On Tuesday, Dwyane Wade told the Bulls he would pick up his player option worth $24 million for the 2017-18 season. When asked by the media about his decision, Wade said he had, “24 million reasons” to make the decision.
On Thursday, the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler for young players and a higher pick in the 2017 NBA draft, who ended up being Arizona stretch forward Lauri Markkanen. This constitutes a distinct shift in direction for Chicago.
We know this because that’s what Bulls honcho John Paxson said after the trade. He acknowledged that 2016’s big moves — landing Wade and Rajon Rondo — hadn’t made Chicago a contender, and so the Bulls chose another direction. Unfortunately, Wade is along for the ride despite totally not fitting with this new direction.
That poses an interesting problem for both him and the Bulls. The news on Tuesday from CSN Chicago’s Vince Goodwill was that Wade had informed Chicago he would opt in. We don’t know for sure if he officially filed the paperwork to exercise his option. The deadline to do so is reportedly June 27.
Goodwill reported late Thursday that Wade is still set on exercising his option. Money talks.
The Bulls aren’t going to win anything in 2017-18, and at 35 years old, Wade has a limited amount of time to both make money and compete for a fourth championship. Wasting a season in Chicago after what was arguably a wasted season last year is not tenable.
Wade’s a professional, but it’s not a good situation for young players like Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. A miserable, impatient Wade playing for a team that doesn’t really want him anymore is an ugly combination, even if everyone tries their best to keep it positive.
Trading a player of D-Wade’s stature while he’s making $24 million is tough. The intersection in the Venn diagram of teams that can absorb that kind of salary (through cap space or with non-obtrusive outgoing contracts) and teams that could use Wade’s still-potent scoring and veteran moxie is small.
The upside is that Wade’s contract expires in 2018, and while expiring contracts aren’t as valuable as they were a decade ago, next summer is shaping up to be a potential barnburner of activity. That Wade contract could be attractive to a team in play for a superstar. But getting the right package to Chicago will be tough.
If it comes down to it, Wade is the league’s best potential buyout candidate come February. Assuming Chicago is indeed going nowhere fast, Wade could be waived and latch on with a contender. Perhaps that could be Cleveland, where he’d rejoin LeBron James and spark a million columns on whether the Cavaliers can beat the Warriors.
Is this how Dwyane Wade, a first ballot Hall of Famer and top-five player of his generation, goes out? Like a Joe Johnson, chasing rings on small contracts to play out the string? Things got weird with Wade the minute he left Miami as Pat Riley played a little bit of hardball. They are only getting weirder now.
A year ago we thought Wade would be a Heat lifer. Once he left to join the Bulls, we thought going back to his hometown would be a fitting last chapter to his career. It turns out there are a few more twists in his story, and right now it looks like a tangled knot.