore, either. So the Heat have to deliver in free agency to keep him, because the threat from Chicago is real. The good news? Pat Riley has a history of making personnel splashes when he has trade assets or funds available.

The combination, furthermore, of Riley’s determination to score a power play and the resurgent Amare Stoudemire’s fondness for Florida have established Stoudemire as Miami’s top target. You just hear too much chatter on the front-office grapevine about Amare winding up in Miami to ignore it. The Suns definitely don’t want to lose him without compensation, so maybe this ends up as a sign-and-trade, but Miami has the requisite cap space and interest to steal Stoudemire outright. I also think Amare and D-Wade are pretty good pals, more than maybe we realized when the season started.

As Stein intelligently points out, Riley’s proven to be willing and able to snag big names.  The Heat have so many great things to offer, that I’m not sure I believe that the threat from Chicago is real.  I mean, yeah, Chicago wants Wade and will pursue him, and if the Heat do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, then okay, Chicago can steal Wade away.  But unlike in Cleveland, where you get the impression that most of the personnel moves have been made to make LeBron happy, Riley makes trades/deals because he himself has such a strong desire to win.  Wade may be from Chicago, and while he loves his hometown, he’s shown no real desire to play there.  He’s actually even said how he tends to play awfully there.  And if you go to Chicago, you’re always in the shadow of Jordan.

The Heat will get a free agent to come.  Definitely.  How could they not when they have:

1.) Dwayne Wade (a top 5 player)

2.) A team that’s already pretty darn good so that you know you won’t go to a suckfest, yet there’s room for them to improve and allow you to be the hero for taking them to that next level.

3.) Big, big tax breaks

4.) Gorgeous weather and an interesting, exciting urban setting (yup, those things matter)

5.) A team president (Riley) who’s shown he’ll spend and make moves to get the team to the top.

6.) Enough cap space to offer you as much money as any team (except yer current one).

Yup, when all’s said and done, put money in your pocket: Wade’s staying in sunny Florida.  And he won’t be alone.

Tags: Amare Stoudemire Carlos Boozer Chicago Bulls Chris Bosh Chris Broussard Chris Sheridan Cleveland Cavaliers Daequan Cook David Lee Dwayne Wade Henry Abbott J.A. Adande Jermaine O'Neal John Hollinger Kobe Bryant Larry Coon Latrell Sprewell LeBron James Marc Stein Miami Heat Michael Jordan New York Knicks Pat Riley Scottie Pippen TrueHoop